BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Zbigniew Brzezinski, author of "The Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the 20th Century". Why this new book?
BRZEZINSKI: Why not? I write books and it seems to me that in this particular one I'm dealing with a truly momentous historical development. Something that is happening before our very eyes, and yet has been touching us all for all these decades. Namely an ideology that was so dominant in the course of this century. Literally before our very eyes -- disintegrating as a system and dying as a doctrine. That's a very important development
LAMB:Why is this happening?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, AUTHOR, "THE GRAND FAILURE": Well, I think it's happening largely because Marxism and Leninism involved a misinterpretation of human nature. And then by being applied, particularly in the Soviet circumstances, by Stalin in such incredibly brutal, even murderous fashion, it produced not only a massive social economic failure, but an incredible moral aberration. And all of that, I think has discredited it. Last but not least, I think the successful performance of the western democratic pluralistic systems not only in America but also in Western Europe, in Japan, has created such a contrast between the communist world and what's outside of it that in the increasingly poorest global conditions with the iron curtain no longer being so air tight, the discrepancy could no longer be hidden. And that's causing also massive revulsion within the communist system against the communist system.
LAMB:Would you help us with history a little bit. You have a chapter in here on both [Vladimir Ilyich] Lenin and [Joseph] Stalin. Start with Lenin. Who was he?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, Lenin was a Russian revolutionary, an early Russian Marxist -- a person who lead the so-called majority faction of Russian Marxists and the word Bolshevik is derived from the word majority. Majority faction of the Russian Bolsheviks to the Russian Marxists who believed that Marxism under Russian conditions would have to be applied by coercion from above. Remember, Marxism said that a communist system, socialist system, will come out spontaneously out of the internal contradictions of capitalism. That capitalism was not only an evil system but a system that would destroy itself. Lenin said, yes that's true, but in Russia we have not reached capitalism. Therefore, we have to leap history, so to speak, forward. We have to leap over it by creating socialism without capitalism by the state, reorganizing society. So he was a Russian revolutionary who believed in accelerating history by using the state to smash society and to create in it a communist society.
LAMB:Why did people follow him?
BRZEZINSKI: People followed him for a variety of reasons inherent in the failures of the early Russian system. Czarism by its last decades was corrupt and efficient. And then, last but not least, -- very important, beaten in the war by an enemy. All of which created enormous antipathy toward Czarism. Czarism however was followed for a very brief period of time in Russian history, the only period of time in Russian history by a democratic system, which lasted from February 1917 until October of 1917. We tend to forget that. And that is the system that Lenin overthrew.
Lenin did not overthrow the Czar. Lenin overthrew the democratic system that replaced the Czar. And having replaced that democratic system, Lenin set in motion forces, which many people now in Russia, and certainly I on the outside of it, believe lead directly to Stalinism. Today, and I talk about that in my book -- the dismantling of Stalinism in Russia has gone very far. And Stalin is discredited. But the dismantling is done in the name of Leninism. Gorbachev says, "I'm returning to true Leninism." The problem with that is, and that problem is perceived by many people in Russia itself, that it was Lenin who made Stalin possible. It was Lenin who set in motion forces that created Stalinism. Because it was Lenin who emphasized two very basic things. One, the party is all knowing and the party has the right to all power. Monopoly of power in one leading party. And secondly, he said, "Terror can be used against our opponents." And the combination of party monopoly and terrorism created very fertile soil for Stalinism.
LAMB:How long was Lenin in power?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, Lenin was in power until he died in 1923.
LAMB:And where was Joseph Stalin during the time that he, that Lenin was in power.
BRZEZINSKI: He was one of his associates. At that time not thought to be the preeminent one. There were other people around Lenin who people thought would succeed him. People like [Leon] Trotsky for example who also was a revolutionary Bolshevik who believed however that the revolution should immediately expand outside. Whereas Stalin said, no let's consolidate the revolution inside, let's build it in Russia. Socialism in one country. And there were other people who were then more preeminent than Stalin. People like Zenovith -- also a leader of the international communist movement. And these are the people, that by very skillful maneuvering, Stalin isolated after Lenin's death -- gradually denigrated and eventually literally, quite literally, murdered.
LAMB:How much of this book and the previous books you've written are products of the fact that you were born and raised in Poland? How much of that experience impacts the way you think today?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, you know that would make sense if you said that and if my view was fundamentally different from the views of most Americans. Now, when I discuss foreign policy issues and I have been involved in some public policy matters, have served in the government, I have found that my views on the Soviet Union are shared probably by 70 percent Americans. Now, 70 percent of most Americans were not born in Poland. So there goes the argument.
LAMB:Let me let me ask a different way. What was it like -- how long did you live in Poland?
BRZEZINSKI: Only three years of my life.
LAMB:So you moved over here in what year?
BRZEZINSKI: I was, I moved over here at the age of 10. I lived in Poland from the age of seven to the age of 10. Which is long enough to have some memories, although it is not long enough to be decisively formative.
LAMB:When was the last time you were in Poland?
BRZEZINSKI: Last year.
