Ego, more than mere testosterone, may account for much human striving beyond our reptilian brains. Some say it could be a draw — Onasis claimed if it weren’t for women, what was the point of his money?
And Zbig, Zbigniew to the ticker crawl, is, if anything, a towering example of ego. We bear him no personal animus. That is the entry ticket into D.C. Christ, bloggers have giant egos now. But this came to mind after we crossed paths yet again tonight with the single most reviled Realist in the Neocon nightmares. A retiring, genteel soul yet capable of great intellectual clarity and force.
Always The Bridesmaid, Never The Bride
So we ponder all that is Zbig Mk II. We’ve crossed paths a few times after he was out of office in the ’80s and ’90s. No real fireworks either way. We agreed mostly with him in the 1970s re ACDA and State. He had a few pre-sound bite phrases — ‘buried in the sands of the Ogaden’ and all that. But Zbig was what you saw — a Polish Catholic with an intuitive understanding of the Russian bear. He lacked the dark twisted complications of Kissinger, the diabolic neurosis. In 1977, contra Vance, Zbig was the right man to deal with Ivan. But he was no master geopolitician (Yes we know he backed the Deng Tsaio Ping tilt in the war).
Zbig was out his league otherwise. He lacked any understanding of finance and economics (we knew the man he hired to teach him at the NSC econ 101, God rest his soul). We lost track of him until his 2002-2007 and improbable “come back tour”. Largely fueled by his opposition to the war, sushi-attuned master marketers at a few thank tanks and allies, et al. set the table for his rebirth. Originally he was part of the chattering class herd that the Administration tried to sell their Kool Aid 2002-2004. Zbig was never big on Kool Aid because it implied someone else’s ideas. And far more a prima donna, Zbig would not never tolerate effectively mass briefings that did not accord him craved true insider status.
OOM! as Madden would say, he’s back in commission as an Oppositionist. Recently, over the last couple of years, we’ve had the odd sandwich listening to him while he peddled some of his thin books. (We won’t review them here but can if there is sufficient reader masochism).
Nothing new. Nothing fresh.
Slight snark aside, Zbig is riding a crest. The professional tribulations of his award-winning daughter give him TMZ buzz, and his young son’s felicitous right wing networking keeps him relevant in the Ruling Class. All the right time to strike and opine on presidential candidates.
Zbig’s Obama’s play is smart. He’s largely faded from view. It’s his last chance to land on a historical perch anywhere near status wise akin to his arch rival and nemesis Henry. He can’t do it by analysis alone — like Cher Condi, he was and always is just a Russophile Europeanist. His book on Japan, “Fragile Blossom” or something — we forget — was so laughably bad it was not even worthy of a grad student.
But by embracing Obama, Zbig is relevant again. Obama was wobbling on foreign policy. He needed heft. And Zbig’s competitive insecurity is infamous. Talk to Bill Odom about Zbig’s manic tennis games and pathological need to win. Others in the Carter era who played him can can back it up. Trust us. So what if Henry in 2006 is still strolling into the Oval Office monthly with Cheney replaying 1974 and setting grand strategy? Do you honestly think this nettles Zbig not a bit? With an Obama play, he gains status to press home all his slights and status issues. Of course it would be secretly pleasing if Hitch would just call him a war criminal — even in a footnote. Just for cachet.
Everyone wins. And no other campaign would give Zbig a better deal. In truth, some knowledge of the Russian Near Abroad and Central Asia is actually relevant again; so it’s not a total air ball. Plus, the think tank kids will also ride the train and fill a few more brown bag lunches.
But if anyone is expecting Zbig to offer any “new thinking” to Obama’s ward-based view of our looming foreign policy and geopolitical conflagration, they took the wrong pill. “Second Chances” or not. Zbig once rode an outsider with painfully little foreign policy experience all the way before. Less clear is what Americans will get out of a re-run.