February 5th, 2010
07:00 PM ET
13 years ago

Former Nat'l Security Adviser: foreign policy is gridlocked

(CNN) - President Barack Obama's foreign policy agenda may have "run out of steam" and he must now take risks and provide effective leadership, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said Friday.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, he said Obama's foreign policy agenda is suffering from gridlock in Washington.

"I have the feeling that because of domestic problems, he has run out of steam, and I don't know really how determined he is to resume what he started doing so well, which is to engage the world constructively," Brzezinski said.

Brzezinski, who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the only way to break the stalemate is for Obama to take the lead.

The president can show leadership, he said, by "persuasively going to the country directly, mobilizing the support, taking on some difficult foreign challenge, and prevailing."

Giving examples of key challenges Obama ought to tackle, Brzezinski cited Iran. He said Obama should not "abandon it prematurely," noting the complexities of the internal Iranian situation could give the United States "room for maneuver, and perhaps some basis for expecting an eventual partial accommodation."

Brzezinski also cited the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a key challenge because it "revolutionizes, radicalizes the Middle East, and maximizes the number of enemies the United States has."

Asked how he would grade the Obama administration's performance on Iran and the Middle East, he said, "Well, rhetorically, A; in terms of performance, B, B-minus."

Despite the United States' foreign policy problems, Brzezinski said, the nation has the resources to deal with new global security threats in cyberspace, outer space, and on the high seas.

Commenting on the newly published 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, a legislatively mandated review of the U.S. Department of Defense strategy and priorities, Brzezinski warned even though the United States has highly sophisticated technology, it also has to be effective in global diplomacy, adding, "We have neglected that in the course of the last decade."

According to the Department of Defense, the defense review is meant "to assess the threats and challenges that the nation faces," and to "rebalance the department's strategies, capabilities and forces to address today's conflicts and tomorrow's threats."

"I think we have to redefine the nature of the enemy," Brzezinski said, "because ... the global security context in which we find ourselves is now fundamentally different."

Brzezinski - national security adviser between 1977 and 1981, during the Carter administration - noted how the new threats differ from those of the Cold War.

"When I was in the White House, the threat was concentrated and very lethal," he said. "You know, the Soviet Union, in case of a central war with the United States, could kill roughly 80 million Americans in six hours."

Today, Brzezinski said, the United States has "a lot of threats, ranging from terrorists to rogue states to unpredictable events. And that makes the defense issue more complex, even though it is somewhat rather less lethal."

He cited the example of cyberattacks. "Are these hackers, for example, from China working for the Chinese government or are they working for some private business? What are their motives?"

He said it is vital for the United States to have the capability not only to stop hacking, but to retaliate as well.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Jane/Seattle

    "Foreign" policy is suffering from the moral bankruptcy of WARS! The spiritual warping of those who kill and support killing as any solution for anything! This is PURE greed hiding behind the agenda of a never-ending "war on Terror". Most of the Terror is perpetrated by America and her greedy stooges! Many defend themselves with their own deaths in the only weapon they have – suicide bombing. Every Death there is a recruiting tool to mobilize those affected and becoming radicalized by the US true terrorists! Peace

    February 5, 2010 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  2. D.

    So, Mr Brzezinski, you suggest Obama to follow Jimmy Carter's steps now? You perhaps suggest he starts accusing Israel for all radical haters as a way to go, I guess. It will encourage our haters to hate us more and give them another evidence their extreme way is winning.
    Encouraging terrorists by giving them partial victories and doing things that make them think the USA is going toward their goal never stopped terror or USA hatred in the world. If there was no Israel thy would have gone after Christian Lebanon, then Europe, etc. etc.

    February 5, 2010 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  3. Sue

    We live in very frightening times............When the security of our citizens and our country now rests in the hands of Obama, Holder, Napolitano, etc.

