ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, President Carter's national security adviser, came to the White House from the Trilateral Commission, a New York-based floating think tank on problems facing the Western alliance which Brzezinski directed and for which he chose Jimmy Carter, then ending his term as governor of Georgia, as a Southern member. Born in Poland, the son of a diplomat, Brzezinski has written widely on international issues and has specialized in the study of the communist nations, becoming head of Columbia University's Research Institute on Communist Affairs. He was interviewed for The Washington Post by Jonathan Power, a British journalist and columnist for the International Herald Tribune.
One of your fundamental themes is how in a sense this is the age of equality, and that this is very close to the essence of the Christian tradition. And yet many people today - particularly in Europe, where we've had a welfare state in various forms for 30 years - are arguing that the idea of equality has now gone so far that we are in danger of a grayness, a lack of initiative, a lack of inspiration. Yet the urge for equality is quite important in your foreign policy, isn't it?
Well, I wouldn't use the word "equality," although I must confess I've used it ast times. I would probably, if I wanted to be more precise, use the word "equity." Equality to me doesn't mean that everybody wears the same kind of suit, rides the same kind of bicycle and reads the same slogans. That's not equality, that's regimentation.
There has to be a balance between equality and the need for liberty, which gives man the opportunity for self-expression, for the fulfillment of the self, for the attainment of his telos, whatever that is, for each individual. The genius of modern democracy, to me, lies in finding the right balance between liberty and equality defined in that sense, or equity. Increasingly, the same combination of issues is becoming central in world affairs. This is why I stress so much that the role of the United States in world affairs should not be that of preserving the status quo, or maintaining balance of power, but rather giving to change a positive direction, to make possible a just and creative blend between liberty and equity, or, if you will, equity. I think if the United States can do that then it will gain for itself as creative a role as it acquired initially by becoming the standard of liberty. COMMUNISM
Do you think there's a chance of great slices of the Third World going Communist?
In my judgment when you use a word like "Communist" we really have to ask ourselves what's hidden behind the word. I don't think that the prospect for the Third World is communism in the first meaning of the word: namely Soviet imperialism, Stalinism, oppression and uniformity of the '50s. I do think that for many of the developing countries undergoing very rapid change Marxism, communism, offers what appears to them a relevant intellectual framework. For example, all of the Eritrean independence movements consider themselves to be Marxists. But in actual application I think we will see two things tremendous diversity, relatively little loyalty to the Soviet Union or none at all. And probably more frequently, chaos rather than communism. Indeed, if I had to put forth a proposition, I would say both the prospects and the threat in the Third World involve not communism but chaos.
Do you go along with the Andrew Young argument when he was asked about Angola? He said Gulf Oil is the reality there; oil is what they need to sell to us, and that will form the relationship more than some ideological package they've formally taken on board.
I don't agree entirely with that because I think what is overlooks is the specific case of a large number of Cuban troops in Angola. The number of Cubans in Angola, relative to the total population, is roughly the same as the number of American troops in Vietnam a the peak of the American engagement. The Cubans in Angola are fighting Angolans: it's an army of occupation.
How much is this kind of thing a threat to the United States and how much can it live with it and let it ride?
I don't think it's a direct threat in the '50s or even '60s meaning of the word "threat." A lot of it does not affect us much, or at all. But cumulatively a condition either of chaos or of rampant, even if not-too-sophisticated, Marxism in the Third World will create conditions in the global community that are inimical to the development of more decent relationships, to the advancement of human rights, to the creation of a more congenial world community increasingly capable of cooperatively dealing with its problems. In that sense there is an indirect threat which we should not ignore. If you will, it's the same kind of a threat which one confronts in a city in that in involves a differentation between a threat from direct physical, criminal violence and the threat inherent in massive urban decay, and the violence and corruption and degradation of the human condition which that breeds.
Take Eurocommunism, which is obviously going to be a burnig issue in the next five years - what would you do if Eurocommunists come to power? Do you feel you would have to do something?
Well, first of all, we do not wish the Communist parties to come to power in Western Europe. Secondly, we have confidence that the West European electorates will use their best judgment to preserve democratic systems and will therefore opt for democratic parties. Thirdly, we have to deal with the world as it is. Fourthly, the existence of Eurocommunist parties, as of themselves, does encourage change in the nature of communism, an it is unwise for the United States to engage in direct interference in domestic affairs of other countries, of the sort that could make the Eurocommunist parties symbols of national independence. Lastly, Eurocommunism is a highly differentiated phenomenon. All it is really is a catchword for West Eurpean Communist parties.
Tehe inference in what you're saying seems to be that if it does come to pass, that they do come into power, that you'd have to live with this, and accept. There's no conditions under which you would engage in covert activity to try and unsettle that political position?
Well, I'm not going to make blanket promises as to what we might or might not do because it depends a great deal on circumstances, the degree of legitimacy of the political change involved. But as a general principle I can state flatly that is is the principle of this administration, and indeed it is the American principle, not to interfere with democratic political processes.
Could you say absolutely, definitely, if they did follow the democratic norms as generally practiced in France, Italy or wherever it happened to be, there would be no circumstances in which you would engage in covert activities to unsettle those regimes?
