Imperial Hubris and Bzezinski’s Second Chance
I’m not sure what Bzezinski’s intentions are with his recent scathing criticisms of the Washington neocons. Has he had a genuine change of heart? Is he now opposed to imperial warfare? Or is he merely questioning the strategy of Bush and company in pursuing the natural prerogatives and noble objectives of empire?
This is the man who, in 1998, in a Paris interview, said he had no regrets as to having orchestrated the CIA funding, arming and training of Al Queda in Afghanistan, for the purpose of luring the Soviet Union into “their own Vietnam” – a war they could not win, that would cause destabilization of the Soviet regime, and hopefully contribute to its ultimate downfall. “Zbig” was the man who, as National Security Adviser to Carter, dreamed up and implemented the creation of the Mujahadeen. Imperial warfare is his specialty.
He is now getting up there in years, possibly reflecting on his life, and maybe has had a serious change of heart. Maybe this is Zbig’s “second chance” – reflecting the title of his most recent book (which is ostensibly about America’s second chance). Or maybe he is still the same old coldly calculating imperial strategist, and simply believes that the Bush administration is making bad strategic decisions in the rightful pursuit of continued global dominance. After all, he did write, explicitly in the foreword to his 1994 book, The Grand Chessboard, that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. emerged as the world’s “first and only truly global superpower” – and that his intentions in writing this book were to outline precisely what must be done in order to maintain U.S. global dominance. He even said, we will have to “harken back to a more brutal imperial age.”
If I were to take a pessimistic view, the following might be said. I’m not sure if this is accurate, not knowing the man personally, but here is one possible interpretation, and a rather skeptical one.
Brzezinski is railing now at the Bush order, not out of some new-found moral fervour, but because he is a died-in-the-wool strategist, and feels Bush is making poor strategic decisions. He wants the empire to flourish – zeig heil! – and knows the neocon gambit may cost the corporate elite the whole game. He’s in for the long haul, and wants to see a win – for the elite that he has so ruthlessly, mercilessly, shrewdly and with Machiavellian flair, supported and aided and abetted for years and decades, with all of his cunning and sophisticated strategic thinking.
What is interesting is not his new-found moral fervour, or ostensible morality, but his awareness and open statements about the turning tide: the world is changing, the game is being lost; the sea of humanity is rising up, and the BRIC alliance as well – though less importantly – threatens the global hegemony of the corporatist powers of the West.
Whatever Bzezinski’s intentions are – and I don’t follow his words or actions closely enough to know – his recent statements at least make three things clear. One, the Washington neoconservatives are engaging in imperial warfare in a manner that is full of foolish hubris and bespeaks imperial over-reach, according to Brzezinski; and I think we would have to agree. Bzezinski’s argument seems to be that if such over-reach and hubris is followed, the American empire may collapse completely. Not a bad thing, if you ask the vast majority of the world’s people, but a result that Bush and company certainly did not intend.
Second, a shift in global power is occurring, and the U.S. does not have the hegemony it once had. Brzezinski notes two major challenges to U.S. global hegemony. The first challenge is the rising power of Asia and the South, particularly the BRIC alliance – Brazil, Russia, India, China and others. The U.S. economy, as well as that of the EU, and the entire Western-based corporate empire as a whole, is rapidly being eclipsed by the rising giants of the BRIC alliance.
Thirdly, the second threat to U.S. hegemony, and the one that is more profound, is from that group referred to by the business press as “the other superpower” – the world’s citizenry.
Whatever Brzezinski’s motives, his warnings to the U.S. government on these three points should be read loud and clear – coming from a top level long-term strategic planner for the U.S. and Western business and political elite, we should take note. The end of the American empire is in sight. The end of empire per se may even be in sight. With the rising superpower of global citizen’s movements, we may have an end to imperial warfare in our lifetimes, and perhaps soon. This is, in truth, a cause for hope.
I hope Brzezinski has in fact had a change of heart. But in any case, the real news is not the messenger, but the message. The tide has turned.