The Brzezinski Challenge for Presidential Contenders in 2008


brzezinski twn.jpgZB1.pngMost know that Zbigniew Brzezinski is endorsing Barack Obama for the presidency. The Washington Note was one of the first to report his announcement.
But no matter whether Obama, Clinton, Edwards, Romney, McCain or other of the candidates emerge as triumphant in the race for the Democratic and Republican nominations for the presidency, they should read his important book Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower which compares the structure of decision-making and analysis that George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and then George Bush have used in addressing major foreign policy challenges in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
I think that the book should be a must read primer for anyone who aspires to the White House — and I’d feel more comfortable with Obama, Clinton or others if we had some sense of their decision-making approach. How would they have done managing the challenges these former presidents did?
ZB3.pngCan the candidate make the strategic case for a policy action — even if it runs against public opinion?
I was impressed recently with Brzezinski’s post-Bhutto assassination comments about the missteps in American policy towards Pakistan. Whether one agrees with Brzezinski’s take that we ought not to have exported candidates into Pakistan’s political system, which the Saudis mimicked in exporting Nawaz Sharif, the honesty of the commentary is something none of the candidates — not even his own choice Barack Obama — have been able to match:

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.

In his book, Brzezinski gives Bush’s father the highest praise for managing systemic shifts in global power but criticizes him for not laying the course for a new post-Cold War policy that would have helped avoid the disequilibrium in the international system that neither Bill Clinton nor Bush 43 have managed well. He does give Clinton some credit for effort — and then pretty harshly slams George W. Bush, the incumbent with just a year left.
ZB2.pngI think Second Chance is an important, basic primer on how to think in a structured way about national security decision-making, and whether you are a fan of Zbigniew Brzezinski or not — and I am — lay readers, students, and presidential candidates can learn something valuable from this book as we trip into 2008.
Happy New Year! And best wishes to all the candidates and their believers for the races ahead in Iowa and New Hampsire and after
— Steve Clemons
The images embedded around this blog essay were drawn by Zbigniew Brzezinski, a self-described “unfulfilled artist” — in addition to being one of the world’s greatest strategic thinkers. I saw these graphics, which he calls doodles, on something personal his office sent out and asked permission to post them on this New Year’s Day 2008 post.
The Washington Note thanks him for granting permission.


22 comments on “The Brzezinski Challenge for Presidential Contenders in 2008

  1. pauline says:

    Working hard for your favorite candidate right now? Your efforts may mean very little if insiders hire the same computer hacks as before.
    This news is late getting serious coverage in msm, but better late than nev…”
    “Vote machine flaws force scramble back to paper”
    see —


  2. Juca says:

    “…I’d feel more comfortable with Obama, Clinton or others if we had some sense of their decision-making approach. How would they have done managing the challenges these former presidents did?”
    How can we decide what kind of leader a candidate would be? One interesting comparison on an issue (the Iraq war) that could not be more important to our nation– take a look at the pre-war speeches given by the three top Democrats. Which shows clear thinking, shows leadership, leaves politics aside? Link:


  3. Rajan says:

    Doodles! wow!! they could be mistaken for Feynman Diagrams. In fact, the doodles may describe the decision processes taking place in his mind at the subliminal level.


  4. bakho says:

    I wonder if Brzezinski considers his support of the fundamentalists against the secular Soviet backed Afghan government to have been a mistake?


  5. Dan Kervick says:

    Yes, I think you are right. I suppose when you are a career lawyer like Clinton, a lawyer’s uprising seems like a comforting prospect.