I think if somebody came to me and asked me to make a promise not to beat my wife, I would find that an offensive requirement, and I think if anybody came and asked this country to make that kind of a promise, which is implied in your question, I would reply in a similar fashion. SOUTH AFRICA
George Ball in the recent issue of Atlantic has written quite a strong attack on present American policy in southern Africa. Ball argued that the United States may provoke upheaval at a faster rate than it will develop if South Africa is left alone. I wonder if you have any doubts about the fairly cracking pace you're putting pressures on South Africa.
I would say what is at stake here is of really major inportance, both in international and human terms. What is at stake is how to avoid a transcontinental war, a war which will merge the racial conflict into an ideological conflict. What is at stake is the livelihood of some millions of people, black and white. What is at stake here is how to compelling reasons why the South African society has to undergo a progressive process of transformation. It's values, its social arrangements are out of keeping with the spirit and moral imperatives of our time. At the same time, what is involved here is a deep legacy of history: 300 years of white society, some of whose people fought for their own independence ingrained national feelings, reinforced by history and by the Bible. These are not circumstances which are amenable to easy change. These are circumstances which have to be dealt with with compassion and with a sense of historical perspective. What we're trying to do is to encourage a process of change which will outpace what otherwise looks like a rather apocalytical alternative.
What seemed to have really upset George Ball, and we knew it upset the South Africans, is what Vice President Mondale said at his press conference in Vienna after meeting Vorster. He said that he really did believe in pursuit, fairly fast, to one man, one vote.
I'm sorry that upset George, for whom not only have I the highest regard, but whom I consider a friend. However, the fact of the matter is that the notion of one man, one vote is rooted in some very basic assumptions of what man is about. Namely, that irrespective of man's formal training, irrespective of social status and certainly irrespective of his color, that man fundamentally is a spiritual being, quite similar, quite equal and entitled to certain fundamental rights. One man, one vote is simply the political expression of that fundamentally important philosophical attitude, which is at the very root of what this society is all about, and which is at the root of what the world hopefully is becoming. I don't think that's an inflammatory statement. That's a definition of an end objective. Moving toward that end objective will take time. Our point is that movemet has to accelerate, if it is to outpace the twin horsemen of apocalypse, namely racial war and ideological war.
And you take issue with Ball in believing that cumulative economic, social and political pressures are more likely to help produce a less violent situation, rather than, as he says, have the effect of fueling the pace of violent intervention"
I have an acute awareness of the limit of my own information and good judgment. And I don't say this is any snide or imperially intellectual or arrogant sense. But my reading of South African developments is that over the last several decades they have moved, in terms of apartheid, not in the right direction. To be sure, there have been some marginal improvements lately. The question is, can that society adapt rapidly enough?
My question was: Do you take issue with Ball's perception that increased economic, political pressure encourages the pace of violence, rather than dilutes it?
That was implicit in my answer. Namely, that is is something which obviously is not changing on its own. THE SOVIET UNION
One of the great surprises of your writing on the Soviet Union is that you seem to think that Stalinism saved the world from an even more dangerous Russia. Given Russia's traditions and ambition, you feel that even without Stalin, even without communism, Russia would have been some kind of imperial autocracy. This suggests that perhaps communism is not the problem, it's just Dostoevski's old Mother Russia.
I wouldn't use the words "save the world." I don't think it's an issue of salvation. My argument is that Stalinism has sapped the creative intellectual vitality of the Russian people. Stalinism was particularly destructive. It would be hard for me, for anyone, to argue that killing millions of your best people, incarcerating millions more, shooting your entire general staff, executing many of your intellectuals, decimating your political elite, is a particularly constructive undertaking. To boot, the processes of industrialization which were undertaken under Stalin, at tremendous physical sacrifice, were not more impressive than those achieved in other societies with similar results, but at much lower social cost. I consider Stalinism not only to have been an historical crime, but a tremendous historical mistake.
So paradoxically, since Russia will always be an imperial power that would threaten Americans and Western interests, one has a perverse interest in the maintenance of that gray regime?
No, I don't think it follows that. Only if one assumed that imperial regimes always remain imperial, then that logic would follow. But my point is there are cycles in it. Just as the United States has gone through an imperialist cycle, and then waned, so it is my hope that the Russians will increasingly move into the world in a more cooperative, less imperially assertive fashion and begin participating in what is gradually, truly emerging: namely, a global community. And I believe that this kind of a process is more likely to manifest itself in the context of political, intellectual pluralism or diversity.
I suppose this is the purpose in part of your human rights strategy, yet many people are asking: Can you produce democracy in the Soviet Union? Are the democrats there? One wonders if there's anything in the traditions deep down in that country that can really respond in that creative way to your human rights strategy.
It seems to me that the emergence of more democratic values is something which is inherent in the human condition. I'd argue that the lip service that is paid to democracy - the various democratic constitutions that have been adopted in many countries, even if not applied in practice - in itself is an acknowledgement of the compelling power of mankind's demand for human rights. In the final analysis, hypocrisy is a bow to virtue.
