The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

It's almost impossible to keep sane in the US at this point. Whatever faults 
the Clinton and earlier administrations had, the dismantling of this country is 
proceeding at unprecedented speeds. Not only are we relatively hated around the 
world; we're internally torn apart, with poverty, prisons, lack of health care, 
etc. all on the increase. It's absolutely shameful and we don't seem to be able 
to do anything about it - without the institution of a speaker for the 
opposition etc., the Democrats do nothing but tread water. Bush can - literally 
- hardly put a sentence together, and he's never called on this. The country 
isn't behind him at this point - he's shockingly low in the polls for an 
incumbent - and it makes no difference at all - for one thing, he's not up for 
re-election. In my dreams, I'd have him tortured at Abu Gharayb, bombed out of 
Iraq, sitting in New Orleans with his home gone. But these people - the rich - 
are increasingly enclaved as Mike Davis and others pointed out long ago; 
there's no touching them. Anyway, read on, join the despair -

- Alan

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2005 04:12:32 -0400
From: "Gurstein, Michael" <>
Subject: [stuff-it] FW: [SPAM] [PubInt] George W. Bush's suicidal statecraft

A sensible article (now that he is out of office) from Zbig...


-----Original Message-----
From: G.H. []
Sent: October 14, 2005 8:33 AM
To: Public Intelligence Group
Subject: [SPAM] [PubInt] George W. Bush's suicidal statecraft

George W. Bush's suicidal statecraft
By Zbigniew Brzezinski Tribune Media Services International

WASHINGTON Demagoguery

Sixty years ago, Arnold Toynbee concluded, in his monumental "A Study of 
History," that the ultimate cause of imperial collapse was "suicidal 
statecraft." Sadly for President George W. Bush's place in history but - much 
more important - ominously for America's future, it has lately seemed as if 
that adroit phrase might be applicable to the policies pursued by the United 
States since the cataclysm of 9/11.

Though there have been some hints lately that the administration may be 
beginning to reassess the goals, so far defined largely by slogans, of its 
unsuccessful military intervention in Iraq, Bush's speech of Oct. 6 was a 
throwback to the more demagogic formulations that he employed during the 
presidential campaign of 2004 to justify the war that he himself started.

That war, advocated by a narrow circle of decision makers for motives still not 
fully exposed, propagated publicly by demagogic rhetoric reliant on false 
assertions, has turned out to be much more costly in blood and money than 

It has precipitated worldwide criticism, while in the Middle East it has 
stamped the United States as the successor to British imperialism and as a 
partner of Israel in the military repression of the Arabs. Fair or not, that 
perception has become widespread in the world of Islam as a whole.

More than a reformulation of U.S. goals in Iraq is now needed, however. The 
persistent reluctance of the administration to confront the political 
background of the terrorist menace has reinforced public sympathy among Muslims 
for the terrorists.

It is a self-delusion for Americans to be told that the terrorists are 
motivated mainly by an abstract "hatred of freedom" and that their acts are a 
reflection of a profound cultural hostility. If that were so, Stockholm or Rio 
de Janeiro would be as much at risk as New York.

Yet in addition to New Yorkers, the principal victims of serious terrorist 
attacks have been Australians in Bali, Spaniards in Madrid, Israelis in Tel 
Aviv, Egyptians in the Sinai and Britons in London. There is an obvious 
political thread connecting these events: The targets are America's allies and 
client states in the deepening U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.

Terrorists are not born but shaped by events, experiences, impressions, 
hatreds, ethnic myths, historical memories, religious fanaticism and deliberate 
brainwashing. They are also shaped by images of what they see on television, 
and especially by their feelings of outrage at what they perceive to be a 
brutalizing denigration of their religious kin's dignity by heavily armed 
foreigners. An intense political hatred for America, Britain and Israel is 
drawing recruits for terrorism not only from the Middle East but from as far 
away as Ethiopia, Morocco, Pakistan, Indonesia and even the Caribbean.

America's ability to cope with nuclear nonproliferation has also suffered. The 
contrast between the attack on the militarily weak Iraq and America's 
forbearance of the nuclear-armed North Korea has strengthened the conviction of 
the Iranians that their security can only be enhanced by nuclear weapons.

