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Zbigniew Bzrezinski Holds Forth on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan

Former Carter administration National Security Adviser Zbigniew Bzrezinski has moved far to the left over the past several decades — and in particular over the last eight years, when he’s become downright combative — and so today it’s interesting to hear him talk about four distinct but somewhat linked issues: Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He immediately warns against war with Iran, something he fears could unite all four challenges. “We must think seriously [about] the consequences of our actions,” he says. Uh, true enough. OK, disaggregation time.

Iraq: “We have now terminated the debate about whether there should or should not be a fixed date for U.S. disengagement,” he says, citing the Status of Forces Agreement. But a “military departure alone” just requires “serious regional consultations” with all of Iraq’s neighbors for shaping the post-occupation environment — that means Iran, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. He wants the consultations to come ahead of disengagement so that “an incipient regional security approach and consensus” can mitigate potential security deterioration. Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, the longtime Iraqi “national security adviser,” is on this panel, so it’ll be interesting to see what he says here. Anyway that leads to Iran.

Iran: Precondition-heavy negotiations amount to starting from the finish line, so it’s a non-starter. Zbig prefers “mutual concessions” to start talks: nuclear enrichment suspensions for sanctions suspensions. Also, don’ threaten Iran if you want anything but Iranian intransigence.

Afghanistan: Avoid the mistakes of the Soviet Union. Namely “they came to Afghanistan with the illusion they could replicate the Soviet Union with the help of Afghan Marxists” with little domestic support, while occupation “increasingly galvanized” opposition “that, in the end, even 160,000 Soviet troops could not crush.” He’s seemingly agnostic on President-elect Barack Obama’s desired troop increase — he says that “some” added troops are needed — emphasizing instead the importance of winning Afghan popular support. If the United States loses that, then game over, and the war is “turning in the direction of the Soviet experience.” The solution is to negotiate “decentralized political agreement[s]” with non-eschatologically-minded Taliban. If possible. He doesn’t know whether it is.

Pakistan: “We have neither the understanding nor the physical means to solve the problems of Afghanistan,” he says. As Afghanistan goes south, so will Pakistan. He doesn’t have really anything to say about Pakistan distinctly. But there you go. It’s a fairly good summary of the pessimistic wing of 2008-vintage progressive thinking. Zbiggie Smalls for mayor.

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