The Anachronistic Cold Warrior

by on January 13th, 2007

Those who follow the ideological internecine between the Cold Warriors and the Neo-Conservatives are acutely aware that Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Adviser, is a voluble critic of the policy of pre-emption, in particular, the Iraq war.

His editorial in today’s Washington Post is sternly critical of President Bush’s recent speech wherein he outlined a strategic correction and a comprehensive plan for stability in Iraq.

He begins with the charge that the president reiterated his

“demagogic oversimplification of the challenge the United States faces in Iraq, calling it a struggle to safeguard a ‘young democracy’ against extremists.”

He calls that a “dubious proposition.” It is, perhaps, a generous characterization to call Iraq a ‘young democracy,’ but it does have the structural and constitutional rudiments of self-determination. Further, there is nothing demogogic about the goal of giving the Iraqi people the opportunity to enjoy a measure of the freedoms with which America has been so richly blessed.

He finishes with his criticism that Mr. Bush “did not explore even the possibility of developing a framework for an eventual political solution.” Although that is a criticism we have lodged, in Mr. Brzezinski’s view that is tantamount to nothing more than telegraphing a withdrawal timetable and talks with Iran and Syria. So much for the Realpolitik approach.

In his rarefied world of diplomacy–without, course, the benefit of a horizon–“talks,” even with regimes that sponsor terrorism, in and of themselves have value, because they signify a tactical generosity of spirit that presumably elicits concessions not otherwise achievable. It’s the stuff of a Georgetown University doctoral dissertation that demands the complexity of a Dostoevsky novel and the chimera of a Homer’s Iliad.

On a more pragmatic level, it’s analogous to the con scam in the entertaining and instructive film The Sting. When the drama is becoming complicated and it’s uncertain who is conning whom, Robert Redford says to Paul Newman, in reference to their adversary, “But, they’re not as smart as they think they are,” to which Newman dryly replies, “Neither are we.”

There are, indeed, no concessions to be gained and therefore no reason other than the Democrats’ infatuation with the Kabuki dance of diplomacy to engage Iran and Syria in talks.

Mr. Brzezinski finishes his editorial with his quintessentially misinformed Cold Warrior polity:

“The speech reflects profound misunderstanding of our era. America is acting like a colonial power in Iraq. But the age of colonialism is over. Waging a colonial war in the post-colonial age is self-defeating. That is the fatal flaw of Bush’s policy.”

This is a mischaracterization that either inadvertently or purposely conflates the strategy of pre-emption with colonialism. History is replete with examples of the value of pre-emptive action, beginning with the Punic Wars, and the case can easily be made that the eradication of Saddam Hussein’s regime was just such an action. As has been observed, with Iran aggressively pursuing a nuclear capability, is there any reason to believe that had we not deposed Saddam he wouldn’t be rekindling his nuclear program?

The second point is that although America is clearly not pursuing a policy of colonialism–with its attendant connotations of the arrogation of land and resources–the Brzezinskis of the world are apparently so unconfident of the inherent value of democratic principles that their exportation to a nation that in modern times has known only despotism is categorically dismissed.

That’s an arrogant, cruel, and cynical policy, one unworthy of a great nation such as the United States, but not apparently, beneath the likes of Mr. Brzezinski.

Mella is Founder and Editor of

Philip Mella