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1977 Jan 24 Los Angeles Times Trilateral Commision Brzezin

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Brzezinski - Activist Seeker of World Order

Los Angeles Times

January 24, 1977

Brzezinski-Activist Seeker of World Order

A widespread misconception has it that Zbigniew Brzezinski,
the "Polish Kissinger," is a passionate anti-communist whose politics
derive from a distraught emigre condition.

This image persists despite the fact that the new White
House special assistant for national security affairs spent only the first
three years of his childhood in his native Poland.

Brzezinski's determined struggle to his current position as
the President's most trusted foreign policy adviser is marked by a passion
centered far more on making it in American society than on liberating a foreign
country he has barely seen.

As the child of a pre-World War II diplomat, Brzezinski
lived outside Poland, mostly in Canada where his father was the consul in
Montreal until the Nazis took over Poland. He was educated in Canadian private
and public schools and went on to graduate work at Harvard after receiving his
B.A. from McGill.

Classmates of his from the Harvard days report that he went
into Eastern European studies more because he had a base in Slavic languages
and realized that it was a rapidly growing field rather than out of any sense
of political outrage.

Unlike James Schlesinger, who also was at Harvard at the
time and who is remembered as a right-winger, Brzezinski shared the political
attitudes of his college peers which were pro-Stevenson and anti-McCarthy; what
Harvard Dean Henry Rosovsky calls "Cold War liberalism I think that none
of us at that time questioned the major premises of American foreign policy."

Brzezinski's only real activism at Harvard occurred years
later in 1959 when he was an assistant professor and helped his close friend
and colleague, Paul Sigmund, organize a group of Americans to confront the
enemy at the communist-sponsored World Youth Festival in Vienna.

Sigmund, now a professor of political science at Princeton,
was an officer of the National Student Assn., and it was later revealed that
the trip was financed covertly by the CIA. Brzezinski says he does not know
whether that would have made a difference.

He does recall unfurling a banner proclaiming the cause of
Hungarian and Algerian freedom, but recounts it as something of a lark. In any
event, he was primarily concerned with Eastern Europe as a matter of profession
rather than cause, and it would be difficult on the basis of his writings, as
compared with, say, Kissinger's, to show that it matters much that one
emigrated from Poland rather than Germany.

Both are much more products of Harvard in the '50s than of
an emigre culture. While Brzezinski is a church- George Ball AP photo goer and
his children are raised as Catholics, he is quick to point out that his version
of Polish Catholicism is not very demanding. As he puts it:

"You have to realize that Polish Catholicism is
fundamentally different from, let's say, Irish Catholicism. It's not dogmatic;
it's very liberal.

"My father was always very liberal politically,
socially, racially and it really is more a part of your cultural background
than part of any living vital doctrine." In any event, virtually all of
his close friends since college days have been neither Catholic nor Polish.

"I guess the two groups I spent most of my life with
were either WASPs or Jews ... If you're with the WASPs, you're more likely to
be with the business, banking community or the social community; if you're with
professional, intellectual personal friends, they're more likely to be

All of' this meandering thought about WASPs, Jews and Poles
likely provides an important insight into what makes Brzezinski run. Although
he most often makes light of it, it comes up frequently, and there is a sense
of protesting too much. Through no fault of his own, he is probably known to
more Americans as some sort of Polish joke with his odd name and accent than he
is for his political writings.

His friend, Paul Sigmund, recalls that Brzezinski was
annoyed upon hearing a tape of his own voice because his accent was so
pronounced. He never seems very relaxed in a public setting and there is a
sense that he feels obligated to be brilliant just to belong.

Does Brzezinski feel he has played a pioneering role?

"I don't consider myself the Jackie Robinson of the
Polish-American community ... I'm also very much part of the WASP community,
very much a part of the intellectual community; I'm very much a part in fact,
both socially and professionally, of the Jewish community. I guess I live in at
least three different communities at the same time."

He indicated in this discussion his respect for what he
called WASP culture: "I like the sense of tradition, the sense of pride,
the element of self-confidence, that certain ability to strive without seeming
to strive. I have found these qualities appealing."

Since Brzezinski and New York banker David Rockefeller are
personally close, I asked him if he felt any social insecurity in hanging out
with his WASP banker friend. In language characteristic of his stiff style, he

"No. I feel a certain asymetry of my command of
resources as compared to his, but that's, I think, an objectively discernable
fact. Other than that, no, I don't feel in any way different. After all, I grew
up on this side of the ocean. I went, fortunately enough, to reasonably good
schools. I grew up with these people."

Asked if he hadn't been selected out by "these
people" to administer to their interests, he responded:

"Well, to turn serious, I don't think I administer. I
think I may contribute to the formulation of more realistic, and subjectively
judging it, more socially just perspectives within the elite.

"In a way, if you will, I'm a transmission belt . . .
between people like you, who are the elite's supported and appointed critics,
and those who actually exercise power and wield it."

Who are those?

