Zbigniew Brzezinski continues to speak out against the inadequate foreign policy of the Bush Administration; he has much to say in a recent interview. The article is in the German magazine
; when you click on the link, just wait a moment for the English version but here's a selection from the interview:
SPIEGEL: Dr. Brzezinski, President Bush compares the dangers of terrorism with the dangers of the Cold War. He has even spoken repeatedly of a "nation at war" and will only accept "complete victory." Is he right or is he using exaggerated rhetoric?
Brzezinski: He is fundamentally wrong. Whether that is deliberate demagoguery or simply historical ignorance, I do not know. For four years I was responsible for coordinating the U.S. response in the event of a nuclear attack. And I can assure you that a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union on a comprehensive scale would have killed 160 to 180 million people within 24 hours.
No terrorist threat is comparable to that in the foreseeable future. Moreover, terrorism is essentially a technique of killing people and not the enemy as such. If one wages war on an invisible, unidentifiable phantom, one gets into a state of mind that virtually promotes dangerous exaggerations and distortions of reality.
SPIEGEL: What are these distortions?
Brzezinski: After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States was energetic and determined, and during the 40 years of the Cold War it was patient and deliberate. In neither case did any U.S. president intentionally preach fear as the major message to the people - on the contrary.
With his very loose formulations, the president is now creating a climate of fear that is destructive for American morale and distorting of American policy.
SPIEGEL: Is fear, as at the thought of a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists, not something very natural?
Brzezinski: Certainly, such a notion is not entirely unrealistic, but on the other hand we are not confronted with the Soviet nuclear weapons arsenal. I do not wish to minimize the danger of a single or even multiple terrorist acts, but their scale is simply not comparable.
SPIEGEL: Yet sometimes the discussions, in the United States but also in Europe, create the impression that radical Islam has taken the place of the former Soviet Union and that some form of Cold War is continuing.
Brzezinski: Radical Islam is such an anonymous phenomenon that has arisen in some countries and not in others. It has to be taken seriously, but it is still only a regional danger most prevalent in the Middle East and somewhat east of the Middle East. And even in those regions, Islamic fundamentalists are not in the majority.
SPIEGEL: Fear-mongering is therefore not a valid response?
Brzezinski: We have to formulate a policy for this region which helps us to mobilize our potential friends. Only if we cooperate with them can we contain and eventually eliminate this phenomenon. It is a paradox: During the Cold War, our policy was directed at uniting our friends and dividing our enemies. Unfortunately our tactics today, including occasional Islamphobic language, have the tendency of unifying our enemies and alienating our friends. (snip)
SPIEGEL: Opponents of a rapid withdrawal make the case that the sectarian war between Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis would become even more violent than it is already.
Brzezinski: Everyone who knows the history of occupying armies knows that foreign armed forces are not very effective in repressing armed resistance, insurgencies, national liberation movements, whatever one wants to call it. They are after all foreigners, do not understand the country and do not have access to the intelligence needed. That is the situation we are in. Moreover, there is this vicious circle inasmuch as even professional occupying armies become demoralized in time, which leads to acts of violence against the civilian population and thus strengthens resistance. Iraqis can deal with religiously motivated violence in their country much better than Americans from several thousand kilometers away.
SPIEGEL: So there is no alternative to troop withdrawal, even if there is an initial escalation of violence?
Brzezinski: Iraqis are not primitive people who need American colonial tutelage to resolve their problems.
SPIEGEL: You said that the United States needs solid European counsel to avoid an unrealistic view of the world. Is Europe even in the position to give such counsel?
Brzezinski: In the Middle East, the United States is unintentionally slipping into the role of a colonial power, repetitive of extensive European experiences. A combination of self-interest, a sense of mission and an arrogant ignorance resulted in Americans doing what they do right now. Because Britain and France have had the same experiences in the past, they have a better sense for the fact that the American course in the Middle East is a political mistake and, in the long run, also dangerous for America. In the short run, it damages America's principles and its international legitimacy.
I'm a liberal Democrat but there are things people on the far right and the far left need to do before we get our country back on track; both groups are making serious mistakes that makes it more difficult to take on the problems of our age. We need some dialogue again even if it takes years to get it right. After the election, whatever happens, I want to start talking about some of these issues. And I hope more and more people also start talking. We can't go on much longer dividing our friends and unifying our enemies as Brzezinski so eloquently alluded to in his interview. But there's another enemy out there bigger than all the rest and no military will ever defeat that enemy; that enemy is fear. We need to get it together and move on.