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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Books of The Times: A Dialogue and a Discourse on America’s Global Role

In the months before the American invasion of Iraq, among the few members of the foreign policy establishment to speak out forcefully about the dangers of going to war unilaterally against Saddam Hussein were Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to the first President Bush, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter.


The End of American Exceptionalism

By Andrew J. Bacevich

206 pages. Metropolitan Books. $24.


Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy

By Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. Moderated by David Ignatius

291 pages. Basic Books. $27.50.

In August 2002 Mr. Scowcroft warned that a “virtual go-it-alone strategy against Iraq” would degrade “international cooperation with us against terrorism,” and he presciently predicted that such a war “would not be a cakewalk,” as some members of the George W. Bush administration contended, but could involve “a large-scale, long-term military occupation” and “would be very expensive — with serious consequences for the U.S. and global economy.”

That same month Mr. Brzezinski cautioned that “war is too serious a business and too unpredictable in its dynamic consequences — especially in a highly flammable region — to be undertaken because of a personal peeve, demagogically articulated fears or vague factual assertions.” In February 2003, he added that “an America that decides to act essentially on its own regarding Iraq” could “find itself quite alone in having to cope with the costs and burdens of the war’s aftermath, not to mention widespread and rising hostility abroad.”

In a trenchant new book, “America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy,” Mr. Brzezinski and Mr. Scowcroft (along with the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, acting as moderator) incisively discuss the fallout of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, including the empowerment of Iran, the recruitment of more terrorists and the inflaming of hatreds within the region. They also survey the foreign policy landscape as a whole: the consequences of globalization, the rise of China as a new economic behemoth, the ambitions of a new Russia under the leadership of Vladimir V. Putin and Dmitri A. Medvedev.


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