It's the compliment vice pays to virtue.
That's right, and the fact that even non-democratic regimes make a big show out of adopting democratic principles in itself is a demonstration of the compelling power of these principles. We are not setting out a crusade to reproduce the American system in other parts of the world. We are very conscious of the fact that every political system is the product of its own history, psychology, social conditions, even genes. All we're saying is that it's inherent in the human spirit to desire for more individual self-expression. And we as a society, though imperfect, with many blemishes, want to stand for that. And we want to encourage others to stand for it. But what happens in individual societies, including the Soviet Union, is the affair of these countries. And we're not intruding, nor do we wish to intrude, into their domestic affairs. Nor are we making their attitude on human rights the sine qua non for normal state-to-state relations. NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Kissinger has argued that nuclear superiority is meaningless in an age of overkill. Many people consider him wrong, but I wonder where you stand on that issue"
I don't consider nuclear superiority to be politically meaningless. I can fully acknowledge the fact that at a certain point strategic weaponry ceases to exercise military significance in terms of marginal differences and consequences, if used. However, the perception by others or by oneself of someone else having quote unquote strategic superiority can influence political behavior. It can induce some countries to act in a fashion that sometimes has been described as "Finlandization." And it can induce self-imposed restraint on the party that feels weaker and, last but not least, it can induce the party that feels that it enjoys strategic superiority to act politically in a more assertive fashion. In other words, it has the potential for political exploitation even if in an actual warfare situation the differences may be at best, or at worst, on the margin.
So you don't think we are in a state of obvious military balance, that these small changes that are being argued over are in a sense peripheral, that the general essentials of agreement are being lost in a debate that's raging around marginal issues?
I wouldn't say the debate, if you're talking about the strategic arms limitations talks, is raging around peripheral issues. It's raging - although I wouldn't use the word raging - I don't think it's a raging debate, it's a serious discussion - around rather central issues. Namely, what kind of systems are the Soviets deploying which are most threatening to us and viewed by us as most destablizing in the strategic situation, and what kind of systems that we may be deploying now or in the future are similarly perceived by the Soviets. The name of the game is to identify these concerns, to understand each other's concerns and then to try to strike up an arrangement that is responsive to these concerns while at the same time being symmetrical in its numerical expression and in its political perception. The cumulative need to deal with these three areas: responsiveness to concerns, numerical symmetry, and equality in political perception, given the differentiated kinds of systems we have, is such that it's really very difficult to reach a quick agreement. Even with the best of will on both our sides. And I happen to believe that there is the best of will on both sides. I think, in fact I know, that we're negotiating in good faith and very much want to reach an agreement. From everything I have seen in my dealings with the Soviets, they are similarly motivated.
Do you honestly think, in the final analysis, as a human being, a Christian, a father, you could actually recommend to the President to push the button and kill millions of people?
I don't know whether I would. Certainly, I think I would and I certainly think I would without too much hesitation if I thought that someone else was launching a nuclear attack on me. Because if I didn't have the conviction that I have the determination and the will to do it. I think I would enhance the probability of war, by eliminating the deterrent effect.
Even though that might make the chance of the regeneration of human society that much more difficult, even impossible?
Well, first of all, that really is baloney. And I do emphasize the importance of the deterrent effect, namely that no one should ever calculate that they can launch a nuclear attack someone without suffering the consequences. That's essentially important. As far as human society and all that is concerned, it sounds great in a rally. The fact of the matter is - and I don't want this to be understood as justifying the use of nuclear weapons, because we don't want to use them and we're not going to use them first in an attack - the fact of the matter is that if we used all our nuclear weapons and the Russian used all of their nuclear weapons, about 10 per cent of humanity would be killed. Now this is a disaster beyond the range of human comprehension. It's a disaster which is not morally justifiable in whatever fashion. But descriptively and analytically, it's not the end of humanity. It's not the destruction of humanity. People like to use slogans and therefore one of the most frequently used slogans is that the United States and the Soviet Union have in their power to decimate, to destroy humanity.
Well, Kissinger himself used to say that.
It just happens not to be true. It's a good thing to say, however, because it enhances one's reluctance and repugnance for the use of nuclear weapons. And I am all in favor of that. But I am not in favor of giving one party the capacity to say somebody else: "If you don't do this we'll destroy you." Because I don't think in that context the world would long be stable.
I just think it must be a kind of peculiar courage, a peculiar psyche, that convinces oneself you could actually do it. It's one thing to be a professor at Columbia writing about it . . .
Do you have children?
I have two little girls, yes.
If somebody killed one of those girls, would you be able to kill that person?
Of, I think so, but the scale and proportions are totally different.
Not at all. The reaction is exactly the same thing. Namely, if you see something which is totally unwarranted, morally repugnant, completely unjustifiable, you'd react in a strong way. You'd protect these children. When you reach public office in which you're responsible for the security of your country, you have to be able to make it very clear to anyone who threatens the survival of that country that this is not an act which one can undertake with impunity.
You don't find it emotionally difficult to make that jump?
Not at all. Not in the least. If I did, I would feel I shouldn't be here.