  6. erichwwk says:

    Dan K said:
    “Clinton also somewhat weirdly tried to make the point that the people in the streets of Pakistan were “lawyers” in “suits and ties”, when it is clear to anyone watching the news that the people in the streets are certainly not all professionals and lawyers.”
    That comment struck me as odd as well. Then it occurred to me that she was revealing her “Goldwater gal” roots, and the principle of what one sees is a function of how one looks.
    “When a pickpocket meets a saint, all (s)he sees are his(her) pockets” — Ramakrishna


  7. Dan Kervick says:

    Along these lines of Brzezinski on Pakistan, I’m guessing Clinton is regretting the decision to be so quick out of the gate with extended comments on Pakistan on Wolf Blitzer’s show. Her comments were as a result a bit too caught up in the emotion of the immediate aftermath of the assassination and media fawning over Bhutto. Obama gave himself more time and produced a more sober analysis two days later on Meet The Press.
    Obama emphasized the importance of the legitimacy of the elections, not the precise timing, and left room for the possibility of a limited delay while conditions stabilize. He also called for pressure to get Pakistan to appoint a diverse and independent group of respected *Pakistanis*, rather than in international commission. He really was more focussed on US interests and the enduring realities of US-Pakistan relations, and less on individuals like Bhutto and Musharraf. American politicians have a regrettable tendency to personalize international politics – turning conversations about Iraq into conversations about “Saddam”, for example. Obama resisted the invitation to engage in encomiums of Bhutto
    Clinton had advocated bringing in a Hariri-style external investigation, which it seems to me would only drive a further destabilizing wedge through Pakistani society and weaken the country’s sense of sovereignty. She seemed to hint several times that we should pressure the Pakistani government by hyping the threat of street revolution, which would be totally irresponsible, especially for a nuclear armed country like Pakistan.
    Clinton also somewhat weirdly tried to make the point that the people in the streets of Pakistan were “lawyers” in “suits and ties”, when it is clear to anyone watching the news that the people in the streets are certainly not all professionals and lawyers.
    Clinton also committed a bit of a gaffe in her comments, implying that she believed Musharraf himself was a candidate in the upcoming elections.


  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Anyone that would say “Iraq is a two bit country”, (considering our total reliance on fossil fuels), is an idiot.


  9. susan says:

    “It’s a TWO BIT country…”
    But a two bit country sitting atop some of the world’s largest oil reserves.
    Oil Reserves
    According to the Oil and Gas Journal, Iraq’s proven oil reserves are 115 billion barrels, although these statistics have not been revised since 2001 and are largely based on 2-D seismic data from nearly three decades ago. Over the past two years, multinational companies, at the request of the Government of Iraq (GoI), have reexamined seismic data and conducted comprehensive surveys of Iraq’s hydrocarbons reserves in locations throughout the country. Geologists and consultants have estimated that relatively unexplored territory in the western and southern deserts may contain an estimated additional 45 to 100 billion barrels (bbls) of recoverable oil. While internal Iraqi estimates have ranged into the hundreds of billions of barrels of additional oil, the seismic data under review by a host of international firms seem to be pointing to more conservative, but significant, increases. Iraq has the lowest reserve to production ratio of the major oil-producing countries.
    The majority of the known oil and gas reserves in Iraq form a belt that runs along the eastern edge of the country. According to the GoI, Iraq has around 9 fields that are considered “super giants” (over 5 billion bbls reserves) as well as 22 known “giant” fields (over 1 billion bbls). According to independent consultants, the cluster of super-giant fields of southeastern Iraq forms the largest known concentration of such fields in the world and accounts for 70 to 80 percent of the country’s proven oil reserves. An estimated 20 percent of oil reserves are in the north of Iraq, near Kirkuk, Mosul and Khanaqin. Control over rights to reserves is a source of controversy between the ethnic Kurds and other groups in the area.
    The Western Desert is of interest to oil prospectors as well as to the sectarian groups occupying these areas where there is no active oil production. Minor oil formations beneath western territory have been known of for decades, but little has been done in the way of development. Much of this area is just now undergoing exploration, although it belongs to same geological formation as part of the Saudi Arabian deposits. According to an Egyptian news source from February, 2007, a test well at the Akkas field in the Al-Anbar province is flowing at rates equivalent to larger fields elsewhere in Iraq.


