Saturday, March 17, 2007

Brzezinski: U.S. Needs Social Responsibility

SAIS Professor and former Carter advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski was on the Daily Show this week plugging his new book "Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower." Read the New York Times somber book review here, which ends with this quote from the book:

"Nothing could be worse for America, and eventually the world than if American policy were universally viewed as arrogantly imperial in a postimperial age, mired in a colonial relapse in a postcolonial time, selfishly indifferent in the face of unprecedented global interdependence, and culturally self-righteous in a religiously diverse world. The crisis of American superpower would then become terminal."

On the Daily Show, Brzezinski said that for the United States to lead, it will have to get over its self-indulgence: "We have to make some sacrifices. We have to make some efforts to adjust to the inequalities that prevail in the world." He recommends a large dose of "humility and social responsibility" for U.S. power--a comment that was met with applause from the audience. He said that it is a dangerous posture to believe that U.S. moral superiority justifies immoral acts.

I wonder if the ultimate interviewer Jon Stewart caught the weight of Brzezinski's follow-up comment: "Operating on the international scene has to be based--to an unprecedented degree--on effective consensus, on drawing others to work with us." Stewart joked about the pettily contributions by other countries to the war in Iraq. But Bzezinski's comment reminded me of the universal need for consensus-building across sectors in this era of globalization. An excellent article in Booz Allen's magazine strategy + business traces this phenomenon. "The Megacommunity Manifesto" states:

"Though globalization is often thought of as waxing and waning through history (with the world sometimes growing more closely linked, and sometimes splintering apart), the current wave of globalization involves a permanent structural change in many of the institutions of the world. Nations and companies alike have undergone an irreversible shift toward what management theorist Charles Hampden-Turner calls “universalism.” They move away from reliance on connections and loyalty (typical of societies with selective law enforcement) and toward such principles as merit and universal law.

This kind of shift makes even formerly closed societies more open to outside influence, and thus more powerful. But it also makes them more vulnerable, particularly to the problem of economic “winners and losers,” in which the benefits of globalization are not evenly spread. The megacommunity concept represents a movement toward sustainable globalization, in which contact with the outside world, instead of draining jobs and making a local system vulnerable, strengthens long-term quality of life, economic vitality, and community health."

1 comment:

Evan O'Neil said...

Brzezinski's sentiments were echoed at the annual Crisis Group award ceremony this week. Nicholas Kristof called for the United States to engage more directly in international affairs. He was, of course, referring most specifically to the genocide in Darfur.

The issue of moral courage in journalism and public affairs also came up. Kristof said that the heroes of his articles are the locals who risk everything to go on the record, while people in the West, with nothing to lose, have trouble even picking up a phone to call their Rep. or Senators.

Former New York Congressman Stephen Solarz was also honored for his work with Crisis Group. Known for his work on democracy and repression in places like Pakistan and Cambodia, Solarz spoke of the need to bring the freedoms of Brooklyn to the world.