Brzezinski to Newsmax: Shutdown's 'Uncertainty' Hurts US Foreign Policy

Thursday, 10 Oct 2013 07:23 PM

By Cathy Burke and Kathleen Walter

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The 10-day-old government shutdown is already beginning to hurt U.S. foreign policy by causing "increasing uncertainty" about America, former President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said Thursday.

"It's creating increasing uncertainty about the United States, and the loss of confidence in the United States is itself damaging to the [nation]," he told Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview.

Brzezinski, now a counselor and trustee of the Center for Strategic International Studies, said America's influence, especially in the Middle East, has been in decline for a decade.

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"The fact of the matter is that our influence in the region has been declining and that very unfortunate war which President Bush launched under false pretenses is having dynamically destructive effects on our influence," he said, referring to the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Iraq leader Saddam Hussein in March 2003.

President George W. Bush remarked in 2008 his decision to go to war in Iraq — based on flawed intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction — was his "biggest regret of all the presidency."

Brzezinski said now America has to fashion a new and less "dominant" role on the world stage, cautioning that President Vladimir Putin's recent brokering of a deal to avert a U.S. military strike against Syria should not be read as a sign America is ceding influence to Russia.

"The issue is whether we can find a formula with the Russians, the Chinese, the Europeans, that contributes to some sort of stability in the region in which our preeminent role will not be quite as evident, quite as dominant as it has been for the last few decades," he said.

In the troubled Middle East, he said, he long ago warned the "Arab spring" would someday be followed by an "Arab winter" – and now doubts "democracy will be on the scene very quickly."

"I don't think that the preconditions for genuine, liberal-type democracy exists in the Middle East," he said. "It's the first phase for political awakening of large masses that are motivated by many conflicting emotions — some fanatical religious beliefs, some democratic aspirations, some social resentments, some ethnic hostilities, some historical grievances against colonial and other powers."

He also noted a "rise of fundamentalism in Africa spreading from the Middle East."

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"This problem has global dimensions — it has implications for the Europeans," he said. "Look at what is happening in Libya, which affects the French, the Italians. Look at what has been happening in Mali, which affects particularly the French. Look at what has been happening in Somalia, which affects many other people in addition to those I've mentioned.

"This is a larger phenomenon and we'll be living with it for a long time. We shouldn't overdramatize it. We certainly shouldn't succumb to the temptation of labeling all of it as Islamic jihadism ... because that simply offends the Muslims and inclines them to view us as hostile to their religion."

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