  10. Duck Soup says:

    Brzezinski is endorsing Obama because Obama understands that Iraq has been a distraction that caused America to take the eye off its enemy in Pakistan. Bin Ladin and crew are lurking in that area. We need to stop them in their tracks and stop mucking around in Iraq. This Administration tells us we need to stay in Iraq until it bankrupts us and for what? It’s a TWO BIT country for heavens sake. Our enemy isn’t even there any more. It’s time for us to put the pressure on Iraq’s neighbors to step up and deal with it or be at risk of millions of refugees.


  11. Carroll says:

    When people take on the citizenship of another country and live there they should have to forfeit their US citizenship…no if,ands or buts.
    Getting the American vote out in Israel
    By Joe Charlaff June 27, 2004
    Israel has the highest percentage of U.S. citizens voting in the American elections compared to any other country in the world.
    There are over 7,100,000 American voters living outside the U.S. In 2000, only 537 votes in Florida elected George W. Bush as President.
    If you do the math, it’s clear that absentee ballots make a difference, and nowhere do overseas voters figure more prominently than in Israel.
    On Tuesday November 2, 2004, over 100,000 Americans in Israel will be able to exert their influence in determining whether George Bush stays in office, or whether Democratic nominee, John Kerry, will occupy the White House. And they take their responsibility to democracy seriously.
    Israel has the highest percentage of U.S. citizens voting in the American elections compared to any other country in the world. In the European bloc, including England and France, where many expatriate Americans reside, the percentage is between 40-45%. In Israel it is 60-65%.
    The votes from Israel could be vital in deciding which way the election will go. In the last Presidential elections everyone was waiting with bated breath for the absentee ballots from Florida to arrive from Israel because the experts thought that Democratic majority among Israel’s absentee voters might have swayed the state?s vote in favor of Democratic candidate Al Gore.
    “Bush won Florida in the last election by 537 votes. Whoever won Florida would won the Presidential election,” the Chairman of Democrats Abroad, Dr Mark Zober told ISRAEL21c, emphasizing that there are 6000 Americans with dual citizenship from Florida living in Israel.
    Both Zober’s organization, as well as Republicans Abroad in Israel, are aware of the key role they play in convincing Americans living here to vote.
    Bob Lang, spokesperson of Republicans Abroad, said what they are attempting to do is to make the goal of American democracy a reality by reaching out and aiding Americans living in Israel to register to vote.
    “This is a key election,” said David Froehlich, immediate Past Chairman of the Democrats Abroad. “We can expect the Jewish vote to be split into 50% for Bush and 50% for Kerry.”
    According to Marc Zell, the Chairman of Republicans Abroad, Americans living abroad not only deserve the right to vote in American elections, but that doing so is their duty.
    “We are American citizens and file American tax returns. Because of our dual citizenship we have interests that relate to both countries,” he said, adding that whoever sits in the White House has a bearing on what the future will be in Israel. Therefore if the opportunity exists to have a say in the affairs of the USA, Americans living in Israel would be remiss if they didn?t exercise their vote.
    Sheldon Schorer and his wife Candella, immigrated to Israel from New York in 1980. He has been active in the Democratic party in Israel since 1988, and is legal counsel to the Democratic Party Committee Abroad. He sees no conflict between being an Israeli citizen and an American voter.
    “If I was living in the U.S., I’d be voting for someone who is sympathetic to Israel. By the same token, as an American living abroad, I have certain responsibilities and obligations giving me the privilege to vote.”
    Schorer feels that the more Americans living in Israel vote, the more seriously they’ll be taken by the U.S. political process.
    “It’s very important that politicians in America know that there are voters here in Israel. If we exercise our vote then we can have an impact. Politicians will be more concerned about Israel if they know that there are voters out here and that is why I urge Americans of all stripes to get involved in the political process and to vote,” he said.
    Naomi Leitner, 48, a Kfar Sava lawyer originally from Kansas, has been a registered Republican for twenty years She sees the elections as a crucial one and urges all eligible Americans in Israel to vote.
    “I believe that the upcoming election is critical for the US as well as for Israel in terms of the war on terror. The US encourages her citizens to vote, and more Americans in Israel should take advantage of that great privilege,” she said.
    Just because Americans living here are eligible to vote does not necessarily mean that they will vote. Americans with dual citizenship who have been living here along time often are ambivalent or unsure about their voting rights and this is where Democrats and Republicans Abroad play an important role.
    “We have an educational responsibility to let people know that they have the right to vote,” said Zober. “We help to inform them, and help them go through the procedure for voting. We have a unique challenge because many of our dual citizens have a resistance to voting or don’t have a pattern of voting and our goal is to increase the number of voters from those who didn’t vote last time or who voted the other way.”
    It has become much easier to vote with the advent of computers and the internet. Registration forms can be downloaded in minutes in the comfort of ones home encouraging a greater voter turnout. All sides are expecting a record turnout this year and could be the highest in many years.
    Bob Lang, spokesperson of Republicans Abroad, Israel Chapter, stressed “The American democracy is such that every American citizen, no matter whether they are in Antarctica, or on the moon, has the right to participate in the democracy of elections.”
    American voters in Israel will take that right to heart come November 2nd.


