The late American strategist John Boyd (Colonel, USAF) said that a grand strategy focused our nation’s actions — political, economic, and military — so as to:
- Increase our solidarity, our internal cohesion.
- Weaken our opponents’ resolve and internal cohesion.
- Strengthen our allies’ relationships to us.
- Attract uncommitted states to our cause.
- End conflicts on favorable terms, without sowing the seeds for future conflicts.
Since then sensible people have repeatedly given us versions of that advice. Such as Zbigniew Brzezinski’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 1 February 2007 (source). It’s worth reading, and applies as well (or better) to the Af-Pak War. Brzezinski’sbio and major policies appear at the end.
Mr. Chairman, 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:
- 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.
- 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 regional tensions.
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 prophecy.
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.
… 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.
About the author
Political scientist, geostrategist, and statesman. He served as United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. Known for his hawkish foreign policy at a time when the Democratic Party was increasingly dovish, he is considered a foreign policy “realist”. He is currently professor of American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). (from Wikipedia)
From Wikipedia, about his actions during and after the Carter Administration
While serving in the White House, Brzezinski emphasized the centrality of human rights as a means of placing the Soviet Union on the ideological defensive. With Jimmy Carter in Camp David, he assisted in the attainment of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. He actively supported Polish Solidarity and the Afghan resistance to Soviet invasion, and provided covert support for national independence movements in the Soviet Union. He played a leading role in normalizing US-PRC relations and in the development of joint strategic cooperation, cultivating a relationship with Deng Xiaoping, for which he is thought very highly of in mainland China to this day.
In the 1990s he formulated the strategic case for buttressing the independent statehood of Ukraine, partially as a means to ending a resurgence of the Russian Empire, and to drive Russia toward integration with the West, promoting instead “geopolitical pluralism” in the space of the former Soviet Union. He developed “a plan for Europe” urging the expansion of NATO, making the case for the expansion of NATO to the Baltic states. He also served as William Clinton’s emissary to Azerbaijan in order to promote the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline. Further, he led, together with Lane Kirkland, the effort to increase the endowment for the US–sponsored Polish-American Freedom Foundation from the proposed $112 million to an eventual total of well over $200 million.
He has consistently urged a US leadership role in the world, based on established alliances, and warned against unilateralist policies that would destroy US global credibility and precipitate US global isolation.
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