An “A” Team for Iran – Ignatius

Chinese_calligraphy_wisdom "My nominees are Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, former national security advisers for Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, respectively. They would elevate the Iran mission, connecting it to the tradition of bipartisan strategic thinking that shaped America's role in the modern world. And, like our youthful new president, these two octogenarians understand the need for America to "turn a page" in its foreign policy and to connect with what Brzezinski has called a "global political awakening." "  Ignatius


For once I agree with Ignatius.  These two men are among America's finest public servants and thinkers.  They represent a balanced bi-partisan set of view points and spheres of interest in the United States.  What could be better?  pl

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28 Responses to An “A” Team for Iran – Ignatius

  1. b says:

    Pat, you are falling for a trick Ignatius applies here.
    He wants to send Brzezinski and Scowcroft for a show and uses up 95% of his column to promote that.
    Ignatius’ real intend is to push for Dennis Ross into the Iran project manager position.
    His last but one sentences:

    If they did become President Obama’s emissaries, they should take along someone who could coordinate the dialogue and its aftermath. Dennis Ross, expected to be the State Department’s senior adviser on Iran, could play that role.

    With Dennis Ross having ANYTHING to do with negotiations with Iran those negotiations WILL FAIL.
    That is Dennis Ross’ intend laid out in this report (pdf) Ross signed on to.
    Negotiations, says the paper essentially, are just a necessary stunt to create public support for the bombing that needs to follows them.
    Ignatius is simply trying to be “intelligent” in pushing for this.

  2. J says:

    I agree with you whole-heartedly regarding Scowcroft, but I have to disagree with you regarding Brzezinski.

  3. Yohan says:

    Scowcroft would be great, but I’m concerned that Zbig has too much Iran baggage from the hostage crisis. We need someone who can take the relationship in a new direction and who the Iranians will respond well to. Perhaps only Nixon can go to China, but perhaps Zbig has taken things too seriously and is too militant.

  4. Cato the Censor says:

    I don’t say that they are bad choices, but both Brzezinski and Scowcroft are old-line Cold Warriors with a considerable career investment in supporting the geopolitical concept of the US as the world’s cop. This idea is basically hopelessly obsolete, in large part due to Bush and the Neo-Cons pouring blood and treasure into the sands of Iraq for the last six years. People who understand this basic element in the equation of how to best protect US interests would, in my opinion, be better qualified for these posts. Anyone, however, who forthrightly advocated this point would undoubtedly be dismissed by the narrow DC consensus machine as a wild-eyed, non-serious, radical hippy. I guess it boils down to just how realistic these two men still are.

  5. Patrick Lang says:

    Most of you badly underestimate these two old men. “Ross?” Let him advise them all he wants. pl

  6. jon says:

    Chris Hill.

  7. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Brzezinski certainly put Mr. Apalachicola — Joe Scarborough — in his place and in front of Brzezinski’s daughter on national television. Wow.
    Perhaps odds increase that we would have more people like Brzezinski and Scrowcoft at the helm if we repealed the 17th Amendment, thus taking power away from Washington lobbyists who pull the strings of those in Congress. On the surface, such may seem illogical — a step away from direct democracy. But look at the issue more closely and it starts to make sense that State Legislatures could act as a way to curtail the power of lobbyists in DC, as right now, arguably those in Congress do not represent the people from their district, but special interests in Washington who ensure re-election through contributions, among other things. It’s at least worth considering. Let’s face it — something needs to be done.
    Of course, if the 17th is repealed, then the 10th suddenly is resurrected, so the thinking goes.

  8. Mongoose says:

    I’m with the Colonel on this one–me thinks a tag team of Brzezinski & Scowcroft would indicate the gravitas of team Obama with regard to slowly but surely reconfiguring U.S. foreign policy in the region, not just with regard to Iran (and Iraq) but Israel as well. Perhaps I’m a little too optimistic, but wouldn’t they add a little strategic thinking to the “strategery” silliness of the last eight years. Finally, it strikes me as a given that neither gentlemen would easily be snookered by the likes of Dennis Ross or anyone else for that matter–in short, neither men are fools nor do they suffer fools gladly.

  9. Jose says:

    Dennis Ross will probably not be received by either Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
    I agree the two would make an excellent team, but would recommend adding Ryan Crocker for his Middle East expertise and ability to speak Persian-Farsi.
    DLI, probably has a refresher course…lol

  10. Will NIE’s be updated for key Intel targets once Panetta is confirmed next week and sworn in? After all we know that Bush era NIE’s were all compromised to some extent because of the adage “Don’t be the messenger bringing bad news!” I understand US HUMINT on IRAN is excellent!
    Is that the case? Is it true that FARSI/DARI/Persian/Court Persian linguists far outnumber Arabic linguists on US payrolls?

