Top critical review
The emperor has no clothes
on April 23, 2003
I'm surprised by the popularity of this semi-sanitized rehash of 19th century Imperialism. Manchester's 'The Last Lion, Winston Churchill' trys to make 19th century imperialism palatable by claiming it was over (Churchill was the last) and it's death-throes saved us happy non-imperialist types from Hitler. Brzezinski uses the same "it's ok because it about over" trick. The concluding paragraph provides an excellent taste of the book's delights: "In the course of the next several decades, a functioning structure of global cooperation, based on geopolitical realities, could thus emerge and gradually assume the mantle of the world's current "regent," which has for the time being assumed the burden of responsibility for world stability and peace. Geostrategic success in that cause would represent a fitting legacy of America's role as the first, only, and last truly global superpower."
Here is what this means: At some unknown time, the United Nations will gradually take over the United States world regency. World regent America is 'ok' because the US will only do it for a few years and no one else will try it, again.
I guess Churchill wasn't the 'last lion,' after all.
After carefully hunting through the book, I don't think the 'temporary' side of imperialism is a serious concern for Brzezinski. His primary concern is insuring American power remains pre-eminent and American business monopolize it's 'regional sphere'. His method of operation involves catering to ethnic mythology at every turn, insuring a maximum of ethnic friction. The blandishments about an emerging 'structure of global cooperation' is just a fig leaf.
There must be a lot the left and right could complain about this vision, but I find it primarily empty headed. Brzezinski's model is the status quo, his style is crisis management. I felt like I was reading a paean to good old days of the 'Grand Game' and aristocratic diplomacy.
I won't go into the content. If you have played the board game Risk, you pretty much know what to expect. Brzezinski merely brings the 1960s game into the new millennium.
I think it useful to consider the book from two alternative views. 1) Has it offered predictive value? 2) Does it help us identify the forces that will influence the future.
On the first point, Brzezinski has no predictive powers. He doesn't peer into the future, he drives while staring at the rear view mirror. Written in the late 90s, he entirely misses the 'blowback' of his own Middle Eastern policy. In the late 70s, when Carter-era national security adviser, Brzezinski walked the Russians it "the Afghan trap." Did he ever imagine that his creation, the mujahideen, would blow up the World Trade Center?Brzezinski's blind spot for Muslim creativity extends to just about everything south of the Alps, Anatolian plateau and Himalayas. Weapons of mass destruction get mentioned as an after thought near the end of the conclusion. Christian and Muslim fundamentalism are ignored. Drug cartels and non-government paramilitaries escape his radar screen.
On the second point, Brzezinski offers no systemic insights for global developments. What is it about the United Nations that makes it a fit 'future' for global government? What are the advantages of legitimizing the United Nations as the court of highest authority? How will Brzezinsk's world of vassals, protectorates and competitors find agreement on global authority? We never find out.