Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Monday, February 14, 2005

Zbigniew Brzezinski: Armitage would not stand up and (dis)agree with Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby

MDN: Special: "Analyzing President Bush's Inaugural address

Interview with Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
by Chiyako Sato, Mainichi Washington Bureau

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to U.S. President Jimmy Carter 1977-1981
Q: Could you provide me with your analysis of the inaugural address. I believe the address has been characterized as somewhat controversial.

The Inaugural address was not a statement of strategy but more of a political sermon. It was essentially a statement of broad principles, which however should not be interpreted as indicating precisely how America will deal with complex foreign policy issues. If the, quote on quote, political sermon was to be taken seriously there would be grounds for concerns because it is an obvious oversimplification of global problems. But as a statement of a generalized commitment to the idea of freedom I believe it does represent what the majority of the people of the world desire.

Q: So do you view the speech as being excellent? To my understanding, criticism of the Bush Administration's inaugural address can be categorized into three main points. The first point is that the inaugural address is based on idealism and lacks a realist perspective, in essence lacking in realism. The second is that it rationalizes the war or intervention in the internal affairs of the other countries. The third point is that it does not adequately address the issue of how to deal with countries, such as Russia, China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, that cooperate in the fight against terrorism but lack in the realm of freedom and democracy.

I understand these criticisms because I have made them myself on American national television. The same evening I said it didn't address such difficult issues as how to deal with China, where we have a common interest in solving the North Korean problem, but where we may have a different view of the issue of Tibet. It doesn't solve the problem of policy toward Russia, where we may have common interest in opposing terrorism but where Russia is also guilty of genocide in regards to Chechnya. It doesn't deal with the problem of the Middle East where we have an interest in promoting the security of Israel but where at the same time the Palestinians are repressed and denied freedom. So I have made these criticisms, but having made them I also say that it is a misconception of the role of the inaugural address to expect a strategic statement. This is not the statement of the kind of what the Gaimusho would issue on the issue of Japan's foreign policy or the State Department might issue on the subject of American foreign policy. It is meant to be a sermon like a religious sermon. It is meant to state certain generalized principles. The same speech could have been delivered by Kerry. It didn't mention Iraq so it didn't justify the war, it didn't mention it. Kerry could have given the same speech, Carter gave a similar speech when he became President, Wilson gave a similar speech, Roosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter with Churchill and then collaborated with Stalin. In other words do not confuse the inaugural and I repeat the word sermon with a serious strategic statement of foreign policy.

Q: It was reported in the US media that the day after his inaugural address, that White House officials stated that President Bush's speech did not represent any significant shift in US foreign policy. It was explained that in the address, the President intended to clarify his policies towards Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East and that the speech did not reflect a shift in strategy. Do you agree with that view?

Yes, I don't think it reflects any shift but I also don't think it indicates, necessarily, that nothing will change. I am stressing the fact that it has very little to do with policy.

Q: Why do think President Bush's address caused so much criticism?

Because people expected the speech to give a preview of his foreign policy but is not the function of an inaugural address. The criticism came more from aboard than inside America because the people in America did not expect a sophisticated, detailed, nuanced statement, which addresses the complexities of foreign affairs; which discusses the war in Iraq. It was a generalized statement of his core beliefs and that's all.

Q: Regardless of whether the address reflected a major change in policy or not, do you think that the Bush Administration in the second term will seek to put pressure on Russia, China, Iran...?

It depends. Look if it does or it does not, I repeat it will have no relationship to the inaugural address. So now once we have put this behind us we can talk about the specific issues. I do not expect pressure on Russia or China on the issue of freedom. I think there may be pressure on Iran because it is convenient to raise that issue because of the nuclear program problem. So it is convenient to raise that issue. I think the administration in the near future will basically continue its policy but the new team in the State Department is somewhat more pragmatic and therefore it becomes clear that it is in American interest to begin changing policy I think there will be gradually some inclination to make adjustments. But that is also more likely to happen if our friends and I mean particularly the Europeans and the Japanese have some serious strategic initiatives of their own proposed to America to be undertaken jointly and to be jointly supported by tangible actions. If Europeans or Japanese think they can influence American policy merely by criticizing they're wrong. If they think they can influence American policy simply by aiding but not criticizing, they are also wrong. They can influence American policy if they constructively engage America in a dialogue, strategic dialogue regarding joint objectives, joint implementation, which means we share in decision making but we also share in the burdens. Otherwise, America will not change its policy unless events become so unpleasant so difficult for America that it has to change policy. Right now I d not think that President Bush or Vice-President Cheney feel that they ought to change American policy. Maybe in time events will force them to think that or better still maybe our friends, the Europeans and the Japanese, can make it strategically attractive to America to consider some changes because it will become evident that if America is willing to make some changes Europeans and the Japanese will also be more willing to participate not only on changing the decisions but in implementing the joint decisions.

Q: Do you think there are any European or Asian countries that believe in American policy or are involved in the decision making process right now or in the first Bush administration?

I think there are no Asian countries that are particularly enthusiastic about our policy. There are two or three European countries which have been supportive of American policy, Italy, Poland, for example, Britain naturally but their public opinion domestically is not supportive. There are wide spread misgivings about the character of current American policy and its direction.

