Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower MP3 CD – Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged
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"Brilliantly provocative.... Brzezinski covers a great deal of ground with dispatch and verve.... His book is never less than exciting." ---The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Zbigniew Brzezinski served as national security adviser to President Carter from 1977 to 1981.
Reader of over 400 audiobooks, Dick Hill has won three coveted Audie awards and been nominated numerous times. He is also the recipient of several AudioFile Earphones Awards. AudioFile includes Dick on their prestigious list of "Golden Voices."
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Brzezinski analyzes the foreign policy of the last three presidents
(Bush I, Clinton, Bush II) and provides wonderful insights and coherent
criticism--good and bad--of each. The most relevant material is about
the current situation, but understanding the foreign policy of Bush I
and Clinton is essential if one wants to understand what is happening now.
The book's title "Second Chance" refers to what is needed after 2008 to
try to reestablish the global leadership of the United States.
You are not going to get simplistic answers here--"Us versus Them", "Good
versus Evil", "Our enemies hate freedom". Brzezinski shows that many
of the current views--"Arabs respect force above all else", "Democracy
can be imposed from outside", and the like have no basis in reality.
He also warns of the growing closeness between Russia and China, and
he is concerned that China will become the dominant player in the Middle
East, with a growing market for oil, a willingness to provide weapons,
and the absence of a patronizing attitude. The world is a very complex
place, and there are no easy answers. This is definitely not a feel-good
book. As Brzezinski says, we have created a disaster which with very
careful work can eventually be remedied--but there will be no third
Before getting into the details, however, Brzezinski also points out that the collapse of the Soviet was NOT the work of a single person (Ronald Reagan), but the consequence of a 40-year bipartisan effort, beginning with Harry Truman, and also aided by Lech Walesa (defied communism for a decade and compelled compromises that ended communist monopoly on power and precipitated uprisings in Czechoslovakia and Hungary), Pope John Paul II (revived spiritual viability), and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Bush I, according to Brzezinski, did a good (B) job overall - his main achievements were dealing positively with Gorbachev and the U.S.S.R.'s collapse, and then building an impressive coalition to handle Hussein. His two criticisms are that Bush could have done more to resolve the Israeli-Palestine rift (though he did forcefully confront Israel's push to expand settlements), and that Bush I left the Iraq problem unresolved.
Clinton, according to "Second Chance" worked well to move former USSR warheads back into the new Russia, preventing proliferation. However, he did not effectively confront North Korea's efforts to build a bomb, and ultimately failed with Pakistan as well (ignored the fact that India's possession put enormous political pressure on Pakistan). As for the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Clinton's bringing the two parties together was a good step, though Rabin failed to renounce continued settlements; the second effort (Barak and Arafat) also failed, with even Barak's foreign minister noting that he would have rejected the offer as "too vague." Perhaps success would have been attained with more time - part of the problem was that Gore did not want pressure put on the Israeli's near his election campaign.) Another Clinton strength, per Brzezinski, was his bringing the U.S. government to surpluses, generating an even greater impression of world power. Overall, Clinton is rated as a "C" in foreign policy.
Bush II, however, is spared no scorn in "Second Chance," and rates an "F." Until '03 the world was accustomed to believing the word of the U.S. president. Our moral standing also suffered via Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo (without high level accountability), and the brutality of counterinsurgency efforts in the midst of hostile civilians. Our failure to decisively prevail further lowered America's esteem, and further helped unite our enemies and creates more terrorists. Resources diverted from the terrorist threat have led to a resurgence in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Pakistan. Taking Iraq out of the picture has also strengthened Iran; our bias towards Israel has increased - further acerbating a major issue within the Muslim world. Meanwhile, Russia and China, with their new economic strength (oil and manufactured goods, respectively), and lacking the constant mentoring and admonishments of the U.S., are becoming stronger and more involved throughout the world. Disrespectful treatment of China's President Hu during his D.C. visit (no state dinner, allowing hecklers outside the Blair House to continue late into the night, playing the Taiwanese anthem by mistake), as well as supporting more nuclear weapons for its neighgor India were also cited as mistakes by the author. Finally, Brzezinski believes our summary rejection of the International Court (even pressing to exempt U.S. personnel from local courts) and the Kyoto proposal also lowered our esteem.
The world is no longer automatically America's to lead, and by 2050 only 15% of the total population will be in North America and Europe. Hopefully, after the 2008 election we begin to regain our influence.
An excellent overview!
Aside: Brzezinski likes to use the word "Manichean." I had to look it up - means presenting or viewing things in "black and white" fashion.
While it is fascinating to watch the author mow through parts of the past fifteen years...years he correctly assumes as a nano-second in history...he pulls no punches with regard to our last three presidents. "Second Chance" is a critical look at these past few years and the author rightly comes down with a scorecard, saving his best for last...George W. Bush.
It's hard to believe, as Brzezinski points out, how far we've fallen during Bush's presidency. Could the Iraq war be the biggest policy blunder in American history? He seems to think so as echoed by one he sizes up as astute in the book...Madeleine Albright.
"Second Chance" is a sober and hard-hitting look at today's America. I highly recommend it for its dead-on honesty written by one whose integrity is without question.
His analysis of the past three administrations is superb. It is balanced and I think offers great insight into the hits and misses of our leaders. He goes on to explain his views on the world post Russia and our missed opportunites. His close of post 2008 I would love to hear discussed by him and others.
An important book for this country. Get it and read it and act.
After having read Game Plan by the same author in 1987, the arguments and evidence were so compelling I put my credibility on the line by attesting to collegues that the Soviet Union would collapse in less than a decade. They stopped laughing in late 1989.
If Game Plan gave me a glimpse of the future, Second Chance has shown me two windows of America's future. Which window turns out to show our future my well depend on how well our next president appreciate's the message in this book.
(The only reason for 4 instead of 5 stars is I wish the last section were much longer)
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