Brzezinski’s fantasy realism

When he is not accusing American Jewish leaders of McCarthyism, Zgibniew Brzezinski keeps busy by advocating the appeasement of Iran. In this Washington Post op-ed, for example, Brzezinski (along with William Odom) writes:

Given Iran’s stated goals — a nuclear power capability but not nuclear weapons, as well as an alleged desire to discuss broader U.S.-Iranian security issues — a realistic policy would exploit this opening to see what it might yield.

The problem, though, is that no policy that takes Iran’s stated goal seriously (i.e., sees it as an “opening”) can be considered realistic. Indeed, it appears that even Brzezinski (the top foreign policy adviser to Jimmy Carter who concluded that the Soviet Union wouldn’t invade Afghanistan because it promised not to) isn’t a big enough fool to believe that Iran wants only nuclear power, not nuclear weapons. Thus, he begins his essay by referring to Iran’s “desire to have its own nuclear arsenal.” (Naturally, Brzezinski asserts that current U.S. policy is “intensifying” that desire, but he doesn’t claim the desire doesn’t exist, nor could he with a straight face).

Moreover, Brzezinski quickly moves away from the premise that Iran’s goals don’t include obtaining nukes. His fall-back position is that a nuclear Iran is not problematic because “the traditional policy of strategic deterrence, which worked so well in U.S. relations with the Soviet Union and with China and which has helped to stabilize India-Pakistan hostility” will also “work in the case of Iran.” Brzezinski asserts that “the widely propagated notion of a suicidal Iran detonating its very first nuclear weapon against Israel is more the product of paranoia or demagogy than of serious strategic calculus.” But, of course, this notion finds support in statements by leaders of Iran. One can argue that these statements shouldn’t be taken seriously. But Brzezinski would rather not rely on this counterintuitive argument. Thus, he ignores the statements by Iran’s leaders and resorts to name-calling. The intellectual dishonesty does not come as a surprise.

If it is true, however, that we have little to fear from a nuclear Iran, then why should we “accommodate its. . .interests” in order to avoid this outcome, as Brzezinski advocates? Here, Obama’s mentor indulges in fantasy. He postulates that his accommodationist approach

could help bring Iran back into its traditional role of strategic cooperation with the United States in stabilizing the Gulf region. Eventually, Iran could even return to its long-standing and geopolitically natural pre-1979 policy of cooperative relations with Israel.

But this traditional, longstanding Iranian role pre-dates the 1979 revolution (the one that Carter and Brzezinski saw as insufficiently threatening to warrant backing the Shah of Iran). Brzezinski provides no reason to believe that the current regime or any spin-off thereof will opt to help the U.S. stablilize the Gulf region, much less cooperate with Israel.

Clearly, only regime change (in the strong sense) provides any prospect of bringing about Brzezinski’s rosy scenario. And that is why a policy that promotes such change seems vastly superior to one that seeks to accommodate the existing regime’s interests.

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