Implications of the Zbigniew Brzezinski-Anthony Lake Divide


I am a fan of Zbigniew Brzezinski and generally agree with him that in order to get America’s national security portfolio back together — we have to be wary of seductive assertions that the U.S. can easily manipulate political realities in a place like Pakistan in pursuit of platitudes.
Democracy sounds nice but it is enormously difficult to achieve and does not equate with elections. Focusing only on elections, as Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass has stated, gives us “ballotocracy” — not democracy.
I agree with Senator Joe Biden that it is likely that Benazir Bhutto’s party probably would have prevailed in Pakistan’s elections in the coming two weeks, but this would not have made Pakistan democratic. Protected and established rights of minority parties, checks and balances, rule of law, freedom of the press and of civil society, and active political participation of the citizenry comprise genuine democracy — and in my view, Pakistan would not have been there after the elections.
But beyond that, there is a genuine question of whether America should have been meddling with the internal dynamics of Pakistan’s political situation. We helped insert Benazir Bhutto. The Saudis helped re-insert Nawaz Sharif. The political chessboard inside Pakistan was one that many external players have been trying to manipulate — and this ‘may’ have been a mistake.
The combination of Pakistan having nukes and also serving as the primary residence of bin Laden and Zawahiri make this a more complicated situation than just whether Pakistan is a real democracy — or a fake one under military control.
I have just received the statements on Bhutto’s assassinationg from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — and also a statement made by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Here is Hillary Clinton’s official statement:

“I am profoundly saddened and outraged by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a leader of tremendous political and personal courage. I came to know Mrs. Bhutto over many years, during her tenures as Prime Minister and during her years in exile. Mrs. Bhutto’s concern for her country, and her family, propelled her to risk her life on behalf of the Pakistani people.
She returned to Pakistan to fight for democracy despite threats and previous attempts on her life and now she has made the ultimate sacrifice. Her death is a tragedy for her country and a terrible reminder of the work that remains to bring peace, stability, and hope to regions of the globe too often paralyzed by fear, hatred, and violence.
Let us pray that her legacy will be a brighter, more hopeful future for the people she loved and the country she served. My family and I extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to the victims and their families and to the people of Pakistan.”

Obama’s statement is on the same course of Clinton’s comment — but without the edgy detail and acknowledgment of what a challenge democracy building is abroad:

“I am shocked and saddened by the death of Benazir Bhutto in this terrorist atrocity. She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world.”

But then Obama advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski offered yesterday a contrarian critique of America’s support of Bhutto on MSNBC. I found Brzezinski’s commentary refreshing and honest — but clearly at odds with his candidate for the White House:

I think the United States should not get involved in Pakistani politics. I deplore the absence of democracy in Pakistan, but I think admonitions from outside, injecting exile politicians into Pakistan, telling the Pakistan president what he should or should not wear, that he should take off his uniform, I don’t really think this is America’s business and I don’t think it helps to consolidate stability in Pakistan.

I think that this is time for realism — seeing the world as it is, warts and all, rather than as we would hope it would or should be.
Brzezinski gets that, but all of the campaigns would be smart to realize that Americans having to make their next choice of president are going to choke on platitudes and want the costs and benefits of policy discussed seriously.
Pakistan remains the most dangerous country in the world today — and like the ticking clock that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists used to post on how close the world was to midnight, and thus a nuclear war, I think that Bhutto’s death moves us closer to a cataclysm rather than further away.
The question now is how would a Hillary Clinton approach Pakistan realities today? How would Obama who has Brzezinski’s realism on one side of him and Anthony Lake’s democracy-or-nothing approach on the other deal with Pakistan? How would Huckabee? or Biden? or Romney? Giuliani?
— Steve Clemons


21 comments on “Implications of the Zbigniew Brzezinski-Anthony Lake Divide

  1. Tony Foresta says:

    The rabid radicals are commandeering the government, reengineering the Constitution, perverting America’s principles, and betraying the people now Lookout.
    I am a father who does not want my daughter to live in an America that is like “the other 2/3rds of the world” you warn about. America is moving in all the wrong directions, economically, politically, and most alarmingingly in terms of the RADICAL erosion of the peoples rights, freedoms, and protections under the fascists in the Bush government.
    Hold the cold comfort that people like me will never be in any position of power (because people like me would never sell our souls to the devil for greed and power gleaned from corporate bribes, or bow to fundamentalists freaks in the christianright, or pervert and betray the laws and principles that formally defined America) –
    but you might want to examine the rabid radicals commandeering America now, look up the word fascism, – and get back to me, – because the actual policies, ideologies, and actions of the rabid radical commandeering the WH are clearly fascist in nature and application.