  12. Kathleen says:

    Love the doodles… quite esoteric…. with an interesting yet reassuring asymetrical balance.
    I tend to dismiss Zbigee because he was a Reagan appointee, but the doodles give me new insight and interest.


  13. Steve Clemos says:

    John Somer — thanks. Was rushing this while getting on a plane. Thanks for the edit catch — and happy new year,


  14. Carroll says:

    Sorry Carroll, I didn’t see your post before I opened my big yap. Ya know, we think alot alike. Somethin’ tells me there are more than a few million out there that would agree, they just aren’t as vocal as we are.
    Posted by PissedOffAmerican at January 1, 2008 02:25 PM
    LOL..the more often repeated the better.
    Yes we do think alike.
    And yes there are milions more that think like we do.
    And I, like you, am doing my best to add to those numbers and bring them out of the closet everywhere I go.
    America First…and then to others according to their need not greed.


  15. Pernicious Pavlovian says:

    Wait a minute here Steve, this is a trick question right? America’s current crop of posers playing ‘presidential candidate’ all to a man/woman use the old “Ask the Eight Ball” for their DEEP political guidance and policy positions. Go ahead and shake the old ‘Eight Ball’ and get an answer. Works each and every time. Given their policy statements and positions on about ANY issue, and there’s just not a lot of strategic thinking or plain everyday logic behind what the “candidates” might have to say. Or should that be slobber? I am guessing here and how’s that any different than say the Clinton/McCain/Obama/Romney/Edwards/Huckabee Medusa?


  16. john somer says:

    Shouldn’t t be “Bush 43” in the last paragraph ?
    Happy new year !


  17. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I had major trouble getting Bollyn’s piece to post, and made numerous attempts. If it ends up posting a multiple of times, I sincerely apologise to Steve and his readers.


