Thursday, January 03, 2008

Second Chance: an important, basic primer on how to think in a structured way about foreign policy decisions

Every morning I check Steve Clemons’s The Washington Note. Yesterday morning, the January 1st post was at the top of the screen, "The Brzezinski Challenge for Presidential Candidates in 2008." I dropped everything and walked to the Healdsburg Public Library to pick up the only copy of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower.

If Steve says Second Chance is “an important, basic primer on how to think in a structured way about national security* decision-making,” I’m going to read it to help me evaluate how the 2008 presidential candidates make foreign policy decisions.

In the introduction, Brzezinski states that “…America’s emergence as the world’s most powerful state has saddled Washington’s leadership with three central missions:

1. To manage, steer, and shape central power relations…so that a more cooperative global system can emerge;

2. To contain or terminate conflicts, prevent terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and promote global collective peacekeeping …so that global violence recedes rather than spreads;

3. To address more effectively the increasingly intolerable inequalities in the human condition…and to prompt a common response to the new environmental and ecological threats….”

Brzezinski asks, “[H]ow did America’s first three global leader presidents – George H.W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush – interpret the essence of the new era? Were they guided by a historically relevant vision, and did they pursue a coherent strategy? ….Did they leave the world in better or worse shape, and was the American position in that world stronger or weaker?”

I'm looking forward to reading Brzezinski's conclusions about these presidents, then applying his analyses to those who are vying to be our next president.

*A sound foreign foreign policy clearly affects national security, but it's more than that. Our foreign policy affects other countries (and the earth) as well, which is why I prefer to focus on it, not just our national security.

(book jacket:

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