on September 2, 2004
Like others offering their reviews, I rate this book very highly not because it is a real "page turner" or is particularly well written, but because of its cold Machiavellian analysis of the need to protect and expand the American Empire and what that means to the ordinary Joe and Jane Citizen.
Three things in this book made my blood run ice cold. The first is the complete absense of any sense of morality in the whole discussion. I do not mean that this is an *im*moral book, it is not a moral book, it is *a*moral in that there is literally no discussion whatsoever whether what is being proposed is RIGHT or should be done. That the recomendations to grow the American Empire are valid is simply assumed, not proven or even argued. The second thing was the whole discussion on how the political center of mass was Central Eurasia (i.e. the region between Turkey and Pakistan and between Iran and Turkmenistan) and how unlikely it was that we were going to be able to have a substantial presence in the region (in the near term) unless we have SOME PERL HARBOR CLASS EVENT to accelerate the populations willingness to accept the costs. Also, This Was Bad because it would delay our needed expansion. Then, just on cue, we have the 9/11 attacks, and dang if we don't end up with a Whole Bunch of military presence all throughout the heart of Eurasia... Coincidence? Makes one wonder. As if that is not enough, the book closes with a clear and unambiguous reference to the steps needed to get us to the One World Government of the New World Order.
Read it and weep because, as another reviewer stated, he is not predicting the future, he is *planning* the future. Coldly. Methodically.
on January 3, 2002
This is how Brzezinski views the (supposedly sovereign) nations of Central Asia:
"The last decade of the twentieth century has witnessed a tectonic shift in world affairs. For the first time ever, a non-Eurasian power has emerged not only as a key arbiter of Eurasian power relations but also as the world's paramount power. The defeat and collapse of the Soviet Union was the final step in the rapid ascendance of a Western Hemisphere power, the United States, as the sole and, indeed, the first truly global power..."
"Two basic steps are thus required: first, to identify the geostrategically dynamic Eurasian states that have the power to cause a potentially important shift in the international distribution of power and to decipher the central external goals of their respective political elites and the likely consequences of their seeking to attain them;... second, to formulate specific U.S. policies to offset, co-opt, and/or control the above..." (p. 40)
- "...To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together." (p.40)
- "Henceforth, the United States may have to determine how to cope with regional coalitions that seek to push America out of Eurasia, thereby threatening America's status as a global power." (p.55)
- "America is now the only global superpower, and Eurasia is the globe's central arena. Hence, what happens to the distribution of power on the Eurasian continent will be of decisive importance to America's global primacy and to America's historical legacy." (p.194)
- "That puts a premium on maneuver and manipulation in order to prevent the emergence of a hostile coalition that could eventually seek to challenge America's primacy..." (p. 198)
- "The most immediate task is to make certain that no state or combination of states gains the capacity to expel the United States from Eurasia or even to diminish significantly its decisive arbitration role." (p. 198)
- "For Pakistan, the primary interest is to gain Geostrategic depth through political influence in Afghanistan - and to deny to Iran the exercise of such influence in Afghanistan and Tajikistan - and to benefit eventually from any pipeline construction linking Central Asia with the Arabian Sea." (p.139)
And ponder the meaning of these statements in a post-9-11 world:
- "Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat." (p. 211)
- "The attitude of the American public toward the external projection of American power has been much more ambivalent. The public supported America's engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (pp 24-5)
To most Americans the people of the world are just that- people, just like us, with a right to self-determination. To Brzezinski, they are merely pawns on a chessboard. Such an imperialist strategy does not make me feel any safer- how did Napoleon's strategy fare for the French in the long run? Or the Roman emperors for their citizens?
Rome fell, Hitler fell, all imperialist powers ultimately fail, because they follow the over-extended geopolitical strategy advocated by Brzezinski. While our military is busy fighting for oil interests all around the world, who's watching the front door?
on February 16, 2002
I read this book with disbelief. Brzezinski was for a long time a strategist, a political planner of the highest rank so I have to take him seriously. But I couldn't help but constantly wonder if the book is for real.
It displays an unabashed and unapologetic view of the U.S. as a world 'hegemon' (author's word) and divides the rest of the world in 'vassals' (author's word), rivals, 'pivots' and strategically irrelevant countries. Western Europe and Japan are the prominent members of the first category, Russia and China of the second. The pivots are the countries that have strategic choices important to the U.S., such as the Ukraine. United Kingdom is an (amusing) example of strategically irrelevance.
