By Chet Yarbrough
By Zbigniew Brzezinski
Narrated by Grover Gardner
Zbigniew Brzezinski has undoubtedly forgotten more about world history than this critic knows or has read. But, “Strategic Vision” is talking-head punditry that a weeks’ reading of the New York Times could equal.
Brzezinski fails to do justice to his background as a Polish immigrant from an aristocratic family that escaped Poland before World War II. His first hand experience in other parts of the world are largely missing in “Strategic Vision”. Educated in Canada and later in the United States, Brzezinski finished his doctoral degree at Harvard with a concentration in Soviet Union studies. His immersion in academics is interrupted by political work in John F. Kennedy’s campaign for President and employment by the Carter administration (1977-1981).
Sadly, “Strategic Vision” is a pedantic and repetitive diatribe about America’s loss of international stature and its need to re-establish itself as a positive political influence in world affairs. Brzezinski writes about changing centers of economic, political, and military power with the growth of China, the decline of the U.S.S.R, the fracturing of the Middle East, and the formation of the European Union; i.e., he cites demographic and social changes—youth, aging populations, religious beliefs, ethnic’ differences, income inequality, immigration—all the usual suspects, as the cause of world strife.
None of this is new.
Most Americans deplore our second invasion of Iraq–the WMD lies, the loss of lives, the waste of economic resource; the loss of American prestige in the Middle East. Few would disagree with comic book super-hero creator Stan Lee’s observation that great power demands great responsibility; i.e. though America exercised great power, the question becomes–did America demand great responsibility?
The only observation that Brzezinski makes in his book that has some usefulness is that America needs to clean up its own domestic act before it can positively influence the world in proportion to its dominant military and economic power. No more Bernie Madoffs; no more financial instruments of mass destruction; i.e. America is viewed by many countries as the political system of greed that breeds income inequality, unfair treatment of the poor, an American health care system disproportionate to its wealth, and an education system that is failing. Questions are raised about why any country that is not presently democratic would want to become democratic.
In fairness, Brzezinski is not saying other countries want to emulate America. Brzezinski clearly points to differences in religion and social history that make other countries interests unique to themselves. But America needs to be a leader in those areas of life that are important to all cultures if it is to retain and maintain influence in the world; i.e. being the richest and most powerful nation in the world only assures America a seat at the table; not the ability to unilaterally change other countries’ cultures. If America shows that a democratic republic works, it becomes a model of reform; if America shows a democratic republic is an illusion, it becomes a model of failure.