Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Zbig Brzezinski: Time to Plan for Iraq Withdrawal

by LondonYank Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 08:33:50 AM EST

In today's Financial Times Zbigniew Brzezinski, Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter, presents a four point plan for US military withdrawal from Iraq and normalisation of governance there under authentic Iraqi leadership (as distinct from the Bushco imported kleptocrats).

He makes me nostalgic for the sort of principled, reasoned, forward-looking leadership on foreign affairs that the United States once offered on the world stage under its Democratic presidents.  

The only omission I find surprising is that no where in the plan does he mention a role for the United Nations, the most experienced and successful hand at nation building of ruined states riven by tribal strife and impoverished by corruption.  He seems to assume that the Shia, Sunni and Kurds in Iraq will magically come together to agree on internal governance as soon as a withdrawal date is agreed.

More on the plan and the curious omission of the UN below the fold.


Some extracts from Brzezinski's plan:

First, Washington should quietly ask Iraqi leaders to publicly ask the US to leave. * * *

Second, after such a public request, the US and Iraqi governments would jointly consult on a date for ending the occupation. * * *

Third, the Iraqi government - not the US - should then also call for a regional conference of Muslim states, some immediately adjoining Iraq, others more distant. . . . The Muslim neighbours and friends should be asked to help the Iraqi government establish and consolidate internal stability. * * *

Fourth, the US on leaving should convene a donors' conference of European states, Japan, China and others with an interest in a stable oil-exporting Iraq to become more directly involved in financing the restoration of the Iraqi economy.

The US needs to recognise that its intervention in Iraq is becoming part of a wider, dangerous collision between America and the Muslim world - a collision that could prove, if it becomes truly widespread, devastating to America's global position.  An America in a conflict with the world of Islam as a whole will be an America with more enemies and fewer friends, an America more isolated and less secure.

The plan is good as far as it goes.  I agree completely with Mr Brzezinski that Iraqi peace and prosperity requires getting US troops out of Iraq and removing the US-imposed kleptocrats from the reins of Iraqi power and control.  I question, however, whether the Iraqis with Muslim support can do the job of restoring governance alone, or whether the United Nations should be invited to join in the rebuilding of Iraqi political institutions.

Perhaps Mr Brzezinski feels that the United Nations has been too deeply damaged by the Republican fueled corruption scandals (many supported by documents provided by the same Ahmad Chalabi who supplied pre-war Iraq WMD "evidence") and shrill harpings of Norm Coleman (hand chosen by Cheney to run for Minnesota's senate seat and narrowly elected following the mysterious plane crash death of Democratic Senator and Cheney nemisis Paul Wellstone).

Perhaps Mr Brzezinski believes that a significant gesture demonstrating confidence in and recognising Muslim authority for Middle East peace and prosperity will heal the rift between America and Islam caused by five years of hate speech and warmongering, and that sufficient examples of good governance now exist in neighbouring states to light the way for Iraq.

Perhaps Mr Brzezinski feels that the United Nations is incapable of acting quickly or independently with the Republicans and John Bolton waging war on the UN from without and within.

These would be sensible views, but even so I would like to see the principal tenet of a Democratic foreign policy being the restoration of the leadership role of the United Nations as an arbiter of international conflicts, international law and domestic reconstruction of post-war states.  Restoration of the United Nations would do much to heal the nearly global perception of the United States as a belligerent, lawless, unilateral threat to world order established by 5 years of Bushco mis-rule.  More than that it would provide better security for America going forward as the global balance of economic and military might shifts ever Eastward toward Middle East and Asian states and their burgeoning populations.

I find the omission of even a mention of the United Nations as having a role to play in restoring Iraqi sovereignty and restraining future US (or other nations') interference both strange and ominous.  Weakening the institutions of international mediation has left the world and Americans less secure, and restoring their authority needs to become a policy priority sooner rather than later.    

Display:
Correction: Norm Coleman won Paul Wellstone's Minnesota (not Wisconsin) seat. </nitpick>

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 08:47:35 AM EST
I don't share your positive view of Brzezinski, as he was largely responsible for encouraging the Afghan muyahedeen, among them Bin Laden, with known intended results and unintended and undesirable longer-term consequences.

