Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Tale of Two Headlines

How he felt in June 2013, not how he feels now.

Politico, October 5 2015:

Brzezinski: Obama should retaliate if Russia doesn't stop attacking U.S. assets

NPR, two weeks later:

Former National Security Adviser: U.S. And Russia Must Work Together In Syria

Both referring to the same Brezinski opinion piece in Financial Times, October 4.

It was the NPR story that got my attention. I don't subscribe to the exotic strain of Brzezinski paranoia according to which old Zbig actually rules the world with the aid of his trusty and superpowerful henchwoman Victoria Nuland, who staged an entire revolution in Kiev to cover up her secret maneuver to seize dictatorial power in the Ukraine. etc, etc., but I do think of him lazily as a kind of poor man's (or Democrats') Kissinger, a throwback to the power diplomacy of the 19th century animated by hatred for Russia and for his excessively peaceable old boss Jimmy Carter,

So when I heard the continuity person saying,"Former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski says people need to calm down about Russia!" I pricked up my ears. If even ancient Russophobe Brzezinski thinks we ought to calm down about Russia, we should perhaps consider calming down.

Indeed, if you look at the Financial Times article (I have one of those ten free items per month deals) it's pretty sensible, and shows a fairly refined appreciation of what Obama's policy in Syria actually is and where it comes from. Since I was complaining earlier that nobody seems able to explain the policy, or why the idea of a "no-fly zone" in Syria is a pointless and destructive one, I thought it might be useful to quote it at length in the words of a wicked old "realist" (so nobody can complain it's a hippie idea):
I supported President Barack Obama’s initial decision not to use force in the Syrian tragedy. The use of US power to remove President Bashar al-Assad from office — so eagerly advocated by some of our friends in the Middle East — made no sense in the absence of genuine domestic consensus in favour of it either in Syria or in America. Moreover, whether we like it or not, Mr Assad was neither inclined to accommodate Washington’s urgings that he step down nor intimidated by helter-skelter US efforts to organise effective democratic resistance to his rule.
A breakthrough has since been achieved, however, in the very difficult nuclear negotiations with Iran, in which both the US and Russia co-operated with other leading powers to overcome the obstacles. One might have thought, therefore, that the next phase in coping with the Syrian problem might involve a renewed effort to resolve it, this time with the help of such important signatories as China and Russia.
Instead, Moscow has chosen to intervene militarily, but without political or tactical co-operation with the US — the principal foreign power engaged in direct, if not very effective, efforts to unseat Mr Assad. In doing so it allegedly launched air attacks at Syrian elements that are sponsored, trained and equipped by the Americans, inflicting damage and causing casualties. At best, it was a display of Russian military incompetence; at worst, evidence of a dangerous desire to highlight American political impotence....
It is the NPR headline, not the Politico one, that represents what Brzezinski believes is needed at this moment: the aim should be not so much to stop Russia from being bad as to encourage it to be good, not to "retaliate", though Brzezinski does use the word (in regard to specific Russian attacks on specifically US-supported "rebel" units, and reserving the right to regard them as an unfortunate error), but to pressure, as a way to move into more positive territory and set up what V.V. Putin obviously longs for in all these areas, acceptance as an equal among the Western powers.
Russia has every right to support Mr Assad, if it so wishes — but any repetition of what has just transpired should prompt US retaliation.
The Russian naval and air presences in Syria are vulnerable, isolated geographically from their homeland. They could be “disarmed” if they persist in provoking the US. But, better still, Russia might be persuaded to act with the US in seeking a wider accommodation to a regional problem that transcends the interests of a single state.
Were that to happen, even some limited American-Russian political and military collaboration on the Middle East might prompt a further positive geopolitical development: constructive engagement on the part of China...
So I just thought that was interesting. That, and the question of what Politico thought it was doing with that violent and distorting head.

No comments:

Post a Comment