LAMB:And when you go back, what impact does it have on you, what do you see now today?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I see a society with which linguistically, historically I obviously have connections and for which I have the deepest of affection, but also a society which incidentally has lived under communist system for 40 years and which has been close to destroyed by that system. In the infrastructure society is in a state of disintegration. The ecological crisis in Poland is worse than in any country in the world, literally, because of the totally ruthless, indiscriminate communist policies regarding the industrialization of the country. I see a country which is deeply religious. Very spiritual, but also a country in which the political culture has been badly damaged by 40 years of rule by single and a relatively corrupt party, because don't forget communism in Poland is very different from communism in the Soviet Union, in that in the Soviet Union whatever you may say about it, it is still indigenous. It came out of an internal revolution. So that some social elements supported that revolution, in fact prevailed.
In Poland, as in Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Bulgaria, communism was really --entirely an external imposition. It was brought in from the outside by the Soviet Army. This is incidentally why in my book I differentiate between the changes that are taking place and which cumulatively are spelling the end of communism. Between what is more specifically happening in Eastern Europe or in the Soviet Union or in China. Because the crisis of communism manifests itself in different ways in these three major sectors of the communist world. In Eastern Europe it is what I call organic rejection. The social systems are simply repudiating, rejecting, this externally imposed formation.
LAMB:Let's go back to Karl Marx. Who is he? When did he write? And why did people follow him?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, he was a German, Jewish scholar, self taught, who actually spent most of his time living in England and wrote in England. And he wrote about the rise of the capitalist system and he provided a comprehensive interpretation of history in the context of which he postulated the proposition that capitalism is not only socially immoral because of the oppression and exploitation that it breeds -- and much of that incidentally was true in terms of early 19th century capitalism. But he also argued that the capitalist system had internal contradictions which would ultimately give rise to a revolutionary working class, the proletariat, which would overthrow the capitalist system and produce a much more morally just and effective socialist system and that that socialism would then be a stage on the road to an eventual communist system. And that would be in a sense, if you will the end of history because communism would be in effect a utopia. A state of well being, of total social justice, complete self fulfillment.
LAMB:What's the difference between communism and socialism?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, in the Marxist theory the difference between socialism and communism is that socialism is the first phase after capitalism. When you socialize the previously owned private industries and properties and try to create more equitable social relationships, but you haven't reached yet the stage of full communism in which everyone contributes according to his ability but everyone gets according to his need and there is a state of total social justice. It's the final fulfillment if you will of the socialist ideal. A state of genuine equality, total self satisfaction.
LAMB:What do you think Karl Marx would say if he came back today and looked at what's happened to his theory?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, if he looked at what happened to his theory in the Soviet context I think he would be appalled by it. For one thing, presumably, he would be aware of the fact that for some 25 years quote unquote "socialism" was being built by the worse murderer in history. I try in my book to provide some sort of statistical analysis.
BRZEZINSKI: Of Joseph Stalin's killings quite literally.
LAMB:You say, by the way before we leave that the number that we most often read is 20 million, you say it could be as many as 40 million people.
BRZEZINSKI: That's right. That's right.
LAMB:How did he kill them?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, in a variety of ways. Quite a few of them by shooting. But on a massive, massive scale you know we are now discovering graves next to every large Soviet city. Graves with thousands of people. For example, near Minsk, a city before the War of Sortrov, half a million people. They have discovered mass graves, which according to the calculations of those who dug them up, numbered probably as many as 101,000 people, shot in the course of four years -- 101,000 people. Now the Soviet government has investigated this and the Soviet Secret Police, which is the inheritor of the NKVD which carried out these executions, has issued a statement saying that is vastly exaggerated figure. The number was only 30,000. Now since then, that is a place near Minsk called Kurapaty. Since then, they have discovered mass graves near Kiev, in some cemeteries in Moscow, in the Alticry and searches are now going on in every major city.
Now Stalin literally shot thousands, hundreds of thousands, probably several million people. Then there were people who died during mass deportations carried out under extraordinarily inhuman conditions. Then there were mass executions in the camps. We now know from Dr. Mentor, evidence of periodically among the many prisoners held in camps, and the number was in the tens of millions, tens of millions in camps, periodically an order would arrive saying 10 percent are to be liquidated. Just like that. Or in local secret police offices sometimes an order would arrive saying it is estimated that in your region there are 15 percent enemies of the people. And that was clearly an order to the local secret police to ferret out 15 percent of the people. Because if they didn't they would be guilty of dereliction of duty and the same thing would happen to them.
Now if someone listening to us talk might say, this is just crazy. This guy is mouthing on the Soviet propaganda. The tragedy of the circumstances is that people don't believe such things because we cannot imagine them unless they are confirmed by the perpetrators themselves. And now we are getting that confirmation from the perpetrators themselves because we are getting access to the archives. And the figures that I have given in my book, which I then try to total for the communist world as a whole, are probably very conservative. I say that conservatively speaking, the communist experiment from 1917 to the present subsequently expanded to China and to Eastern Europe, conservatively speaking, probably cost at a minimum of 50 million lives. And that is very conservative because in fact, its probably more, we don't know exactly what the costs were in China. And they were quite substantial.
LAMB:I interrupted you. You were talking about Marx and what he would feel like if he saw what was going on in the Soviet Union and you mentioned Joseph Stalin. What else would he ...
