April 03, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)
BRZEZINSKI DISCOVERED AMERICA
Old Russophobe avows that hedonistic overconsumption is dragging the US into the quagmire of decay and alienation
THE FALLACIES OF THREE PRESIDENTS
An American in the first generation, Zbigniew Brzezinski performs as a spiritual teacher for the whole of the United States. If National Sobors could exist in the US, he would be their keynote speaker, "grilling hearts with his verb", like Alexander Pushkin's paradigmatic prophet.
In his most recent book, entitled "Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower", Mr. Brzezinski is trying to inspire his nation for a strategic mobilization, using arguments that curiously recall old Soviet experience.
Brzezinski acknowledges that with the disintegration of the USSR, the United States has found itself a sole superpower, and was thus obliged to vigorously implement a new world order. This task suggested (and suggests), in particular, to guarantee that Russia give up any nostalgic ambitions, walk up to the trough and never try to claim on Ukraine and Belarus. In addition, Russia should be deprived of the "monopoly" for gas deliveries to Europe.
To the author's view, all the three US presidents of the post-Cold War period were sincerely trying to fulfill their mission but committed a number of fatal fallacies. George H. W. Bush, being in fact embarrassed with the fall of the Red Empire, was more focused on the issue of security, viewing the mission of the United States as the role of a global policeman. His successor Bill Clinton, performing as an adherent and social advocate of globalization, viewed the role of the nation rather as that of a moral vanguard, concentrating on informational means of political influence, and pursuing liberalization, political correctness, minority rights, environmentalism, etc. However, this attempt, according to Brzezinski, was in fact a failure, particularly due to an erroneous policy approach towards Russia.
The fault of both George H. W. Bush and Clinton is seen by the author in their careless reliance upon Boris Yeltsin and his cronies disguised as democrats. In fact, most of the massive financial assistance, provided to Russia by the United States (over $3 billion in food contracts and health grants, over $8 billion of subsidies for stabilization of the foreign balance and almost $49 billion of loans), was banally embezzled. Meanwhile, the Russian society was plunged into unprecedented poverty, social standards collapsing to the amount of the American Great Depression. Meanwhile, the bold reports about democratization in Russia, regularly issued by both political sides, were discredited with massive and arrogant self-enrichment in privatization of especially energy resources that involved US consultants as well.
"Bush II", arriving with a message of outright imperialism, based upon simple force, cynicism and primitive manipulation, made up mind to launch wars of conquest that predetermined America's most devastating failure, writes Brzezinski.
THE DISCREDITED HEGEMONY
Brzezinski claims that Bush's intervention in Iraq buried the American global leadership. Until 2003, the world used to believe the American leadership, and "whatever the President declared was supposed to be true". Bush's lies over Saddam's WMD, as soon as they were exposed, have stolen this belief from the humanity. In earlier times, US hegemonism was viewed as legitimate and serving to vital global interests. Today's US pursuit of global democratic standards is broadly viewed as exercise of a brutal illegitimate coercion. Torture, practiced in the penitentiaries of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, has deprived Washington of moral superiority, laments Brzezinski.
Declaring war against terrorism, America failed both to mobilize the world for the common endeavor and to succeed in a resolute military offensive, Brzezinski says. Its behavior separated its allies, teamed up its enemies, and created additional possibilities for its rivals and ill-wishers. The Islamic world was irritated and brought into a state of blazing rage. With the collapse of respect towards the US leadership, America's leading potential was drastically impeded.
Developing into a geopolitical disaster, the war in Iraq has distracted resources and attention from anti-terrorist war and thus facilitated the revival of the Talibs in Afghanistan, who promptly created a new refuge for Al Qaeda, writes Brzezinski. While Iraq and Somali, where the development is similar, absorb billions of dollars, "undermining America's military and economic health", the terrorist threat has only expanded. Hate towards the United States expanded, reaching the state level of Ibero-American states. The ensuing dissemination of nuclear weapons is a natural phenomenon, as many states believe purchase of nuclear technologies as the only guarantee from arbitrary violence from the United States. At the same time, the United States has failed to unify the Western community, impelling Europe into alienation.
THE DOOM OF THE AMERICAN DREAM
The quoted arguments are not new at all. It is more remarkable that speaking of disappointment of the international audience in the American way of life, Mr. Brzezinski concentrated on the moral aspect of the US development. To his view, the Americans have sunk into overconsumption, luxury, and hedonism. As soon as the Americans encountered domestic economic problems, their example became increasingly unattractive. The author correctly reminds that the crisis of the Soviet Union started with the loss of attractiveness of its model.
Brzezinski emphasizes that the continuing efforts to transplant democracy on a different soil degenerate into connivance to weakness of partners, and multiply to lack of knowledge of relevant societies. Meanwhile, the universal image of an American is associated with arrogant overconsumption, luxurious entertainment, along with indifference towards environment and exploitation of natural resources. To make a plausible example, Brzezinski proposes the audience to imagine a world in which every Chinese or Indian consumes as much as an ordinary American, even in the conditions of economic recession.
"Our standards of consumption are going to get into a conflict with more and more intolerant egalitarian aspirations", warns Brzezinski. Therefore, to his view, the United States has to be "socially attractive" – which requires broad national accord vis-à-vis one of the major flaws of the American social model.
