His com­mand of for­eign af­fairs ‘helped shape decades of Amer­i­can poli­cies’

New Straits Times - - World -


WELL be­fore he went to the White House in 1977, Jimmy Carter was im­pressed by the views of for­eign pol­icy ex­pert Zbig­niew Brzezin­ski. That Carter im­me­di­ately liked the Pol­ish-born aca­demic ad­vis­ing his cam­paign was a plus.

“He was in­quis­i­tive, in­no­va­tive and a nat­u­ral choice as my na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser when I be­came pres­i­dent,” Carter said in a state­ment fol­low­ing Brzezin­ski’s death on Fri­day.

“He helped me set vi­tal for­eign pol­icy goals, was a source of stim­u­la­tion for the de­part­ments of de­fence and state, and ev­ery­one val­ued his opin­ion,” Carter said.

“He played an es­sen­tial role in all the key for­eign pol­icy events of my ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Earnest and am­bi­tious, Brzezin­ski helped Carter bridge wide gaps be­tween the rigid Egyp­tian and Is­raeli lead­ers, An­war Sa­dat and Me­nachem Be­gin, lead­ing to the Camp David ac­cords in Septem­ber 1978.

Three months later, United States-China re­la­tions were nor­malised, a pri­or­ity for Brzezin­ski.

He also had a hand in two other con­tro­ver­sial agree­ments: the SALT II nu­clear weapons treaty with the Soviet Union and the Panama Canal treaties ced­ing US con­trol of the water­way.

“He was bril­liant, ded­i­cated and loyal,” said Carter, who awarded Brzezin­ski the Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Free­dom days be­fore leav­ing of­fice in 1981.

Brzezin­ski’s death at age 89 was an­nounced on so­cial me­dia on Fri­day night by his daugh­ter, MSNBC host Mika Brzezin­ski.

She called him “the most in­spir­ing, loving and de­voted fa­ther any girl could ever have”.

Also sur­viv­ing Brzezin­ski were his wife, Em­i­lie, and their sons Ian and Mark.

“His in­flu­ence spanned sev­eral decades,” for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama said on Satur­day, “and I was one of sev­eral pres­i­dents who ben­e­fited from his wis­dom and coun­sel. You al­ways knew where Zbig stood, and his ideas and ad­vo­cacy helped shape decades of Amer­i­can na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy.”

To for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, Brzezin­ski’s “com­mand of for­eign af­fairs made him both an in­stru­men­tal ar­chi­tect of key poli­cies, and an in­flu­en­tial voice in key pol­icy de­bates”.

In Poland, For­eign Min­is­ter Wi­told Waszczykowski said the world “has lost an out­stand­ing in­tel­lec­tual, an ex­pe­ri­enced and ef­fec­tive diplo­mat who was also a no­ble per­son and a proud Pole”.

He cred­ited Brzezin­ski’s “un­yield­ing stance to­wards the Soviet Union” with play­ing a cen­tral role in “the demise of the to­tal­i­tar­ian com­mu­nist sys­tem”.

Born in War­saw and ed­u­cated in Canada and the US, Brzezin­ski was an ac­knowl­edged ex­pert in com­mu­nism when he at­tracted the at­ten­tion of US pol­i­cy­mak­ers.

In the 1960s, he was an ad­viser to John F. Kennedy, served in the Johnson ad­min­is­tra­tion and ad­vised Hu­bert Humphrey’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

He was the first di­rec­tor of the Tri­lat­eral Com­mis­sion, an in­ter­na­tional dis­cus­sion group, serv­ing from 1973 to 1976.

In De­cem­ber 1976, Carter of­fered Brzezin­ski the po­si­tion of na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser.

Brzezin­ski had not wanted to be sec­re­tary of state be­cause he felt he could be more ef­fec­tive work­ing at Carter’s side in the White House.

Brzezin­ski of­ten found him­self in clashes with col­leagues such as sec­re­tary of state Cyrus Vance.

For the White House, the dif­fer­ences be­tween Vance and Brzezin­ski be­came a ma­jor headache, con­fus­ing the Amer­i­can pub­lic about the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy course and fu­elling a de­cline in con­fi­dence that Carter could keep his for­eign pol­icy team work­ing in tan­dem.

