Michiko Kakutani Lists “America & The World” with Brzezinski, Scowcroft, and Ignatius in her TOP TEN

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America and the World TWN.jpgHot damn! I am very excited today.
A book, America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy that I was very involved in helping to hatch made it to Michiko Kakutani’s top 10 list for books from 2008.
And to top off a great day, my colleague and friend Steve Coll‘s The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century also made the cut.
Some of you have previously read about my enthusiasm for the writing and thinking of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, and David Ignatius. I recognize that these are not unknown voices — and there are some whose enthusiasm for their views is something that they don’t have too much problem controlling. I am very into the work of all three, however.


But given the dominance of the neoconservative establishment over the foreign policy ecosystem in Washington, D.C., I felt it was important to push back — to link up other institutions in Washington and other like-minded policy intellectuals. It was important to encourage a new generation of progressive realists and to take back “territory” in the DC establishment from those who had run the nation on such a reckless course.
I felt that the two most solid standouts in America’s national security establishment — who had reached such pinnacles in their careers that they would not say things just to curry favor with whoever held the guest list for White House state dinners — were Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft — one a life long Democrat and the other a life long Republican. Neither of these men I felt could be heckled into a perspective designed to please some constituency.
On the 6th of January 2005, I invited both to speak to the first of my foreign policy salon meetings that have gained some notoriety.
Scowcroft said that the meetings could be on the record but that I could only invite 35 people. I lived with those rules and got the “right” 35 people there. Brzezinski and Scowcroft gave the single best set of presentations at that time outlining the tremendously eroded national security position of the United States. Their comments — which were public — were featured in just about every major publication in the country and comments made by both dominated the Sunday morning talk shows — all of them — the weekend following their New America Foundation salon meeting which I chaired.
As we got deeper into the second term of the Bush administration, it seemed important to me to help bring the views of these two giants to a much broader audience — not to necessarily castigate the administration for its mistakes but rather to outline what kind of tough, disciplined strategic choices the United States needed to make to regain some of its leverage in world affairs.
William Frucht, then executive editor of Basic Books and now executive editor at Yale University Press, approached me about ideas for our joint Basic Books/New America Foundation imprint. Frucht is a great editor — and I told him that I couldn’t think of anything more important for the national security debates that the country was going to go through than to hear something compelling from Zbig Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft.
I told Frucht that DC was a jaded town — full of people who thought that they had seen everything, done everything — but there were some high drama opportunities that no one had helped to engineer. Brzezinski and Scowcroft were not unknowns. They had said many of the things that they had said before in other circumstances — but few had heard these two strategic masters bounce off of each other in a tightly managed way, and few had heard them argue when they didn’t agree. I felt that the two of them together would represent a sum far greater than the already great parts.
I was then given the task of trying to talk them into co-writing a book. Both said NO immediately despite my best efforts to move this forward. Neither thought that they could hammer their views together in a single narrative — and such a product would have had the high points and differences cut out.
Instead, after several months of trying and failing to get them to reconsider, we collectively came to the conclusion that a moderated discussion about America and the world — and future strategic choices — designed to be read by an incoming administration would be a potentially captivating approach that also allowed Scowcroft and Brzezinski to not have to compromise their views in a single narrative. Such a format would also allow the public to see how two informed strategists could disagree with one another and remain civil and constructively engaged.
To moderate the discussion, one name fit as far as I was concerned. I called David Ignatius of the Washington Post, and Ignatius said “YES, I’ll do it” in 2 seconds. He asked no questions after I gave him the pitch — and just said yes. Ignatius was absolutely the right choice — someone who knew the foreign policy, intelligence, economic, and national security policy environments inside and out and approached complex policy questions without ideology and without putting his ego first.
I really have to thank David Ignatius profusely. He engineered a discussion with Brzezinski and Scowcroft that brought out the best in them — teasing out how their views converged and diverged — and made this discussion relevant to tomorrow’s challenges, not just the past.
When the book came out, Senators John Kerry and Chuck Hagel and Teresa Heinz Kerry hosted the coming out book party at Senator and Mrs. Kerry’s home under the auspices of the American Security Project, and people who got a quick sampling of the exchange between Brzezinski and Scowcroft that night — moderated by David Ignatius in person — knew that this would be an important book.
Michiko Kakutani gave America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy an outstanding review, and just made it part of her top 10 list for 2008, and given the influence that both Brzezinski and Scowcroft are alleged to have on the Obama team, the book is moving nicely in sales.
For those interested, this is a video (beautifully edited) of a discussion I helped introduce at the Washington National Cathedral with more than 1,500 attendees with Scowcroft, Brzezinski and Ignatius — with extra comments as well from the Bishop of Botswana, a moving Chinese journalist now at Harvard, Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the New York Times‘ Thomas Friedman.
Here is another video clip from a New America Foundation event in which I moderated Dr. Brzezinski and General Scowcroft — whom I affectionately call the “Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon of U.S. foreign policy”:

