Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower


Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski offers a reasoned but unsparing assessment of the last three presidential administrations’ foreign policy. Though they cover less than two decades, these three administrations span a vitally important turning point in world history: the period in which the United States, having emerged from the Cold War with an unprecedented degree of power and prestige, managed to squander both in a remarkably short time. The tale of these three administrations is a tale of ...

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Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower

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Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski offers a reasoned but unsparing assessment of the last three presidential administrations’ foreign policy. Though they cover less than two decades, these three administrations span a vitally important turning point in world history: the period in which the United States, having emerged from the Cold War with an unprecedented degree of power and prestige, managed to squander both in a remarkably short time. The tale of these three administrations is a tale of decline: from the competent but conventional thinking of the first Bush administration, to the good intentions hobbled by self-indulgence of the Clinton administration, to the mortgaging of America’s future by the “suicidal statecraft” of the second Bush administration. Brzezinski concludes with a chapter on how America can regain its lost influence, if not its former dominance, in today’s era of global political awakening. This scholarly yet highly opinionated book is both controversial and influential.

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Editorial Reviews

James M. Lindsay
In his engaging and briskly argued new book, Jimmy Carter's national security adviser sees little worth emulating in the past 15 years of U.S. foreign policy. He asks how Washington has led since becoming the world's first truly global leader after the collapse of the Soviet Union. His answer? "In a word, badly."
— The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
In his compelling new book, Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower, Mr. Brzezinski not only assesses the short- and long-term fallout of the Iraq war, but also puts that grim situation in perspective with the tumultuous global changes that have taken place in the last two decades. He dispassionately analyzes American foreign policy as conducted by the last three presidents — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush — and he gives the reader a sobering analysis of where these leaders’ cumulative decisions have left the United States as it now searches for an exit strategy from Iraq, faces potentially explosive situations in Iran and North Korea and copes with an increasingly alienated Europe and an increasingly assertive China.
— The New York Times
Foreign Affairs
Brzezinski's latest book is a passionate polemic arguing thatU.S. foreign policy since 1989 has been deeply flawed. According to Second Chance, the errors and misjudgments of the current Bush administration, although significantly more egregious and damaging than those of its immediate predecessors, proceed at least in part from some common assumptions about the United States' world role following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Brzezinski's ability to see that the problems did not start with the current Bush administration gives his analysis depth and credibility; his critiques of all three post-Cold War administrations score telling points. Yet despite it all, Brzezinski remains optimistic. There are no real alternatives to U.S. world leadership, and most major countries agree that the world still needs a stabilizing leader. That so cogent and frank a critic should find so much latent strength in the United States' international position is a remarkable and perhaps encouraging sign. In any case, Brzezinski's reputation will be further enhanced by yet another lively, sweeping, and learned tour d'horizon of a troubled world.
From the Publisher
"Brilliantly provocative.... Brzezinski covers a great deal of ground with dispatch and verve.... His book is never less than exciting." —-The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465003556
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/7/2008
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 787,972
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Zbigniew Brzezinski

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, is a counselor and trustee at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a professor of American foreign policy at the School of Advanced International Studies, the Johns Hopkins University, both located in Washington, D.C. His many books include The Choice and The Grand Chessboard. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

The Challenge of Global Leadership     1
The Mists of Victory: (and the Spawning of Clashing Historical Visions)     17
Confused Expectations
The Search for Certitude
The Original Sin: (and the Pitfalls of Conventional Imagination)     45
Victorious Diplomacy
Forsaken Triumph
The Impotence of Good Intentions: (and the Price of Self-Indulgence)     83
Shaping the Future
Confronting the Past
Catastrophic Leadership: (and the Politics of Fear)     135
"The Central Front" as the Cemetery of Neocon Dreams
And the Rest of the World
Beyond 2008: (and America's Second Chance)     179
How Has America Led?
Will America Have a Second Chance?
The Geopolitics of Global Political Awakening
Afterthoughts on Iraq and the War on Terror     217
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Testimony: Zbigniew Brzezinski
Terrorized by "War on Terror": How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America
Acknowledgments     231
Index     233