BRZEZINSKI: Well, first of all, he'll be appalled by the past. But second in terms of the present, I think he would be appalled by the inequality. We have public opinion polls from the Soviet Union which show that one of the things which outrages the Soviet public the most is the social inequality. Socialism in the Soviet Union is socialism for one class. For the ruling class. That is to say if you are a member of the social elite, you have access to special hospitals, your children go to special schools, you have special resorts, you have special shops you go to, you have special clinics. Everything for the elite is special.
For the masses, conditions are extremely bad and have been getting worse. So I would imagine that would appall Marx. But what might even appall Marx more is not what he would see in the Soviet Union, its what he would see in the West. Namely that capitalism instead of being torn asunder by its contradictions and becoming increasingly unjust, in fact has been able both to adapt, to innovate, not to disintegrate for economic and social reasons. And also to create a greater measure of social justice by becoming more socially responsive. So I think he would be appalled by what happened to his doctrine, but also surprised by what happened to his predictions regarding capitalism itself.
LAMB:We're talking with Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski. He has a new book out that you just saw on your screen called "The Grand Failure." Dr. Brzezinski is a professor at Columbia University in New York City and also is associated here in Washington with the…as a counselor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Couple of little things on this book. Dedicated to Mrs. Emily Benes.
BRZEZINSKI: That's my mother-in-law. My wife is Benish. Benish were a Czech political family.
LAMB:Another very small little item here and our camera will pick it up. There is a picture of you in the back and I notice that on the credits -- it is Mushka.
BRZEZINSKI: That's my wife.
LAMB:Is she a ... does she often do this kind of work?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, no. Only if I insist on it. Actually she is a very well known and recognized sculptor who is doing very well in her field. Photography is not her field. But I needed a picture and I didn't want to go to a professional camera store and she did that picture.
LAMB:This book is published by Scribners. Do they always publish your books?
BRZEZINSKI: No. I have been moving from publisher to publisher but I have been very happy with the relationship with Scribners.
LAMB:What happens when you write a book like this? Are you now in the stage where you make trips around the country to promote the book?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, up to a point. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to travel around too much. I think my interview with you is one of the few things I can do. And I have given some time to the promotion of this book, but I cannot travel around the country I'm simply am too busy with other things.
LAMB:What are you doing now?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, you have mentioned two of them and those are major activities. I am the professor at Columbia where I teach a seminar and a course and I commute to New York from Washington where I live. In Washington, I am located at the Center for Strategic International Studies where I have my office where I do my writing, where I do my thinking, where I interact with the activities of the center. Beyond that I serve on some Presidential Boards in the area of strategy and intelligence, I am a consultant to the government in effect. And I am also involved in some private consulting on international affairs, some speaking on international affairs to business groups. And last but not least, I am an honorary chairman of a prompt reaction relief organization that responds whenever there is crisis. Very quickly. It's called AmeriCares Foundation and our claim to fame, so to speak, is that we are in with a very quick response if there is a calamity. Later on the large organizations come in on a bigger volume scale. But we are in there very quickly.
LAMB:Can you give me an example of something you have been involved with:
BRZEZINSKI: Well, Jeb Bush, when he went to ... (inaudible) went with AmeriCares and AmeriCares was in there first, two or three days after it happened. When there was a calamity in Nicaragua and Columbia we did that. When Chernobyl struck, we were in Poland with powdered milk for children immediately, and things of that sort. We have done this on a large scale worldwide.
LAMB:Let's go back to your own past. Your father was a diplomat. American diplomat?
BRZEZINSKI: No. Polish diplomat.
LAMB:You said you left Poland when you were 10 years old. Where did you go?
BRZEZINSKI: To Canada.
LAMB:How long did you live in Canada?
BRZEZINSKI: I lived in Canada from 1938 to 1950. I went to school in Canada. I went to an English Prep School and with real English Prep School though in Canada the headmaster used to refer to Canada as BNA. I bet you don't know what that stands for. I'm sure my viewers don't know either. It stands for British North America. He used to tell us the sun never sets on the British Empire. Then I went to McGill and from McGill I went to Harvard. And one thing led to another and here I am.
LAMB:Why did you pick Harvard?
BRZEZINSKI: I was told it's not a bad school.
LAMB:After Harvard where did you go?
BRZEZINSKI: After Harvard? Well, after I got my degree at Harvard I taught at Harvard. I taught at Harvard from 1960 then in 1960 I went to Columbia University and have been a professor there since then, but periodically I have been involved with public affairs. So for example in the mid '60s, I was on the Policy Planning Council, Department of State. In 1960 I was marginally involved in the Kennedy campaign for president foreign policy brain trust. In 1968 I directed the foreign policy task forces for Vice-President Humphrey when he was running for the presidency. In 1972 I became director of the Trilateral Commission an American, Japanese, West European public organization. In 1976 I directed the foreign policy task forces for Jimmy Carter then I became his National Security Advisor for four years. Then I went back to private life. Although in 1988 I was co-chairman with Vince Scowcroft and Henry Kissinger of the foreign policy task force for Vice-President Bush.
LAMB:Why did you make the switch politically.
BRZEZINSKI: I can answer in one word: Dukakis.
LAMB:Because of his views?
