Q&A with former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski

Foreign-policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski discussed the response to US calls for political change in Egypt, his rating of President Obama's foreign policy, and GOP threats to cut US foreign aid at a Feb. 10 Monitor breakfast.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC, Feb. 10.

Foreign-policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski was President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser. He currently is counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a professor at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Brzezinski was the guest speaker at the Feb. 10 Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C.

The response to US calls for political change in Egypt:

"There is a lot of resentment – not just in Egypt, but in the world – about this kind of self-righteousness of America on a number of issues, which seems to be telling other countries how to run their domestic affairs at a time when one cannot entirely say our own domestic affairs are most effectively conducted."

How the protests in Egypt differ from the Solidarity movement in Poland, which the US supported:

"In the case of Solidarity, you had an alliance between trade unions, intellectuals, the church.... So we knew what we were doing. The problem in Egypt is that we have an amorphous mass that is rebelling against a dictatorship.... Our sympathies are with them. But how do we translate that into a democratic takeover?... A political process of some sort [is needed] unless you want to have just bloodshed in the streets."

The limits to watching events in Egypt on television:

"We have been watching [protests] for a week on television and what do we see? We see ... one square in a city of 15 million people.... We cannot be galvanized into thinking that the total reality of the country is what we see on the square."

Rating President Obama's foreign policy:

"The president ... came to office with a really insightful and relevant vision of what America's role in the 21st century ought to be.... He has had a hard time translating that into a strategy that can be action-oriented and imposed in a disciplined fashion on the government.... Most of it has to do with [coming into] office in the worst financial and economic crisis ... since the early '30s."

GOP threats to cut US foreign aid:

"It is better not to cut if you can avoid it.... We are going to have ... increasing difficulty in maintaining an intelligently balanced foreign policy which behooves ... the No. 1 superpower ... to balance military aspects of that power with aid, assistance, technological advice, and so forth. That is going to be very difficult because of domestic political divisions."

What keeps him involved in his 80s:

"What formed me was World War II and the realization [of] how far humanity can go in doing wrong things to itself.... Human affairs require some combination of moral commitment with disciplined political action. And that is what keeps me intrigued and challenged and wanting to influence events."

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