Moreover, the recent U.S. decision to assist India's nuclear program, driven 
largely by the desire for India's support for the war in Iraq and as a hedge 
against China, has made the United States look like a selective promoter of 
nuclear weapons proliferation. This double standard will complicate the quest 
for a constructive resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem.

Compounding U.S. political dilemmas is the degradation of America's moral 
standing in the world. The country that has for decades stood tall in 
opposition to political repression, torture and other violations of human 
rights has been exposed as sanctioning practices that hardly qualify as respect 
for human dignity.

Even more reprehensible is the fact that the shameful abuse and/or torture in 
Guant´┐Żnamo and Abu Ghraib was exposed not by an outraged administration but by 
the U.S. news media. In response, the administration confined itself to 
punishing a few low-level perpetrators; none of the top civilian and military 
decision-makers in the Department of Defense and the National Security Council 
who sanctioned "stress interrogations" (torture, in other words) was forced to 
resign, nor to face public disgrace and prosecution. The administration's 
opposition to the International Criminal Court retroactively now seems quite 

Finally, complicating the sorry foreign policy record are war-related economic 
trends, with spending on defense and security escalating dramatically. The 
budgets for the Department of Defense and for the Department of Homeland 
Security are now larger than the total budgets of most nations, and they are 
likely to continue escalating even as the growing budget and trade deficits are 
transforming America into the world's no. 1 debtor nation.

At the same time, the direct and indirect costs of the war in Iraq are 
mounting, even beyond the pessimistic prognoses of the war's early opponents, 
making a mockery of the administration's initial predictions. Every dollar so 
committed is a dollar not spent on investment, on scientific innovation or on 
education, all fundamentally relevant to America's long-term economic primacy 
in a highly competitive world.

It should be a source of special concern for thoughtful Americans that even 
nations known for their traditional affection for America have become openly 
critical of American policy. As a result, large swathes of the world - be it 
East Asia, or Europe, or Latin America - have been quietly exploring ways of 
shaping closer regional associations tied less to the notions of trans-Pacific, 
or trans-Atlantic, or hemispheric cooperation with the United States. 
Geopolitical alienation from America could become a lasting and menacing 

That trend would especially benefit America's historic ill-wishers or future 
rivals. Sitting on the sidelines and sneering at America's ineptitude are 
Russia and China: Russia, because it is delighted to see Muslim hostility 
diverted from itself toward America, despite its own crimes in Afghanistan and 
Chechnya, and is eager to entice America into an anti-Islamic alliance; China, 
because it patiently follows the advice of its ancient strategic guru, Sun Tzu, 
who taught that the best way to win is to let your rival defeat himself.

In a very real sense, during the last four years, the Bush team has thus been 
dangerously undercutting America's seemingly secure perch on top of the global 
totem pole by transforming a manageable, though serious, challenge largely of 
regional origin into an international debacle.

To be sure, since America is extraordinarily powerful and rich, it can afford, 
yet for a while, even a policy articulated with rhetorical excess and pursued 
with historical blindness. But in the process America is likely to become 
isolated in a hostile world, increasingly vulnerable to terrorist acts and less 
and less able to exercise a constructive global influence.

Flaying away with a stick at a hornets' nest while loudly proclaiming "I will 
stay the course" is an exercise in catastrophic leadership.

But it need not be so. A real course correction is still possible, and it could 
start soon with a modest and common-sense initiative by the president to engage 
the Democratic congressional leadership in a serious effort to shape a 
bipartisan foreign policy for an increasingly divided and troubled nation.

In a bipartisan setting, it would be easier not only to scale down the 
definition of success in Iraq but actually to get out - perhaps even as early 
as next year. And the sooner the United States leaves, the sooner the Shiites, 
Kurds and Sunnis will either reach a political arrangement on their own or some 
combination of them will forcibly prevail.

With a foreign policy based on bipartisanship and with Iraq behind us, it would 
also be easier to shape a wider regional policy that constructively focuses on 
Iran and on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process while restoring the 
legitimacy of America's global role.

(Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. 
This Global Viewpoint article was distributed by Tribune Media Services 

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