This book is vital not just because it lays out an approach to important, tough strategic choices in today’s challenging foreign policy environment — but because it makes a strong case for strong, principled, enlightened American engagement in the world — a theme I have been promoting for a long time much inspired by the work of Priscilla Lewis, P.J. Simmons and Stephen Heintz of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in their “US in the World” project.
I realize that this is a longish note about the background of this book, but it’s one thing to know that something might be a “hit” and another to actually pull all of the pieces together and have everyone do his and her part so that a great idea becomes a great intellectual and policy product — and which has the kind of impact on public consciousness one hopes for.
So, many thanks to Bill Frucht who is now with Yale University Press. And thanks to John Sherer, Michele Jacob, and David Steinberger of Basic Books. Thanks also to Frank Pearl of the Perseus Group LLC who showed great personal interest in this project.
And thanks so much to Zbigniew Brzezinski and his long-term former assistant, Candice Wessling, as well as his son Mark Brzezinski (who gave this idea some back room nudges) as well as his new staff.
Thanks equally to General Brent Scowcroft and his staff including Eric Melby, Kevin Nealer, Virginia Mulberger, Dan Poneman, and Gail Turner.
And very special thanks to David Ignatius — who helped this book achieve an important relevance today that few could have engineered.
And lastly, thanks to Rita Hauser, Chairman of my Director’s Council, and to other financial supporters of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation whose support helped make this book financially viable.
And if you have not bought the book, you need to. It’s great. Click here.
More soon.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

41 comments on “Michiko Kakutani Lists “America & The World” with Brzezinski, Scowcroft, and Ignatius in her TOP TEN

  1. Sweetness says:

    “I thought that the dissipation of the former Soviet Union meant –
    to the pure and bred Americans – the end of the Cold War. And the
    emancipation of MANY other countries from the Soviet occupation,
    not just of Poland. Heard about Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine,
    Belorussia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary…. ? A lot of
    free and happier persons.”
    Good point. Hatred of communism and the USSR used to be a sign
    of pure-bred American patriotism just as much as it was a feature
    of Polish nationalism.
    No doubt Zbig is walking around with a number of unuseful ideas;
    but isn’t everyone?

    Reply

  2. westerner22 says:

    I thought that the dissipation of the former Soviet Union meant – to the pure and bred Americans – the end of the Cold War. And the emancipation of MANY other countries from the Soviet occupation, not just of Poland. Heard about Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary…. ? A lot of free and happier persons.
    Just because Brzezinski was born in Poland? Yes, it gave him a perspective. It was Brzezinski who ended the Cold “War”. That – Cold War – was Pax Russifica cum Paxum Americanum.
    As for Afghanistan, Russia had a choice of NOT going there. Brzezinski now suggests ending the military involvement and bribing the tribal heads instead. We may be doing both now, so Zbig’s solution may be cheaper.
    But I can see that hating Brzezinski may soon flourish in a better new World, as he was blamed in this discussion for about every evil there is. A foreigner on the top of it. How convenient.

    Reply

  3. Paul Norheim says:

    Nothing, Sweetness, make me think what you think that I`m
    thinking. All of us have all kinds of mental baggage. But people
    like Brzezinski and Kissinger are carrying some specific mental
    baggage from specific countries at a particular time of history,
    and I find it highly plausible that this have been a factor
    shaping their view of the world and their view of America as the
    entity that represents order.
    More above on that –
    here:
    Posted by Paul Norheim Nov 28, 11:34PM – Link
    and here:
    Posted by Paul Norheim Nov 29, 8:50AM – Link
    However, I also believe that Carroll`s “born and bred American
    with an inbred and untainted American view of the world” is
    pure fiction. I have no idea whatsoever what an untainted
    American view of the world is.
    To say that it would be a view representing “US interests” is
    too easy, since those interests are very hard to define and far
    from “untainted” or innocent.
    The unpleasant fact is this: The American way of life is currently
    so extravagant that defending it implies wars, killings, alliances
    with dictators, interfering in the affairs of other countries, etc.
    If the inbred Americans REALLY want to own two or three
    SUV`s, TV`s, swimming pool, etc. etc. THEY HAVE TO ACT LIKE
    MONSTERS ABROAD.
    Ask Hillary Rodham Clinton what an “inbred American” may be.
    Don`t ask me.
    (And BTW: regarding the extravagant way of life, we Norwegians
    aren`t exactly innocent either)

    Reply

  4. Sweetness says:

    What makes you think, Paul, that Americans (however you want to
    define them) don’t have “unresolved grudges”?
    More to the point, what makes you think that Americans don’t have
    all kinds of mental baggage that gets in the way of their seeing
    world and their country aright?
    Is there an easy way to distinguish an “unresolved grudge” from a
    “long festering injustice”? Isn’t justice delayed justice denied?
    Of course, we all have our opinions, and the opinions only get
    stronger and more certain when one’s own ox is getting gored.

