Brzezinski lends Obama his realist aura
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski waded into the 2008 presidential race over the weekend by endorsing Barack Obama. The Illinois senator, Brzezinski said, “seems to me to have both the guts and intelligence … to change the nature of America’s relationship with the world.” Brzezinski also took a swipe at Obama’s ...
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski waded into the 2008 presidential race over the weekend by endorsing Barack Obama. The Illinois senator, Brzezinski said, “seems to me to have both the guts and intelligence … to change the nature of America’s relationship with the world.”
Brzezinski also took a swipe at Obama’s rival Hillary Clinton, deriding her foreign policy approach as “very conventional.” The media is treating the endorsement as a kind of vindication and “needed foreign-policy shot in the arm” for Obama, who has been called naive and irresponsible for suggesting that as president he would negotiate Iran and Syria and would consider military action against al Qaeda in Pakistan. Both the Times and Post point out that Brzezinski’s endorsement could help balance Madeline Albright and Richard Holbrooke’s support for Clinton.
There’s been something of a blog war going on this month about whether there is a foreign policy “clerisy” in the United States—cloistered experts who frame the debate on foreign-policy issues and see themselves as above the partisan fray. The Brzezinski endorsement suggests that “the establishment” may not be quite as unified as critics believe.
The coverage it has received also highlights the peculiar role of expert opinion in foreign-policy debates. When campaigning on education, labor or social issues, candidates seek the support of key unions or interest groups to bolster their ideological credentials. In foreign policy, however, accomplished individuals like Brzezinski or Albright seem to have the ability to bestow their gravitas upon a candidate, lending credibility to his or her opinions. But the über-realist Brzezinski’s endorsement certainly doesn’t indicate much about Obama’s policies when humanitarian interventionist Samantha Power is also on board. It seems that these endorsements have very little to do with what a candidate says, but somehow give him the right to say it.
Erstwhile member of the foreign-policy establishment Bill Richardson, whose sixth-month Iraq withdrawal plan has been much-maligned lately, would seem to be most in need of a “foreign-policy shot in the arm” these days. Brent Scowcroft and Noam Chomsky, perhaps?
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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