Three big additions to our upcoming US-Saudi National Policy Forum — Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and former National Security Advisor and almost regular on Morning Joe, Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Former Senator Chuck Hagel, who is now Distinguished Professor in the Practice of National Governance, Georgetown University and Chairman of the Atlantic Council of the United States, has agreed to help open the US-Saudi conference that my team at the New America Foundation has been working hard to organize in recent weeks.
Senator Hagel, nearly three years back, gave a speech at the Brookings Institution that was chaired by outgoing Brookings foreign policy programs chief and probable next US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual. In that speech, Hagel argued that America could not afford to pursue false choices.
I still find that speech relevant today and this clip in particular:
America’s approach to the Middle East must be consistent and sustained, and must understand the history, interests and perspectives of our regional friends and allies.
The United States will remain committed to defending Israel. Our relationship with Israel is a special and historic one. But, it need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships. That is an irresponsible and dangerous false choice. Achieving a lasting resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is as much in Israel’s interest as any other country in the world.
Unending war will continually drain Israel of its human capital, resources, and energy as it fights for its survival. The United States and Israel must understand that it is not in their long-term interests to allow themselves to become isolated in the Middle East and the world. Neither can allow themselves to drift into an “us against the world” global optic or zero-sum game. That would marginalize America’s global leadership, trust and influence, further isolate Israel, and prove to be disastrous for both countries as well as the region.
It is in Israel’s interest, as much as ours, that the United States be seen by all states in the Middle East as fair. This is the currency of trust.
Joining Senator Hagel as well as previously confirmed speakers General Brent Scowcroft, former Saudi Ambassador to the US and long-time head of Saudi Intelligence HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal, and Saudi Minister of Finance Ibrahim Al-Assaf will be former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter and CSIS Trustee and Counselor Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Brzezinski somewhat recently had this exchange with Joe Scarborough and his daughter Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. It’s a spectacular clip in which Brzezinski spells out TABA: “T. . .A. . .B. . .A. Look it up Joe. You might learn something.”
Zbigniew Brzezinski and Chuck Hagel will both help open the conference at the Georgetown Four Seasons Hotel — and Brzezinski no doubt will give a tour de force review of American and Saudi national security challenges in the region.
As one interesting side bit, I learned that yesterday at 12:33 GMT, a 27 minute long interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski ran on TV Tehran. Brzezinski agreed to do the interview if not one word in his commentary was changed — and the clip he did was exactly 27 minutes, and that is what ran on Iranian television.
In the clip, Brzezinski outlined some of the things that Iran could do — as well as the US — if “serious” about changing the course of their rivalrous and non-existent relationship. According to one source, the interviewer kept asking Brzezinski about the difference between words and “deeds” and what “deeds” did America need to demonstrate. Brzezinski knocked the nudge back somewhat by suggesting that neither side should get distracted by a meaningless escalation in what counted as a “deed” — after all, what deeds could Iran put on the table.
While Kim Jong Il recently had a couple of Christian rock bands over for the celebration of his father’s birthday — as Rachel Maddow and I discussed the other day — Zbigniew Brzezinski “un-cut” on Iranian television is perhaps more newsworthy and potentially consequential.
At lunch at the conference on Monday, the 27th of April, Under Secretary of State William J. Burns will offer his own thoughts on international economic and security challenges facing Saudi Arabia, the United States, and their relationship.
Burns, who is a well-respected strategist, previously served as US Ambassador to Russia — and is rumored during the first part of the Bush administration to have been working hard along with then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and then UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw (whose son has just finished a very productive stint in the international economics shop of the John Podesta-led Center for American Progress) to get Syria out of the international dog house on to a Libya-like track. Interestingly, the provocative then Under Secretary of State for International Security and Arms Control John Bolton may have been the saboteur who then undid that progress.
In my view, Under Secretary William Burns is one of the most capable potential architects of an entirely new global arrangement between the United States and other key stakeholder powers. My sense is that Burns shares a similar world view about what is possible geostrategically with White House national security council foreign policy advisor to President Obama Denis McDonough. James Steinberg at State and Tom Donilon who serves as Deputy Director of the National Security Council are also, in my book, very competent pragmatic realists. But Burns has a vision of national security possibilities between the great powers and also with regard to setting a new equilibrium in the Middle East that the Obama team is hopefully studying up on.
This conference will STREAM LIVE on The Washington Note from 8:45 am until 4:00 pm on Monday, 27 April.
The conference is by invitation only, but if TWN readers are interested in attending, you can send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. No promises. It will be very full house.
— Steve Clemons