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America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy Paperback – Bargain Price, September 1, 2009
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About the Author
Brent Scowcroft is president of The Scowcroft Group, an international business and financial advisory firm. He served as National Security Advisor to both President Ford and President George H.W. Bush and the Military Assistant to President Nixon. He is the coauthor, with former President George H.W. Bush, of A World Transformed. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Top Customer Reviews
But there is another tradition as well, involving agreement on broad principles - the Monroe Doctrine, the containment policy of the Cold War - as well as restraint in name-calling and judging motivations - dissent is not termed un-American and intelligence mistakes are not called lies - combined with a vigorous bipartisanship that actively seeks consensus.
When this tradition is ascendant, as it was, for example, in the 1940s, American foreign policy tends to be more successful than when it is not, for example, in the Vietnam era and since 2003.
This book, as defined in its introduction, is "an experiment to see if a prominent Democrat and a prominent Republican - speaking only for themselves and not for or against either party - could find common ground for a new start in foreign policy." The experiment succeeded, and it produced what its dust jacket blurb correctly calls "a deeply informed and provocative book that defines the center of responsible opinion on American foreign policy."
The book consists of a series of discussions during the spring of 2008 between Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter, and Brent Scowcroft, who held the same position under Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush, moderated by David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist and former Executive Editor of the International Herald Tribune.
Brzezinski and Scowcroft might be considered foreign policy realists, in that they tend to begin with consideration of the national interest. But they both resist categorization as realists or idealists, agreeing that U.S. policy must strike a balance between the extremes of either school, combining power with principle, acknowledging limitations, and recognizing that everything can't be done at once.
They agree that the next president should stress bipartisanship in his foreign policy.
Here are some other important points of agreement:
A Cold War mindset that obscures new global realities, including the reduced role of the nation state, persists among U.S. policymakers.
The United States has become "too frightened in this age of terrorism, too hunkered down behind physical and intellectual walls."
While the "global center of gravity" is shifting toward Asia, a strong Atlantic community is vital for the United States as well as Europe, and the West will remain pre-eminent for some time.
Chances are good that China can be peacefully assimilated into the international system, and there is no need for the United States to choose between China and Japan as its principal "anchor point" in Asia.
A vigorous U.S. effort to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem should be a high priority for the next president.
In spite of its limitations and current problems, the United States remains the country most able to "exercise enlightened leadership" for the global community.
There are also some significant points of disagreement:
While both publicly opposed the invasion of Iraq before it was launched, Scowcroft believes it has "created new conditions" requiring that we stabilize the situation before leaving. As he put it, "I think simply withdrawing is an impediment to a solution. And Zbig thinks it helps."
Both believe that Russia is trying to re-assert pre-eminence in the territory of the former USSR, especially Georgia and Ukraine; both are skeptical of the utility of putting missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic; but Brzezinski favors the option of NATO membership for Ukraine while Scowcroft opposes it.
Scowcroft is more concerned than Brzezinski about a nuclear Iran, fearing that "we stand on the cusp of a great flowering of proliferation if Iran is not contained in its attempt to develop a capability for nuclear weapons;" but neither seems to have a good prescription for thwarting this development other that continuing the thus-far-futile effort to mobilize greater international pressure.
These wise men agree that U.S. policy has not adapted well to a world that is changing in fundamental ways. They want to "restore a confident, forward-looking America," and they are optimistic about the country's future - but only if it "can rise to the challenge of dealing with the world as it now is, not as we wish it to be."
I love the format. You feel like you are sitting with Brzezinski, Scowcroft and Ignatius just listening as a child who seemingly should be in bed would sit on the stairway listening to grownups talk about important issues in the living room below.
What I especially like is the way you can stop and ponder what they are saying, or look up a point that is unfamiliar to you on the internet. I am new to foreign policy, and I'm hooked. A glossary or endnotes and a map would have been nice since many events, terms, etc. are new to me (what is the "green zone" or the "Perm Five", etc.) but this should not deter anyone.
I also like the gentlemenly way they discuss differing points of views as well as how they agree with each other. And you can almost smell the leather chairs... Enjoy!
The authors are so knowledgeable and so wise about about how America can be a positive influence on world affairs (and how we have failed at times in the past). They both are highly critical of the attitude that America can push people around and go to war with anyone that we think is a threat.
They offer so much hope for our country and the world if we are led by people who truly understand the best way to go about our foreign poilicy. But to do that, we will need leaders who are willing to take the time to read and listen and be willing to explore a new way of being part of the world.
If most Americans would take the time to read and think about the important ideas in this book, we would have a so much better informed electorate when choosing those who will get our vote.