  11. curious says:

    I don’t think anybody in central asia like zbig, not even the Pakistani. I bet the Iranian will get cranky too. He was involved in all weird maneuvering in the 80’s on. Everybody will gear up to play chess for sure. With that many people not liking us and know zbig’s past history, they all going to prepare for tricks and schemes.
    He definitely has the experience and connection, but he seems like somebody who is likely to make half too clever move every time.
    On top of that, I for one would create a long term permanent team for central asia (-stans, Russia, Iran, China) right next to middle east desk. So training new blood and long term continuity is important.
    Iraq alone will be a 15 yrs problem, afghanistan is definitely 20yrs plus issue. Nevermind Russia, india, china…. and how middle east and central asia relate to Israel.
    The good old day of exploiting regional rivalries is over. (which is zbig big trick) that scheme will destroy pakistan and destabilize afghanistan. And israel-Iran will start the war.
    the world has changed since zbig’s reign. his basic diplomatic drive is unsuitable and too easily create more instability. I already cringe thinking what the russian will remember from the day zbig talking smack during georgian crisis. (nevermind what they remember from soviet-afghanistan era)

  12. J says:

    While I cringed when you mentioned Brzezinski, is his ‘phobia’. It is one thing to be cautious, wary, not want to underestimate. But Brzezinski’s ‘phobia’ towards Russia frankly scares the bejeez out of me. And Mr. B would have been behind a oak desk or sheltered away in some underground shelter, while U.S. zoomies and boots would have been the ones having tea parties with the VDV,GRU, because of individuals like Mr. B. and his ‘phobias’.
    Personally, I want Mr. B ‘kept away’ as far as humanly possible from the levers of power and influence.

  13. Patrick Lang says:

    I don’t care if they don’t “like him.” Actually I prefer it that way. This is not a popularity contest. As for Zbig’s dislike of Russia, they, too, are a foreign, very foreign, country.
    We are not talking about having these two men run for president of the senior class. pl

  14. R Whitman says:

    We, in the west, lose sight of the fact that Iran is both a religious and political entity. The two you mentioned are good representatives but we must have someone on our team who is well versed in the Muslim religion. His opinions need to be given equal weight to the political opinions. The religious prefaces in the official letters from Iran are not just boilerplate; they are meaingful beliefs.

  15. taters says:

    I would prefer Ray Takeyh and Pat Lang.
    While I see the merits of Scowcroft and Zbig – particularly in contrast to the past admin. – there is an arrogance in Brzezinski that I find troubling. (despite his intelligence.)
    And I truly appreciated Scowcroft in doing what he could to prevent our invasion of Iraq. But back to Brzezinski –
    Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn’t believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don’t regret anything today?
    B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.
    Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?
    B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
    excerpted from
    The CIA’s Intervention in Afghanistan
    Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski,
    President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser
    Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998
    Perhaps something was lost in the nuance of the translation in French that I am not aware of. But to accept the credit of the demise of the Soviet Union and not to acknowledge any of the blowback in Afghanistan and the region strikes this reader as well, arrogant and not based on reality. No caveat about the regrettable loss of civilian casualties, civil war, the Taliban, AQ, etc.?
    Just my opinion.
    Robert Murray aka taters

  16. FredS says:

    They need to take some young staff along with them so they can learn something along the way.

  17. curious says:

    I don’t mean “like” in a sense of unlimited charm that will disarm the person on the opposite table, but making sure we have the greatest latitude, goodwill and benefit of the doubt.
    It’s very hard to convince the Russian that we are going to play clean, not screwing with their domain with zbig in charge. The cumulative effect will be much longer trust building, if at all. Everything will be more complicated. He will not get benefit of the doubt. One funny move, the entire thing spins out of control. This on top of everybody hedging bets.
    There are two things that is different than the 80’s. a) everybody now is on the same global banking system and China/Russia is bigger than our allies b)the internet. Event analysis travel much faster than zbig can comprehend.
    So for eg. putting zbig is guarantee: 1) people in Pakistan hedging bets 2) Russia will tighten the screw on every single central asia supply line, if not developing its own operation in afghanistan 2)Germany/europe will drift away further 3) Iran will definitely hedge their bet every which way, in case zbig is still playing the great game, 4)india… 5)I for one am waiting for Russia to screw British financial system for good. just to score points in the past 8-10 yrs or so.
    if the goal is stable pakistan/afghanistan, which requires cooperation in all central asian countries, then Zbig first job will be fighting his own reputation. Everybody will assume zbig real intention beneath all the diplomatic maneuvering is playing cold war game again. It maybe just subtle maneuvering game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if things getting out of control a year or two down the road.
    eg. big offensive in afghanistan, and russia plays dumb and lock out all alternate supply line. etc etc…

  18. J says:

    Please give us some ‘alternates/alternatives’ to Brzezinski. Thank you.

