The Book of the Week is “Second Chance, Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower” by Zbigniew Brzezinski, published in 2007.
“American policy has divided its friends while uniting its foes, fear has been exploited to mobilize public support for policy, and strategic impatience and self-ostracism have narrowed United States diplomatic options.”
The author wrote the above about the George W. Bush administration. Yes, really. The author critiqued the presidencies of George H.W. Bush (Bush 41), Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (Bush 43) in terms of the natures of their administrations, and how they could have mitigated or even warded off the worsening political turmoil in America.
Bush 41 failed to follow through on American-foreign-policy vision and plans to foster international cooperation among Russia, China and other developing nations after he chased Iraq out of Kuwait in early 1991. He didn’t get to do so in a second term because he neglected problems at home.
During the Clinton administration, the media declared that America was trying to cultivate new enemies (maybe it was), one after another– Libya, Iraq, Iran, China, etc., while Clinton appeared to negotiate agreements such as the ones between Israel and the PLO, that actually turned out to be worthless pieces of paper. Unsurprisingly.
Other treaties that have been violated time and again, are those regarding nuclear non-proliferation. Various countries have continued to test nuclear weapons through the years, including France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. This has resulted in:
- contaminating the earth, sea and air, and harming people;
- teasing the other treaty-signers into giving the violators financial aid;
- imposing ineffective financial punishment; and/or
- pushing them to ally with their neighbors.
The Clinton years saw a two-faced policy with Russia. The president gave Soviet leader Boris Yeltsin generous financial and economic aid, but contrarily, by 1998, American Ivy-League economist Jeffrey Sachs had bankrupted Russia by persuading Yeltsin to execute his “shock-capitalism” tactics. Compounding of the corruption ensued with the intervention of the International Monetary Fund, which extended “loans” to Russia to bail it out. Capital flight from investors in the United States ensued. Unsurprisingly.
Bush 43 wrongly imposed “might makes right” on Iraq and Afghanistan, thinking democracy would magically assert itself in those war-torn countries. But– the author wrote– democracy requires the following laborious steps:
- A government must respect the political and economic human rights of its citizens;
- A government must impose rule of law to achieve and maintain a state of civility among its people, more or less;
- The structures of power must write and abide by legal and Constitutional rules on which they must agree, more or less; and
- There must be free and fair elections, which leads to a system whose leaders see the value of compromise and accommodation– rather than a winner-take-all stubbornness.
In his first term, Bush 43 and his sidekick Dick Cheney exploited the world for the purpose of acquiring raw power, and fun and profit at the expense of his own countrymen and America’s good relationships with its allies. In his second term, the president showed a “… basic lack of interest in peacekeeping, global poverty or ecology.” Middle Eastern countries destabilized by the Iraq War were driven into the arms of China as a financial partner, because– although China’s people are oppressed, China’s government isn’t embattled– it’s stable.
Read the book to learn of the author’s recommendations on the steps America should take to mend fences in the world, and of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that have arisen via the natures of the administrations of the aforementioned three presidents.