Q: Could you provide me with you analysis of the Bush Administrations policy toward North Korea in the second term?

Essentially it's a stalemate. We have ongoing discussions in a multilateral setting, which is what we wanted, but fundamentally little progress. It is difficult for the Administration to consider parallel bilateral talks with North Korea and at the same time there is little inclination on the part of our partners on these talks, notable China and Japan, to join in any serious threats to North Korea short of a military threat just by the United States alone. So in the present circumstances we are neither able to attract North Korean compliance because of so-called carrots because we are also not able to intimidate North Korea through some call so-called sticks. We don't have the sticks and we don't have the carrots.

Q: Do you think the Cabinet reshuffle will affect the Bush administration's foreign policy? Do you think they will seek a more unilateral approach?

I already have answered your question, because I have said if over time the current policy runs into greater difficulties this new team, which is quite pragmatic and very intelligent and is a strong team of people will be more inclined, I think, to consider the need for revision. This has not happened yet and it may not happen for quite a while.

Q: So we can wait and watch how it will affect...

I mean if you want me to give you a prediction like on March 15 there will be a change in Bush's foreign policy, you will not get that from me because the world doesn't work that way. We have a team of people who subscribe to the policy, basically, but hey are more pragmatic than their predecessors and they're of higher quality I would say -- the new team that is being put together at the State Department. Therefore if the policy is not evidentially successful, if it runs into greater difficulties, then they may be more inclined to make adjustments. These adjustments may come sooner if our European and Japanese friends were prepared to be serious in their approach to the dilemmas that we confront for which they also indirectly confront and they can only be serious if they are prepared to discuss seriously with us both the strategic objectives and strategic burdens. The problem is that now American policy tends to be we make the decisions; our European and Japanese friends help to implement them. European and Japanese attitudes are your decisions are wrong you should have a different policy, but we will not help you to implement it. That's not very persuasive if the Europeans and the Japanese were prepared to say to us you should change your policy in the Middle east there are certain things you should do differently and if you we are prepared to assume some of the very major financial, human, and military burdens involved. And that would have some weight. Right it's a dialogue between one side saying follow us, we make the decision and the other side saying no you don't go that way, you go that way but we're not going to do anything even if you adopt our recommendations. That's a dilemma; that right, there is a cleavage between us and our allies.

Q: Do you think a major item on Bush's second term agenda is war on terror?

I don't know what that slogan means. Terror is a symptom of much wider global unrest and a reflection of many forms of conflict some of which is directed against us. And the war in Iraq has increased the number of people who are hostile to us but some of the terrorist activity is not directed at all at us but at others. I don't think it is a wise policy for us to universalize the problem of terror.

Q: How responsive and to what extant would America be receptive toward an effort by European and Japanese to have a serious discussion of strategic objectives and strategic burdens

I think there would be quite a bit of interest here because even if people are convinced that the policy is right, even among the people that the policy is right, there's a realization that the implementation of that policy is proving more difficult and more costly than they had assumed. Some are worried more, some are worried less, some are not worried at all and think its wonderful but if they begin to sense that there is a willingness of the Europeans and the Japanese to become serious players in that part of the world from Suez Canal to Xianjiang which is the source of instability which effects the oil producing regions on which Europe and Japan depends then that would have much more influence than Mr. Schroeder or Mr. Chirac criticizing or Mr. Koizumi not criticizing but not being very enthusiastic but still helping -- the result is neither the Europeans nor the Japanese in effect have much influence. That's my central point.

Q: You mentioned that the new cabinet members are pragmatic...

I didn't say cabinet I didn't say cabinet members. I said members of the State Department, foreign policy. I have in mind people like Zoellick.

Q: People like Powell and Armitage were very pragmatic.

Yeah, but they didn't have a good team. It was just Powell and that's all. Rumsfeld has a strong team of neoconservatives. Rice will have Zoellick who is very, very smart and knows how to deal with friends even if negotiating toughly with him. And Nick Burns has a lot of experience in dealing with NATO, and Chris Hill, the guy for the Far East is a very smart guy and again experienced in dealing with allies and pragmatic tough minded individualÑnot a softie, not a pacifist but not a neoconservatives fanatic. Dan Fread for Europe, something. Alderman probably political military affairs, again that type of person. This is a different group then the neocons. Powell was weak because he had nobody behind him. Armitage was a very good executive in the State Department, but not a counter-strategist who would stand up and agree with Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby, from Cheney's staff, were sort of the principle neocons advocates. I think that team over time will have an impact on Rice's thinking.

Q: Do you think the influences of the neocons will decline?

You want everything kind of black and white and the world doesn't work that way. You know, he will go up, this will go down and when -- that will be your next question. But at least, there is now a group of people who have a different way of looking at the world, more pragmatic, tough minded, but able to recognize nuances and complexities and with experience in dealing with our allies. If we have no difficulties in foreign policy of course policy won't change if it's continuously successful. You know if Iraq is a wonderful success, if having a bigger war with Iran is going to be a great success, which I think is doubtful, then of course we will continue but if it becomes to be more difficult that new team will begin to influence events."