Nice, finally someone writing what I’ve been thinking! I’ve read and heard this guy for years and have never understood WHY anybody would give any weight to his silly analysis.
It is amazing — an illuminating moment, like when the sun comes out from behind a cloud — to encounter plain-spoken commonsense, that endangered species of simultaneous human thinking and speaking which tends to be limited to the “creative” types. And don’t even get me “started” on the strange credulity of David Brooks, that wily wabbit.
If Adam Garfinkle has an aversion to “strange credulity” than he needs to add Zbignew Brzezinski to his list of the clueless credulous.
In fact, in early May, 2012, Brzezinski made an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” (where Brzezinski’s daughter is a co-anchor); he appeared along side Richard Haas and none other than David Ignatius. The topic was Syria and Ignatius and Brzezinski were there to argue the “Assad is not so bad” angle while Haas was there to push back.
Brzezinski argued that the United States should not involve itself to intimately with the Syrian imbroglio because to do so might anger the Iranians and make it more difficult to reach a negotiated settlement with Iran over it’s nuclear ambitions; Ignatius eagerly agreed (a year before the “Morning Joe” appearance, Ignatius, Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft had authored an idiotic book together).
What really made Brzezinski’s appearance so shocking was his argument that Assad’s behavior in Syria wasn’t as bad as everyone was making it out to be.
““At the same time,” he added, “it is not as horrible or as dramatic as it is portrayed. If you look at the world in recent years, the horrible war in Sri Lanka, the killings in Rwanda, and the deaths in Libya and so forth. You know, let’s have a sense of proportion here. This is a neurologic part of the world in which all of a sudden if we are not intelligent about it we can create a nexus between a difficult internal problem which has not assumed huge proportions yet and a regional problem and a global problem which involves our relationships with the other major powers, particularly Russia, but also the negotiations with Iran over the nuclear problem.”
Anyone who thinks Brzezinski’s remarks look worse out of context should review the You Tube Video of the appearance. There is nothing out of context about the quote at all.
As for the credulity of Ignatius in thinking that Assad’s anti Americanism and anti Israel animus gave him credibility in the Islamic world that might protect him from a popular revolt; the Washington Post columnist is not the only guilty party. Zbignew Brzezinski though exactly the same thing. So did the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry. It’s also what Hillary Clinton thought and probably what President Obama thought also. I’d guess that Condi Rice and Colin Powell would have agreed as well.
It seems to me that there is plenty of excess credulity to go around.
What the world needs now is a detailed account of Brzezinski’s craftiest ploys, I say. Much in the manner of, say, what is Alan Greenspan doing in Switzerland today with the hedge-fund profits he made from the real-estate bubble bust that he single-handedly fostered?
Finally, the Ignatius takedown I’ve been waiting for!!
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To me it is not that difficult to believe that the people of Syria are just as neurotic in their opinions and emotions as every other gen. pop.
“How can “Assad the popular” morph into “Assad the sectarian leader” virtually overnight? Did the country itself change that quickly?”
Yes, it is true that the answer really is no, but it is a really bad question. Its a bad question because 1 it paints things in black and white and 2 it misses the whole point. The question is not whether or not peoples’ opinion of Assad changed quickly but what was the impetus for the drastic change in behavior. From a sociological/psychological standpoint it is totally within the realm of possibilities for people to say one day “I hate Assad but life is not all that bad and I am more worried about being able to afford enough food for my family than anything else” (academics tend to forget that the vast majority of folks don’t occupy their time thinking and conversating about the same topics we do or even view the world through the same lens, they are more involved with what I describe as “real life shit”. listening to the conversations on the subway to and from work helps sink this in) and the next moment, under the right circumstances thinking “you know what screw it, I am actually gunna put my life on the line to change the system I live under” as demonstrated in the recent nytimes video of an apparent banker turned insurgent or whatever you want to call him.
It would be a mistake to believe that the Assad regime’s anti-israel/americanism did not give him degrees of credibility through out the population but also a mistake to believe that the legitimacy of the regime was iron clad in the eyes of the people solely based on that fact. Saddam for instance enjoyed popular support after the gulf war for being the man ‘who stood up the Americans’ and he was not exactly loved by his people either, keeping in mind the interesting fact that Saddam’s position in Iraq was much like Assad’s in Syria today.
Good article and point taken on the contradictions pointed out, only commenting on the fact that it is actually possible for populations to change suddenly in their behavior which for me means that Assad’s anti-israel/americanism cannot be entirely ruled out as a source of popular support.
The best point you make here, I humbly suggest, is that as a people, the Syrians are actually being forced to put their lives and those of their families “on the line,” in a starkly literal fashion that has, thankfully, not happened here in the U.S. for147 years. And back then, even here, the war was not fought on religious/clan lines.
Great article. What does it say about American foreign policy in general? my guess – that it is clueless. Bad for the world. Bad for America.
Good job, Adam!
In the early years of the internet, most journalists used to put up their emails. So I got a few, including Ignatius.
I used to challenge his posts and once even commend him. I gave up at some point realizing that he either does not read or does not care.