Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Even if we knew which way to head, but still, we probably wouldn't go

I just finished Zbigniew Brzezinski's Second Chance, which reviews the three post cold war presidents and grade their performance (grades, C, F and B, can you guess who got which?) I think his grading is spot on, and his states his reasoning well. At a high level, none of the post-cold war presidents did a good job of adjusting policy to reflect the new realities. They had their success (well, two of them did) but they also failed to set the US on the new course.

Those well read in international affairs will breeze through the background on the period, but will be interested in his take on the Presidents. For those less well versed, it provides a nice context for evaluating the Presidents as a group. He then has a discussion of the means of salvaging American global influence. I saw some overlap with Charles Kupchan's under-appreciated End of the American Era. He starts from the position that the US has a long uphill battle to become legitimate again, which is a position that needs to be discussed more frequently. And it is difficult to see anyone pulling this off well.

If you are interested in Brzezinski's prose style, have a look at this. What I like about his approach is the combination deep policy knowledge, strategic approach and a no fear of calling bullshit when he sees it. Unfortunately, pundits have a tendency to be either so polite as to avoid discussing the obvious or to be so polemical as to appear purely political. Like William Odom, Brzezinski presents a nice balance.

On the international relations front, be sure to read this interview Alastair Horne, author of A Savage War of Peace. The interview covers the book as well as comparisons to Iraq and thoughts on the Bush and Blair administrations.

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