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2007


    READ CHAPTER 5 FIRST, if you must. There come to understand how, in Brzezinski¿s words, Bush's 'Catastrophic Leadership' has 'increased the terrorist threat to the United States.' Learn why the current President's 'simpleminded Manichean dogmatism' created a 'geopolitical disaster' and destroyed 'America's global standing.' Comprehend that Americans are 'fighting rebellious Iraqis who oppose American occupation.' IF WOODWARD¿S ACCOUNT IS TRUE that Kissinger has been secretly whispering 'stay the course' in Bush's ear, then the gold medal for best advice in the new century must go to the better man Brzezinski, and not to Kissinger who now shares the blame for the nation¿s neocon nightmare. IN ALL FAIRNESS TO THOSE WHO DID NOT SEE, it must be noted that a Brzezinski pre-war editorial on Iraq (Washington Post, Aug. 18, 2002) was not as prescient as Kennedy, Kucinich, Obama and Ron Paul. While issuing the firm but standard caveats of a respected strategic thinker, Brzezinski¿s essay was too inattentive when he wrote ¿If it is to be war . . . ¿ Such fatalism does not encompass the anti-war intuition residing deep in the memory of the masses. ANTI-WAR IS AN JUNGIAN ARCHETYPE summoning shades of red smeared across spectacles of ancient fields of battle strewn with slaughter, and innocent villagers. Anti-war is the people¿s collective instinct which instructs consideration of necessity prior to patriotism, aftermath before glory. Anti-war viscerally separates the unpredictable from the expected, the unknown from the hoped for. Anti-war scans for alternatives before escaping to decisiveness and the slumbering bliss of no return. Anti-war carefully visits pottery barns first knowing that ticker-tape parades get canceled by the acid rain of miscalculation and misunderstanding. STILL, BRZEZINSKI DID ASK Buchanan¿s ¿Whose War?¿ question which gave brief pause, as much or more than Wellstone¿s perfect prediction. BUT THE BOOK IS LARGER IN SCOPE AND IDEAS than the present Iraq quagmire. For Brzezinski, any current crisis has its roots in the past. For example, Islamic and Arab hatred of the US have their antecedents in British imperialism, and the US-Israeli alliance is viewed as inheriting that imperialism, a notion too remote ever to figure into American understanding. However, Brzezinski¿s central thesis is that now is always the time for diplomatic efforts to structure the future peace by means of a renewed American-European alliance. This is the ¿Second Chance¿ beyond Iraq. THE BRZEZINSKI ATLANTICIST MIND argues against your isolationist impulses and for a ¿transatlantic decision-making process.¿ America and Europe united must work to construct a ¿reality based¿ architecture of global arrangements that undergird the prospect of peace by devising mechanisms for arms control and conflict resolution. ¿America and Europe together¿ must engage in sustained diplomacy everywhere building toward multilateral cooperation, all under American tutelage. But America has lost that leadership and the neocons are to blame as they wormed their militaristic way helter-skelter into leadership vacuums created by the three Presidents of the recent past each of whom missed opportunities to arrange properly the future peace. Bush 41 did not adequately capitalize on the highest point of American prestige and power after the first Gulf War. Brzezinski states that Bush 41 should have pursued multilateral arrangements more vigorously to build his ¿New World Order.¿ Clinton simply was uninterested and allowed opportunities to slip away relying instead on the ¿historical determinism¿ of globalization to sort things out in a rather laissez-faire fashion. NOW BRZEZINSKI SHARES the notion of American primacy and power with the neocons. Both seem convinced that America is Hegel's latest 'world historical state,' (a disconcerting thought given the fate of Hegel¿s other candidates) what has been called in recent years the

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    Posted December 29, 2008

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