Maybe his exclusion of the UN reflects to what extent dismantling the post-WWI system is a bipartisan undertaking and going-it-alone a bipartisan approach.

What is needed is not to heal the global perception of the US, but the reality of US foreign policy, and Brzezinski shares much of the neocon policy goals while being much better at geopolitics.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 08:55:58 AM EST
Well, I happen to agree with you...as Brzezinski is the architect to the current oil hedgemony push...but, lets at least acknowledge it is movement to hear him say tis...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 08:59:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
er... I mean post-WWII.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 09:30:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember being at a speech he gave in 1986 where he was asked the single biggest threat following the break up of the Eastern Bloc.  His one word reply was "tribalism".  

Given the events later observed in Yugoslavia, Chechnya and elsewhere, it seems pretty forward looking to me.

On the other hand, there's no doubt that ZB is a Cold Warrior and sees the world very much through an US vs. Them prism of American self-interest.  That's pretty much what would have been expected of any Secretary of State during the Cold War, and if it hasn't blossomed into ethical foreign policy and multilateralism now, we shouldn't be too surprised.

by LondonYank (LondonYank (at) aol.com) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 09:55:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He was debating in public on the breakup of the Eastern Bloc in 1986? Gorbachev was barely in office then! (and I was a pre-teen...)

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 10:02:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, 1986 would be the latest year it could have been as I was still at university then.  It was pretty clear that the Soviets were losing steam and that the Eastern Bloc was growing restive.  I vaguely recollect him predicting that there would be a loss of central control, but not as distinctly as I recall his warning about the dangers of tribalism tearing apart established nations and political structures.
by LondonYank (LondonYank (at) aol.com) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 10:18:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed.  I remember a news clip of the good Doctor standing on a hillside in Afghanistan, addressing a hundred or so mujahideen.  He said to them, "You shall prevail, because your cause is just, and God is on your side."

Of course he was speaking of their struggle against the Soviet occupation, but I felt a little chill when I heard him speak.  I thought to myself, those words will come back to haunt us.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 10:19:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Zbig was a liberal cold warrior. As such he certainly shares some of the neo-con policy goals - i.e. American power and spreading democracy.  But like many of the cold warriors he also sees international institutions as a useful instrument of stability and thus in the US interest. The idea that he wants to dismantle the post WWII system (which was, after all, largely built by liberal cold warriors) is ludicrous.  If you had listened to his arguments against the Iraq war back in late 2002 and early 2003, you would know that he can't stand 'coalitions of the willing' and believes that the US should treat the UN and international opinion as very important factors when deciding whether or not to go to war - not absolutely, 100 percent definitive ones, but lines that shouldn't be crossed without recognition of the large costs that such a step carries.  To put it differently, if you believe that Zbig is basically a neo-con lite then you think the same of the mainstream EU policy elites. I do not think that a Joschka Fischer is just a better presented Dick Cheney.  You seem to suggest that working through the UN and other international institutions, avoiding unilateralism, avoiding most armed interventions, pressing Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians, etc. would be merely a cosmetic change in US policy, I disagree.  

As for Afghanistan - you're right that he was an architect of the support for the anti-Soviet guerillas. I happen to think he was correct, though way too much deference was paid to Pakistani ideological and state interests (they did not want a struggle based on Afghan nationalism out of fear that it would inflame Pashtun nationalism in their own borders.)  And the US badly dropped the ball once the Soviets withdrew.

by MarekNYC on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 03:10:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I seem to have overstated my point. I know that many of the veterans of the US foreign policy apparatus, liberal or conservative, were skeptical of Bush's handling of the Iraq operation in 2002/3. I don't remember having' seen ZB's remarks, but I'm not surprised.

Like LondonYank, I am actually surprised that ZB makes no mention of the UN. This means that, while he is willing to challenge Bush's "staying the course" publicly, it seems that the same is not true of Bush's unilateralism. Have the neocons so successfully debased the image of the UN that ZB thinks mentioning it will make his argument less convincing?

