Thoughts on the Present Situation: An Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski
Q: As the war in Iraq continues, what are your thoughts on its progress?
A: While at this stage it is too early to make any categorical judgments, it would appear that before too long, it is in the interest of U.S. credibility--especially the Bush Administration's credibility--to demonstrate tangibly that Iraq has--or has had--weapons of mass destruction. (Since Saddam is fighting for his life it would be surprising, and rather strange, if he didn't use the weapons of mass destruction that he is said to have.) Secondly, one would also hope that there will be more evident demonstrations that the Iraqi people are welcoming their "liberation."
Both issues, after all, were central to the U.S. case for undertaking what has been undertaken.
Q: Is the conduct of the war with Iraq further threatening the trans-Atlantic relationship?
A: It seems to me that the conduct of the war itself is not affecting, as of yet, the trans-Atlantic relationship. Disagreement as whether the war should be have been undertaken by the United States and Britain alone--that issue keeps percolating.
Whether the relationship will worsen or whether there will be a reconciliation depends on how the United States acts in the wake of its eventual but inevitable military victory in Iraq.
Q: What are those factors, then, that might repair or further erode the trans-Atlantic relationship?
A: A good clue can be found in the last two major public statements by Prime Minister Tony Blair. He clearly put on record what our British ally--and by extension many other Europeans--think. First, there must be a major American effort to seriously address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If the United States seriously engages that issue--and that issue is the most serious source of Arab hostility to the United States--some stability may ensue. The second is how the United States handles the humanitarian situation in Iraq, and the question as to with what rapidity the United States disengages as an occupying power. If both are addressed, there is some possibility that the trans-Atlantic cleavages will narrow.
However, if the temptation of victory leads to follow-up campaigns against Syria, Iran or Saudi Arabia, the probabilities are high that the United States might find itself even more alone.
Q: What is motivating some (within and without the Bush Administration) to advocate policies that might further damage America's relationship with Europe?
A: It is hard to analyze the motives of those concerned unless they themselves expound upon them. It does appear that their primary focus in on the Middle East as a region of dangerous instability, and for some more specifically, on the security of Israel itself. This stems in part from the belief that neither Europe nor the Far East are as volatile as the Middle East. In that context there is some element of basic distress at the attitude of the continental powers and the feeling that ad hoc arrangements might serve American interests better.
Personally, I do not share these views; I believe they would prompt a progressively accelerated slide into growing international disorder, and they could potentially prompt a significant isolation of America on the world scene, in some respects replicating Israel's isolation on the regional scene.
Q: Last week, columnist Charles Krauthammer advised the president, "Don't go back to the UN", that while the United States need not formally leave, it should allow it to "wither away." (The Washington Post, March 21, 2003)
A: Extremist reactions to complicated processes rarely produce constructive solutions. The United Nations was never the utopia its uncritical advocates postulated nor the disgraceful failure its critics claimed. In some respects, the UN is useful. In other respects, the UN's very concept of universality collides with efficiency.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to the president, is the Robert E. Osgood Professor of American Foreign Policy at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and a Counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.