  2. Lookout says:

    God help the US if rabid radicals like you ever got into power Foresta. You should try living in the other 2/3rds of the world. Why don’t you leave anyway when things are so bad at home?


  3. Tony Foresta says:

    Word John Bennett. We all support the visionary ideals and hope of something like democracy.
    America should focus on restoring our own democracy which has been, and is being radically mangled, dismembered, and reengineered by the fascists in the Bush government while the impotent incompetents, or cowards in the democratic party are seemingly incapable of halting the ravaging of the Constitution.
    Words mean nothing. Democracy in the Bush governments lexicon is a hollow and deceitful mask for war profiteering, tyranny, and fascism. The only hope for restoring democracy to America is by Americans FORCING accountability from the fascists in the Bush government.


  4. John Bennett says:

    While I was still a diplomat, I faced this dilemma between promoting democracy and doing what we could to protect US interests in a number of authoritarian countries. I began in my own mind thinking how democracy comes to a country. No outsider can impose it. Otherwise it isn’t democratic by definition. I also faced a number of American groups who harassed us for failing to support democracy. My response was simple: of course we supported democracy, but given the point above and other US interests, we were precluded from further action–everyone knew we supported democracy but if our actions were not effective, there was no point in going further. Finally, I made a distinction for an authoritarian government where our opposition to it could be effective in promoting democracy in the long run without totally undermining our ability to support other US interests, including those which were consistent with the country’s interests. We got good outcomes in Korea but not at the time in Vietnam nor in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. But I still have hope for them.


  5. jkojs says:

    NO more Clinton dynasty and corrupted Health Industry.
    Its time to end 20 years of Clinton/Bush political dynasty.


  6. Tony Foresta says:

    Thanks for the definition of democracy yut. By your standards, there is certainly no democracy in Pakistan, or Iraq, and America under the fascists in the Bush government is fast and radically eroding ALL these principles. America has the right and duty to protect, defend, and advance our interests – but we do NOT have the right to impose or coerce any form of governmnent on any other nation. Our interests in Pakistan are stability, insuring the security of the nuclear weapons in Pakistans arsenal, and hunting, capturing, or killing every jihadist mass murderer, and all those who aid and abet them. Pakistani’s themselves must resolve their internal difference’s, and establish their own form of government and hopefully something like a civil society.
    America’s best hope for inspiring (as opposed to imposing) democracy in any other nation, is RESTORING and PROTECTING the principles of democracy here in our homeland.
    “Deliver us from evil!”


  7. yut says:

    > Protected and established rights of minority parties, checks and balances, rule of law, freedom
    > of the press and of civil society, and active political participation of the citizenry comprise
    > genuine democracy
    Sure, but the nr 1 measure of democracy is civilian rule of the military. Without that all others are kinda superficial and wont last all that long.
    And “freedom of the press” is an outdated way of thinking about information. I prefer the idea of free access to information. Whats the use of having the right to operate a TV station if broadcasting licenses are distributed among the 3 richest stations thus forcing them all to broadcast the most profitable pulp entertainment funded by government controlled advertisers? (Airliners, government allied investment groups and others that don’t actually sell products to the audience of the TV station… )