Regarding internationalism as a 'cosmetic change', I do think that the US needs to do more than just go back to, say, a Clinton-style 'internationalist muscular foreign policy'. Some atonement is going to be necessary, especially after the validation of Bush's policy implicit in his reelection (I know you're not of the 204-was-stolen-too conspiracy type). I was not reassured one bit by Kerry's "I'll do the same as Bush, only better" rhetoric (or by anything I heard from the Democratic convention, to be honest), nor I am reassured by the noises coming from Hilary Clinton and other Democratic presidential hopefuls. And looking back on Clinton's policies, I see his internationalism as largely a fig leaf when push came to shove.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 04:52:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Saying that ZB was 'skeptical' of Bush's Iraq policy in 2002/2003 is understating things.  He said explicitly that he saw no legitimate casus belli - legal or national interest based, that he believed that the administration's objectives were pipe dreams, and that there was a very good chance that the occupation would blow up in our faces. Once it started he said he stood by his views, but hoped he was wrong.

The lack of the UN role is puzzling but considering that earlier Zbig was arguing for a UN solution I wouldn't put the same interpretation on it that you do. I suspect that he thinks that at this point the situation is too far gone for people without a direct stake in Iraqi stability to get involved.  

On the US 'atoning' - I presume you aren't suggesting that the US deliberately make poor foreign policy choices. I think that the best foreign policy model for the US is the 'muscular internationalist' one - as you know. That goes for both the US and the rest of the world. You disagree. But like you I'm not too thrilled with what Hilary et. al have to say about foreign policy these days, or rather what they don't have to say - that an armed attack on Iran under the current circumstances is absolutely insane and that those circumstances are very unlikely to change over the next few years.

by MarekNYC on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 05:35:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not quite sure what would constitute atonement. I meant is from my own personal point of view. What I do know is that I am very unwilling to give the US the benefit of the doubt in the future, regardless of who wins the 2008 presidential election. And this coming from someone who used to be moderately atlanticist (I thought it was a great thng that Solana headed NATO at one point - I am not so sure in retrospect).

I am also not quite sure what "poor foreign policy choices" means, to be honest, in the sense that either I am very bad at evaluating foreign policy, or US foreign policy makes no rational sense to me. Realpolitik often seems to entail reasoning along the lines of my enemy's enemy is my friend, and dealing with today's problems in ways that create bigger problems for the future, more like a global poker game of constantly-rising stakes than a grand game of chess.

For instance, after 9/11 I could, for the life of me, not figure out what in the world US troops were doing stationed in Saudi Arabia. And, like that, there are many bits of US foreign policy that make absolutely no sense to me, from the pint of view of pragmatic US interest (global hegemony, full-spectrum dominance, grand chessboards... are all but pragmatic, they are idealistic and grandiose).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 06:29:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BooMan has a thoughtful FP article On the Future of the Party.  There is growing hope that the Democrats can wrest some measure of power away from the neocons this fall and perhaps in 2008 and hopefully restore some semblance of sanity to US foreign policy.  BooMan makes the case that we have crossed some kind of threshold.  

We are still in the early stages of a much greater reckoning. The center is still holding, insisting that a withdrawal from Iraq will be a 'disaster for the country' and resisting anything that might further erode support for the war...such as rigourous oversight of government corruption, illegal domestic surveillance, the manipulation of intelligence, or the removal of Donald Rumsfeld from the Pentagon.

When we sit down to talk about what the Democratic Party stands for, we have to realize that the center of the Democratic Party has been just as discredited as the center of the Republican Party.

We cannot go back to business as usual, to status quo ante.  If there is a silver lining to the Bush presidency and the rise of the neocons, it is that the image of the USA as the white knight, the world's policeman, the benevolent superpower, whatever, has been exposed for what it always was -- imperialism in a different suit.  Whatever comes after, Democrat or Republican, will be -- must be -- very different.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 10:01:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not quite sure what would constitute atonement. I meant is from my own personal point of view. What I do know is that I am very unwilling to give the US the benefit of the doubt in the future, regardless of who wins the 2008 presidential election.

Well that's understandable, though I do think it would be logical to be less suspicious of a Dem admin than a Repub one, let alone the current idiots.  But I don't really see that as atonement, anymore than surmounting the difficulties imposed by the repubs reckless fiscal policy will be atonement. They're just extra hurdles to overcome in pursuing good policies.

