Scowcroft was national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, Zbigniew Brzezinski the national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. Between them they’ve worked for the least effective presidents of the second half of the 20th century (luckily for them both, George W. Bush’s staff will always exceed them in tainted credentials).
Brzezinski’s Debacle Force
It was Brzezinski’s idea, for example, to send in a military force to free the hostages in Iran in 1980. The romantic in Brzezinski has always had a weakness for Rambo-like bang-bang ventures, so he created the original rapid-deployment Delta Force when he was with Carter and itched to use it. A hostage rescue seemed like a perfect opportunity, nutty though it was to send in American troops into the heart of hostile Iran. He launched “Operation Eagle Claw.” What Americans got in return was a disaster as helicopters smashed into each other in the Iranian desert, eight Americans were killed, the hostage crisis carried on and American prestige, already battered, crashed along. That’s Brzezinski for you—not quite a grand chess master, and not quite in touch with reality beyond the television studios that keep tapping him for Big Name interviews.
And that’s the Brzezinski who, joined by Scowcroft, is now using a Washington Post column to tell Barack Obama what to do in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Once you get past the first and second paragraphs’ Brzezinski trademarks (“profoundly historic,” “euphoria is ephemeral,” “endeavor”), you get to this incredible sentence: “In perhaps no other region was the election of Obama more favorably received than the Middle East.”
There’s no question that in poll after poll Obama outdid John McCain in the rest of the world. But there was one exception: The Middle East. Brzezinski and Scowcroft haven’t been reading the very paper they’re writing in. This from the Post in mid-October:
One caveat comes in the report of the Pew Global Attitudes Project, which points out that Obamamania is largely absent in the region where U.S. influence most needs a boost: the Middle East. Only 34 percent of Lebanese, 31 percent of Egyptians and 22 percent of Jordanians said they have confidence in Mr. Obama to do the right thing in world affairs; in Pakistan the figure was 10 percent. Israel is one of the few countries in the world where at least some polls have shown Mr. McCain leading Mr. Obama. Many Israelis fear that Mr. Obama will be too soft on Iran; many Arabs predict that he will be too soft on Israel. The new administration, whether that of Mr. Obama or Mr. McCain, may have to accept anti-Americanism in Pakistan as the price of staying on the offensive against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.So right up front, Scowcroft and Brzezinski send their credibility packing.
The next couple of paragraphs are recaps of the disastrous Bush years, recaps that any average hack can cough up. Then come the recommendations: “A key element in any new initiative would be for the U.S. president to declare publicly what, in the view of this country, the basic parameters of a fair and enduring peace ought to be.” You mean like Bush did with his “Road Map for peace in 2002?
“That initiative should then be followed—not preceded—by the appointment of a high-level dignitary to pursue the process on the president’s behalf, a process based on the enunciated presidential guidelines. Such a presidential initiative should instantly galvanize support, both domestic and international, and provide great encouragement to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.” You mean the way Bush dispatched Colin Powell, then Condi Rice, to be his “high-level dignitaries” to pursue the process and instantly galvanize support?
No, those are the failed policies of the last eight years recast. Dispatching “dignitaries” isn’t what’s going to make the difference. Only the personal involvement of the president will make a difference. Brzezinski ought to know. The only breakthrough mediated by the United States took place when Jimmy Carter staked his reputation on a deal between Israel and Egypt in 1979. He got the deal. Bill Clinton did the same in December 2000, just days before he was to leave office (compare that with Bush’s inactive nullity in his last days) when he summoned Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barack to Camp David and came within a razor’s edge of a final peace agreement before both belligerents (not just Arafat) balked.
Stereotyping Local Issues
Brzezinski's strategic analysis is flawed, too.