The book proceeds by systematically and often tediously analyzing case-by-case scenarios and what-ifs concerning the strategic impact of the policy decisions of the players (vassals, rivals and pivots) in four main theatres: Europe, Russia, Central Asia and the Far East. The analysis seemed rather un-principled to me but by the end I could discern some key points. The most important of them is that the U.S., despite is global hegemony cannot afford wars but it has to maintain its dominance by smartly playing the rivals against each other so that a major global rival does not emerge.
I think the book's shocking disregard of democracy and national self-determination is quite consistent with the way the American administration tends to act in international affairs. Unfortunately, the current administration does not seem to take the book's main advice regarding the need for America to avoid outright wars and to dominate through smart diplomacy.
on January 24, 2010
This small book packs quite a punch for its size. While I am in agreement with most of the previous reviews which basically finds the notion that our leaders actively pursue an agenda for world domination apalling, what I find most amazing is the frankness in which the author goes about describing American foreign policy and its quest for global dominance. The only thing that I'm surprised about is the fact that judging from the reviews there is a disconnect between what the average persons believes what the US does in terms of geopolitical strategy in the world, and what actually happens. Our ignorance, which is specifically engineered to keep us in the dark. reinforces our desire to see the world and ourselves the way we want to see it, not the way it is. Zbigniew only calls it the way it is. And it just so happens that the truth is ugly. Sorry to be the one at the party bursting balloons. Welcome to the desert of the real. The French philosopher Jean Paul Satre once wrote that it dangerous for a nation to become too self aware. I take that to mean that once the people know what is done in their name, it all falls apart because once you know something, you can not unknow it and you become responsible for doing something about it.
on February 23, 2003
The title reveals so much. It is eerie to think of the world being carved up by select global geopolitical thinkers, political leaders and corporate giants. Here is a book with basic premises which one can strongly disagree, but still regard it as indispensable, hence the 5-star review I have provided while finding so much of the message conveyed as abhorrent to democratic principles.
The author, it will be remembered, was the architect of President Carter's policy of aiding rebels opposing the Soviet friendly regime in Afghanistan in 1979. As National Security Adviser, the Polish expatriate believed that the ingredients were present to help establish a Russian Vietnam. With the aid of Stinger missiles and subsequent strong support from the Reagan Administration in the eighties the Russians were defeated. One can see in retrospect, however, why the Soviet leadership opposed the creation of a dangerously extremist Islamic fundamentalist regime on its border. None other than Osama Bin Laden was used as a CIA operative assting this profound change, which resulted ultimately in the Taliban, oppression, and continuing conflict. In retrospect, this American move was anything but a brilliant initiative.
The most shocking part of this book is the author's blunt statement that what the U.S. truly needs to awaken public opinion and lead to the kind of initiative to seize control of oil rich territory he deems necessary is a calamitous attack on the order of a Pearl Harbor. This came about with 9-11, which occurred after this book was published.
For many years spokespersons of the left and right were derided for a panic mentality and in some instances paranoia for daring to impart the conspiracy element into world politics. The author is a definitive insider connected to the Council on Foreign Relations. The statements made in this book corroborate conspiracy fears as the world is approached and analyzed with scant disregard for the citizenry with a strong emphasis on the planners, the global activists who are prepared to move on the scene and determine the future. These individuals do not appear to be concerned about listening to public opinion, but are concerned about shaping it to fit their pre-conceived images of global necessity.
Anyone concerned with America's national security should be reading this book. The fact that it is four years old (older if one considers the intellectual gestation period), simply adds historical proof that its author is, as the Chinese have noted publicly, America's greatest strategist.
This book is written in plain English. That alone sets it apart from the next level down. This is a carefully presented essay that makes eminent sense. It deals with the most important region in the world: the troubled Eurasian land mass. Rich in resources, rife with ethnic conflict and water scarcity issues, it is surrounded by major powers with global ambitions: France and Germany to the West, Russia to the North, China to East, and Iran and Turkey to the South. A number of clearly presented maps add considerable value to the book.
With a level of calm and reason that is rare in books of this sort, Brzezinski provides an understandable yet sophisticated articulation of a real-world "grand strategy" essential to the future of America in this new century. His strategic vision honors both France and Germany as co-equal and vital elements of a new European community; shows how the larger Europe (ultimately co-equal to America) is essential to the salvation of Russia; makes the case for an American-Chinese strategic accommodation as the anchor for America's involvement in Eurasia; carefully integrates America's direct and special relations with Japan, Korea, and India as the bowl beneath China and Eurasia, and then concludes with decisive evaluations of the future importance of drawing Turkey into the European community while encouraging Iranian-Turkish collaboration and Iranian commercial and commodities channels from Eurasia out to the world. In passing, the author validates Australia's new strategy of working closely with Indonesia to resolve the latter's many ethnic issues while establishing a southern line against excessive Chinese influence in the region.
