Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower

Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower

by Zbigniew Brzeziński

Americas most distinguished commentator on foreign policy, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, offers a reasoned but unsparing assessment of the last three presidential administrations foreign policy.

Brzezinski concludes with a chapter on how America can regain its lost prestige.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Politics
  • Rating: 3.50
  • Pages: 240
  • Publish Date: March 6th 2007 by Basic Books
  • Isbn10: 0465002528
  • Isbn13: 9780465002528

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First published in 2006, the title Second Chance refers to the possibility that the United States would be able to recognize and seize its historical moment as the worlds only superpower to do the moral and necessary thing: to lead the world towards greater amity, less divisional politics and severe wealth disparities, and to prepare for the changes climate change will unleash. Clinton I is characterized by Brzezinski as a cheerful, idealistic president embracing globalization but primarily concerned with domestic concerns, unwilling to involve the country in adventures outside the borders. The presidency of Bush II had a catastrophic effect on Americas standing in the world. the war on terrorism took on the menacing overtones of a collision with the world of Islam as a wholethe blend of neocon Manichaeanism and President bushs newfound propensity for catastrophic decisiveness caused the post-9/11 global solidarity to plunge from its historical zenith to its nadir. The book he wrote in 2011-12, Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power , is far more strident and apocalyptic, with far less optimism that the world would look anything like it had for the past several hundred years.

Overall, it came off to me as a book that says the neo-con idea of the New World Order was a grand idea, we just messed it up over the last three presidents. He wraps up the book by saying we have/need a second chance at the NWO with the next president.

A comparison of Bush I and Napoleon is given as proclaiming that Americas historical mission (and his own) is to spur the transformation of no less than the culture and politics of the entire world of Islam. Early in the book he says Bush I: sought to pursue a traditional policy in a non-traditional environment while Americas two competing worldviews were still crystallizing. In a connection to the current administration Brzezinski states that Bush Is encouraging of Shiite rebellions in 1991 complicates Iraq now. Unlike Bush I, Clinton had a global vision. Brzezinski states, t:he paradox of an objectively secure and might America, victorious in the Cold War, searching for global demons to justify its subjective insecurity crated fertile soil for the fears that became so pervasive after 9/11. A damning indictment is given: The blend of neocon Manichaeism and President Bushs propensity for catastrophic decisiveness caused the post 9/11 global solidarity with America to plunge from its historical zenith to its nadir. . He continues by noting the endless war on terror thus became a domestic political tool as much as a foreign policy. Brzezinski brings Reagan into the current situation by noting that Americas plunge into Iraq transformed the lingering crisis in the Middle Eastallowed to fester under Reagan, Bush I and Clintonfrom a chronic problem into a make or break challenge. Brzezinskis concluding chapter, Beyond 2008 (and Americas Second Chance), is a conclusion. Bush II was the vigilante, mobilizing domestic fears to pursue a self-declared existential war against the forces of evil.

Reading this book in 2016 gave me two main takeaways: one is the in depth history of the geopolitical challenges of America in the post-Cold War world and how these challenges were met or not met, the other is Brzezinski's desperate plea for more sensible leadership in the wake of Bush II, the War on Terror, and the Iraq War. Reading this book after the election of Donald Trump is particularly haunting as it is very clear, whatever we may think of the Obama presidency, that we have utterly failed at what Brzezinski had hoped would be our second chance at global leadership (the first unappreciated by Clinton and then squandered by Bush II).

All told, Second Chance is a quick summarization of US diplomacy in its inaugural years as the first lone world superpower, as well as a prescription for future foreign policy maneuvers should the US intend on retaining its allure of a bastion for peace, hope, and prosperity.

Read it to learn from our past modes of thinking and to draw your own conclusions for what you believe is sound foreign policy, so that you may make well-informed decisions on who to vote for in the future based on one's foreign policy platform.

Reading this book I did learn quite a bit about foreign poliics in the last 20 years.

Major foreign policy events during his term of office included the normalization of relations with the People's Republic of China (and the severing of ties with the Republic of China), the signing of the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II), the brokering of the Camp David Accords, the transition of Iran to an anti-Western Islamic state, encouraging reform in Eastern Europe, emphasizing human rights in U.S. foreign policy, the arming of the mujaheddin in Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet-friendly Afghan government, increase the probability of Soviet invasion and later entanglement in a Vietnam-style war, and later to counter the Soviet invasion, and the signing of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties relinquishing U.S. control of the Panama Canal after 1999.