We’ve noted that Zbigniew Brzezinski is one of the primary exponents of the policy-elite backlash against the neocons, and his emergence as an adviser for Barack Obama says much about the coalition that is coming together behind the Obamarama. The original ideological whiz-kid of the (yes, really) Trilateral Commission and Jimmy Carter‘s National Security Advisor, Zbiggy represents the “pragmatist” wing of the ruling elites. Rival Hillary Clinton has also got “pragmatists” in her camp, and Obama is also attempting to woo the neocons. But the basic division seems pretty clear. From “Behind Clinton and Obama” by Stephen Zunes in Foreign Policy in Focus, Feb. 4 (emphasis added):
Senator Clinton’s foreign policy advisors tend to be veterans of President Bill Clinton’s administration, most notably former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. Her most influential advisor – and her likely choice for Secretary of State – is Richard Holbrooke. Holbrooke served in a number of key roles in her husband’s administration, including U.S. ambassador to the UN and member of the cabinet, special emissary to the Balkans, assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs, and U.S. ambassador to Germany. He also served as President Jimmy Carter’s assistant secretary of state for East Asia in propping up Marcos in the Philippines, supporting Suharto’s repression in East Timor, and backing the generals behind the Kwangju massacre in South Korea.
Senator Barack Obama’s foreign policy advisers, who on average tend to be younger than those of the former first lady, include mainstream strategic analysts who have worked with previous Democratic administrations, such as former national security advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Anthony Lake, former assistant secretary of state Susan Rice, and former navy secretary Richard Danzig. They have also included some of the more enlightened and creative members of the Democratic Party establishment, such as Joseph Cirincione and Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress, and former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke. His team also includes the noted human rights scholar and international law advocate Samantha Power – author of a recent New Yorker article on U.S. manipulation of the UN in post-invasion Iraq – and other liberal academics. Some of his advisors, however, have particularly poor records on human rights and international law, such as retired General Merrill McPeak, a backer of Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, and Dennis Ross, a supporter of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will of course have the loyalty of either candidate. But which one is scrambling to reassure them of his support (implying that it is in doubt) is telling. Akiva Eldar writes for the Israeli daily Haaretz Feb. 14:
The Republican Party’s neoconservative clique is trawling archives for “anti-Israeli” essays by advisers who had been seen in Obama’s staff. Robert Malley, who was President Bill Clinton’s special assistant during the Camp David talks, joined Obama. The neoconservatives reached Malley’s father, a Jew of Egyptian descent, who, alas, kept childhood ties with Yasser Arafat. Malley junior is accused of publishing a joint article with an Oslo-supporting Palestinian, in which they dared to argue that Ehud Barak played a major role in the Camp David summit’s failure in July 2000.
Obama is working hard to allay the fears of “Israel’s friends,” a description reserved mainly for activists of the pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC and for Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents [of Major Jewish Organizations]. As far as they’re concerned, whoever doesn’t support the Israeli government’s policy 100 percent is unfit for leadership.
In the Jerusalem Post Feb. 13, Hoenlein appeared (intentionally, no doubt) to be talking out of both sides of his mouth:
“The Obama campaign is a brilliant campaign,” said Hoenlein. “All the candidates are positive about Israel, and pro-Israel people in Chicago who know him well speak highly of Obama.”
At a press conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Hoenlein said that “all the talk about change, but without defining what that change should be, is an opening for all kinds of mischief.”
In other words, Obama is on notice that his “pro-Israel” creds are suspect. Unlike most of the neocons, Hoenlein has expressed his concerns that the “Jewish lobby” could provoke a backlash if it does not assume a lower profile—and thereby forfeit its cherished war drive against Iran. Well, the backlash is on—and Barack Obama may be its public face.
Brzezinski was the voice of Cold War realpolitik in the Carter administration—who got the ball rolling towards the Reagan-era policies of nuclear first-strike capability and aid to the Afghan mujahedeen. He was on the far right of the Carter coalition. But he is on the left of the “pragmatist” camp—which is generally made up of Republican “paleocons.”
The factor that could put Obama over the edge is an eruption of neo-Mugwumpery. History buffs will recall that in the election of 1884, many old-line Lincoln Republicans abandoned GOP candidate James G. Blaine, deeming him too aggressively imperialist and beholden to industrial interests. These “Mugwumps” defected to the reformist and “pragmatic” Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland—who won. Mark Twain proudly proclaimed himself a Mugwump.
Conservatives who view a “100-year occupation” of Iraq as a losing proposition and seek to mend fences with the Arab world (getting the oil that way) may now similarly bolt the McCain ticket—even for a Black man whose middle name is Hussein.
But it isn’t 1884 anymore, and there is no longer an even vaguely progressive wing of the Republican party—just divisions over the correct strategy for maintaining US global hegemony. For those of us who are no more comforted by the “pragmatic” paleocons than the hubristic neocons, this new alliance behind Obama may be seen as an ominous accommodation with the old-guard sector of the right establishment. His irritating talk about bipartisan “unity” is another manifestation of this strange convergence. But hell—better him than Ron Paul!