BRZEZINSKI: Yes. I just felt that his views on foreign policies strayed so far from the traditional bipartisan consensus on foreign policy and certain on substance in terms of specific issues. Quite far from Jimmy Carter's foreign policy that I could not support it.
LAMB:Let me ask you about your experience as a National Security Advisor for Jimmy Carter. What did that do to the way you now look at government? Did it change at all after your experience?
BRZEZINSKI: Oh yes. There's no doubt that an experience of that sort e/affects your perception. Although as I have already indicated this was not my first service in government, but it certainly was at a different level. One thing you learn immediately is the enormous limitations of presidential power. And that's easy to say and I suppose intellectually we are all aware of it. But in fact once you're in there you begin to realize the extraordinary variety of pulls and pressures that the president is under and difficulty of articulating and formulating and then implementing a foreign policy. Another thing you learn is that once you make a decision on the presidential level, that's International Security Advisor on behalf of the president, he issues an instruction to the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. The president wants this or that done. And they say yes, we'll do it. But if it turns out the bureaucracy doesn't like it, while doing it they'll alter it. So that in addition to making policy, you really have to be continuously involved in verifying the implementation of policy and making certain that things don't get skewed in some fashion, either accidently or more often than not, deliberately because the bureaucracy didn't want it in the first place.
So that task of government is essentially continuous incremental decision making and continuous up hill struggle to make sure that your will is implemented overcoming an enormous amount of obstacles trying to build consensus beyond not only the government -- but first of all with the Congress and then beyond the government including the Congress with the mass media who are now such an important element in the shaping of public attitudes. It's a staggering, staggering task and one gets a sense of the probably incomprehensible handicaps under which the top policy makers operate, which people on the outside don't quite realize.
LAMB:What kind of a job do you think the mass media does in this town as it relates to foreign policy?
BRZEZINSKI: Mixed. I can't say frankly that it's top notch. I don't think it's terrible. I think there are elements of both. There are some people, I don't want to mention names obviously, who write very perceptive, thoughtful either analysis or focus their stories on significant truths. But there is also an enormous number of people in the mass media who are, first of all, devoid of any ideas of their own, who just follow the pack, who are essentially digging for sensations and who -- because of the experience of the 70's -- more often than not, automatically assume that anyone who is in the government is either a crook or an enemy who has to be exposed and attacked, and who are not prepared to believe that most people in the government are generally dedicated, patriotic people who in many cases are honestly making a major sacrifice doing what they are doing.
There is a kind of, I think in some cases, mindless antipathy within the mass media, which occasionally is even stimulated by either an abrasive, overly arrogant personality of the decision maker. But these personal phobias tend to, I think color a great deal of the reporting after the administration has been in office for a little while and certain lines of either attraction or antagonism have surfaced.
LAMB:You mentioned something earlier that you have done that comes up right in the spot that you're setting many times by our callers across the country. And that is that the suspicion that there is a conspiracy afoot through the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations. You ran the Trilateral Commission for how long?
BRZEZINSKI: About three years I think. Something like that three years. Not only did I run it, I helped to found it and organize it with David Rockefeller. So if any of our viewers are conspiracy minded, here is one of the conspirators.
LAMB:Let's talk about it for just a moment. How big is it? How many people physically belong to the Trilateral Commission?
BRZEZINSKI: When we first started it, and let me repeat again so the viewers will know what we are talking about -- it's an American -- North America, Western European, Japanese organization to promote closer contacts between these three regions of the world and the commission is composed of private citizens, not government officials, who are leaders in the different sectors of society. So when we first started we sought a commission of about 60 people. And initially when I was first helping to organize it we had a hard time recruiting those 60 people because it was a brand new idea which the two of us had thought of, Rockefeller and I. Now we have 360 people with an enormous waiting list. It's been an eminently successful operation. Obviously, filling a major need for a community of dialogue and cooperation between these three regions. We are, incidentally, the ones who proposed originally the holding of the annual summit meeting of the industrial democracies. That was an idea that originated with us in the Trilateral Commission.
LAMB:Seven nation economic summit?
LAMB:How do you become a member?
BRZEZINSKI: You become a member by invitation issued by the respected executive committees of the commission. The commission is 360 members. A smaller executive committee, the executive committee has its own regional sort of identity. So if you want to be a member of the American one, the North American executive committee has to invite you. I say North American because this is with a Canadian and a U.S. activity.
LAMB:Is there any reason for the audience to think that this is a bad organization that conspires to, and I want to make sure I represent what they say, is that this group really guides the foreign policy of this country.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I can tell you even better what this group represents, what people think this group represents, people who are conspiratorially minded because I encounter that all the time when I speak around the country and the kooks that you know pop up with this theory come either from the extreme loony left wing or the loony right wing perspective. If it's the loony right winger, he'll stand up and say, "You're a conspiracy of people who want to impose one world government and deprive us of our sovereignty." And if it's an extremely loony left winger he'll stand up and say, "You're a conspiracy of rich capitalists who want to control the world for the sake of global profits." And that crazy outfit Larouche, started with the left and swung to the right for example over the last 15 years.
