In today’s Wall Street Journal, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski unspools a crystalline specimen of logical contradiction. Writing about America’s China policy and U.S. grand strategy in general, Brzezinski first admonishes:
“To have the credibility and the capacity to act effectively in both the western and eastern parts of Eurasia, the U.S. must show the world that it has the will to reform itself at home. Americans must place greater emphasis on the more subtle dimensions of national power, such as innovation and education.”
So when American kids do better in school, Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan will be more cooperative. Until then, they’re going to cause trouble. Good to know. Let’s move on.
Later in the piece, Brzezinski recommends the U.S. form a “deepening geopolitical community of interest” with Russia (and Turkey) even though Russia has not experienced a “comprehensive law-based democratic transformation compatible with both EU and NATO standards” and even without Turkey making it into the EU. At the same time, we should be “accommodating China’s rising global status” and “should respect China’s special historic and geopolitical role.”
To recap: The United States, backward and declining country that it is, must make domestic improvements before it has “credibility” with Russia and Turkey. Yet, America must not let its own nit-picking judgments about the domestic affairs of those two beacons of light—and a magnificent China—deter us from affording them the respect and courtesy of equals.
In a final paradox, this is called foreign-policy “realism”: the doctrine according to which the domestic policies of autocracies are irrelevant to Washington, but the Internet bandwidth and homework loads of Americans are crucially important to the foreign policy pliability of Communists and Islamists.