Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Brzezinski on Iran

Zbigniew Brzezinski has been around for a long time. I first became aware of the name from a footnote in Alvin Toffler's Future Shock about 1970, a brilliant book that deeply impressed me at the time. Brzezinski's Between Two Ages has been in my library since it was published and I may be one of the few people who cast a vote for Jimmy Carter in part because he had selected Brzezinski as an advisor. Yeah, I'm that kind of old-school liberal. Get over it.

If the reader hasn't yet slammed the door in the face of these revelations, I now refer you to a column in the Washington Post. Thankfully I'm not alone in regarding this man's opinions as worth noting or he wouldn't still be publishing and writing.

A successful approach to Iran has to accommodate its security interests and ours. Neither a U.S. air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities nor a less effective Israeli one could do more than merely set back Iran's nuclear program. In either case, the United States would be held accountable and would have to pay the price resulting from likely Iranian reactions. These would almost certainly involve destabilizing the Middle East, as well as Afghanistan, and serious efforts to disrupt the flow of oil, at the very least generating a massive increase in its already high cost. The turmoil in the Middle East resulting from a preemptive attack on Iran would hurt America and eventually Israel, too.

Given Iran's stated goals -- a nuclear power capability but not nuclear weapons, as well as an alleged desire to discuss broader U.S.-Iranian security issues -- a realistic policy would exploit this opening to see what it might yield. The United States could indicate that it is prepared to negotiate, either on the basis of no preconditions by either side (though retaining the right to terminate the negotiations if Iran remains unyielding but begins to enrich its uranium beyond levels allowed by the Non-Proliferation Treaty); or to negotiate on the basis of an Iranian willingness to suspend enrichment in return for simultaneous U.S. suspension of major economic and financial sanctions.

Such a broader and more flexible approach would increase the prospects of an international arrangement being devised to accommodate Iran's desire for an autonomous nuclear energy program while minimizing the possibility that it could be rapidly transformed into a nuclear weapons program. Moreover, there is no credible reason to assume that the traditional policy of strategic deterrence, which worked so well in U.S. relations with the Soviet Union and with China and which has helped to stabilize India-Pakistan hostility, would not work in the case of Iran. The widely propagated notion of a suicidal Iran detonating its very first nuclear weapon against Israel is more the product of paranoia or demagogy than of serious strategic calculus. It cannot be the basis for U.S. policy, and it should not be for Israel's, either.

He concludes the piece with a passing reference to gas prices, noting that...

...American sanctions have been deliberately obstructing Iran's efforts to increase its oil and natural gas outputs. That has contributed to the rising cost of energy. An eventual American-Iranian accommodation would significantly increase the flow of Iranian energy to the world market. Americans doubtless would prefer to pay less for filling their gas tanks than having to pay much more to finance a wider conflict in the Persian Gulf.

Yo, Mr. President...Senator McCain...ya'll getting this?
Appeasement, you say?
Better mention that to Israel. Sounds like international diplomacy to me.

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