But the answer is: look, the Commission operates openly, there nothing secret about it. It is a group of influential people, we don't hide that. On the contrary, we deliberately want influential people from the three regions who try to deal with the problems of the three regions encounter by discussion, by promotional studies, by advocacy. We have advocated over the years debt relief for the poor countries of the world. We have advocated a variety of aide programs for the third world. We have advocated a closer cooperation in science between our industrial democracies. We are by and large in favor of a free trade arrangement. We are against protectionism tariffs. We have currently a major study going on east - west relations produced by authors from the three regions. I think we perform a useful educational function. Any viewer who is watching me wants to explore the so-called conspiracy, all he has to do is to write to the Office of the Commission and we will give him whatever papers he wants. There is nothing secret about it.
LAMB:Let's go back to this book, "The Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the 20th Century." We've talked a little bit about Stalin and Lenin and Marx. But we haven't touched on Mr. Gorbachev.
LAMB:What do you think of him?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I think one has to differentiate between Mr. Gorbachev, the person, the human being and the likely fate of the policies that he's promoting. He certainly is a very intelligent and attractive person. I have had the opportunity of meeting him, not for long but I did, and he makes a very good impression, certainly better than any of his predecessors, and that clearly explains also why he is so attractive. Because he stands in such contrast with those who preceded him. His policies, which are based on two Russian words that have come to be well know, Glasnost and Perestroika. Glasnost meaning overtness, Perestroika meaning restructuring. Our design to promote and reform of a system that he himself recognizes has become stagnant and uncreative.
My own judgment regarding these policies, which I try to express in the book, is that first of all, there has been much more Glasnost in the Soviet Union than Perestroika, meaning they talk much more and they ventilate issues much more openly than they ever have. But, reforming the system has proven to be very difficult. My own expectation is that he will not succeed in creating a spontaneously self energizing, increasingly pluralistic or generally open Soviet Union. That there are too many in built contradictions, legacies of the past within the Soviet System to make that kind of success for his policies possible. And that therefore his major historical significance will be that he will have dismantled Stalinism. Probably not dismantled Leninism which means this one party rule legacy, a kind of a doctrine or doctrinal orthodoxy. And that he will have initiated a protracted systemic crisis in the Soviet Union which will last for many years. As all of these internal contradictions and legacies of the past wear themselves out.
LAMB:Should we trade and provide money and technology for them?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I think there is a difference between those two aspects. Trade or providing money and technology. Trade, I don't have any objections to. There's something we can buy from them if there is anything they want to buy from us, of course. Why not? Should we quote unquote "aide"? No. On that I will be hesitant because after all we don't know how long Gorbachev is going to last. We don't know who will succeed him. We do know that the Soviet military power is still enormous, that not very much has been done to reduce that. And hence at this stage no commitments that are truly irreversible towards either a free market economic system or an open pluralistic political system have been made. And until they are made, and they are truly irrevocable, we could be in fact aiding his successor who could turn out to be again assertive, hostile. Or we may be simply throwing money away. Because until there is very significant change, I doubt very much that the economy will become so productive as to make western investment in the Soviet Union truly productive. Now we invested a lot of money, I say we -- meaning the west, in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the '70s. In Eastern Europe alone it was in the tens of billions of dollars. And all of that was wasted. All of that was wasted because the systems weren't reformed and they simply wasted the money.
LAMB:In the back of your book, talking about money, and we won't be able to show a lot of this that's why if people want to see more they can go out and buy your book, but if we can get a close up of this James, I believe this particular table here shows down here and we're going to have to get real close on it if we can so that we can see the difference between the dark lines belong to the United States second line, I believe there, belongs to the Soviet Union, the third line to Japan and this is the Gross National Product. What are there, 280 million people in the Soviet Union?
BRZEZINSKI: That's right.
LAMB:100 million people in Japan and 250 million people in the United States. Why are we so far ahead and why is the Soviet Union so far behind?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I think it's inherent that what we were talking about. Not only are we ahead of the Soviet Union, but now the Japanese are ahead of the Soviet Union. And that is a dramatic change. You know only 25 years ago Khrushchev was predicting, and sometimes he was even very crude about it, that the Soviet Union would surpass the United States in total production and then in per capita production. And their population being larger than us, that is even a greater accomplishment. And he was absolutely convinced that by the 1970's the Soviet Union would be the number one economic power in the world. Instead, as this table shows, they have fallen further behind us and now they are behind the Japanese. And of course if Western Europe unites they will be ahead of the Soviet Union and it is even conceivable, though not certain, that China will surpass the Soviet Union. Elsewhere in the book I have tables which generally compare the performance of comparable communist and non-communist countries. Poland and Spain.
LAMB:Here's one. Let me show here's one trade and competitive world markets, it is the one he just said it's Poland and Spain ... The audience will be able to see here in just a second.
BRZEZINSKI: And they nearly start off originally very very similar almost at the same level and then the gap widens and widens and widens in favor of Spain.
LAMB:Spain is the dark line?
BRZEZINSKI: Spain is the dark line.
LAMB:Why is that? What is it at the core that makes these two countries so different?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I think the fact that in Spain they did retain a market economy decentralized, oriented towards trade both externally and internally. Whereas, in Poland they imposed a state controlled, heavy industrial monopoly on the economy and gradually suffocated it, in effect.