There are numerous subtle and deep insights throughout the book, from the observation that war may now be a luxury only the poorest of nations can afford, to why China should consider America its natural ally and why Russia is at risk of becoming genetically Asian instead of European within a generation or two. The author proposes a new Trans-Eurasian Security System (TESS) that engages Russia, China, Japan and America-one would assume that at some point Turkey, Iran, and the new Europe would be included. The author gores a number a sacred oxen, including those associated with the demonization of Iran (this should end) and the exaggeration of China as a global threat (it will at best be a regional super-power at the high end of Third World per capita earnings). While other poor Nations have defeated America decisively (Viet-Nam, for example), the author deliberately itemizes China's 3 million men under arms, it's 9,400 tanks and 5,224 fighters, as well as its 57 surface ships and 53 submarines, and offers his final judgment that China and America have too many common interests to permit a demonization of China to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as it might if China were confronted across the board and denied its reasonable historical claim to having influence over the region that hosts the "Middle Kingdom."
A special note is in order about the importance of this book as an antidote to two viral infections now afflicting many otherwise excellent thinkers. This book is a marvelous, deeply grounded treatment of the historical constancy of strategy qua "enduring interests" and grand players-as much as one may wish to speculate about the globalization and localization of international politics, Brzezinski puts it all in a grand strategic context that is compelling in its logic as well as its understanding of the deep cultural threads that we must weave together if we are to survive one another's less enlightened machinations. Another strength of the book is its avoidance of the technophilia that has corrupted strategic thinking at the highest levels. The Revolution in Military Affairs and the "systems of systems", while well-intentioned, are both devoid of serious strategic reasoning-as Colin Gray among others have pointed out, technology is not strategy, nor does it follow that strong technology will defeat an enemy with weak technology but a stronger strategic culture and the ability to wage war by means other than force on force.
This book, together with Colin Gray's "Modern Strategy", Robert Young Pelton's "World's Most Dangerous Places", the two books by Robert Kaplan on his travels in the Eurasian region, and both Michael Klare's book on "Resource Wars" as well as Marc de Villier's book on "Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource", will make any intelligent person as conversant as they need to be with the most pressing geopolitical issues of our time. If one adds Joe Thorton's book on Pandora's Poison, David Helvarg's book on "Blue Frontier: Saving America's Living Seas", Larrie Garrett's book "Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health", and William Shawcross on "Deliver Us From Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords, and a World of Endless Conflict", the lesser but still vital long-term issues of the environment, public health, and ethnic conflict will be fully appreciated.
Edit of 28 Sep 08: Disillusioned with the last gasp of "confront China and Russia on two fronts. Brzezinski has been put into hiding by the Obama campaign, but I doubt Obama has learned from this.
on July 8, 2009
Make no mistake about it, this is nothing more than the New World Order being set up. Brzezinski and his elite buddies will tell you that mankind will live in harmony and it will be a utopia under a one world government. Well history has shown time and again that whenever someone tries to rule the entire (known) world, it has never been a utopia for the masses. Kings, Queens, Ceasars, Pharoahs, Czars, and Dictators have always ruled over their empires using the military to subdue their own subjects. Ask yourself this, if we have a one world government, global empire and a global military, then who is left to conquer? Who is the global military for? It will be for YOU and ME and our CHILDREN! We will be totally enslaved and they will use technology to do it. To all you intellectuals out there who think Brzezinski is brilliant, and that you are part of the elite, I assure you that you are NOT. YOU WILL BE ENSLAVED AS WELL.The fact that you read this book is testament to that. For if you were, you would not need to read this book as you would know him personally and have had discussions with him about global empire. If you agree with him then I submit that you are an educated fool. The New World Order is actually THE OLD WQRLD ORDER. There is nothing new about it and it most surely is not order!
on August 2, 2001
An in-depth analysis of the current Eurasian geo-pilotical situation and an interesting reading despite its strong American bias. The book is a multifacetous look at the modern balance of power in a region that Brzezinski considers vital for the world stability--Eurasia--and all this in view of the tremendously global American supremacy. With its marked pro-American orientation, it is clearly aimed at US rather than foreign audience, and is a good example of the use of ideology as a political tool and an instrument for mobilization of public support for the cause of "the first, only and last" global superpower. By emphasizing the significance of the US as the world's largest peacekeeper and stressing its mission as a guarantor of global stability a multitude of times, this book seeks to justify the monopolarity of the modern political world, in which all de jure and de facto political actors should coordinate their actions with America.
