Wise Advice: Listen, and Engage
When foreign policy gurus Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft all start saying the same thing, it's time to pay attention. That happened this month in a joint appearance broadcast on " The Charlie Rose Show," and their comments ought to be required reading for presidential candidates in both parties -- not to mention the current occupant of the Oval Office."The United States has spent much of the past six years doing the opposite" because madmen like Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman and Bill Kristol have been calling the shots. Even war criminals see the insanity of it.
Their collective message was this: In a radically changing world, America needs to be less arrogant about its use of power and more willing to talk to other nations. That may sound obvious, but the United States has spent much of the past six years doing the opposite. The three former top officials argued for more dialogue not just to improve America's image but so that we can understand the new rules and opportunities in the game of nations.
"The international system is in a period of change like we haven't seen for several hundred years" because of the declining power of nation-states, said Kissinger, who was secretary of state under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. "We are used to dealing with problems that have a solution," but Americans have to realize that "we're at the beginning of a long period of adjustment."All three of them agreed that we should be doing something the neocons look upon with scorn - talk and listen.
So it's noteworthy that the three offer similar prescriptions for what to do, post-Iraq. They all argue that this is a time when America needs to be out in the world -- talking, yes, but even more, listening. And their advice to the next president is almost identical.Now I don't think that conservatism is dead but I see a ray of hope that the madness of the neocons will now be euthanized. I only hope it will happen before it's too late.
Scowcroft urged America's next leader to declare, "I think that we are a part of the world, that we want to cooperate with the world. We are not the dominant power in the world, that everyone falls in behind us." Brzezinski offered a similar formulation: "The next president should say to the world that the United States wants to be part of the solution to its problems" and that it will be "engaged in the quest to get people in the world the dignities that they seek today." Even the sometimes brusque Kissinger agreed that the next president should express a willingness "to listen to a lot of other countries about what they think should be done. He should not pretend that he has all the answers."
All three want to see America talking not just with friends but also with potential adversaries. With Iran, where Kissinger said "we should at least attempt to have a quiet negotiation with a high-level Iranian to determine where we're trying to go." With Russia, where Brzezinski advised "we shouldn't overdramatize the current disagreements." With the Chinese, who, Scowcroft insisted, "need a stable world," too.
Impeach Cheney Now!