LAMB:What do you think of Capitalism? Let me ask it a little different. What's wrong with Capitalism?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, capitalism's not a perfect system. But I think one has to bear in mind first of all, that we in the West don't think of social systems as utopias the way Marxists conceive of communism as utopias as a perfection. We realize the imperfection of our institutions and our arrangements though we strive gradually, if we can, to improve them. Capitalism has many things wrong with it. If it's unchecked it can be very avaricious, it can be very insensitive to human values. It can be cruel to the weak. It in a sense, in its purest sense, enshrines Darwinism, the survival of the fittest. But that's why over the years we have tried to combine capitalism with increasing measures of social responsibility, social sensitivity, attempts to indirectly recreate even opportunities for every generation, but without stifling individual initiative and self interest, which are very deeply felt instincts that if properly channeled can make a society creative and wealthy and if suppressed produce the kind of stagnation which I call the grand failure.
LAMB:How do you write books? What's your - what's your pattern?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, that's amusing actually, this is not my first book. I've written a number of books before. And until this one I used to write by hand. I would outline it first of all, very systematically, I always have a concept of a book in my mind and in fact that kind of germinates within me gradually. Very often, for example, on Sunday's I sit in church, ideas will begin to form in my mind then my mind sort of operates on its' owns and then I begin to feel after some months that there is something I want to say. Then I start outlining it. And I never start writing a book until I have a full outline ready. And then until this book I used to write it by hand then revise it then dictate it into a dictating machine, have it transcribed and then edited and so forth.
This one I received out of the blue from the Apple Corporation, a Macintosh computer and a printer as a gift from a senior executive there who thought I might be interested in, because I once visited their headquarters. I had never thought of buying a computer and a word processor and I started playing around with it and I started enjoying it. And then at that particular moment I had some ideas along these lines but I really wasn't thinking of writing a book but since I had this damned contraption in front of me that I enjoyed playing with I said I'm going to start outlining on this thing and see how it works. And I started outlining it on the word processor on the screen then printed it out and said, "Well, gee, this looks like a little outline. Why don't I start fleshing it out a little bit." And low and behold just during the summer months, I wrote the first chapter, which is called "The Grand Failure" which gives the title to the book. Then I said to myself, "Well obviously I have a book here so I'll continue writing it." And that's how it came into being.
LAMB:I noticed that in the author's notes it says Zbigniew Brzezinski, Northeast Harbor, Maine August 31, 1988. Did you write this in Maine?
BRZEZINSKI: That's exactly right. That's were I spent my summer holidays, at least August, not the entire summer.
LAMB:How long does is take you to write a book like this?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, this one took me about, well from the writing process took me about 15 months or so, maybe a little less than that. The actual writing process -- I started writing it probably a year earlier maybe in July, June somewhere around there.
LAMB:Do you have to worry about the fact that once it's written it takes some months to get it into print?
LAMB:And that things could change?
BRZEZINSKI: Yes, but for example, in this particular book I say in the preface, that this book was completed in August of '88 and there will be events taking place which will out pace the book. But that I hope the reader will find that the book gives them the framework for understanding what is happening that is helpful to him. And I really do believe, quite seriously, although obviously I am biased as this is my book, but I believe if someone reads this book and then reads the newspapers about, let's say, national riots in the Soviet Union or the new Maritime Economic Zones in China, or the discussions in Hungary and Poland about pluralism and changes of the existing political system. That this book will give them the frame work for understanding the significance of these developments. And a framework which makes them alert to the fact that we are living really through momentous historical change. That this pertains to the fact that an ideology, which shaped much of the century, which was the dominate force that influenced our lives, for better for worse. Before our very eyes is disintegrating and dying and that this is a very major historical development. That we are entering the post communist era. An era in which communism is no longer going to be a major philosophical political force in world affairs.
This is a threshold era in that sense and I hope that is what the reader will get out of it and when he reads a newspaper, watches television about ... Yerevan and the riots in Armenia or about the Lithuanians -- demanding freedom, etc., he will have the framework in which he can understand these events. You asked me earlier about American news reporting. It's very good when it comes to reporting events. It's not so good when it comes interrupting them. Seeing them as part of larger historical trends. And I think my book perhaps helps the reader to understand what is actually happening and not just to what is in the book.
LAMB:What else happens when you write a book? Who will for sure read a book like this? This go to the President of the United States?
BRZEZINSKI: The President of the United States has already been reading it. I would have a note from him and we had supper not long ago and we talked about it.
LAMB:So when you set down to write it, did you think that that would eventually happen -- I mean, is that always going in your mind? Are you looking at it, in your own mind's eye, an audience out there of power.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, yes. But not necessarily of the president, although in this particular case I was ... how well the president and I know each other and that I would certainly send him a copy. I didn't know whether he would read it or not. But that's happened. I wrote another book prior to this one called "Game Plan" which was more of a strategic book which dealt with weapons and geopolitics. And I sent a copy of it to Reagan on I remember Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon he phoned me up and told me, "I have just read the following 20 pages in it," and told me what pages he read. So I immediately went to the book and looked up what he had read. It was a section on the SDI, the Strategic Defence Initiative.