    Reply

  5. Paul Norheim says:

    I think Carroll has a point regarding “unresolved grudges” (talking
    about people like Brzezinski and Kissinger) shaping their world
    view, but I doubt that his suggested solution would be a good
    idea.
    Unless, of course, you chose people among the Native Americans
    to run your foreign policy: Navajo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Sioux,
    Hopi, Apache, Blackfeet…
    How about that, Kathleen Grasso Andersen?

    Reply

  6. Sweetness says:

    “And Sweetness, regarding Carroll’s “American” thing, sometimes it
    seems not at all worth the effort, but thanks.”
    Well, every so often, I get up the energy to hack away at this
    kudzu. It is frightening to think that some sizeable portion of
    TWN’s regular readers think “what America desperately needs now
    is a born and bred American with an inbred and untainted
    American view of the world…” as if there were all these pure-bred
    American foreign policy “virgins” running around out there who
    really know what it means to be an American.
    It’s a joke, and a somewhat dangerous one, IMO.

    Reply

  7. Sweetness says:

    “Wasn’t it you that called another poster a “cunt”, or is my memory
    failing?”
    I have no memory of it…must have been you.

    Reply

  8. Paul Norheim says:

    Bin Laden and his men bragged about being the force that
    brought the USSR down in Afghanistan during the 80`s. It must
    have come as a complete surprise to these old fighters that Bush
    chose to attack Iraq, instead of concentrating fully on
    Afghanistan: they probably expected that they could bring the
    last remaining superpower do it`s knees in the mountains of
    Afghanistan.
    Barack Obama may become the man they`ve been waiting for, in
    a long, long war against a weakened superpower.

    Reply

  9. Paul Norheim says:

    “I hope hope hope that Obama has some advisers screaming
    about this one.”
    Well, in my opinion, Zbigniew Brzezinski should spend the rest of
    his life screaming about it – as he happens to possess
    considerable expertise on this subject (see my first post, almost
    at the top of the thread).
    This could become Europe`s nightmare as well, through NATO.

    Reply

  10. questions says:

    Paul Norheim, your Johnson thought is pretty scary. Afghanistan was nearly the end of the USSR and it could be our national nightmare too. I have had issue with the Taliban since reading a Ms. Magazine piece in the early-mid 80s I think it was, but the time to “do” something about it was back then. We could have had a genuine concern for the well-being of women under a horrific regime. Now we have an armed, barely governed narco-terror state to deal with. I don’t thing Agent Orange will work in Afghanistan any better than it worked in Viet Nam. Oh my.
    I hope hope hope that Obama has some advisers screaming about this one.
    And Sweetness, regarding Carroll’s “American” thing, sometimes it seems not at all worth the effort, but thanks. The comment really is misdirected. A better view is one in which the US is seen as one among many nations all sharing the earth, all compromising on desires and goals, all doing less rather than more. We desperately need national humility. Paul Norheim is right.

    Reply

  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Sorry, I have no chip and no minority complex. I do have an aversion to sloppy and nasty thinking, however….”
    Wasn’t it you that called another poster a “cunt”, or is my memory failing?

    Reply

  12. Sweetness says:

    “Please take that chip on your shoulder and go Cheney yourself.”
    Sorry, I have no chip and no minority complex. I do have an
    aversion to sloppy and nasty thinking, however–something you
    fall into regularly. Whether others are convinced or not, that’s up to
    them. Some will be nudged into thinking and some won’t be.

    Reply

  13. DonS says:

    McNamara, a study in apology — and lost opportunity, for Vietnam. BTW, of course, he was a charter memeber of the best and brightest.
    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/19950501fareviewessay5044/george-c-herring/the-wrong-kind-of-loyalty-mcnamara-s-apology-for-vietnam.html
    Indian Homeland minister resigns; “takes responsibility”
    http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/11/30/india.attacks/index.html

    Reply

  14. Paul Norheim says:

    Oops: incorrect spelling of the name of MONSTER JOHNSON…
    here we go again:
    Perhaps Barack Obama will become, not so much the new John F.
    Kennedy as the new Lyndon B. Johnson – escalating the war in
    Afghanistan?
    Bundy and those men of his generation were not only called “the
    Best and the Brightest” in a famous later book; they were also
    known as the “New Frontiersmen”.

    Reply

  15. Paul Norheim says:

    The Holbrooke NYT review of a book about McGeorge Bundy and his regrets
    later in life re Vietnam, that WigWag and Linda are discussing in the Stiglitz
    thread, is even more relevant in this Brzezinski/Scowcroft discussion:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/books/review/Holbrooke-t.html?_r=1
    Perhaps Barack Obama will become, not so much the “new Kennedy” as the
    “new Johnston” – escalating the war in Afghanistan?