  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    If one goes to the link Carroll and I provided and carefully examines the entire page with it’s various links and explanations, you will find that it is stressed quite clearly that Israel regards the Presidential elections, and the outcome, essential to the state of Israel’s well-being. With that in mind, the following article by Christopher Bollyn becomes ominous, almost sinister, in its implications. I hesitated to post it because posting a piece by Bollyn here is inevitably followed by a revisitation of a number of Israel firster trolls, drooling about anti-semitism and refusing to address the actual content of Bollyn’s piece. As far as Bollyn goes, I really have no idea if he is anti-semitic or not, and quite honestly couldn’t care less. But, if it is true that an Israeli owned company is responsible for tabulating the Iowa Caucus results, and that caucus officials are discouraging citizen observers from participating, then we have no reason to trust the results, PARTICULARLY if Ron Paul gets results that are not in correlation with his poll numbers or his fundraising successes.
    The Israeli Defense Company
    That Tallies the Iowa Caucus
    By Christopher Bollyn
    The Iowa caucus is only a few days away and the nation’s attention will be directed to the results, which signify the beginning of the U.S. presidential race. But does anyone watch who tallies the results of the Iowa caucus?
    The Iowa caucus results were tallied in 2004 by a company that is headed by a man whose company was bought by Elron Electronics, the Israeli defense firm. I suspect that it will be the same this year. Don’t expect to see any grassroots political activists doing the tally in Iowa. The Israeli defense establishment takes care of that part of the American “democratic” election process.
    In the summer of 2004, I first learned that a foreign and out-of-state company using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology tallied the Iowa caucus results.
    The system used to tally the 2004 Iowa caucus results was provided by a company called Voxeo, which was apparently based in Orlando, Florida. (Yellow flag goes up in the mind of those familiar with Orlando and electronic vote fraud history. See Bollyn article on Wang below.)
    The calls from the nearly 2,000 caucus centers in Iowa went to a Voxeo call center in Atlanta, Georgia.
    On January 31, 2005, I wrote to Michelle Bauer, Iowa’s Secretary of State with some questions about the use of Voxeo, a foreign company located in Florida, to tally the results of the Iowa caucus:
    Subject: How was the Iowa Caucus Tallied?
    Dear Sirs,
    When I visited the headquarters of the Democratic Party in Des Moines last summer, I learned that the tally of the Iowa caucus had been “out-sourced” to a company in Atlanta, Georgia.
    What this means is that the tallying of the Iowa caucus results was done over the telephone, using the touch-tone buttons, to enter the results from each caucus location…
    I am interested in how this was done, and why. Why did the Democratic Party allow the crucial tally of the caucus results to be done by a company in Atlanta? Don’t they trust their own math skills?
    Can any of you provide any information about this matter?
    Kind regards,
    Christopher Bollyn
    A person named Mike Milligan wrote back on behalf of Secretary of State Bauer:
    Mike Milligan wrote:
    Dear Christopher:
    The Secretary of State forwarded me the email you sent to then on Monday, January 31, 2004 [sic] regarding the Iowa Caucuses.
    Unfortunately you either received some incorrect information in your travels or are confused. The Iowa Democratic Party completed all of the caucus night tabulations in Iowa, in the Des Moines/Polk County Convention Center, which was the Caucus night HQ. In fact, our tech staff wrote the software that tabulated the results.
    To answer your second to last question, we feel we have a comfortable grasp of mathematics.
    Mike Milligan, Executive Director
    Iowa Democratic Party
    (515) 244-7292 ex. 676
    I wrote this note back to Mr. Milligan:
    Dear Mr. Milligan,
    I am responding to you about how the caucus results for the Iowa Democratic Party were tallied on the night of the nation’s first caucus. After checking my sources, I can assure you that it is correct that an out-of-state telephone/computer system tallied the Iowa precinct results.
    The system used was provided by Voxeo Corporation based in Orlando, Florida. The calls went from Iowa to a call center in Atlanta, Georgia.
    This information was first provided to me last August by John McCormally, Communications Director for the Iowa Democratic Party in Des Moines, Iowa.
    Today I called Voxeo (800) 305-5771 in Orlando and although I didn’t go into detail, the receptionist confirmed that Voxeo had conducted the telephone tally of the Iowa Democratic Caucus results.
    How is it that you don’t know that?
    McCormally told me that chairmen were selected in all 1,993 precincts and these chairmen called in on touch-tone phones and after giving their PIN number, were able to enter the results from their precinct using the touch-tone number pad.
    I’m not going to go into great detail at this point, but this procedure of using an out-of-state computer company to tally the precinct results for the Iowa Democratic Caucus lacks the transparency and openness that one might expect in this exercise in grass-roots poll.
    Clearly, if someone wanted to adjust the results, it would be the easiest thing to do to do it through this computer system in Orlando, Florida. The Democrats in Iowa would never be aware of it, regardless of their math skills, unless the paper results were carefully audited in an open and honest manner.
    Christopher Bollyn
    Now, who really is Voxeo, and why are the Iowa caucus results tallied by them? I don’t know if the 2008 Iowa results will be tallied in the same way, but I wouldn’t doubt it.
    Voxeo is headed by Jonathan Taylor, who is the company’s President and CEO. This is what his Voxeo webpage says about him:
    Jonathan combined his experience in both business operations and technology innovation to found Voxeo in 1999. Under his guidance, Voxeo has seen triple-digit revenue growth for four consecutive years and has been profitable since January, 2004. Prior to Voxeo, Jonathan founded and helped bring three additional software and infrastructure service companies to profitability.
    From 1995 to 1997, Jonathan was the founder and President of InterResearch and Development Group (IRdg), Inc. IRdg created and licensed iPost – the first internet powered OEM unified messaging solution – to leading telecommunications providers including Ericsson, Motorola and Unisys. IRdg was acquired by Elron Electronic Industries (Nasdq: ELRN) subsidiary MediaGate in 1997.
    There you have it. Jonathan Taylor’s company, which he founded, was taken over by Elron Electronic Industries, the Israeli defense high tech company:
    In its early days, Elron focused on defense, particularly electronics and avionics, as well as the emerging medical and technology sectors. In 1966, Elron founded Elbit, which combined the expertise of the Ministry of Defense-Research Institute in special computer design with Elron’s experience in electronic product design, manufacture and management.
    This is important information that Americans need to know and which they will not find in the Zionist-controlled media in the United States. It needs to be understood that the entire election process in the United States is a fraud. More than that, it is a fraud that is being perpetrated by the Israeli defense establishment on the naïve and gullible American public.
    The sine qua non of an honest and transparent election process is the open counting of the votes by the voters themselves in each polling station in front of the open eyes of other citizens and members of the media. Any compromise in this most fundamental and essential process which acts to remove the citizenry from the vote-counting process simply cannot be accepted.
    This is what Americans MUST get back to, in every polling station in the nation: paper ballots that are hand counted in front of the public.
    Nothing else will do to protect their democratic franchise in the United States – NOTHING.


