Zbigniew Brzezinski As a Mirror of American Devolution (I)

A thirty-year plan accomplished in fifteen years

The year 2012, among other things, was marked by a publication of fundamental importance in terms of understanding the processes occurring in the world and the U.S.: the book by Zbigniew Brzezinski «Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power» (pdf). The author is known to be extremely indifferent towards Russia, to put it mildly. Many argue about the extent of his influence on U.S. policy. However, there are also criteria that are unmistakable. Just look at his regularly published arguments, and then compare them with some of the actions of the U.S. administration, especially the recently emerging doctrines of the «National Security Strategy of the United States», and numerous direct influences are clearly visible. Sometimes the difference is only one of  style and the fact that in his non-official post, Brzezinski’s ideas are formulated much more directly and even cynically.

strategic visionBrzezinski’s book can be considered a prelude, as it echoes the ideas of a recently-released predictive report by the U.S. National Intelligence Council, «Global Trends 2030». Some have even likened the book to Churchill’s famous Fulton speech. It must be said that when reviewing Brzezinski’s «Strategic Vision», the newly nominated U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, wrote that «it is a must read for anyone who is interested in foreign policy».

«Strategic Vision» appeared exactly 15 years after another landmark book by Brzezinski entitled  «The Grand Chessboard: Ameriican Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives”. The period of US history between these two dates can be thought of as its devolution from global omnipotence to  rapid losses in many areas, as the reigning super power. Devolution (convolution, regression) as a process which is the opposite of evolution (development, progress) also means the transfer of power or authority. In this sense, the term could not be better suited to the process described by Brzezinski. The important thing about his new book is that it is not a statement of the systematic errors that have led to America’s increasingly weak position in the world, which is quite obvious to many, but that it is a recipe for the transfer of power to someone or something taking the place of U.S. leadership. In this sense, Zbigniew Brzezinski should be called a«mirror of American devolution». So, if we look at Brzezinski’s arguments from this angle, then we will find there is no fundamental gap between present day Brzezinski, and the Brzezinski of 15 years ago. His ideas on the delegation of leadership to somebody else often turn around the rationale for the preservation of these powers for America, but in a different wrapper.

When «Strategic Vision» was released, many were quick to declare the work a complete break from Brzezinski’s previous views as expressed in the «Grand Chessboard», and his own conversion, perhaps, from a «Saul» to a «Paul». Brzezinski is ostensibly in favour of multilateralism and a refusal by the United States of the role of «God’s chosen hegemony in world politics» in order that America does not repeat the fate of the Soviet Union. Brzezinski, they say, no longer considers Russia to be a «black hole», and advocates for its inclusion in the West. However, a careful analysis of the two books shows their organic relationship and continuity with all its mimicking terminology. Both then and now, America for Brzezinski is a «colossus of the world», and upcoming multipolarity is an objective reality that he, as a thoughtful analyst, cannot ignore, and that he calls to be adapted. Thus it is evident that according to Brzezinski, the causes of «American devolution», according to Brzezinski, are mostly subjective – bad decisions made by U.S. administrations. And September 11, which was followed by the ill-conceived and costly use of U.S. forces, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, perhaps stands as the main reason for the weakening of U.S. hegemony. It turns out that the terrorist attack on the twin towers was the most effective military operation in world history. Believing in the exclusive destiny of America, Brzezinski still cannot really take on board the visionary statement made in 1987 by Paul Kennedy, another famous scholar, in a detailed study, entitled «The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers». At that time, Kennedy convincingly stated that by virtue of what he described as «imperial overheating» no state would ever be able to remain a hegemon on the world stage for long. Even back then, according to his calculations, the United States, along with the Soviet Union, had entered a phase of «imperial overheating», and their decline was inevitable, regardless of the will of certain politicians.

Fifteen years ago, Brzezinski stated categorically that over the next few decades, a functioning system of global cooperation could be created, built with a geopolitical reality that would gradually take on the role of international «leader» and be able to bear the burden of responsibility for stability and peace in the world. Geostrategic success in this area would properly legitimize America’s role as the first, only and last truly global superpower.  In this American global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its supremacy will persist on the Eurasian continent.

At the same time, Brzezinski realised that a narrow historic opportunity was openning up to America for the «constructive use» of its status as a world power. This period, as he showed, may be relatively short-lived. No democracy had ever previously achieved world domination before. As a rule, the pursuit of power, and especially the economic costs and loss of life, which often require the implementation of world power, are not compatible with these types of societies. The democratic way prevents imperial mobilisation. He believed that «a comprehensive and coordinated geostrategy for Eurasia should be based on a recognition of the limits of American power, the efficiency and scope of influence of which will inevitably narrow over time». In the end, world politics is bound to increasingly stand against the concentration of power in the hands of one state. Consequently, «the U.S. is not only the first and the only superpower on a truly global scale, but most likely, the last».

However in order not to lose this historic opportunity, Brzezinski called for the active intervention of America in the pursuit of peace with a focus on strengthening international geo-political stability, which could restore a sense of optimism in the West. So while lamenting with regard to «erroneous interventions», he would have to carry a fair share of the responsibility himself with his appeals, since all of these actions would be carried out under the pretext of maintaining «stability».

The general sense behind his reasoning in that period came down to the fact that the United States should achieve the status of an «indispensable power» (which, in particular, former President Bill Clinton publicly stated), without the leadership of which the world would be doomed to chaos. At the same time, Brzezinski referred to the writings of another dominant influence on the minds of the American elite, Samuel Huntington, who wrote in 1993:

“A world without U.S. primacy, will be a world with more violence and disorder and less democracy and economic growth than a world where the United States continues to have more influence than any other country in shaping global affairs. The sustained international primacy of the United States is central to the welfare and security of Americans and the future of freedom, democracy, open economies, and international order in the world.”

With regard to Russia, Brzezinski found an expression in his «chessboard» that was not just unflattering but derogatory, calling it a «black hole» in the heart of Eurasia, and suggesting that it would have been better to separate it into at least three parts. However, the long-term challenge he formulated for the U.S., did not leave Russia completely off from the map, but demanded the prevention of a Eurasian empire once again emerging, which could hinder the implementation of the U.S. geo-strategic goal of creating a larger Euro-Atlantic system to which Russia would be firmly and securely connected in the future.

In addition, contrary to the expectations of the Russian supporters of Atlanticism, Brzezinski expressed his firm belief that any rapprochement with Russia on the issue of NATO expansion «should not lead to the actual transformation of Russia into a decision-making member of the alliance, thus belittling the distinct Euro-Atlantic nature of NATO, while at the same time relegating to the status of second-class citizens those countries newly admitted to the alliance». This, he believed, would open the way for Russia to renew its efforts to «not only regain lost influence in Central Europe, but also to use its presence in NATO in order to play on the US-European differences and to weaken America’s role in Europe».

Overall, despite all the obstacles in maintaining U.S. global hegemony, Brzezinski set aside more than 30 years for this period in the «Chessboard» when hardly anyone would challenge America’s status as the first nation in the world, since «no one nation-state may be able to catch up with the United States in the four major aspects of power (military, economic, technical and cultural), which together define decisive political influences on a global scale».

To be continued…


Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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