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Interview: U.S. Fate Is in U.S. Hands

September 1, 2012

Robert V. Merry in The National Interest

No one disputes that Zbigniew Brzezinski resides within the circle of America’s most brilliant and prolific foreign-policy experts. The former White House national-security adviser under Jimmy Carter has written or coauthored eighteen books, including his most recent, Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Order, a probing analysis of America’s challenges in a fast-changing world. (…)

In your book, you talk about the Atlantic West’s grand opportunity for what you called a “new era of Western global supremacy” after the Soviet collapse. But it didn’t happen. To what extent do you think this failure resulted from human folly, and to what extent was it a product of forces beyond the control of the Atlantic West or its leaders?

I think both. But the West was fatigued, and Europe, certainly, lost a sense of its global responsibility and became more provincial in outlook. That, in part, was connected unavoidably with the task of constructing something that was called, originally, the European Community, that led to the European Union (although the two names should have been in a different sequence, because the European Community had more coherence than the current European Union). And the United States embarked on a kind of self‑gratification and self‑satisfaction, almost acting as if it really thought that history had come to an end. We did not anticipate the new, novel conditions of the world that were emerging, I think, with increasing clarity, which I try to address in my recent book, Strategic Vision.

So these forces were pretty substantial, but to what extent did some of the decisions of that time—the Iraq War, for example—lead to this result?

You know my views on the Iraq War. I think that it was a disaster. A disaster in the sense of undermining American legitimacy worldwide, damaging the credibility of the president and of the office of the president, and entailing costs for the United States, which were not insubstantial in terms of lives lost and people maimed, and enormous economically—all contributing to a more unstable Middle East. Because whether we liked Saddam Hussein or not, and he was obviously obnoxious, he was a strong source of containment of Iranian Middle Eastern ambitions. Today, a divided Iraq, an unstable Iraq, a porous Iraq is very susceptible to Iranian influence and, if need be, destabilization. [More]

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