  8. Tony Foresta says:

    I have begged the socalled experts to here and elsewhere to define what exactly is this thing called “democracy”. Bush’s hollow mutterings about evildoers disrupting democracy in Pakistan is an insult to out intelligence in a nation that is just emerging, and probably now soon returning from a state of marshal law. Democracy here in the land of Oz no longer exists in the way it did before the fascists in the Bush government commandeered the government and erected Bush/Cheney as kings accountable to no one, and free to operate above, beyond, outside, and in total disdain of the laws of the land, and the rule of law.
    There is no democracy aborning in Iraq. Whatever may emerge from the hellhole in the land of the two rivers, it will be far from democracy. And finally attacking a soveriegn nation unprovoked, based on a festering litany of hype, exaggerations, and naked lies; imposing a puppet government upon that nation, marauding that nations resources, profiteering wantonly in and from the process, and slaughtering and maiming millions of that nations innocent civilians is TYRANNY, not democracy!
    Before any American leader can ever speak of “democratizing” any other nation – Americans must demand first that democracy be quantified and defined, and the we ourselves abide by those quantifiable definitions, and principles.
    Bhutto’s assassination will likely uncork even more furries in Pakistan and beyond, – but predictable tragedies likes the murder of opposition candidates in Pakistan proves – yet again, – and hopefully forever – that this imaginary thing called democracy in muslim lands is a dead horse. It’s never going to happen.
    Democracy does not exist in America! American must reject forever the hollow fiction and pipedream of imagining we can somehow impose this imaginary thing called democracy on ANY other nation, and work instead toward first defining, and restoring, or erecting this thing called democracy here in the land of Oz.
    Buckle up! We’re about to enter some turbulence.
    “Deliver us from evil!”


  9. Andrew McCullough says:

    It’s worth noting that the “Bulletin of Atomic Scientists” (not “American”) still does keep a doomsday clock. You can see it’s history here:
    Right now, we have 5 minutes to midnight, which isn’t so great.


  10. arthurdecco says:

    Steve Clemons said: “Protected and established rights of minority parties, checks and balances, rule of law, freedom of the press and of civil society, and active political participation of the citizenry comprise genuine democracy…”
    If this is what you actually consider genuine democracy, Mr. Clemons, how would you describe your own country’s approach to governance? It’s certainly not a democracy, based on your own description.
    Steve Clemons said: “Pakistan remains the most dangerous country in the world today”
    Au Contraire, the USA is responsible for more civilian deaths and infrastructure destruction than every other country or organization in the world COMBINED since Bush wormed his way into the presidency with the connivance of your ridiculously 3rd World-like Supreme Court.
    To my way of thinking, that makes America the “most dangerous country in the world today”. Pakistan is waaayyyyy down the list.
    I might have agreed with you had you added the qualifier that Pakistan could “potentially” become “the most dangerous country in the world today”. But you didn’t, did you? Why is that?


  11. S Brennan says:

    The ISI is a pretty powerful lobby, up to now both the Hill&Bill campaign and Obama have created policies which are magnets for contributions…before you jump Osama see if Hill&Bill don’t exonerate/please Pakistan’s ISI as well.
    I’d be really surprise if Hill&Bill don’t smell the money and use the same language.
    What’s really funny is the Pakistan lobby uses US Tax dollars given to them by the US Government to influence US elections.


  12. jonst says:

    Yeah, Obama was quick to blame it on “terrorists” who “threaten the common security of the world”. That was quick on his part. Does that statement rule out an inside job by ISI?


  13. JohnH says:

    “With Benazir’s assassination, the Rice Plan is in tatters and Bush administration policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan is tottering.” Another nail in the coffin of Condi’s catastrophic legacy, AKA reality intrudes on Bush’s fantasy that America is the world’s cop.


  14. ckrantz says:

    I wonder how oil are trading right now?
    What is happening seems to be a slow slide towards regional disintegration in the Pakistan-Afghanistan area. The US, UK, China and the Saudis have all been meddling in Pakistan in yet another attempt to create an ‘democracy’ With nukes,the countries of pakistan-afghanistan, global oil supply and not to mention the fate of Nato in the balance.
    Scratch the surface of Pakistan and i suspect you would find another Irak with the same sectarian tensions. Only this time the Shia is in a minority.
    My question to the candidates would be how they will deal with further regional disintegration in the whole ME and South East Asia region. And how they plan to rescue NATO, currently stuck in a war it can not win or lose.
    I suspect neither the administration nor the candidates have an answer.