But when I write a book like this, I really write it for a larger audience. I would hope that people who realize that our lives and the lives of our children are influenced by what happens in the world and have some interest therefore on what is happening in the world, either because they read major newspapers or they read magazines like "Foreign Affairs" or they watch the TV shows that pertain to world affairs will find the book helpful in understanding, and the real important word here is understanding what is happening in world affairs. It isn't what the facts, what facts they get out of this book, because they can find those facts elsewhere probably. It's not that the book contains sensational new facts. It's the interpretation, the understanding that they gain so that when they think about the world they will have a new insight into what is happening in the world. For example, a very simple one, among others, communism is dying. A very major change is taking place. What is its significance? What does it portend for Eastern Europe, for China, for the Soviet Union, for world affairs?
LAMB:What does it portend for us?
BRZEZINSKI: I think it portends for us that the Soviet challenge henceforth it will be only military.
LAMB:Is the Soviet military any good?
BRZEZINSKI: Yes, it's pretty good. It's not as good as they have thought and all military discovers shortcomings when it gets involved in combat after a prolonged period of peace. The Soviets discovered that in Afghanistan. But there is no doubt that Soviet equipment is good. That's the one area of Soviet industry where they produce good stuff.
LAMB:Why are they able to produce good military equipment and nothing else?
BRZEZINSKI: Because they have a motivation, whereas nowhere else do they have a motivation. They do not have a consumer market. They don't have competition. But in this area they do have competition, us, and they concentrate their resources.
LAMB:Any reaction from the president after he read the book? What did he tell you about it?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, he told me he was reading it. And you know that's good enough for me, because I saw him a couple of days afterwards and I have not talked to him since.
LAMB:When you see a president, and you're no longer in government at the moment, what goes on in your own mind about what kind of things you want him to know during a meeting like that?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, it's probably the same thing that I always had in my mind when I dealt with the president that I was actually working for. Namely, I've always been very conscious of the fact that the president is saturated with information, torn as we talked earlier by conflicting pulls. And that therefore I render him no service by coming in with another two bit idea or another bit of some fact, factology as I call it. What the President needs very much, and very rarely gets, is some significant generalization or some integrative proposal that enables him to move forward, if you will, strategically.
So when I speak to a President, unless I am engaging in social chit chat, I try to give him, if I can, some sort of broad formulation that helps him grasp various parts of the picture and see it in larger frame. Either as an initiative that he ought to undertake or as an insight that he ought to have. Cause I think that is where Presidents are worst served by the system, and even by their advisors.
LAMB:Are there a couple of camps that are operating now in this town when it comes to foreign policy?
BRZEZINSKI: No. Not yet, not yet. I think for one thing the administration has not fully organized itself in foreign affairs. The only shop that's really in good shape, as of our conversation today, is Brent Scowcroft's, National Security Council. The State Department hasn't yet been put together. And of course, the unfortunate delays connected with the ... Tarrin nomination have prevented the Defense Department from being put together. So that the president's National Security team, not at the very top, but the echelons below it, has not been fully put together. Now, until that has happened, and until they will have had time to meet and discuss some foreign policy issues, we'll not have these camps. The camps will surface once there are divisions and real, also, conflicts of personality. That's too early for that.
LAMB:This may not be possible, but what would be the two different camps on an issue like the Soviet Union right now?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I think the two camps would be, very simply put, those who would say let's be prudent, let's wait, let's not do much. And those who would say, Gorbachev needs our help, let's rush in, give him help. Those are very extreme and broad over simplifications.
LAMB:Where are you?
BRZEZINSKI: I would lean towards the first.
LAMB:What about China?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, on China I don't think there's too much division. I think everybody recognizes that the American Chinese relationship has evolved very well. First President Nixon broke through and established a contact. Then President Carter broke through and normalized relations. Since then the political, the economic, the military relationship has grown well, and President Bush has a lot of feeling and sensitivity for China. He understands China well. He is, in my judgment, the first President we have had for whom our relationship with the Pacific is just spontaneously naturally felt to be as important as our relationship with the Atlantic.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, same thing goes with Japan. He has that feeling and that grasp and there's no doubt that our relationship with Japan, on balance, is a good one. We have a number of conflictual issues with the Japanese. But the White House was very right in saying, when Bush was leaving for Japan, that this today is for us the single most important bilateral relationship we have with any country in the world. And it is true.
LAMB:What would be the two camps on Japan?
BRZEZINSKI: Oh, the two camps on Japan would be those who would say let's throw the book at 'em. Let's force them to back down. Force them maybe also to arm more. And those who would say, those are important issues, but let's put them in a framework of closer cooperation so that we become bound more together, and in that context we can work out these conflictual issues.
LAMB:Where are you?
BRZEZINSKI: On the second.
LAMB:Central America? Nicaragua?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I don't know again whether camps exist, but once they will form, it will probably be on the question of how hard do we press in sustaining the contrasts and dealing with Panama, although you know you can't put these things together. Here, I think, there is a general problem that we don't at this stage have a policy. I don't think there are camps yet. We don't have a policy.