    Reply

  16. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Bush did, to his pitiful credit, keep his descriptions of the hijackers to ‘terrorist”.”
    Hmmm, you’ve already forgotten his despicable oral ejaculations about “the evil doers”? Make no mistake Carroll, Bush was definitely on the Demonize Islam Bandwagon.

    Reply

  17. Carroll says:

    Posted by DonS Nov 29, 4:41PM – Link
    It is the ‘influence’ of the foreign policy elites/press over the tone of the national discussion that is point to be stressed; not the hope evoking a revolution in thinking of the masses that will somehow percolate up to the elites. Fat chance.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>
    That is a excellent point.
    I paid close attention as everyone did to the media after 911….Bush did, to his pitiful credit, keep his descriptions of the hijeckers to ‘terrorist”.
    But immediately the media was flooding us with ‘experts” who were all talking about the “Evil Islamist”..the “Arab threat to World Civilization”…”The Green Peril”..”The Enemies of all Democracies” …”WWIV”….’The Clash of Civilizations”…ad nausum…they were mostly zionist and neocons and all with agenda’s to make Americans hate Mid Easterners and think Islam was a violent religion and rise up specters of the US being invades by hordes of sword waving, head chopping, crazy Islamist who goal was to die for Allah and go collect their virgins.
    It does go from the top down, that why we have to rid ourselves of the personal agenda, personal grudges, personal nightmares people pretending to be foreign policy experts for America.

    Reply

  18. Carroll says:

    Posted by Paul Norheim Nov 29, 8:10AM – Link
    Carroll, why don`t you import a dozen of kids made in
    Switzerland for that task?
    >>>>>>>
    That’s a thought. I like Switzerland. I went to Geneva twice while I was in college….I think that is where I caught my Obsessive Complusive Disorder for orderlyness.
    And on this….
    ” Regarding efforts to demolish the myth, I am a bit pessimistic.
    The feeling of having a special mission and being exceptional
    was only demolished in Rome, Russia, the Soviet Union,
    Germany and the British Empire when these entities were
    demolished, broke down or fell apart. The misdeeds of Bush,
    Cheney and Greenspan will not be sufficient; though they have
    helped your nation to question some of the key principles and
    beliefs.”
    I don’t think that exceptionalism myth will die especially in Orwellington DC until the US goes.. splat! Cleary the US is no longer in control of the world or even of itself but congress of course doesn’t realize that, living in their enclosed little incestous world of self important incompetents.

    Reply

  19. Carroll says:

    Posted by Sweetness Nov 29, 5:25PM
    >>>>>>
    Please take that chip on your shoulder and go Cheney yourself.
    Every regular on this board knows why you say what you say and no one is sympathic to your zionist and minority complex rants that you think are convincing defenses for looney zionist and exiles in waiting because you have found some religous nutcases as insane as they are to compare them to.
    Rent your own psychiatrist for gawd’s sake or we are going to start billing you by the word.

    Reply

  20. Sweetness says:

    “You bet. Just speaking of the right wing Zionist mob as a case
    in point, I have often pointed out how out of touch this
    orientation is from enlightened Jews and non-Jews, including
    many of my own acquaintance. In that case there is an almost
    wholesale appropriation of the wrong done to European Jews by
    the excepitonalist/neocons who purport to speak and act for all
    Jews.”
    But then, of course, to hold on to this idiotic apercu one would
    have to forget all those born and bred evangelical Christians
    who lack any experience of those Old World wrongs, but
    somehow still manage to come up with their own all-American
    brand of foreign policy idiocy. One would also have to forget all
    of those Old Worlders who manage, somehow, to hold onto an
    enlightened a deeply American (IMO) foreign policy outlook.
    No, I would say all attempts to blame our latest mess on
    “foreigners” really misses the mark. For example, one would
    have to ignore those 700 some-odd military bases we still have
    around the world to blame it on the newcomers. One would
    have to forget about the removal of Iran’s Mossadeq, cooked up
    by Ike and Churchill. Who was SOS back then? Oh yeah, that
    “foreigner” John Foster Dulles. And his brother, Allan, another
    “foreigner” was head of CIA. A regular cabal of Americans
    overthrowing democratically elected foreign leaders. And their
    grandfather and uncle had BOTH served as SOS. My god! How
    far back into America’s roots does the rot go!