    We just need to get through 10 more months.........Then the 2010 elections will take away the power/control away from Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Holder, etc.---and this Obama/Holder/Napolitano lunacy of protecting "terrorists' rights" can end.

    After the 2010 elections.........The Republicans will again make sure that the concerns of the safety/security of our citizens, military, and country comes first--–not the "rights" of terrorists.

    February 5, 2010 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  4. Donkey Party

    Opinions are like ass-portals, we all have them.

    February 5, 2010 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  5. Orange Curtain, CA

    We need a Mid-East peace deal ASAP.

    February 5, 2010 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  6. gary davis harbor oregon

    and the best thing for every one involved is get involved and get passed the grid lock . and it is probaly the republican leadership . BONNER, McCONNEL , AND THE BOYS america needs to pay attention to what the republican agenda realy is . (((( NO ))))) and that is what they do best . nothing for the people and everything for the few CEO'S and corporate leadership a couple 100 people in this country own all of us because the republicans suck on everything they do or say .. 🙂 guess you could say that all the republican leaders are slaves LOL now thats funny . and they at the end of the day have to do what the president wants . again now thats funny LOL 🙂

    February 5, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  7. Keith in Austin

    Bozo is so far over his head in foreign policy that the rest of the world is laughing at him. (Especially our enemies). As our Comm. in Chief, referring to a Navy Corpsman as a CORPS MAN is disgraceful to our military and veterans like me alike! Odumbo doesn't lead anything other than our great Nation off a cliff.

    This guy has bowed so much he's got a sore back!

    February 5, 2010 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  8. Nicholas

    I think he has a lot of resolve, however, domestic policy comes first.
    Could you imagine just how much further ahead we would be and how much more time Obama would have to spend on important foreign policy issues if he didn't have to deal with GOP obstructionists who don't know how to put AMERICA FIRST? The biggest hinderance to American leadership moving forward both domestically and internationally are the GOP

    February 5, 2010 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  9. Bart Aspenlieder

    Our, current administration's foreign policy is the same as the previous administration's foreign policy for as far back as I can remember. It is dictated by whatever Administration is in power, believes the rest of the world is going to think about us.
    When we stop caring about what the rest of the world thinks about "how we take care of" those entities that kill our citizens, those entities will think twice before they take ANY action against our country or the citizens of it. The terrorists don't care a rat's armpit about harsh stares, raised eyebrows or stern statements that have no real consequences behind them. If we, the United States, as a country that will not stand for ANY factions injustice being put upon us, we need to take severe, swift and unsympathetic action.
    We are more concerned about collateral damage than we are about our own men and women in uniform being blown up by roadside bombs. If we are truly at war with the Terrorists than we should have taken the "Storm the Normandie Beaches" approach many years ago. We would've been done by now. The dollar and more importantly the Human cost to our troops would've been much less.
    When the current administration and the current military leadership grow some brass testicles instead of the paper mache ones they are currently displaying, the U.S. will stop getting kicked in them.

    February 5, 2010 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  10. Kate in SW Fla

    He has been intentionally twarted by the right, starting with that cowardly, 4 time draft dodging, 2 time convicted drunk driving Dick, Cheney to his current reichwing protoge, Jim Traitor DeMint, who interferred in Central america because he loves right wing dictators and hates democracy. Republican leadership is determined to stop Obama at any cost, even our national security and leadership position. They are the reason for the "loss of steam."

    February 5, 2010 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  11. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    "A bad grade is only one letter in the Essay of life."-Lee Drake

    But when you bad grade, after bad grade, it doesn't help at all.

    I agree, the Pres needs to man up.

    February 5, 2010 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  12. valwayne

    What Zbigniew Brzezinski really means is that Obama's pathetically naive foreign policy of apology, bows, and appeasement is an enormous failure and causing him great embarrassment because he support Obama for the Presidency. Zbigniew should be use to this though after all he was Jimmy Carter's national security advisor. He sure knows how to pick them!!!!

    February 5, 2010 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |