Jan 2nd 2009

Brzezinski: Obama Must Press Agreement on Israelis and Palestinians

by Nathan Gardels

Nathan Gardels has been editor of New Perspectives Quarterly since it began publishing in 1985. He has served as editor of Global Viewpoint and Nobel Laureates Plus(services of Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media) since 1989. These services have a worldwide readership of 35 million in 15 languages. Gardels has written widely for The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Harper's, U.S. News & World Report and the New York Review of Books. He has also written for foreign publications, including Corriere della Sera, El Pais, Le Figaro, the Straits Times (Singapore), Yomiuri Shimbun, O'Estado de Sao Paulo, The Guardian, Die Welt and many others. His books include, "At Century's End: Great Minds Reflect on Our Times" and "The Changing Global Order." Since 1986, Gardels has been a Media Fellow of the World Economic Forum (Davos). He has lectured at the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) in Rabat, Morocco and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, China. Gardels was a founding member at the New Delhi meeting of Intellectuels du Monde and a visiting researcher at the USA-Canada Institute in Moscow before the end of the Cold War. He has been a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, as well as the Pacific Council, for many years. From 1983 to 1985, Gardels was executive director of the Institute for National Strategy where he conducted policy research at the USA-Canada Institute in Moscow, the People's Institute of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, the Swedish Institute in Stockholm and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Bonn. Prior to this, he spent four years as key adviser to the Governor of California on economic affairs, with an emphasis on public investment, trade issues, the Pacific Basin and Mexico. Gardels holds degrees in Theory and Comparative Politics and in Architecture and Urban Planning from UCLA. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Lilly, and two sons, Carlos and Alexander. Gardels plays the cello on his free time.

In order to get beyond the stunningly superficial analyses of the Israeli-Hamas conflict one might find on MSNBC's Morning Joe, I called up Zbigniew Brzezinski -- former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, Obama supporter and eminence gris of American geostrategic thinkers -- to offer him a serious opportunity to talk about the challenges to Obama in facing this Middle East mess. We also talked about Obama's other immediate test: the mounting tensions between India and Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks. Finally, in light of these conflicts, we assessed the "clash of civilizations" thesis propounded by Havard's Sam Huntington, who died last week.

Here are excerpts of the interview:

Nathan Gardels: As President-elect Obama prepares to enter the geopolitical fray, he faces two looming crises -- the war between Israel and Hamas, and the mounting tension between India and Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks. First, Israel and Hamas.

How can there ever be a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians with an armed, hostile and rejectionist Hamas in Gaza?

Zbigniew Brzezinski: There will never be a deal unless there is on the table a comprehensive outline of a solution that is attractive to the majority of the Israelis and Palestinians, particularly if such proposed solutions stand in clear contrast to the consequences of the failure of either side to accept such an agreement --- in other words, the relentless cycle of violence we are witnessing yet again today in Gaza.

By now it should be quite evident that the two parties to the conflict will never reach an agreement on their own. The Palestinians are divided, which complicates their ability to negotiate effectively. The Israelis are reluctant to move forward with a compromise deal because some feel comfortable with the status quo while others are quietly using the stalemate to expand settlements in the West Bank.

The only way, therefore, to move forward is for the international community, led by the United States, to put on the table the framework of an eventual agreement. This agreement should be based on four fundamental points:

-- No right of return for the Palestinian refugees. This is a very bitter pill for the Palestinians to swallow, though it can be sweetened by an international acknowledgment of their suffering.

-- Jerusalem has to be equitably shared as the capital of two states, Israeli and Palestinian. Admittedly, this is a bitter pill for the Israelis. But the fact of the matter is that no peace will be viewed as equitable without this.

-- An equitable territorial arrangement based on the 1967 lines, with some changes permitting the incorporation into Israel of some heavily urbanized communities beyond the 67 lines. In return, the Palestinians would be compensated with other territory, perhaps in Galilee and the Negev.

-- A demilitarized Palestinian state with the deployment of American troops along the Jordan River, thereby insuring Israeli security by providing "strategic depth."

Such an agreement would, in my view, be supported by the majority of Israelis and Palestinians, and would isolate the extremists on both sides, both the settlers and the right wing of Likud in Israel as well as Hamas.

Gardels: Khaled Mishaal, the Hamas leader, has often said that while Hamas won't accept the existence of Israel, they will accept a "long term truce" -- he told me 20 years in one interview. Must Hamas recognize Israel's existence as a condition for the US to talk with them, or, pragmatically, can the truce idea lead somewhere?

Brzezinski: I doubt a truce is sufficient. After all, If there is to be a peaceful settlement based on territorial arrangements, I don't see how those arrangements can be conditional, as they would be in such a truce. The notion of a truce precludes some of the elements of a comprehensive agreement. A truce, as such, would only preserve the status quo, which is untenable.

Gardels: During the Bush administration, there has been very little daylight between the US and Israel. If Obama is to leverage his "soft power" in the Arab and Muslim world to regain American presitige, musn't he put some daylight between the US and Israel?

Brzezinski: Doing it in this fashion would not be productive. It would create great insecurity in the American Jewish community and in Israel itself. What is needed, is a serious and determined engagement in the peace process. That in itself makes the US a constructive mediator instead a passive participant -- as the US has become during the Bush years.

Gardels: India has said they have the right in self-defense to strike militant sanctuaries in Pakistan if Pakistan can't, or is unwilling, to do the job. This is what Bush has done; it is what Obama has promised to do. Why should India not do the same?

Brzezinski: Theoretically, from a debater's point of view, the argument you have laid out is correct. However, any sane person has to ask "what has the US gained" by attacking these sanctuaries other than inflaming Pakistani public opinion? Have we destroyed the Islamist networks? Why would India be able to do any better?

The real risk of any Indian attack on Pakistani territory, which otherwise might be morally or internationally justified, is that it could lead to a major war between nuclear powers. Any major war between the two--even if Pakistan is defeated -- could unleash tremendous internal turmoil in India, with its large Muslim population that is increasingly resentful and restless. That would threaten the very integrity of the Indian state.

So, yes, India would have the right to attack the sanctuaries. But, so what?

Gardels: In other words, it wouldn't be wrong, but stupid.

Brzezinski: Precisely.

Gardels: Last week, Harvard political scientist Sam Huntington died. He was most noted for his controversial thesis of "the clash of civilizations." The conflicts we have been discussing -- Israel vs. Hamas; Hindu India vs. Muslim Pakistan -- run along civilizational lines. Was Huntington right in the end?

Brzezinski: He was more right than wrong. He was certainly more right than his critics. He clearly put his finger on something. I had reservations in the beginning, even though he was one of my closest friends. Huntington's analysis made the clash of civilizations seem inevitable, but I think it was avoidable. I fear that historians will think that the US, Bush particularly, made a very substantial contribution to proving Huntington right.


If you wish to comment on this article, you can do so on-line.

Should you wish to publish your own article on the Facts & Arts website, please contact us at info@factsandarts.com. Please note that Facts & Arts shares its advertising revenue with those who have contributed material and have signed an agreement with us.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