  19. graywolf says:

    Isn’t this the bozo that brought us the Ayotollah and the taking of the US Embassy in Tehran?
    Still living in the 70’s.
    Built his “expertise” on playing patty-cake with the Saudis and some Metternichy view of power politics.
    Who blew up the WTC?
    19 Saudis.

  20. Grimgrin says:

    The question is are US interests best served by having Russia as a cooperative, or at least not actively hostile partner in the region or are they better served by antagonizing and isolating Russia. If you think it’s the latter, you should support having Zbig in a position of influence. If you think it’s the former you want to keep him the hell away from the region.
    My preference is for the former however it all depends on if you think the US can make Russia into a partner for stability rather than a rival for power. Given that Putin seems to be planning to stick the knife in anyway I may just be being optimistic.
    In this speech Putin outlines a plan for the global economy in four points. 1)”[W]rite off all hopeless debts and “bad” assets” 2) “[Get] rid of virtual money, exaggerated reports and dubious ratings” 3) “encourage the objective process of creating several strong reserve currencies” 4) “Reserve currency issuers … must pledge to abide by internationally recognised (sic) rules of macroeconomic and financial discipline.”.
    He’s proposing solutions to the current economic crisis that, curiously, would have the effect of breaking the back of US economy. Interesting that.

  21. YT says:

    Col., sir : Wisdom? Or byzantine unscrupulousness? I won’t rate ’em in the same sense of the chinese word.

  22. bubba says:

    What could be better?
    Not to be snide or anything, but a new generation of Brzezinskis and Scowcrofts.
    I have nothing but the utmost respect for these two elder statesmen, but I find it odd and frustrating that among the younger and eminently capable generation we don’t have anyone of a comparable stature. Non-news junkies would recognize their names, but how many of that cohort would have a clue about the new guys and gals? The likes of Holbrooke are pretenders to the mantle but just don’t match up.
    Or perhaps I’m just falling into that sad sport of lamenting the lack of “great crises” that characterize men and shift our short attention spans to different cultural priorities.

  23. srv says:

    US Africa Command off to a spectacular start. Just 900 killed in the blowback:

  24. different clue says:

    Even if “Zbig” is disliked in Iran and elsewhere, the Iranian leadership (and other leaderships) know how very seriously he is regarded and respected (almost worshipped) in Washington’s
    permanent government establishment circles. The fact that such seriously-taken figures as he and Scowcroft would be chosen to
    lead and organize our interaction with the Iranian
    government should signal to the Iranian government how very seriously we take the Iranian government. Sending
    highly honored people to Iran might make Iran feel highly honored…to be sent such highly honored people. And that might well improve the diplomatic mood right there, leading to a slow reciprocal co-improvement from both sides. Even if Brzezinski isn’t all that well liked.

  25. All I can say about both men is that they have always made sense to me when I see them on the tellie. They both come across as well grounded in reality and I would say they are more nonpartisan than bi-partisan.
    Either I’m right, or I am easily fooled.
    My track record isn’t envious!

  26. Brent and Zbig or no…
    Talk like this is not going to help bring the Iranians to the table:
    Speaking to an audience that included Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, Biden urged European allies and Russia to back diplomatic efforts to keep atomic weapons out of the Iranian government’s hands.
    “This much is clear: we will be willing to talk,” Biden said at the Munich Security Conference today. Iran has “a very clear choice: to continue down the current course and there will be continued pressure and isolation. Abandon the illicit nuclear program and your support for terrorism, and there will be meaningful incentives.”

    In other words, we ain’t talking to you until YOU do something…
    I suspect from the Iranian perspective, this is not much “change they can believe in.” And, after demonstrating technical success in launching into orbit this past week, they are certainly not going to back down on their domestic uranium enrichment program. (Which, I might add, remains under IAEA observation.)
    Nothing like being needlessly provocative in the months before Ahmedinejad has to defend his term as President.
    So, the question. Has the USA changed or modified its course on Iran? Or is it still trying to goad, provoke and alienate the Iranians? Based on Biden’s commentary and the choice of Zbig/Brent, I would not expect any REAL change… and only continued tension. And who wins with the continued tense standoff between USA and Iran??????

  27. Mac Nayeri says:

    I agree….
    Brezinski is absolutely correct on Iran, as is Scowcroft, as was Odom.
    They understand power, like any other commodity has a “shelf life.”
    Their Iran policy strengthens the shelf life of the Pax Americanna which ought to be the prism through which all foreign policy deteminations are decided.

  28. charlottemom says:

    Think these two men are capable sentinels for US interests. However, I can’t get past my unease that it is Ignatius saying so.
    I do wonder what exactly Ignatius is up to. He has been all over the place on his foreign policy analysis. His latest caper as a not so objective panel moderator at Davos almost incited an intl incident with Turkish leader storming off at Peres’ bellicose ramblings.
    Interesting …

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