Zbigniew Brzezinski On Getting Out Of a Foolish War

Zbigniew Brzezinski has an op-ed in The Washington Post which makes a number of excellent points, beginning with the characterization of the war as foolish in the title. Those who argue against leaving point out the risks of leaving but ignore the damage that is done by staying.

I think many liberal bloggers have being playing politics in portraying John McCain as being worse than George Bush on foreign policy. McCain’s views on the war are being distorted when his comment about remaining in Iraq for one hundred years is taken to mean he envisions a prolonged continuation of the current state of warfare. While this is a distortion of McCain’s statement, McCain still has serious problems in failing to recognize the extent of the problem. Just as he has underestimated the violence in Iraq in the past, John McCain is wrong in failing to recognize that our very presence in Iraq as an occupying power is a cause of problems. Brzezinski writes:

The contrast between the Democratic argument for ending the war and the Republican argument for continuing is sharp and dramatic. The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for “staying the course” draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush’s and Sen. John McCain’s forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of “falling dominoes” that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier.

Nonetheless, if the American people had been asked more than five years ago whether Bush’s obsession with the removal of Saddam Hussein was worth 4,000 American lives, almost 30,000 wounded Americans and several trillion dollars — not to mention the less precisely measurable damage to the United States’ world-wide credibility, legitimacy and moral standing — the answer almost certainly would have been an unequivocal “no.”

Nor do the costs of this fiasco end there. The war has inflamed anti-American passions in the Middle East and South Asia while fragmenting Iraqi society and increasing the influence of Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to Baghdad offers ample testimony that even the U.S.-installed government in Iraq is becoming susceptible to Iranian blandishments.

In brief, the war has become a national tragedy, an economic catastrophe, a regional disaster and a global boomerang for the United States. Ending it is thus in the highest national interest.

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    Petro says:

    “Nonetheless, if the American people had been asked more than five years ago whether Bush’s obsession with the removal of Saddam Hussein was worth 4,000 American lives, almost 30,000 wounded Americans and several trillion dollars — not to mention the less precisely measurable damage to the United States’ world-wide credibility, legitimacy and moral standing — the answer almost certainly would have been an unequivocal “no.””

    Actually, Zbigniew – if I recall the zeitgeist of the time correctly, the answer would’ve been more like, “Nuh uh, will not!”

  2. 2
    Edwin Hussein (not a scary black Reverend) says:

    I must agree with Petro, above, (and thanks for the ‘laugh’).

    Otherwise Zbigniew makes some excellent points. Except, I don’t think liberal bloggers (myself included) misunderstand McSame, we’re just appropriately smearing the SOB. It’s a battle and we say no more Republicans in Washington, period. Have you seen what they’ve done.

    (aside) As a foreigner, I have zero respect left for the USA or brand USA, or whatever the hell you wanna call it. Two thumbs down.

  3. 3
    darrelplant says:

    McCain’s comment is stupid and should be attacked in either case.

    In the first place, there’s no evidence that he has any plan for how to bring the actual fighting going on in Iraq to an end. The other countries we’ve had bases in for decades had wars that were over in a matter of just a few years. The example we have of a long-running insurgency in an occupied country — Vietnam — we were able to end only by leaving. Unless McCain has some idea of how to stop the fighting there sometime in the next 100 years, his call for a century of occupation is exactly as it’s been portrayed.

    In the second place, there was a promise to the Iraqi people — and to the American people — when this unjustified war began that there was no plan for permanent bases in Iraq. While 100 years isn’t technically “permanent” it might as well be, just ask Cuba how they feel about Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. McCain’s statement isn’t any worse than Bush; it’s exactly the same as Bush, the guy who authorized the building of those bases. I can’t really imagine that the Iraqis would be happy about the US coming into their country, destroying its already fragile infrastructure, creating a war that kills hundreds of thousands and displaces millions, and then hanging around for a century.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Edwin,

    I don’t think liberal bloggers (myself included) misunderstand McSame, we’re just appropriately smearing the SOB.

    That’s what I fear. McCain should be rightly criticized for his views on Iraq. However smearing someone based upon a misinterpretation of what they said is not “appropariately smearing” him. In the long run smearing him based upon a minsinterpretation of his views is likely to backfire. At very least I do not want to practice the same type of smears which have been utilized by Republicans in recent presidential elections.

    It is also Hillary Clinton’s use of such tactics which makes me strongly opposed to her nomination. To paraphrase John Kerry when he endorsed Obama, we don’t need to perfect the art of Swift Boating. We need to abolish it.

    darrelplant,

    McCain’s comment is stupid and should be attacked in either case.

    Yes, it should be attacked, but he should be criticized for what he actually said. While not as bad as the common misinterpretation, his failure to understand the consequences of remaining in Iraq are bad enough.

    In addition, attacking him for what he really said helps extend the discussion to the actual issues of how our presence in Iraq is harmful to our interests and of the consequences of staying for one hundred years (even if he does not mean a state of war for one hundred years). The situation in Iraq is considerably different from occupying Germany or Japan after World War II, or remaining in Korea since the 1950’s. We will have problems throughout the region as long as we are seen as an occupying power.

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