The author reminds that in his book "Out of Control", issued a decade earlier, he had pointed out twenty drawbacks that prevent the United States from serving a positive example for the mankind. Since that publication, nine of the fourteen measurable parameters have even more deeply deteriorated. In particular, the US foreign debt has zoomed both in absolute and relative figures; foreign trade deficit is growing exponentially. At the same time, net savings have significantly melted, along with the possibilities for a social success for the poor.
Other parameters, quoted by the renowned US strategist, reflect an impressive extent of social stratification in his country. The share of the rich in aggregate income is rising reversely proportional to the share of elderly people who can't afford life insurance. Meanwhile, the share of Afro-Americans among the pauperized population is increasing directly proportional to drug addiction. In general, the nominal average salary has only slightly increased while the amounts of top personal incomes have reached "impudent proportions".
What Brzezinski is actually describing is the general crisis of the ultraliberal capitalist model. This policy design, chosen by America under Ronald Reagan, suggested elimination of any socialist hue in distribution of national income, suggesting austerity of social expenses, along with spending for science and culture, and deregulation of every possible sphere of economy and municipal management. The collapse of the USSR could only increase these phenomena, as there was no more necessity to rival with the socialist model, and therefore, to flirt with the lower classes. Eventually, the vices of the economic system, once exposed by Karl Marx, became so blatantly ugly that even an arch-anti-Soviet theorist like Brzezinski is using Marxist arguments.
DUMB & DUMBER
The austerity of expenses for science and education inevitably spawns ignorance. In his new book, Brzezinski quotes a recent poll conducted by the National Geographic Society. It revealed that 85% of young Americans have appeared to be unable to find Iraq and Afghanistan on the global map; 60% failed to find England, and 29% Ц even to locate the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, the double election success of George W. Bush just reflects the common level of competence of the US populace. Blatant illiteracy is displayed not only by "Dubya" Bush. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice quite seriously stated that on arrival Afghanistan, the US military did not reproduce the mistake of the Soviets, as they occupied Kabul. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for Presidency in 2004, declared that Vladimir Putin has originated from Treblinka, confusing the Nazi concentration camp with Lubyanka, the site of the KGB headquarters in Moscow. Though the level of Russian education has significantly declined in the last fifteen years, our compatriots are still able to discern the Republic of Georgia from the State of Georgia.
Painting this unimpressive picture and blaming George W. Bush's administration for embezzling all of the earlier advantages of the American society, Zbigniew Brzezinski still gives America a chance to maintain the status of the only superpower and the guiding force of the human civilization. He associates this exceptional opportunity with the term frequently used by Russian thinkers: mobilization.
"CEASING TO SERVE TO ITS IDEA, THE GREAT POWER LOSES ITS STRENGTH"
Borrowing this excerpt from Raymond Aron's "Imperial Republic", Brzezinski proposes to start the fight against decay and social disintegration from subtle moves. He insists that the necessary social re-evaluation should be provided with deliberate civic education that justifies work with a higher purpose than just a means for personal success and consumption.
In order to propagate the priority of this higher purpose, every American young man should pass a period of obligatory civil service at home and abroad, in accordance with special legislation. "Today, the only obligation for all Americans is to pay taxes, with certain indulgences for the rich", admits Brzezinski.
In fact, the old Russophobe has arrived to the ideas of the Russian Communists of 1920s, who claimed that every youngster should dedicate himself to the common benefit of global revolution and mobilization of masses for a higher universal purpose, preaching improvement of mundane morality and personal self-restraint as opposed to capitalist luxury. Without a bit of irony, one should add that implementation of the tasks, formulated by Mr. Brzezinski, requires a leading political party Ц the "intellect, dignity, and conscience" of America.
In fact, the proposed recipe reflects the extent of the crisis, confronted by the US society. With much or no compassion towards ordinary Americans, Russians should consider the whole range of relevant global implications.
ARE WE GOING TO USE OUR OWN CHANCE?
In his speech at the State Council on February 8, Vladimir Putin publicized the strategy of an innovative model of national development, with a special emphasis of making the national model more attractive. Leaving the President's post, Putin did not need to use populist slogans for boosting his popularity. It was rather an inspiring address to his successor, now having the opportunity to use the national opportunity to make Russia a leading nation Ц in a certain way, possibly, to take the torch from the hands of the declining United States.
The same inspiration, substantiated with particular proposals for comprehensive transformation of the political and economic system of Russia, was reflected in the Russian Doctrine, in Yury Krupnov's writings on Russia's transformation into a global power, and Igor Gundarov with his concept of sociohumanism. This author contributed as well in the "Third Project" book written together with Sergey Kugushev. The fact of decline of the Western community, the inability of the Western establishment to develop an image of future, even more imperiously suggests that Russians are obliged to put forward and pursue their own model of development.
Brzezinski's book is precious as a social mirror. In fact, the Russian society is infected with most of the diseases he describes in his nation Ц namely, social stratification, bureaucratic corruption, poverty of scientists and blatant luxury of the top corporate class, and finally, absence of "social elevators" for young people. In case we fail to overcome all these tendencies, we'll follow the Americans in their mudslide into the abyss.
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