The Ira­nian hostage cri­sis, which be­gan in 1979, came to drama­tise Amer­ica’s wan­ing global power and in­flu­ence, and to sym­bol­ise the fail­ures and frus­tra­tions of the Carter ad­min­is­tra­tion. Brzezin­ski, dur­ing the early months of 1980, be­came con­vinced that ne­go­ti­a­tions to free the kid­napped Amer­i­cans were go­ing nowhere. Sup­ported by the Pen­tagon, he be­gan to push for mil­i­tary ac­tion.

Carter was des­per­ate to end the stand­off and, over Vance’s ob­jec­tions, agreed to a long-shot plan to res­cue the hostages.

The mis­sion was a com­plete mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal hu­mil­i­a­tion and pre­cip­i­tated Vance’s res­ig­na­tion. Carter lost his re-elec­tion bid against Ronald Rea­gan that Novem­ber.

Brzezin­ski went on to ruf­fle the feath­ers of Wash­ing­ton’s power elite with his 1983 book, Power and Prin­ci­ple, which was hailed and re­viled as a kiss-and-tell mem­oir.

“I have never be­lieved in flat­tery or ly­ing as a way of mak­ing it,” he told The Wash­ing­ton Post that year.

“I have made it on my own terms.”

The old­est son of Pol­ish diplo­mat Tadeus Brzezin­ski, Zbig­niew was born on March 28, 1928.

He at­tended Catholic schools dur­ing the time his fa­ther was posted in France and Ger­many.

The fam­ily went to Mon­treal in 1938 when the el­der Brzezin­ski was ap­pointed Pol­ish con­sul-gen­eral.

When com­mu­nists took power in Poland six years later, he re­tired and moved his fam­ily to a farm in the Cana­dian coun­try­side.

At his new home, the young Brzezin­ski be­gan learn­ing Rus­sian from a nearby farmer and was soon bit­ten by the for­eign pol­icy bug. Brzezin­ski’s climb to the top of the for­eign pol­icy com­mu­nity be­gan at Canada’s McGill Univer­sity, where he earned de­grees in economics and po­lit­i­cal sci­ence. Later at Har­vard, he re­ceived a doc­tor­ate in gov­ern­ment, a fel­low­ship and a pub­lish­ing con­tract — for his the­sis on Soviet purges as a per­ma­nent fea­ture of to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism.

He made fre­quent trips to Eastern Europe and wrote sev­eral books and ar­ti­cles on com­mu­nism in the 1950s.

Through­out his ca­reer, he would be af­fil­i­ated with mod­er­ate-to-lib­eral groups, in­clud­ing the Rand Corp, the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional and the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Colored Peo­ple.

Cau­tion­ing in lec­tures of frac­tures within the com­mu­nist move­ment, Brzezin­ski emerged in the mid-1960s as a de­fender of the Amer­i­can pres­ence in Viet­nam. Un­less the US put up an ef­fec­tive re­sis­tance there, he ar­gued, com­mu­nist na­tions such as China would be em­bold­ened to en­gage the West by fo­ment­ing trou­ble in po­lit­i­cally un­sta­ble re­gions.

Still, Brzezin­ski char­ac­terised him­self as a “dawk”, sug­gest­ing that he might have had reser­va­tions about other as­pects of Amer­i­can pol­icy in South­east Asia.

Im­pressed, nonethe­less, the Johnson ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pointed him to the State Depart­ment’s Pol­icy Plan­ning Coun­cil in 1966.

Though he was low on the White House totem pole, the po­si­tion gave Brzezin­ski en­try to the high­est cir­cles of White House de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

After Carter left of­fice, Brzezin­ski re­turned to lec­tur­ing, writ­ing and serv­ing on com­mis­sions, boards and task forces.

He took part in the long-awaited re­uni­fi­ca­tion of Europe as a del­e­gate to pro­ceed­ings de­signed to bring the for­mer Soviet re­publics into the North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

It was a tri­umph for the al­lies, he said, over a bru­tal se­cret nonag­gres­sion deal hatched dur­ing World War 2 — “the fi­nal un­do­ing in Europe of the lega­cies of the Stalin-Hitler pact”.

He re­mained en­gaged and opin­ion­ated, tweet­ing for the last time early this month: “So­phis­ti­cated US lead­er­ship is the sine qua non of a sta­ble world or­der.

“How­ever, we lack the for­mer while the lat­ter is get­ting worse.” AP


Then pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter, flanked by sec­re­tary of state Cyrus Vance (right) and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Zbig­niew Brzezin­ski (left), walk­ing to­wards a wait­ing heli­copter in Mary­land, the United States, on Feb 14, 1979.

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