  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    BTW, Steve. You have great eye, Brzezinski’s “doodlings” are fantastic, and show a high level of artistic talent. I would love to see more of his “doodlings”, or even a glimpse of his more serious works, if any exist.


  20. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Sorry Carroll, I didn’t see your post before I opened my big yap. Ya know, we think alot alike. Somethin’ tells me there are more than a few million out there that would agree, they just aren’t as vocal as we are.


  21. PissedOffAmerican says:

    First, I find it intreresting that Bush Sr. is not recognized for his actions concerning Saddam’s KNOWN intentions to invade Kuwait. After all, that really set this clusterfuck in motion, and it can rationally be concluded that today’s situation in Iraq is the foreseeable result (intended?) of the wink and a nod we gave Saddam when he made his intentions to invade Kuwait known.
    Secondly, many here might find the following article, (linked), interesting, as it is a rating evaluation, performed by a Haaratz “panel”, that seeks to examine the United States Presidential candidates by who would treat Israel the most favorably.
    It is especially interesting that, like our own media, Haaratz fails to include Ron Paul. Undoubtedly Israel would rather not call attention to the one candidate that is most likely speaking for the majority of American citizens when he advocates cutting off Israel’s unearned and undeserved Gravy Train.
    Of course, this piece of shit Guilianni heads the pack, followed closely by the neo “liberal” Clinton. Bloomberg is right on Hillary’s tail. Would it be anti-semitic of me to suggest that these three quit their Presidential aspirations, and instead see who can immigrate to Israel in the quickest and most efficient manner?
    I might vote for Ron Paul just because of the fact that he did not make this list.


  22. Carroll says:

    Ask Brzezinski who are the candidates we could most likely pressure away from Israel and the fifth column zionist in the US.
    Haaretz Ranking on who is best for Israel and the Jews:
    According to this Huckabee is their least favorite. Then I would say Edwards could possibly be pressured due to his objection to lobbying and special interest. Paul of course would dismantle the whole US-Isr scheme by simpy refusing to sign off on any aid to Israel.
    We should make it our New Year’s resolution to try and find an actual American to run for President of America.


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