    Reply

  21. Sweetness says:

    “And though it sounds provincial in this day and time to
    say…..what America desperately needs now is a born and bred
    American with an inbred and untainted American view of the
    world…with no emotional ‘other world’ baggage in his psyche.”
    It doesn’t sound provincial, it sounds stupid…stupid because
    there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it. Let’s take a quick
    look: JFK, LBJ, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, GWB. The first
    three were born and bred in America and got us deeply involved
    the greatest foreign policy stupidity of my younger days–a
    tragedy we are still not recovered from. Then we have Ronald
    Reagan, whose entire cabinet went to jail for the foreign policy
    stupidity known as IranContra and who came to power because
    of foreign policy shenanigans (a deal to free the hostages). Then
    we come to the born and bred GWB and Dick Cheney and we’ve
    seen what they’ve accomplished with their native born foreign
    policy instincts.
    Shall we go back further in time? How about The Philippine-
    American War of 1899-1902. Wonder if President McKinley was
    born and bred in America? No matter, here we have a little write
    up that says the Senate ratified the Treaty of Paris, annexing the
    Philippines, by 57 to 27. I spect some of those Senators back
    then had been born and bred in America–some probably had
    relatives that fought in the Civil War and perhaps some great,
    great grandpappies who fought in the Revolution.
    The write-up goes on to say: “There were also many in the
    United States who saw the advantages of taking over the
    Philippines. Many missionaries, for instance, favored
    annexation. So did people who feared that Germany might get
    the Philippines if the United States did not. Some favored
    annexation to give America a “foothold” in the populous
    markets of Asia.
    “On February 6, 1899, the U.S. Senate, by a vote of 57 to 27,
    ratified the Treaty of Paris. The American people, in effect, also
    endorsed the treaty when they reelected President McKinley in
    the 1900 U.S. presidential elections. Thus, the Philippines
    formally came under the rule of the United States.”
    So it appears many in America coveted the Philippines for
    religious and business reasons and supported McKinely by re-
    electing him. Gee, I wonder many of those Americans were born
    and bred in America. Let’s see…1,2,3…
    But then, who should kill the imperialist, President McKinley?
    Why none other than a Pole, born here of immigrant parents.
    This what the Wiki says about the anarchist Leon Czolgosz…
    “His experiences had convinced him there was a great injustice
    in American society, an inequality which allowed the wealthy to
    enrich themselves by exploiting the poor. He concluded that the
    reason for this was the structure of government itself.”
    He was copying Gaetano Bresci who had killed King Umberto I of
    Italy because “Bresci told the press he had to take matters into
    his own hands for the sake of the common man.”
    I guess it takes an immigrant anarchist to burn Washington to
    the ground.

    Reply

  22. DonS says:

    Carroll’s point, unresolved grudges, Elliot Abrams as a prime example.
    You bet. Just speaking of the right wing Zionist mob as a case in point, I have often pointed out how out of touch this orientation is from enlightened Jews and non-Jews, including many of my own acquaintance. In that case there is an almost wholesale appropriation of the wrong done to European Jews by the excepitonalist/neocons who purport to speak and act for all Jews.
    While travel can be eye and mind opening, as well as any valid exposure to another culture, it is far from being the ultimate or only way of reducing arrogance. Probably it’s even out of the reach for the majority of people. It is the ‘influence’ of the foreign policy elites/press over the tone of the national discussion that is point to be stressed; not the hope evoking a revolution in thinking of the masses that will somehow percolate up to the elites. Fat chance.
    What is needed, going along with JohnH’s mention of inbred cults in some foreign policy schools, is for THOSE individuals to cease and desist from their mischief, intentional or not. And they obviously wont do so voluntarily.
    I come back to my more than half serious recommendation that the New America Foundation take on a project aimed at holding decision makers responsible for their past decisions. If there is a feedback loop, the impetus for the exceptionalist foreign policy mentality and machine might be affected. It certainly deserves to be targeted as out of step with the needs of a 21st century world. Reality meets declining empire.

    Reply

  23. JohnH says:

    “Every former empire or wannabe empire have had their version of the exceptionalism myth.” Which just goes to show that it isn’t exceptional at all. Instead, it should be read as a euphemism for grandiosity, as in “exceptional power breeds exceptional arrogance.”
    Carroll makes a valid point about the origins of the foreign policy mob, many being children of refugees bearing unresolved grudges. This is exacerbated by the training they receive in elite institutions such as SAIS, the Woodrow Wilson school, etc. Ultimately the mob represent an small, self-selected and in-bred lot, almost a cult, with tenuous connection to basic American values. I picture Elliot Abrams as I write this.
    What I believe is needed is for Americans not to just travel more. All too often this involves cruise ships and Hyatt Regencies, disgorging herds of loud, gawking sightseers trudging well beaten paths and gaining precious little insight into anything authentically local.
    Working abroad for large organizations can be equally sterile, since US businessmen and State Department folks, military brass and their brats often choose to socialize primarily in the “expat community,” isolated from what is really happening locally. I picture the international community in Tehran at the end of the Shah’s reign as I write this.
    What is really needed is for people aspiring to positions of power to actually live among foreigners for a time as Peace Corps volunteers or aid workers. There they would learn that the American Way is not uniquely valuable and that American foreign policy decisions can have dire, lasting effects on real, thinking and feeling human beings. And they might well learn that decisions taken without heed to local sensitivities may ultimately prove counter-productive to America’s own well being.
    Unfortunately, most of those aspiring to positions of power are so driven by ambition that taking time to learn about the world would represent an unacceptable impediment to their goals.

