November 7, 2005, 9:00 am - December 17, 2018, 11:50 am


1761 N Street NW
Washington, 20036 (Map)

Zbigniew Brzezinski delivered the remarks Time for Course Corrections in U.S. Foreign Policy at the 59th annual banquet in November, 2005



Event Summary

Former National Security Advisor, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, opened stating that, "15 years after winning the Cold War, America's leadership role, in my view, is in jeopardy today." He explained that the US is growing increasingly isolated, largely as a consequence of its post-9/11 policies, and that this increasing isolation has long-term negative consequences for US national security interests. This has led to an increase in regional interest arrangements in Asia, Europe and elsewhere that exclude the United States and have serious long-term repercussions for US standing worldwide.

Brzezinski laid out four course corrections that are necessary to address this impending crisis. First, the US needs to be more cautious with its rhetoric and avoid associating terrorism with Islam. Referring to terrorist groups as Islamic has created a sub-conscious identification between Muslims and the terrorists. He pointed out that this was not done in other instances such as with the IRA or ETA, who are not referred to as Catholic. He also complained of high-level officials who have spoken of fighting a “crusade” or a “war against the Caliphate.” Such rhetoric could result in the US entering into a long, lonely war against Islam as a whole, which Brzezinski emphasizes is not inevitable. It is also important that calls for reform and democratization not become code for destabilization of regimes.

The second course correction needed is to outline and clearly articulate the final destination of the Roadmap. The current lack of clarity creates suspicion on both sides who fear that the other intends to cheat and outmaneuver them in the process. Many of the things that need to be codified as a final objective have already been stated by George Bush, such as no comprehensive right of return and the importance of a Palestinian state being viable and contiguous. All these things must be unified and codified as a stated objective of the Roadmap. This will aid the peace process.

The next course change required of US policy concerns the situation with Iran. The US must explain to Iran that it only has two options; damaging isolation or the benefits of participation. It is necessary to avoid the inflammatory rhetoric employed against Iran, which only excites the nationalist sentiments of Iranians more generally. The US has engaged with North Korea in both multilateral and bilateral talks and it should do the same with Iran. The US has refused to engage in such talks with Iran out of fear of legitimating the regime, but does this mean they wish to legitimate the North Korean regime? As in the case with North Korea, there must be an understanding that with concessions, there will be benefits for Iran as well.

The final and most difficult course change needed is the scaling down of the definition of success in Iraq. Today, success requires that Iraq become a viable, democratic, secular, freedom-loving state with American values. The US needs to do a cost/benefit analysis in which it considers the costs of this war in terms of blood, money, and international standing. It is preferable to leave Iraq sooner rather than later, perhaps after the Constitution is implemented and the new government is elected. The longer the US stays, the more the insurgency will grow. At this time the US position in Iraq is comparable to the French in Algeria.

These four course corrections need to be implemented in conjunction; they cannot be taken on individually. In order for such shifts in policy to take place, the decision-making process must become more open. They will not be adopted in the group-think environment of the current administration.


Timothy Kaldas, a senior majoring in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies at The George Washington University, wrote this Summary.