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Brzezinski and Mead: Reflections on the Iraq War

March 21, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: With us again tonight, Zbigniew Brzezinksi, counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington; he was the national security adviser during the Carter administration; and Walter Russell Mead, senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, author of “Special Providence,” a book on the role of the United States in the world. Dr. Brzezinski, shock and awe. What is your state of shock and awe tonight, 48 hours after this began.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well, I certainly wouldn’t to be an Iraqi living in Baghdad. Obviously it must be intimidating. At the same time, I have a sense of uneasiness about watching all of this. And probably millions of other Americans are watching it. There’s something strange, it seems to me, about the world we live in, in which we can sit and watch and observe other people not only being intimidated but probably being blown up. Admittedly the regime is odious but the people in Baghdad are people. And we shouldn’t forget that.


WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: I certainly have some of the same thoughts, that you wonder if there had been cameras in Dresden or Hamburg or Hiroshima or Tokyo in World War II would those wars have been fought in exactly the same way? It’s also, I think, we’re getting a lot of predictions that aren’t yet coming… aren’t yet eventuating. We’re hearing about all the Iraqis that are going to surrender, negotiations are going on. Yet so far, we’re still getting a lot of resistance from the Iraqi army, the regular army even, not even the national or the Revolutionary Guard. So we’re at a very early stage. I think it’s too early to tell how the war is going. But in the next couple of days the picture should become a good deal clearer.

JIM LEHRER: David Brooks said on the NewsHour earlier tonight that this was the first time in history where the military operation was used for psychological purposes rather than the psychological warfare being used for military purposes. Do you see it that way?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I think there’s a lot to that. But that has been the case now for some months. We talked about it the other night, the fact that we had been deliberately leaking all of this intimidating information about our military plans, about our weaponry, about the futility of resistance. All of that, I think, has been part of a very deliberate campaign and a very intelligent campaign and hopefully it will work because obviously that at least will minimize the casualties involved on both sides.

JIM LEHRER: And that’s the aim of it, is it not, Walter, to try to… the shock-and-awe bombing today works and people really do start surrendering or a couple of divisions we reported one — I understand there’s another one that reportedly is about to surrender or may surrender — that this could be done in a less bloody way than it would have been otherwise?

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Right. It’s an interesting problem that technology does give you this ability to be… to really just create incredible devastation, very quickly, and at the same time as we see with the TV cameras, it makes the political cost of war much higher for the United States. People all over the world are watching these scenes from Baghdad. Some of are not sympathetic to the U.S. cause in the first place. So somehow you’ve got to… we’re seeing new kinds of war strategies developing for a new kind of war where you try to use precision targets, you try to use psychology, but when it comes down to it at the end of the day, it’s still a question of force and violence as war has always been. You’re imposing your will on the enemy.

JIM LEHRER: And that’s your point, that while you watch this, you have to always keep in mind that those explosions are affecting real things and real people.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: And there is such an asymmetry between us and the others that it is almost inevitable that many people around the world will begin to think of us increasingly as an international bully. We have to be very careful during the next few days not to have this triumphantalist attitude about this war. The issues are complicated in any case. What precipitated the war is under international debate. So we have to at least conduct ourselves in a manner that redeems the rectitude, the decency of America, which made America what it is today in the world.

JIM LEHRER: Sure. Okay. We’ll continue this conversation in a moment.