May 27th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Monetary policymakers are talking tough nowadays about fighting inflation to head off the risk of it spinning out of control. But that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually wimp out and allow the inflation rate to rise above target. Since hitting the target most likely requires a hard landing, they could end up raising rates and then getting cold feet once that scenario becomes more likely. Moreover, because there is so much private and public debt in the system (348% of GDP globally), interest-rate hikes could trigger a further sharp downturn in bond, stock, and credit markets, giving central banks yet another reason to backpedal." ----- "The historical evidence shows that a soft landing is highly improbable. That leaves either a hard landing and a return to lower inflation, or a stagflationary scenario. Either way, a recession in the next two years is likely."
May 26th 2022
EXTRACT: "No, I am not arguing that Powell needs to replicate Volcker’s tightening campaign. But if the Fed wishes to avoid a replay of the stagflation of the late 1970s and early 1980s, it needs to recognize the extraordinary gulf between Volcker’s 4.4% real interest rate and Powell’s -2.25%. It is delusional to believe that such a wildly accommodative policy trajectory can solve America’s worst inflation problem in a generation."
May 26th 2022
EXTRACT: "It will be critical in this context how China will act and whether it will prioritise its economic interests (continuing trade with Europe and the US) or current ideological preferences (an alliance with Russia that makes the world safe for autocracies)."
May 26th 2022
EXTRACT: "The document is full of embarrassing and damming stories of illegal gatherings and bad behaviour. There was “excessive alcohol consumption”, a regular fixture referred to as “wine time Fridays” and altercations between staff. Aides are shown to have left Downing Street after 4am (and not because they had worked into these early hours). Cleaning staff and junior aides were abused, and a Number 10 adviser is on record before the infamous “bring your own booze” party...."
May 17th 2022
EXTRACT: "But even a resounding Russian defeat is an ominous scenario. Yes, under such circumstances – and only such circumstances – Putin might be toppled in some kind of coup led by elements of Russia’s security apparatus. But the chances that this would produce a liberal democratic Russia that abandons Putin’s grand strategic designs are slim. More likely, Russia would be a rogue nuclear superpower ruled by military coup-makers with revanchist impulses. Germany after World War I comes to mind."
May 8th 2022
EXTRACT: "For citizens of states that are members of NATO, taking all possible steps, short of all-out war, to ensure that Russia does not conquer Ukraine is not even an altruistic sacrifice. It is a long-term investment, for themselves and their children, in freedom, democracy, and the international rule of law."
May 4th 2022
EXTRACT: ".....a remarkable transformation is taking place in Ukraine’s army amounting to its de facto military integration into Nato. As western equipment filters through to the frontline, Nato-standard weaponry and ammunition will be brought into Ukrainian service. This is of far higher quality than the mainly former Soviet weapons with which the Ukrainians have fought so capably. The longer this process continues and deepens, the worse the situation will be for the already inefficient Russian army and air force."
May 3rd 2022
EXTRACT: " The conventional wisdom among students of the Russian arts and sciences is that Russian culture is “great.” The problem is that, while there are surely great individuals within Russian culture, the culture as a whole cannot avoid responsibility for Putin and his regime’s crimes." ---- "Russianists will not be able to avoid examining themselves and their Russian cultural icons for harbingers of the present catastrophe. What does it mean that Fyodor Dostoevsky was a Russian chauvinist? That Nikolai Gogol and Anton Chekhov were Ukrainian? That Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was an unvarnished imperialist? That Aleksandr Pushkin was a troubadour of Russian imperial greatness? May these writers still be read without one eye on the ongoing atrocities in Ukraine?"
Apr 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "The following day Lavrov met his Eritrean counterpart, Osman Saleh, in Moscow. Eritrea was the only African country to vote against the UN resolution condemning the invasion. In this refusal to condemn Russia, Eritrea was joined by only Belarus, North Korea and Syria. Even longstanding allies such as Cuba and China abstained. It’s an indication of Russia’s increasingly limited diplomatic options as this war continues."
Apr 24th 2022
EXTRACT: "Although the milestone lasted only for a brief time, it points to a future in which California runs on 100% wind, solar, hydro and batteries, a future that will certainly arrive even faster than the state plans. As it is, California is ahead of its green energy goals." ...... "A world of 100% green energy and electric cars is not only a healthier and more comfortable world, it is a world where oil and gas dictators like Vladimir Putin are defunded."
Apr 17th 2022
EXTRACT: "Kazakhstan’s authorities have also showed uncharacteristic leniency in allowing public rallies in support of Ukraine. Thousands of protesters holding banners reading “Russians, leave Ukraine”, “Long Live Ukraine” and “Bring Putin to trial” marched across the capital, Almaty, wrapping monuments to Lenin and other Soviet-era figures with yellow and blue balloons symbolising the Ukrainian flag."
Apr 15th 2022
EXTRACT: "People’s identification with the Soviet Union appears to have a clear and growing basis in Russian public opinion. Surveys we have conducted throughout the Putin period show that Soviet identification among the general population – something that had been steadily declining after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 – began to increase in 2014, when the Russian government annexed Crimea and supported rebellions in the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. By 2021, almost 50% of those surveyed identified with the Soviet Union rather than the Russian Federation."
Apr 13th 2022
EXTRACT: "Worse yet, the Hungarian government has effectively been helping Putin by prohibiting the shipment of weapons to Ukraine across its borders. Hungarian public TV spreads Russian disinformation day and night. The day before the election, an assembly of ordinary people expressing solidarity with Ukraine was framed on state television as a “pro-war rally.” "
Apr 13th 2022
EXTRACT: "It may well be that the Russian army’s fate has already been sealed in what is likely to be a long war. The single qualification to this may be that Russia could default to escalation using “weapons of mass destruction” of one form or another – whether tactical nuclear warheads or chemical weapons."
Apr 13th 2022
EXTRACTS" "Ukraine and Russia produce a substantial amount of grain and other food for export. Ukraine alone produces a whopping 6% of all food calories traded in the international market. At least it used to, before it was invaded by the world’s largest nuclear power." ...... "When it comes to cereals like wheat, corn, rice and barley, the big players talk about millions of metric tonnes, or MMTs. A single MMT of wheat contains about 3.4 trillion food calories,." ....."Ukraine produced about 80 MMT of grain (a category that includes wheat, corn and barley) in 2021, and is expected to harvest less than half of that this year. A shortfall of 40 MMT is enough missing calories that a country like the UK could only make it up by having everyone stop eating for three years. That’s the thing about tonnes of grain: a million here and a million there and pretty soon you’ve got a real issue on your plate."
Apr 11th 2022
EXTRACT: "I don’t even know the little girl’s name. All I do know is what a friend of a friend wrote on Viber: that her relative, a senior nurse in one of Kyiv’s hospitals, “saw in the morgue a child with 20 varieties of sperm on her small body.” Since this information was conveyed in a private conversation, there is no reason to doubt its veracity."
Apr 8th 2022
EXTRACT: "Russian society has so far failed to stop Putin, just as German society failed to stop Hitler. And so, like a poisoned chalice, that task has fallen to the West, as it did in 1939. The West must now treat Putin and his regime the same way that Winston Churchill treated Hitler: Don’t talk to him, just defeat him. Dead-enders such as Putin are too fanatical and desperate to be reliable negotiating partners."
Apr 3rd 2022
EXTRACT: "From 1807 to 1814 on the Iberian peninsula, Napoleon had to fight Spanish, Portuguese and British armies while beset by ubiquitous, ferocious insurgents. He described this war as his “bleeding ulcer”, draining him of men and equipment. It is the west’s aim to make Ukraine for Putin what Spain was for Napoleon. In the absence of a negotiated settlement, Ukraine and Nato will continue to grind away at Russia’s army, digging away at that bleeding ulcer and prolonging Russia’s agony on the military front, as the west continues its parallel assault on its economy. If Putin’s plan is to proceed with the Korea model, he will fail. There is a strong possibility that Putin has only a limited idea of how badly his army is faring. So be it – he’ll find out soon enough that there is now no path for him to military victory."
Apr 1st 2022
EXTRACTS: "Policymakers expected that the country would be able to secure its energy supply entirely from renewable sources, so they resolved to phase out coal and nuclear energy simultaneously. The last three of Germany’s 17 nuclear power plants are set to be shut down this year." ---- ".... the share of wind and solar power in Germany’s total final energy consumption, which includes heating, industrial processing, and traffic, was a meager 6.7%. And while wind and solar generated 29% of the country’s electricity output, electricity itself accounted for only about a fifth of its final energy consumption." ----- "If Germany suddenly halted Russian gas imports, gas-based residential heating systems – on which half the German population, approximately 40 million people, rely – and industrial processes that rely heavily on gas imports would break down....."
Apr 1st 2022
EXTRACT: "For Putin, the past that matters most is the one the dissident author and Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn exalted: the time when the Slavic peoples were united within the Orthodox Christian kingdom of Kievan Rus’. Kyiv formed its heart, making Ukraine central to Putin’s pan-Slavic vision. ---- But, for Putin, the Ukraine war is about preserving Russia, not just expanding it. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently made clear, Russia’s leaders believe that their country is locked in a “life-and-death battle to exist on the world’s geopolitical map.” That worldview reflects Putin’s longstanding obsession with works of other Russian emigrant philosophers, such as Ivan Ilyin and Nikolai Berdyaev, who described a struggle for the Eurasian (Russian) soul against the Atlanticists (the West) who would destroy it. ---- Yet Putin and his neo-Eurasianists seem to believe that the key to victory is to create the kind of regime those anti-Bolshevik philosophers most detested: one run by the security forces. A police state would fulfill the vision of another of Putin’s heroes: the KGB chief turned Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov."