America and the World is a book on a series of discussions held between Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Snowcroft with David Ignatius moderating. Brzezinski was National Security Advisor (NSA) under President Carter and Snowcroft held the role under Bush I. David Ignatius is a senior journalist at the Washington Post and Newsweek. In the book the current situation of the United States is discussed, the problems in the Middle East, the changing role of China in the world, Russia, Europe, principles for the rest of the world and what the president elected in November 2008 should address in their first hundred days.
Both men are important figures in America’s recent past. Brzezinski served under Carter and was important in the Camp David Accords, the continuation of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) and the US’s reaction to the Solidarity movement in Poland and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Brent Snowcroft served under Bush I and was thus very important in the US’s handling of the end of the Soviet Union and the first Iraq War. These two were, as much as almost anyone else, responsible for the peaceful end of the Cold War with the Soviet collapse. It’s a huge achievement.
The first section deals with their views of the administrations that succeeded Bush I. Clinton is viewed as not particularly good, with Bush II viewed as disastrous. It is interesting to note that Snowcroft regards Bush II’s administration this way. Both regard the US’s failure to obtain peace between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians as crucial. Both want more discussion with Iran.
Both Snowcroft and Brzezinski regard China as fairly benign. Brzezinski more so than Snowcroft. Brzezinski also believes that the US is living beyond its means.
There is a chapter on Russia, Brzezinski continues to have antipathy toward Russia, more than Snowcroft.But Brzezinski does say that he would like to see Russia move toward the West. Brzezinski would like to see the Ukraine in NATO. Brzezinski. The discussion of Medvedev is interesting, both men are unsure if he is the real leader of Russia.
In the discussion on Europe both want Turkey in the EU and the EU to be a stronger military partner for the US. They make the interesting point that the EU is something genuinely new. Both see that enlargement has changed the EU, Brzezinski states that a smaller union of the original members could have achieved more unity but now that the group has expanded that the governance problems of the EU have come to the fore.
There is a curious chapter on dignity where both men declare that foreigners want their dignity respected. This is undoubtedly true. But in the chapter on Russia it appears that Russia’s dignity is to be disrespected, while the point is made the the US has the Monroe Doctrine no such regard is granted to Russia.
Finally, the two go over what they think the president should do in his first 100 days in office. They describe how the NSA needs to be someone who the President trusts and that the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State need to form a team with that person and the President. The two regard Israel and Palestine as well as Iraq and Afghanistan as the most important issues.
The book is a very good read. Brzezinski and Snowcroft are still sharp and are very experienced with real power politics. Both continue to play a role with the US by being intermediaries with other countries. This comes through in their discussions. The book is full of great observations. For anyone interested in US foreign politics and what current thinking is in US foreign politics the book is great read.