Zbigniew Brzezinski: More Bad Advice on Iran

Gen. Douglas MacArthur ended his farewell address to Congress on April 19, 1951, by quoting the refrain of a barracks ballad that went, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away." Former presidential national security advisers, in contrast, neither die nor fade away. They're too busy drumming up business for their inevitable consultancies and tweaking their "legacies" by writing op-ed pieces and testifying before legislative committees.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was Jimmy Carter's national security adviser. He advocated the cessation of U.S. support for the shah of Iran, thereby contributing to (and some would say resulting in) the Islamist takeover of the country 30 years ago. On March 5, Brzezinski testified alongside his Bush 41 counterpart Brent Scowcroft at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on U.S. policy toward Iran. Both called for talks with Tehran and said the main problem posed by Iran's nuclear program is not that nuclear-armed Iranian missiles will threaten Western cities, but that Iran's possession of such weapons will spur other countries in the region and around the world to acquire nuclear weapons.

In his testimony, Brzezinksi lambasted an Israeli government memorandum that was leaked to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz just before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Jerusalem this month. The document, drafted to provide talking points for the officials who would be meeting with Clinton, contained four recommendations:

1. Any dialogue must be both preceded by and accompanied by harsher sanctions against Iran, both within the framework of the UN Security Council and outside it. Otherwise, the talks are liable to be perceived by both Iran and the international community as acceptance of Iran's nuclear program.

2. Before the dialogue begins, the U.S. should formulate an action plan with Russia, China, France, Germany, and Britain regarding what to do if the talks fail. Specifically, there must be an agreement that the talks' failure will prompt extremely harsh international sanctions on Iran.

3. A time limit must be set for the talks, to prevent Iran from merely buying time to complete its nuclear development. The talks should also be defined as a "one-time opportunity" for Tehran.

4. Timing is critical, and the U.S. should consider whether it makes sense to begin the talks before Iran's presidential election in June.

Brzezinski warned against tightening sanctions before beginning talks and against publicly consulting with other countries about measures to be taken if negotiations fail. "The alternative approach, of course, should be rather different," he said. "It should seek to engage Iran in a process in which there emerges the possibility of some consensual agreement. We should be very careful," he added ominously, "not to become susceptible to interested parties."

Brzezinski's snide denigration of Israel as an "interested party" -- as if every country that will be within the range of Iranian missiles, which can now reach southern Europe and will eventually be able to hit American cities, ought not to be an "interested party" with regard to Tehran's nuclear-weapons program -- is of a piece with his castigation of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and his claim that substantive objections to his views expressed by American supporters are the product of  "a McCarthyite tendency among some people in the Jewish community."

In May 2008, Brzezinski told Britain's Daily Telegraph:

They operate, not by arguing but by slandering, vilifying, demonizing. They very promptly wheel out anti-Semitism. There is an element of paranoia in this inclination to view any serious attempt at a compromised peace as somehow directed against Israel.

It's arguable that Brzezinski was doing a bit of slandering, vilifying, and demonizing in his Telegraph interview, but the fact that there is "an element of paranoia" in his own thinking is beyond argument. On February 1, 2007,  Brzezinski gave testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was probably as paranoid as anything that has ever been said in public about U.S. policy toward Iran by an ostensibly serious observer:

A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Whew. Aren't we glad none of that happened.