    Reply

  24. Paul Norheim says:

    Interesting post, DonS.
    Isn`t it astonishing how being offered the status of “wise man”
    has become the golden parachute of the Washington foreign
    policy grand scale screwups?
    “I was going to dispute Paul’s notion of excptionalism as a
    ‘myth’, but I just googled it and the notion goes all the way
    back to deToqueville (at least 1831), and perhaps to Puritan
    origins without too much of a stretch. So given the massive
    changes since then I guess its fair to say that some continuity
    must be attributed to mythological reasons.”
    Yeah – every former empire or wannabe empire have had their
    version of the exceptionalism myth: the Romans with their
    notion of the “barbars”, the Ottomans, the Brits (spreading
    “civilization”), the Russians (their concept of Moscow as the
    “Third Rome”), the Third Reich… the list is long. For the
    historians, this is a banal and regrettable fact, but you live in a
    contemporary semi-empire where this archetype is self evident.
    It`s probably part the glue that unites the nation in all its
    cultural, political and geographical variety, inflicting a mixture
    of blessings and nightmares on the rest of the world.
    Regarding efforts to demolish the myth, I am a bit pessimistic.
    The feeling of having a special mission and being exceptional
    was only demolished in Rome, Russia, the Soviet Union,
    Germany and the British Empire when these entities were
    demolished, broke down or fell apart. The misdeeds of Bush,
    Cheney and Greenspan will not be sufficient; though they have
    helped your nation to question some of the key principles and
    beliefs.

    Reply

  25. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “….one giant f**** up can of worms”
    It always intrigues me when someone uses asterix to form an expletive.
    Do they suppose that the reader thereby interjects a nicety in place of the thinly disguised expletive?
    Lets see, perhaps when I read “…one giant f**** up can of worms” I actually, in my mind, see “one giant purple 1.2 quart can of worms”
    Uh, nope. When I read Carroll’s post, what I read was “..one giant fucked up can of worms”.
    And yep, it is.

    Reply

  26. Carroll says:

    Posted by Paul Norheim Nov 29, 8:50AM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>
    I get your drift but I am not sure you get mine. I definitely don’t believe in American exceptionalism.
    What I am saying is America doesn’t need a Pole or a Russian or a German with a grudge against Russia making US policy on Russia, or a Jew with a grudge against Arabs making US ME policy or a Cuban with a grudge against Castro making US Cuban policy.
    You don’t have to be a refugee or nazi survivor or exile or immigrant or have to have had personal experiences to understand other countries and events. There are plenty of American experts without any ‘feelings’ about certain countries that would be a lot more objective in suggesting what relations and policies the US should have with other countries.
    If you made a list of all the ‘experts’ on foreing policy you would see that 80% of them are first or barely second generation Americans…the overriding thread running thru all their thinking is what Europe (or they) suffered and how the superpower US should have prevented it and should in the future.
    They think the US should be responsible for EVERYTHING in the world, control everything. They constantly trot out things like PNAC, Concert of Democracies, ad nausm. …all about the US CONTROLING and managing the world.
    I know you have seen the examples and results of,.. “they” think the US should do ‘this with China because it would result in ‘that to Russia ..or the US should do ‘this with Latin America because it would result in ‘that to Cuba …and so forth and so on until US foreign policy, trade policy, etc is one gaint f**** up can of worms.

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  27. DonS says:

    BIG error: first trip to Europe: 1964!!!

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  28. DonS says:

