“If you go to CBS, will you be able to interview me on foreign policy for 15 minutes straight?”
“Well then, stay where you are!”
From the start of his public life, this Polish immigrant was a fierce Cold War hawk who correctly predicted that U.S. pressure on the Soviet Union would cause its empire to crumble from within. Those hawkish views often clashed with his own party’s orthodoxy, but with the Berlin Wall’s collapse in 1989, Brzezinski enjoyed ultimate vindication.
George W. Bush’s buildup to the Iraq War in 2003 turned the cold warrior from hardened hawk to fearsome dove. Brzezinski was one of the few foreign policy heavyweights to oppose America’s invasion of Iraq without equivocation and without pause. His opposition was all the more unusual given that so few who championed confrontation against Soviet expansion dared to speak out against a war supported by 70 percent of Americans and one that came 18 months after the 9/11 attacks. But once again, his iconoclastic views placed him on the right side of history.
The sweep of Brzezinski’s life was breathtaking. His earliest years were spent in Germany, during the rise of Adolf Hitler. His father was a Polish diplomat whose next posting was in the USSR during the height of Stalin’s Great Purge. And while he lived to see the collapse of those two totalitarian regimes that occupied his homeland for 50 years, Brzezinski spent the last two decades of his life warning against the dangerous drift in U.S. foreign policy. Even into the age of Twitter, he remained prescient.
His first tweet, in 2013, warned of future cyberwars, while his last tied the rise of global instability to the absence of sophisticated U.S. leadership. In the final week of Brzezinski’s life, Mika shielded him from the torrent of bad news breaking daily because her father knew better than anyone the damage that was being done to America’s reputation abroad.
Unfortunately, few in government today possess the talents of Brzezinski and his contemporaries. But that kind of strategic vision is needed now more than ever to restore America’s standing around the globe. It is a challenge Brzezinski would have loved to have taken head-on.
The Christmas after my own father’s passing, I once again turned to Brzezinski for guidance and support. I told him I was feeling especially overwhelmed that holiday and had become the parent not only to my four children but seemingly to all those around me — including my own mother. At home and at work, the burden of everyone’s well-being increasingly felt like it was being placed squarely on my shoulders.
He responded cheerfully and with a twinkle in his eye. “I know. Isn’t it great to be trusted by God with such tremendous responsibility?” I smiled back at him. “Yes sir, Dr. Brzezinski. It certainly is.”
Thank you, Chief.