Zbigniew Brzezinski’s legacy: defend liberal world order


Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was one of the strongest exponents of the “liberal international order,” notes The Washington Post’s David Ignatius:

Brzezinski, who died Friday, devoted most of his career to explaining and enhancing this idea of a robust, supple, U.S.-led architecture for global security and prosperity. He wanted this American order to be open and flexible, ready to engage the forces of what he liked to call a “global political awakening” of rising nations and cultures. But he also insisted it must be strong militarily at its core.

Populism was abhorrent to this son of Polish aristocracy, Ignatius adds. “Having seen Western values and freedoms crushed in Poland, he was protective of them. Having seen allies regain dignity and prosperity under an American umbrella, he wanted to maintain it,” he writes.

Brzezinski’s life spanned the greatest tragedies and greatest triumphs of 20th century Europe and America, adds Radek Sikorski, distinguished statesman at the Brzezinski Institute on Geostrategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

As a witness and a participant in those titanic struggles, he brought to them not only a powerful intellect, but also gravitas. Europeans and Americans who remembered the World War II understood the true cost of foreign policy mistakes…..When I saw him a month ago, he was worried, and summed it up in his last tweet, on May 4th: “Sophisticated US leadership is the sine qua non of a stable world order. However, we lack the former while the latter is getting worse.”

As a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, Brzezinski “brought a deep commitment to the NED’s mission as well as a coherent strategic perspective informed by his historical optimism about the future of democracy,” said NED president Carl Gershman:

He was greatly appreciated by the NED staff for his insight and his support, and for always raising the right questions.  When NED honored Zbig in 1997 for his nine years of service on the Board, he memorably said that “there is nothing more satisfying in life than to be associated with a cause in which one deeply believes…, which is just, and which is also a ‘winner.’” 

In “Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power,” Brzezinski argued that continued American strength abroad was vital to global stability, but that it would depend on the country’s ability to foster “social consensus and democratic stability” at home, The New York Times adds.

Those who expect the end of US global hegemony to be the precursor to a new, benign, globally cooperative world order will likely be disappointed, he wrote.

“More probable would be a protracted phase of rather inconclusive realignments of both global and regional power, with no grand winners and many more losers, in a setting of international uncertainty and even of potentially fatal risks to global well-being,” he contends.

“Rather than a world where dreams of democracy flourish, a Hobbesian world of enhanced national security based on varying fusions of authoritarianism, nationalism, and religion could ensue.”

Brzezinski was also precociously alert to Russia’s authoritarian resurgence, warning in the late 1990s that “if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state.”

In 2013, Brzezinski told Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning that he worried about the level of political literacy.

“We can’t have an intelligent foreign policy unless we have an intelligent public, because we’re a democracy,” Brzezinski said. “Look at what happened in Iraq in 2003 — the public basically supported it. We have set impossible goals for ourselves in Afghanistan. We had to go in because of what they did to us from there — al Qaeda. But the goals we set were extreme. We don’t have a public that really understands the world anymore and in the age of complexity, that problem becomes much more difficult.”

In 1994, Dr. Lee Edwards and Ambassador Lev Dobriansky established the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation to commemorate the hundred million victims of communist tyranny. Brzezinski, alongside the eminent scholars Richard Pipes and Robert Conquest, played a key role in VOC’s early years as a founding member of VOC’s National Advisory Council. The guidance of Brzezinski and other leading figures of the anticommunist movement was instrumental in shaping VOC’s mission and forming our vision of a world finally free of communist totalitarianism. To read complete remarks from VOC on Dissident, please click here.

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