Imperial Hubris and Brzezinski’s Second Chance
I’m not sure what Brzezinski’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 Islamic militants in Afghanistan and creating Al Queda (“The Base”), 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,” as he likes to be called, 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 (a title that seems to reflect his view of the world – implying the vast majority of humanity are mere pawns, and rather expendable at that), 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 “hearken 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, and these two challengers now threaten the global hegemony of the corporatist powers of the West.
Whatever Brzezinski’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. Brzezinski’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.
In making these statements of warning to the Western power elite, that all is not secure in their dominance of power, either at home (“The Base”) or abroad, Brzezinski is echoing the statements of others from within the elite circles of Western power: specifically, international financier Goerge Soros, and former right-hand man and chief intellectual in residence to French President Jacques Chirac, Jacques Attali, who became president in 1991 of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (see Millennium: Winners and Losers in the Coming Order). Both of these men are among the very top of the business elite and power elite of the Western world, and both have stated very clearly, frankly and starkly, that the current order of Western power is far from stable.
Soros said in an interview with Harper’s magazine just three of four years ago that, “We [the political and business elite of the West] have to make major compromises now, or we will lose everything.” That’s a pretty stark and perfectly clear statement. And this is coming from the man who woke up one morning and decided to bring the British currency to its knees – and succeed in doing so before lunch. This is the multi-billionaire who personally financed the reconstruction of Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Bloc. This is a man who is most definitely speaking from within the highest levels of the Western power elite. We should take his words very seriously on this point. They indicate a sea change that is underway.
The corporate media will not parade the fact, or even breath wind of it, but the Western corporate empire that now overshadows all the world, is teetering precariously on the verge of collapse, just as the Soviet empire was shaking with the tremors of deep political unrest and a profound crisis of legitimacy in the late 1980’s.
Jacques Attali, economist, academic, president of one of the most powerful banks in the world, and intellectual in residence to the Western power elite, wrote exactly the same things in his 1992 book, Millenium. In it he predicted a greatly widening gap between rich and poor, both world-wide, and within the wealthy nations, a “sea of poverty dotted with islands of affluence.”
Attali foresaw roving affluent individuals wandering about the globe in search of meaning. And he said that the Western empire, the current dominance of Western power world-wide, and the current order of Western societies, was anything but stable.
He warned that the current framework of Western power is highly vulnerable, and will only become more so with time. He noted that the current order of Western power is faced with two great threats: one external, one internal.
The threat from outside the heartland of Western empire he saw as coming from the growing gap between rich and poor world-wide, and the rising demands from the economically marginalized and exploited third world peoples.
The second threat he said, is even greater, and is from within. It is the threat of great and deepening discontent among the peoples of the Western world, and not only from the rising sea of the growing underclass, but also from the affluent, who are experiencing a crisis of meaning, as well as a crisis of confidence in the existing order and its so-called business and political leaders.
These warnings are to be taken seriously. Jacques Attali was concerned to preserve the existing order, which I would have to describe as corporatist as well as globalist. (Neoliberalism and neoconservatism, which now dominate the world, are two wings of a global corporatist agenda and power structure.)
Polls show clearly that the majority of people around the world, including within the Western nations, are not so enamoured with the current order or “leadership.” The majority of the people within the heartland of the Western corporatist neoliberal empire are increasingly desirous of a significant change of course. And the vast majority of the world’s populace are even more strongly desiring a major change.
The Western-based global neoliberal corporatist power structure is now threatened. The current order now faces a severe and global crisis of legitimacy. Klaus Schwab, the founder and director of the World Economic Forum, that elite business man’s club that meets yearly in the remote mountain resort town of Davos Switzerland with the political elite of the world, has also said, in 2002, that the writing is on the wall: it is only a matter of time; we have lost the competition for legitimacy.
Four major figures from within the highest circles of the global power elite, among many others, have seen and spoken of this threat to the current order. We would be foolish to miss the opportunity that presents itself now: all those who prefer democracy to corporate rule – which we currently have; all those who prefer freedom to tyranny; all those who prefer justice to gross and systemic inequality, injustice, oppression and predation; all those who prefer peace to unending imperial war; and all those who prefer to have a future for their children on this earth, or for any human beings or other living beings; had best speak now.
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. U.S. imperial hubris and over-reach now threatens to devastate the world’s dominant superpower. The rising economic giants of Asia and the South threaten to eclipse the Western corporate great powers. And the culture and political climate of the U.S., along with the broader world, has evolved to the point where not only is imperial warfare deeply opposed and entailing of great risks – risk of total loss; but empire in itself is now in question.
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.