    I travelled to Europe for the first time, as a college student, in 1994. It was seminal in shaping and reinforcing my understanding and openness to other cultures/points of view, which hasn’t changed although I never returned to Europe until the 90’s. I was ready, prepared to be favorably influenced, even though my mother, a Vienna born Jew who never wanted to return to Europe, was certainly a great exemplar of the notion of American exceptionalism. Travel on this continent was fine for her, thank you.
    So, yes, travel, with an open and inquiring mind, is essential. I still remember avoiding Americans in Europe in 1964, and being embarrassed by the notably brash and loud Texans who were evident above the rest (with apologies to ‘other’ Texans), a la ‘The Ugly American’.
    I was going to dispute Paul’s notion of excptionalism as a ‘myth’, but I just googled it and the notion goes all the way back to deToqueville (at least 1831), and perhaps to Puritan origins without too much of a stretch. So given the massive changes since then I guess its fair to say that some continuity must be attributed to mythological reasons.
    I am struck by the simplicity of the notion of ‘apology’ in some of the aspects JohnH brings up:
    “It would be much more reassuring if these experts, who created such problems, would have the decency to acknowledge that mistakes were made, and then spell out their mistakes along with the lessons they learned.”
    “ . . .also the whole domestic economic and financial team that left behind a series of counter-productive, destructive policies . . .?”
    “ . . . And this alone should disqualify them from further “service.”
    I think of the scorn that Westerners in general have heaped on some of the oriental notions of responsibility and the concomitant apology and often removal from office or job that accompanied failure or betrayal of principles. We’ve mocked the excesses, for instance in the Chinese Communist ‘reeducation’ protocols, and certainly don’t approve of the Japanese extreme self inflicted punishment for failure, hari kari.
    But the notion that there should be some public acknowledgement of failure ,whether in government or business, when it effects fundamental issues though misguided policy and/or execution, seems not at all misguided.
    So where have we gone so wrong that the very basics of accepting responsibility which ideally we teach our children in the family setting, remains so foreign in the American political psyche? How could we demand that American politicians take their heads out of their collective rumps and act as if both we and they were more grown up? True it would amount to a rejection of much of the ‘made for TV’ nature of what passes for public discourse in this country. But our current self hypnosis plays on just the worse features and expectations of what Americans are capable of and needing; we could get over exceptionalist self delusion.
    Perhaps the New America Foundation could initiate a “Responsibility Project” aimed at getting leaders to adopt standards of much greater transparency and relative honesty for their actions and the actions of their political ilk, who we the people pay, employ, and should except no lesser standards that we expect in a healthy family. Steve, with his grounding in Japanese culture might well find ways to integrate that sensibility with the Washington political milieu he knows so well.
    “Get Honest America”. Who knows, it might even catch on.

    Reply

  29. Bob says:

    “Have they no shame? Have they learned anything from their experience?”
    Yes, they’ve probably learned a lot. For instance, it may have become apparent to “Zbig” that the world isn’t quite as malleable or willing to become the One World he had hoped for. This “Grand Chessboard” of a world (what sick bastard with such access to power would label the world after a game board?) may not fancy having to be run by sociopaths of the likes of Brzezinski, Scowcroft, Bush the Elder, et al. These sick old men have been ruining the world for decades and it’s depressing to see them so esteemed.
    Ain’t my America.

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  30. Paul Norheim says:

    People coming from nice places usually see no reason to leave
    their countries. And believe me, there are plenty of beautiful
    and peaceful places out there… There are even rumors that their
    health care system and educational system may be better than
    the American system.
    Most of those who left or want to leave the place where they
    live, are or were in dire circumstances one way or another. They
    were poor, suffered political or religious persecution, abuses
    due to gender, they lived under a dictatorship, during civil war,
    lived under fear even of extermination. And of course, America
    was heaven for the millions and millions of people who escaped
    hell.
    Thus contributing to the myth of American exceptionalism.
    Contributing with their own experience to the myth that the
    world outside America is a “vast, amorphous and barbaric
    territory lacking values, freedom and “leadership”. And all those
    grandchildren of Americans who never have been abroad, see
    no reason not to believe the horrible testimony of the
    newcomers – it confirms what their grandparents told them
    about the country they left.
    This reenforces American arrogance, aggression and eagerness
    to reshape the outside world. It`s the mold from which US
    foreign policy is made.
    And it provokes even the millions abroad who never dreamt of
    leaving their country for America, because they prosper and
    enjoy life in a peaceful country, and feel that they live in the
    best of all possible worlds. Thus they respond to American
    arrogance and aggression – watching it on TV in their peaceful
    homes – by uttering anti-American phrases, confirming for the
    Americans that the outside world is indeed a hostile world.
    A vicious circle, hard to break. Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry
    Kissinger are just two of the most prominent men feeding that
    circle.
    I like America. But both America and the rest of the world would
    be better if you got rid of the myth of US exceptionalism. And
    that won`t happen soon. There is still enough suffering in some
    parts of the world to feed the myth for centuries to come.
    But this is one of the reasons why Americans should travel
    more. And for those interested in foreign affairs, even visiting
    and studying peaceful and nice places abroad would be a useful
    education.

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  31. Paul Norheim says:

    Carroll, why don`t you import a dozen of kids made in
    Switzerland for that task?
    And the motto?
    Aut Pax Helvetica aut nihil!

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  32. Carroll says:

    Posted by Paul Norheim Nov 28, 7:05PM
    Posted by MarkL Nov 28, 7:13PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Agree.
    Although I like some of Ziggie’s attitude and ideas, he has conflicts of his own.
    Because of his own life and background prior to America he has a distinct ideology that colors his views.
    And though it sounds provincial in this day and time to say…..what America desperately needs now is a born and bred American with an inbred and untainted American view of the world…with no emotional ‘other world’ baggage in his psyche.
    A lot of Brzezinski’s ‘world views’ particulary on Russia, are influenced and tied up in his childhood in Germany and Russia and in the events that ruined his father’s diplomatic career and made his family’s return to Poland impossible.
    The psychological truism … ‘give me a child until he is seven and I will make him mine forever’ …is particulary true.
    And having been ‘made’ in Germany, Poland and other chaotic arenas is not necessarily good for making American policy.

