Zbigniew Brzezinski's Cold War

Zbigniew Brzezinski's Cold War
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The subtitle of this effusively admiring biography of Zbigniew Brzezinski, America's Grand Strategist, does not reflect its true purpose. A more accurate one might be this: “Just as Smart as the Other Guy.” The other guy, of course, is Henry Kissinger. The implicit purpose of Justin Vaïsse's book is to argue that in his mastery of strategic thought and practice, Brzezinski ranks as Kissinger's equal.

Underlying that purpose are at least two implicit assumptions. The first is that, when it comes to statecraft, grand strategy actually exists, not simply as an aspiration but as a discrete and identifiable element. The second is that, in his writings and contributions to US policy, Kissinger himself qualifies as a strategic virtuoso. For all sorts of reasons, we should treat both of these assumptions with considerable skepticism.

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