I am surprised that you don't see why there were bases in Saudi Arabia - it's a pretty strategic region, the US has a very strong interest in making sure that nothing impedes the flow of oil and the bases were there for that reason.  Maybe the costs of having bases in SA outweighed the benefits, but those benefits have to be considered.

by MarekNYC on Thu Apr 20th, 2006 at 02:58:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a couple of interesting book titles of his...seem almost in contrast to each other:

Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives - October 1998

Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership
March 2004

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 10:20:05 AM EST
Someone above mentioned ZB as a proponant of "American self-interest." Yet the self-interest he exemplifies is the self-interest of the US Corporate Oligarchy, not the true self-interest of the US as a large and diverse nation about to face the hangover of Peak Oil.

Jimmy Carter had the right idea in the late 1970's when he wanted to declare "the moral equivalent of war on the energy crises. THAT would have been serving the true self-interest of America. Carter offered, however ineffectively, a vision for a different future that would have left our world a very different place today.

by US Blues on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 11:39:49 AM EST
Suppose the Iraqi government asked the US to stay. What then? Everyone assumes that just because there is fighting in the streets the government has the same goals as the street fighters.

If the US left there is a good chance that many in the current government would end up dead.

The US had certain goals in Iraq:

  1. Install a friendly client government
  2. Secure oil for the west at good terms rather than allowing it to be sold to China.
  3. Establish bases to replace those lost in Saudi Arabia
  4. Intimidate regional neighbors and force them to become more open to change.

How is the US doing:
  1. Mostly done
  2. Mostly done, although the rate of delivery is behind schedule
  3. Almost completed - 14 to 17 permanent bases in progress.
  4. Lebanon and Syria are behaving better, as is Libya.

The US will retreat to the bases and monitor events once the central government can be trusted. Talk of withdrawal from the region is not going to happen regardless of who is in the Whitehouse.
 

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape
by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 11:58:21 AM EST
- First, Washington should quietly ask Iraqi leaders to publicly ask the US to leave.

Uhh, some Iraqi Shiite leaders already did that. That doesn´t however equate some sort of democratic, even less peaceful government. Congratulations to the USA for helping to elect a theocratic Shiite government!
Including their militias?

- Second, after such a public request, the US and Iraqi governments would jointly consult on a date for ending the occupation.

Which Iraqi government?  The one that can´t decide on a government leader right now?

- Third, the Iraqi government - not the US - should then also call for a regional conference of Muslim states, some immediately adjoining Iraq, others more distant. . . . The Muslim neighbours and friends should be asked to help the Iraqi government establish and consolidate internal stability.

Sure....
Iran would like to influence the 60% majority of Shiites in Iraq. Every Sunni Muslim country "adjoining Iraq" is terrified of that idea given their Shia minorities (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates). Not to mention that the Kurds in Northern Iraq right now enjoy a sort of quasi independence. Especially with Kurds living in Syria, Turkey and Iran. These Kurds might get ideas, you know.

There were some Internet websites in the past, you know, that thought that involving "adjoining countries" would be a recipe for disaster.

Does he really think that any of the countries "adjoining Iraq" forgets its own national interests?

- Fourth, the US on leaving should convene a donors' conference of European states, Japan, China and others with an interest in a stable oil-exporting Iraq to become more directly involved in financing the restoration of the Iraqi economy.

Uhh, a lot of these countries already forgave most of Iraq´s debts. While I agree that most of us would like "a stable oil-exporting Iraq", we don´t see it.
By the way, does that include also the power of an Iraqi government to reject Bremer´s CPA regulations?
Just asking....

Given the civil war just going on in Iraq, I just don´t know how "our" European money would make it into Iraq?
Lot´s of the American "aid money" was transferred into security.
Why does that guy think that our money would make it into Iraq without obstacles?

----

You know I can understand Brzezinski's plan.
Extract the USA and to hell with Iraq afterwards.
And if the plan goes wrong, blame the Iraqis, its neighbours and Europe and Japan.

Except that lots of Europeans warned the Bush administration of exactly this scenario. And - I´m sorry to say it - we don´t have any solution.
You broke it, you own it!

That plan might have been a good idea on 2004, maybe 2005. But I think it´s a bit late right now in early 2006.

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Wed Apr 19th, 2006 at 07:26:49 PM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]