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  33. JohnH says:

    “The myth of American exceptionalism, the vague feeling that the rest of the globe is a vast, amorphous and barbaric territory lacking values,
    freedom and “leadership…” In a word: arrogance.
    Fifty years ago Richard Nixon’s “good will” motorcade was stoned by anti-American protesters in Caracas, four months after Venezuela’s last dictator (American supported) fled to Miami. The same year, The Ugly American became a best seller. In the novel, a Burmese journalist says “For some reason, the people I meet in my country are not the same as the ones I knew in the United States. A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They’re loud and ostentatious.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ugly_American
    So much has changed in the last 50 years. And yet so little has changed, particularly in the attitudes of American political elites towards the rest of the world.

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  34. Paul Norheim says:

    Both men actually provided plenty of interesting analyzes and
    good advises. I was often impressed by their grasp of complex
    issues, and their ability to imagine how issues was interpreted
    by the other side.
    However, I noticed that Brzezinski during the conversation in
    the cathedral, just like in his recent books and articles, argued
    against American dominance, but still promoted the idea of an
    “American world”.
    Either that, “or chaos”, he said.
    Aut Pax Americana aut nihil?
    Our current choice seems more like: Either chaos, or chaos.
    Or more precisely: we have no choice, but will receive chaos
    anyway, initiated by America and its enemies, in an endless
    chain of provocations and replies that started many decades
    before Cheney and Bush entered the White House.
    The challenge is to find a way out of this mess. The myth of
    American exceptionalism, the vague feeling that the rest of the
    globe is a vast, amorphous and barbaric territory lacking values,
    freedom and “leadership” – which obviously underlies this
    worldview – is not going to save us.

    Reply

  35. JohnH says:

    It would be much more reassuring if these experts, who created such problems, would have the decency to acknowledge that mistakes were made, and then spell out their mistakes along with the lessons they learned.
    What’s scary is that it’s not just the foreign policy folk, like Zbig, but also the whole domestic economic and financial team that left behind a series of counter-productive, destructive policies. Have they no shame? Have they learned anything from their experience?
    Like Bush and the neocons, they will be the last to admit to contributing mightily to the problems that beset us. And this alone should disqualify them from further “service.”

    Reply

  36. cynic says:

    You know, whenever I hear of a jihadist attack anywhere in the world, the first name that pops into my head is Brzezinski. The man has a lot to answer for.

    Reply

  37. MarkL says:

    Paul,
    I agree.
    Not only that, have you read Zbig’s callous and amoral justification for the misadventure in Central Asia? Freeing Eastern Europe was worth the cost in Afghan blood, more or less. Nice of the Afghans to “volunteer” to liberate Poland, don’t you think?

    Reply

  38. Paul Norheim says:

    I am watching the video.
    Very interesting – and I don`t want to spoil the party…
    But to be honest, it`s quite surreal to watch a person who to
    such a large extent is responsible for the fact that Afghanistan
    is screwed up in the first place (Brzezinski, who during the Cold
    War succeeded in some tactics aimed at making the Soviet
    Union attack the country, when he served as a National Security
    Advisor in the Carter administration), to watch such a person –
    after tree decades of destruction, civil wars, foreign invasions
    and conflicts in that country, with millions of deaths as a result;
    to watch the same good old “Zbig” offering wise words of advise
    on US strategy in that failed state.
    Who knows: perhaps Bush, Wolfowitz and Chalabi will be invited
    in the very same cathedral twenty five years from now, three
    wise and respectable old men, offering advises on Iraq, Iran,
    Lebanon and what not.

    Reply

  39. Steve Clemons says:

    K Galt — Thank you! I want to get this book into as many hands as possible. It should be used in university classes, should be part of book salons and book study groups, and the like….
    I really appreciate your enthusiasm.
    Happy holidays, steve

    Reply

  40. K Galt says:

    This book along with Jimmy Carter’s “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” and the “The Israel Lobby” will be the books that I give as gifts this year.
    That interview moderated by Ignatius with Scowcroft and Brysinski was enlightening and refreshing. Two heavy hitters that I have great respect and admiration for sharing their insightful and wise views gave me hope.
    On Tuesday Brizenski was on Talk of the Nation with Ted KoppeL discussing the situation with Iran. In the first five minutes of the program Neil Conan repeated the debunked claim that the Iranian President said “Israel should be wiped off the map” (Juan Cole proved that this often repeated and proven false statement) is complete hogwash.
    I thought it was telling when the only two callers that the screener allowed through thrashed Breezinski and his push for ddialogue with Iran. Just a bit revealing about the strong possibility that either the screener of NPR’s TOTN or the staff of Talk of the Nation just might have an agenda.
    Steve thanks for all you do! An inspiration

    Reply

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