LAMB:What would you do if you were in the position of making a decision on what to do with the Contra aide?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I would certainly feel that we have a moral obligation toward the Contras. We have undertaken to arm them, to send them to battle, then we undercut them. I don't think a great power can act like that towards people. We can't yank them around on a yo-yo. So I think the first obligation we have is to determine what is our long term strategy, obtain Congressional support for it and then sustain it. But not try to do it from one battle with Congress to another battle with Congress. Because then we'll lose some, we'll win some, but the result is going to be a very incoherent policy. And I don't think we have sat down and really decided where our strategy is. Once we do, I think the thing to do would be to truly sit down with Chairman Powell, Chairman Nunn, the Minority Leaders and see if we can fashion a foreign policy we can sustain for a few years. This yanking around that we have been subject to is terribly destructive for everybody.
LAMB:We have six or seven minutes left. I want to ask you about students. Do you teach kids anymore?
BRZEZINSKI: Yes. When I teach at Columbia there are kids, some of them are graduate students, some of them are under graduates.
LAMB:What do you think of today's student.
BRZEZINSKI: They are very good, very serious, very motivated. There are some interesting changes in them. When I taught earlier at Harvard and Columbia, more often than not, my best students were Jewish kids, Jewish Americans, most often. Today some of my best students are Oriental Americans. That's quite an interesting change. Korean Americans, Japanese Americans, Chinese Americans. And that, I think, probably foreshadows some interesting cultural changes in American society. But kids that I deal with are very serious, very motivated, interested in policy. I don't teach abstract political science with all the, what I call theoretical, conceptual baloney. I try to teach kids to deal with politics in a real sense.
I have a very large class for example. One of the largest classes at Columbia, 250 students, which I teach as if I was running a National Security Council meeting and I alternatively brief the President in it, then I argue as if I was the Secretary of State, then I give the Defense Secretary's point of view, then I inject some warnings from the CIA, then the Domestic Advisors of the president tell the president about the domestic dilemmas, then I again as National Security Advisor outline the options for the president, three or four options, that he has to pick and give the pros and cons and I try to balance advantages and the disadvantages then I ask the class to vote on the options and to get them engaged in which ones they prefer. And then - Bang! - I become the president, announce my choice, then dismiss the class. The students love it.
And then I teach a seminar in which, for example, the last one I taught it as if we were a bunch of advisors to the president-elect giving him advice on foreign policy he should pursue the next four years. Students had to prepare papers on that. But the one who was presenting it would always present the paper on the subject regarding which he also hoped to become the appointee. So if he wanted to become the Secretary of State or Defense or maybe an Assistant Secretary for Europe and then the other members of the president's team, all of whom share the desired to be elected, would critique him in such a matter as to expose the weaknesses and in the hope that one of them would replace the person as the nominee for that job. And I taught the students first of all, that you have to demonstrate that you know the subject better. But then secondly, don't be too aggressive. If you are overly aggressive you are not a team player, you won't get that slot either. So I try to teach them what real politics is about, and not a lot of theoretical paradigms and concepts which prepare you in life to do only one thing, to teach other people the same concepts and paradigms so that they in turn can teach some other people.
I usually begin my class by telling my students, look in recent history in America there have only been two people who have studied political science who have played a major role in Washington -- Kissinger and I. The rest have been played by lawyers and economists, historians. That's because political science has been taught in a very sterile fashion, which doesn't prepare you for dealing with the life of real politics. Students seem to like those classes.
LAMB: What are the politics of the student today compared to what they may have been 20 years ago?
BRZEZINSKI: Very conservative. Much more conservative. I organize my students sometimes in teams, you know. And I deliberately try to structure them soft line, hard line, etc. and then have clashes. And lately I have had many more volunteers for the hard approach over the soft approach.
LAMB:What's causing that?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, cultural change in the country. The country's more conservative. You see that in the election of Reagan.
LAMB:And what's causing that?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, that is of course is much more complicated. I suppose Vietnam has a lot to do with it and a general sense of drift that developed in the course of the '70s. Quests for some deeper verities. But I think the picture culture is very mixed because we are simultaneously, may be, a more conservative society, but we are also a more hedonistic society with focus on self gratification, self fulfillment. Those are troubling signs.
LAMB:Where is that going to lead us?
BRZEZINSKI: Well as I said these are troubling signs. Because that could mean cultural disillusion, loss of the kind of values that make a society great, competitive, assertive, a certain degree of self righteousness and commitment are necessary ingredients of social cohesion and social dynamism.
LAMB:But if those troubling signs came to life, or they followed to a maturity would that mean that capitalism then was its own victim?
BRZEZINSKI: Well, it could, but that I doubt because now the one area where capitalism is really successful is in gratifying material wants and the desire for the satisfaction of material wants is still a very major source of social motivation. So I don't think it's going to be a crisis of capitalism as such because of these cultural difficulties. It could simply be a crisis of social commitment, social virility, we could become a decadent society. That's not the crisis of capitalism it's a crisis however of culture. And if we become a decadent society then we could be vulnerable.
LAMB:This is the book. It's called "The Grand Failure" and our special guest is right there on the cover, Zbiginew Brzezinski, who is former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, who is currently a counselor with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and also a professor at Columbia University in New York. Thank you very much for joining us Zbigniew Brzezinski.
BRZEZINSKI: I enjoyed it. Thank you.
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