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New Left Review 42, November-December 2006

Achin Vanaik on Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Choice. Clinton’s grey eminence ponders the hegemon’s next moves. What changes are required for imperial strategy to remain the same?



As American policy-makers ponder how to reverse away from their setback at the hands of Iraqi fighters, the serene strategic horizons of Zbigniew Brzezinski may offer some comfort. The father of the Albright doctrine (‘What’s the point in having such a great army if you never use it?’) and a key architect of us expansionism after the Cold War, Brzezinski’s 1997 The Grand Chessboard achieved near-canonical status with Washington’s foreign-policy establishment. That work argued that America’s historically unprecedented status as sole global superpower could not be expected to endure forever; in 1945 the us accounted for 50 per cent of world gdp; by 2020, it might be less than 15 per cent. But if America is the first, it will also be the last to occupy such a position. No other state—Europe, Russia, China, Japan—could conceivably hope to replicate America’s royal flush of economic-technological dynamism, military might, political cohesion and cultural predominance. The emergence of potential hegemonic rivals would therefore bring about a period of anarchic conflict, not a new form of stability. Through ‘purposeful management’ of the other major states, its strategists should therefore aim to prolong us primacy for as long as possible, a generation or more, by preventing the rise of any such challenger. Or as Brzezinski famously put it: ‘to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together’.

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Achin Vanaik, ‘Strategy after Bush’, NLR 42: £3

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