Brzezinski tries to explore the unique situation of each one of them and to offer some viable solutions for their problems; I do think, though, that most of the times he is looking for possible channels for American influence under the cover of global well-being. Some of the solutions he offers presume hard-to-envision developments, such as Russia willingly dropping its imperial aspirations towards former spheres of influence and becoming a benevolent strategic partner of the United States; others are viable and should be duly taken into consideration by geostrategists. Nevertheless, as the very end of the book he offers an insightful look into the future of the world, and admits some week points in the American position while exploring the possible outcomes of the US global leadership.
Although it can hardly offer much new information to readers more advanced in the studies of international relations, it still provides an opportunity to look at different aspects of policy making in regions of great importance spotlighted in Brzezinski's discussion, and will definitely be useful to beginning IR students, as well as to everybody interested in a more detailed look at the regional and global politics. Although I am not questioning Brzezisnki's name and his significance as a geopolitical scientist, for non-American readers I would recommend getting other view-points as well.
on June 5, 2004
When the power elite write, you better pay special attention to the wording because for better or worse, most are damn brilliant and some possibly dangerous. All through the book I found myself being lulled into the author's vision of "utopia" where American dominance rules on a global scale, tenfold over what it is now, mainly through a system of homogenized regional powers which would extend its hold into the resource rich area of Eurasia and the Middle East. However, Brzezinski's grasp on the mindsets of nations is so staggering that one cannot help but be respectful of his writing per se, even if the book has all the trademarks as the blueprint for the New World Order.
The author is not shy about making his objective known but his wording is such that the reader's apprehensions are assuaged with new mottos skillfully interwoven into his keen insight. Convinced that without American global dominance, the world would decay into international anarchy, the former national security advisor and Trilateral member envisions an assimilation that combines the age old imperial doctrine of "divide, conquer, and rule" veiled with what he terms consolidation of "geopolitical pluralism" and tempered to produce what he envisions as "hegemony of a new type".
Brzezinski's rational, however charming as it may be presented, is flawed as he fails to take into consideration one vitally important and likely scenario. Namely, that future generations of government will always use that power wisely and for the global good. If one ignores the old adage "absolute power corrupts absolutely" then one miscalculates on a global scale
In the end however, no matter whether you agree or disagree with his ideas, the final result is a double-edged sword capable of producing polar results by however the wielding power sees fit. Nothing demonstrates this more dramatically than America's achievements with it's foothold in Japan and Europe after WWII, versus the completely counter productive blowback in Afghanistan where it was Brzezinski himself who convinced the Carter administration to secretly fund the Mujihadeen via the CIA.
That intervention who as now everyone knows produced both Osama and the mutated Taliban, betrayed the strategy behind the book's most quoted paragraph when he wrote:
"To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together."
on September 21, 2014
This book is getting a bit dated, but it deals with geopolitical power so things change slowly. Brzezinski is a great proponent of the realist school of international relations. It describes in a rather neutral manner the key strategic players on the Eurasian landmass. It is a great 30,000 feet perspective that is essential to have if you want to understand world politics. For instance he discusses that without Ukraine, Russia is not a European power. Most of the later chapters shows what would be in the interest of the US. You can bash the book due to its US focus, like some do here on amazon. However, it is better to consider it a personal attempt to describe the world in geopolitical power. If you want you can apply the geopolitical theories from any country's perspective.
The author has many interesting things to say. Great Britain is no longer a player. They do not have any larger ambitions left. They want to be alone, trade with the world and suck up to the US. Germany on the other hand is a player. It has the will to build a new Europe as well as influence the region in which it is situated. Somewhat surprisingly he also considers France a player. Very interesting application of the author's geopolitical theory. However, the weaknesses of the theory become glaring:
1. The author has no clue about the economy. He seems to think the economy can just tick along and generate resources. This is so naive.
2. The author does not seem too knowledgeable about Europe. He believes a federalist Europe can be implemented if Germany and France agree. This is really a naive American standpoint. There is no way the smaller members of the European Union would also this.
I came to this book after having read the author's latest book Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power. That book is extremely shallow (two stars). It shows the importance of doing your homework before reading a book. This author has published 15 books and it is unlikely that the last one published will be the one worth reading.
Read the book together with some of the realists, e.g. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (Updated Edition) or Theory of International Politics
Many reviewers seems to dislike the book because it treats international politics as a game of chess. I understand, but the critique is besides the point. If you don't think like this (Obama I mean you), chances are that somebody else will (Putin!). Most of our last four thousand years of history has been about geopolitics. It won't stop in 2014.