Here is the must-read statement delivered by Zbigniew Brzezinski in today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. It’s long, I realize, but stick with it. Take it all in.
Your hearings come at a critical juncture in the U.S. war of choice
in Iraq, and I commend you and Senator Lugar for scheduling them.
It is time for the White House to come to terms with two central realities:
1. The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity.
Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America’s global
legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses
are tarnishing America’s moral credentials. Driven by Manichean
impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.
2. Only a political strategy that is historically relevant rather
than reminiscent of colonial tutelage can provide the needed framework
for a tolerable resolution of both the war in Iraq and the intensifying
If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted
bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill
track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the
world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision
with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by
accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some
provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran;
culminating in a “defensive” U.S. military action against Iran that
plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire
eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a
protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated.
Initially justified by false claims about WMD’s in Iraq, the war is now
being redefined as the “decisive ideological struggle” of our time,
reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In
that context, Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the
equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia,
and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which
precipitated America’s involvement in World War II.
This simplistic and demagogic narrative overlooks the fact that
Nazism was based on the military power of the industrially most
advanced European state; and that Stalinism was able to mobilize not
only the resources of the victorious and militarily powerful Soviet
Union but also had worldwide appeal through its Marxist doctrine. In
contrast, most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism; al
Qaeda is an isolated fundamentalist Islamist aberration; most Iraqis
are engaged in strife because the American occupation of Iraq destroyed
the Iraqi state; while Iran — though gaining in regional influence –
is itself politically divided, economically and militarily weak. To
argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider Islamic
threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling
Deplorably, the Administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East
region has lately relied almost entirely on such sloganeering. Vague
and inflammatory talk about “a new strategic context” which is based on
“clarity” and which prompts “the birth pangs of a new Middle East” is
breeding intensifying anti-Americanism and is increasing the danger of
a long-term collision between the United States and the Islamic world.
Those in charge of U.S. diplomacy have also adopted a posture of
moralistic self-ostracism toward Iran strongly reminiscent of John
Foster Dulles’s attitude of the early 1950′s toward Chinese Communist
leaders (resulting among other things in the well-known episode of the
refused handshake). It took some two decades and a half before another
Republican president was finally able to undo that legacy.
One should note here also that practically no country in the world
shares the Manichean delusions that the Administration so passionately
articulates. The result is growing political isolation of, and
pervasive popular antagonism toward the U.S. global posture.
It is obvious by now that the American national interest calls for a
significant change of direction. There is in fact a dominant consensus
in favor of a change: American public opinion now holds that the war
was a mistake; that it should not be escalated, that a regional
political process should be explored; and that an Israeli-Palestinian
accommodation is an essential element of the needed policy alteration
and should be actively pursued. It is noteworthy that profound
reservations regarding the Administration’s policy have been voiced by
a number of leading Republicans. One need only invoke here the
expressed views of the much admired President Gerald Ford, former
Secretary of State James Baker, former National Security Adviser Brent
Scowcroft and several leading Republican senators, John Warner, Chuck
Hagel, and Gordon Smith among others.
The urgent need today is for a strategy that seeks to create a
political framework for a resolution of the problems posed both by the
US occupation of Iraq and by the ensuing civil and sectarian conflict.
Ending the occupation and shaping a regional security dialogue should
be the mutually reinforcing goals of such a strategy, but both goals
will take time and require a genuinely serious U.S. commitment.
The quest for a political solution for the growing chaos in Iraq should involve four steps:
1. The United States should reaffirm explicitly and unambiguously
its determination to leave Iraq in a reasonably short period of time.
Ambiguity regarding the duration of the occupation in fact
encourages unwillingness to compromise and intensifies the on-going
civil strife. Moreover, such a public declaration is needed to allay
fears in the Middle East of a new and enduring American imperial
hegemony. Right or wrong, many view the establishment of such a
hegemony as the primary reason for the American intervention in a
region only recently free of colonial domination. That perception
should be discredited from the highest U.S. level. Perhaps the U.S.
Congress could do so by a joint resolution.
2. The United States should announce that it is undertaking talks
with the Iraqi leaders to jointly set with them a date by which U.S.
military disengagement should be completed, and the resulting setting
of such a date should be announced as a joint decision. In the
meantime, the U.S. should avoid military escalation.
It is necessary to engage all Iraqi leaders — including those who
do not reside within “the Green Zone” — in a serious discussion
regarding the proposed and jointly defined date for U.S. military
disengagement because the very dialogue itself will help identify the
authentic Iraqi leaders with the self-confidence and capacity to stand
on their own legs without U.S. military protection. Only Iraqi leaders
who can exercise real power beyond “the Green Zone” can eventually
reach a genuine Iraqi accommodation. The painful reality is that much
of the current Iraqi regime, characterized by the Bush administration
as “representative of the Iraqi people,” defines itself largely by its
physical location: the 4 sq. miles-large U.S. fortress within Baghdad,
protected by a wall in places 15 feet thick, manned by heavily armed
U.S. military, popularly known as “the Green Zone.”
3. The United States should issue jointly with appropriate Iraqi
leaders, or perhaps let the Iraqi leaders issue, an invitation to all
neighbors of Iraq (and perhaps some other Muslim countries such as
Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and Pakistan) to engage in a dialogue
regarding how best to enhance stability in Iraq in conjunction with
U.S. military disengagement and to participate eventually in a
conference regarding regional stability.
The United States and the Iraqi leadership need to engage Iraq’s
neighbors in serious discussion regarding the region’s security
problems, but such discussions cannot be undertaken while the U.S. is
perceived as an occupier for an indefinite duration. Iran and Syria
have no reason to help the United States consolidate a permanent
regional hegemony. It is ironic, however, that both Iran and Syria have
lately called for a regional dialogue, exploiting thereby the
self-defeating character of the largely passive — and mainly
sloganeering — U.S. diplomacy.
A serious regional dialogue, promoted directly or indirectly by the
U.S., could be buttressed at some point by a wider circle of
consultations involving other powers with a stake in the region’s
stability, such as the EU, China, Japan, India, and Russia. Members of
this Committee might consider exploring informally with the states
mentioned their potential interest in such a wider dialogue.
4. Concurrently, the United States should activate a credible and
energetic effort to finally reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace, making
it clear in the process as to what the basic parameters of such a final
accommodation ought to involve.
The United States needs to convince the region that the U.S. is
committed both to Israel’s enduring security and to fairness for the
Palestinians who have waited for more than forty years now for their
own separate state. Only an external and activist intervention can
promote the long-delayed settlement for the record shows that the
Israelis and the Palestinians will never do so on their own. Without
such a settlement, both nationalist and fundamentalist passions in the
region will in the longer run doom any Arab regime which is perceived
as supportive of U.S. regional hegemony.
After World War II, the United States prevailed in the defense of
democracy in Europe because it successfully pursued a long-term
political strategy of uniting its friends and dividing its enemies, of
soberly deterring aggression without initiating hostilities, all the
while also exploring the possibility of negotiated arrangements. Today,
America’s global leadership is being tested in the Middle East. A
similarly wise strategy of genuinely constructive political engagement
is now urgently needed.
It is also time for the Congress to assert itself.
(HT Andrew Sullivan.)