  15. weldon berger says:

    “… there is a genuine question of whether America should have been meddling with the internal dynamics of Pakistan’s political situation.”
    That summarizes, in a nutshell, all that is wrong with your concensus foreign policy players, Steve. Your comment rests upon the assumption that we have the right to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries, with the only caveat being whether doing so is to our advantage or not in a given instance.
    In other words, can we get away with it? Never mind the impact on the people who actually live in the countries subject to our subversion or coercion. Reasonable people can disagree. But in truth, they can’t; even asking the question speaks to a fundamental disconnect from reason.


  16. S Brennan says:

    I don’t agree with all that is posted by Juan Cole @ 12/27/2007 but it is the best I have seen on Butto.
    “…The Pakistani authorities are blaming Muslim militants for the assassination. That is possible, but everyone in Pakistan remembers that it was the military intelligence, or Inter-Services Intelligence, that promoted Muslim militancy in the two decades before September 11 as a wedge against India in Afghanistan and Kashmir. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) faithful will almost certainly blame Pervez Musharraf, and sentiment here is more important than reality, whatever the reality may be. The PPP is one of two very large, long-standing grassroots political parties in Pakistan, and if its followers are radicalized by this event, it could lead to severe turmoil. Just a day before her assassination Benazir had pledged that the PPP would not allow the military to rig the upcoming January 8 parliamentary elections.
    Pakistan is important to US security. It is a nuclear power. Its military fostered, then partially turned on the Taliban and al-Qaeda, which have bases in the lawless tribal areas of the northern part of the country. And Pakistan is key to the future of its neighbor, Afghanistan. Pakistan is also a key transit route for any energy pipelines built between Iran or Central Asia and India, and so central to the energy security of the United States.
    The military government of Pervez Musharraf was shaken by two big crises in 2007, one urban and one rural. The urban crisis was his interference in the rule of law and his dismissal of the supreme court chief justice. The Pakistani middle class has greatly expanded in the last seven years, as others have noted, and educated white collar people need a rule of law to conduct their business. Last June 50,000 protesters came out to defend the supreme court, even though the military had banned rallies. The rural crisis was the attempt of a Neo-Deobandi cult made up of Pushtuns and Baluch from the north to establish themselves in the heart of the capital, Islamabad, at the Red Mosque seminary. They then attempted to impose rural, puritan values on the cosmopolitan city dwellers. When they kidnapped Chinese acupuncturists, accusing them of prostitution, they went too far. Pakistan depends deeply on its alliance with China, and the Islamabad middle classes despise Talibanism. Musharraf ham-fistedly had the military mount a frontal assault on the Red Mosque and its seminary, leaving many dead and his legitimacy in shreds. Most Pakistanis did not rally in favor of the Neo-Deobandi cultists, but to see a military invasion of a mosque was not pleasant (the militants inside turned out to be heavily armed and quite sinister).
    The NYT reported that US Secretary of State Condi Rice tried to fix Musharraf’s subsequent dwindling legitimacy by arranging for Benazir to return to Pakistan to run for prime minister, with Musharraf agreeing to resign from the military and become a civilian president. When the supreme court seemed likely to interfere with his remaining president, he arrested the justices, dismissed them, and replaced them with more pliant jurists. This move threatened to scuttle the Rice Plan, since Benazir now faced the prospect of serving a dictator as his grand vizier, rather than being a proper prime minister.
    With Benazir’s assassination, the Rice Plan is in tatters and Bush administration policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan is tottering.
    Benazir is from a major Pakistani political dynasty. (See the obituary here and the photographs here. Her father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was prime minister in the 1970s but was overthrown by a military coup in 1977 and subsequently hanged by military dictator Zia ul-Huq. Benazir helped lead the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy in the 1980s, and was often under house arrest. When Zia died in an airplane accident in 1988, Benazir won the subsequent elections and served as prime minister 1988-1990. Zia had put in place mechanisms to limit popular sovereignty, and the then ‘president’ removed Benazir from office in 1990. She served again as PM, 1993-1996 but was again deposed, being accused of corruption. After the 1999 military coup of Pervez Musharraf, she was in a state of permanent exile, since he said he would have her arrested if she tried to come back. He relented because of his own collapsing position and because of US pressure, and allowed her to return in October. She was almost assassinated at that time by a huge bomb when she landed in Karachi…”
    posted by Juan Cole @ 12/27/2007 11:43:00 AM


  17. Carroll says:

    Wake me when Americans start throwing some bombs that take out “exile’ politicans in our country like Israeli Arlen Specter….
    The only reason Egypt started getting US aid to begin with was a bribe for them to make peace with Israel… great, cut off Egypt and lose another semi US ally…..maybe they too will get active in extinguishing Isr’merica. I would be tickled to death to see all those like this idiot in our government depart in a puff of smoke. When they end up in hell their punishment will be having the audio version of “How to Win Friends and Influence enemies” blasted into their hell cells 24/7 eternally.
    Egypt: Israeli lobby harms US relations
    By MAAMOUN YOUSSEF – Associated Press Writer
    CAIRO, Egypt —
    Egypt’s foreign minister on Wednesday accused the Israeli lobby of harming its relations with the United States by using the issue of weapons smuggling across its border with Gaza as an excuse to cut Washington’s military aid to Cairo.
    The remarks came ahead of a meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, where they are expected to discuss the smuggling. The also come amid heightened tension between Egypt and Israel, which claims that not enough is being done to stem the flow of weapons.
    “The latest months have seen the Israeli lobby’s efforts to harm Egypt’s interests with the Congress,” Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters. “The Israeli lobby inside the (U.S.) Congress was behind some positions adopted by Congress and the Israeli media campaign in the last few months falls within this trend.”
    On Wednesday, influential U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter said during a visit to Jerusalem that he was upset by the smuggling, and revived a proposal by Congress to cut aid if the issue was not addressed. The U.S. gives Egypt about $2 billion a year in aid, mostly for its military.
    “Egypt can do a lot more,” said Specter, a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. “And if they don’t, I think it would be appropriate to condition aid to them.”
    Egypt often acts as a mediator between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group which controls the Gaza Strip. That mediation, as well as arms smuggling allegations and a recent Hamas offer for a truce with Israel are also expected to be on the…….


  18. Carroll says:

    Gee, how sweet…all the players gather to praise and mourn a fellow corrupted and promising skid greaser for the U$ democracy cartel.
    I am touched.
    Especially in how they bemoan losing the Bhutto checker piece in their democracy game just placed the US in such a bad position…as if they never set in motion most of the world sceniro they are hand wringing about.


  19. pauline says:

    HRC heard screaming out to Laurie Rubiner about the Pakistan realities today. “Get the f*****g back here and tell me exactly what to say about this mess. Scr** that malaria cr*p!…”


  20. pauline says:

    I wonder if Brzezinski is thinking like Ron Paul?
    Paul: ‘We’re getting ready to bomb Iran’
    David Edwards and Jason Rhyne
    Published: Thursday December 27, 2007
    Despite a recent National Intelligence Estimate finding that Iran has halted its nuclear weapons program, libertarian-leaning GOP presidential contender Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) says there is still “a great possibility” of US military action against the country.
    Appearing on MSBNC’s Morning Joe, Paul described what he characterized as a deteriorating situation on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and said the US was preparing to kickstart yet another conflict — this time in Iran.
    “It is getting worse over there,” he said. “Afghanistan is getting worse. Turkey is bombing Iraq. And Pakistan is blowing up and we’re getting ready to bomb Iran. A bunch of those neocons want to bomb Iran.”
    Asked how the US could justify military action against Iran in the wake of the National Intelligence Estimate — which determined that the country hadn’t actively pursued a nuclear weapon since 2003 — Paul said he didn’t think the report would do much to deter a strike.
    “I think it’s a great possibility. Read Seymour Hersh. He is the expert over there,” said Paul of the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, who has previously reported that the US is preparing a preemptive strike against Iran.
    “And the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been declared a terrorist organization for the purpose of them being the targets rather than had the nuclear power plants,” Paul said. “So, wait and see… there are still quite a few neoconservatives that want to go after Iran under these unbelievable conditions.”
    Concluded Paul, “That is the absurdity of the whole mess we have in there…stay out of entangling alliances, stay out of nation building. We ought to just get out of that place.”


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