"Well, those are the decision-makers, those are the
people who control the major departments of government, the major banks, the
major corporations."

But it also is Brzezinski's view that the ability of
the" elite to rule has been seriously challenged and its power fragmented:
"It seems to me that at least since the days of Wilson and certainly since
. . . World War II, the American social elite had a fairly cohesive viewpoint
of what its foreign interests were "and what, therefore, the foreign
policy of the United States ought to be.

"And this social/political elite was a fairly cohesive
social formation with the WASP, Ivy-League-trained, Wall Street-based
Establishment operating through such institutions as the Council on Foreign
Relations, but more pervasively.

"And it is this elite which I think will last 10 years
or so, maybe even 15 years. It's fractured, disintegrated, and most important
of all, has lost its own sense of legitimacy. If you look Seeks World Order at
the societies throughout history, elites can function only when they have a
sense of their own internal legitimacy.

"If you were a member of the Council on Foreign
Relations 15 years ago and had been around the council, you knew damn well that
the conversation either was policy or would-be policy. Today, it is just
interesting talk."

In Brzezinski's view, Kissinger attempted to perfectly
represent that old consensus, but it was no longer holding:

"It's one of those paradoxes that a naturalized American
of Jewish background is perhaps the last spokesman for the fading elite . . .
Kissinger probably would have been the greatest secretary of state this country
ever had if he had become one in 1950, but he became one 22 or 23 years too
late, 24 years I guess.

For all of his attacks on Kissinger's "Spenglerian
pessimism," it is difficult to predict what Brzezinski would do
differently. What would a naturalized American of Polish Catholic background do
differently for the "fading elite?" There seem to be two elements to
the answer and perhaps that is the key to the coming foreign policy of the
Carter Administration.

The first would be some sort of generalized optimism which
Brzezinski constantly proclaims and which may be nothing more than an extension
of his energy and ambition to surpass Kissinger's efforts. The other might be
the "Trilateral approach." For the past 3 years Brzezinski has been
the director of the Trilateral Commission and that is where he first met Jimmy

The Trilateral Commission is an international floating think
tank created by David Rockefeller in 1972 as an attempt to work out a common
negotiating position among Western Europe, Japan and the United States
vis-a-vis the rest of the world. It was, in particular, a reaction to the OPEC
challenge which saw the various developed capitalist countries pitted against
each other.

At first Rockefeller didn't get much of a response, but
according to Trilateral Commission Executive Secretary George Franklin, it all
came together when Rockefeller presented his ideas to another of those
organizations of the "fading elite." Franklin explained:

"... At the Bilderberg group a very distinguished
Anglo-American group which has been meeting for a long time Mike Blumenthal
said he thought things were in a very serious condition in the world and
couldn't some kind of private group do more about it ... So then David again
made this proposal and apparently the next eight speakers all said this was a
marvelous idea ..."

Blumenthal, who used to be president of Bendix and is now
Carter's treasury secretary, evidently knows a good idea when he hears one, for
the Trilateral Commission soon became the best elite game around.

Although David Rockefeller provided the initial funding for
the commission and Brzezinski was on the payroll as director, Brzezinski
resents comparisons between his and Kissinger's relationship to the

"I do want to emphasize one very important difference
in the relationship. Henry Kissinger worked closely but also for Nelson
Rockefeller. I worked closely but with David Rockefeller. I didn't work for
David Rock-

Please Turn to Page 13, Col. 1

Continued from Third Page

efeller. I consider him to be a very close friend. I
consider his wife to be a good friend, but he is not my employer, nor was he
ever my employer."

In any event, it was through the Trilateral Commission that
Brzezinski met Carter and got Henry's job and all's well that ends well. Certainly,
one important use of the Trilateral Commission for Brzezinski was that it gave
him a visible platform that did not hurt his career development. He had been
looking for a certain kind of candidate and if it had not been Carter, it would
have been someone of similar appeal.

In a prophetic interview given in October, 1973, he said:

"The Democratic candidate in 1976 will have to
emphasize work, the family, religion and, increasingly, patriotism, if he has
any desire to be elected. Kennedy went to visit Wallace. I think it is a part
of the trend."

"The new conservatism clearly will not go back to
laissez-faire," he predicted. "It will be a philosophical
conservatism. It will be a kind of conservative statism or managerism. There
will be conservative values but reliance on a great deal of co-determination
between the state and the corporation."

Once again, it is not clear whether Brzezinski was advancing
this as a desirable state of affairs or it is merely another of his
"objective predictions." One leans to the former, for it would seem
to provide a very accurate description both of the candidate he has supported
and of the organization, the Trilateral Commission, to which they both belong.
Certainly the economic and political elite that make up the Trilateral
Commission are committed to that "great deal of codetermination between
the state and the corporation."

Carter took the Trilateral Commission seriously and never
missed a meeting. Which should not be taken as a call for readers to go
scurrying to find the various pamphlets produced by the commission. They are
unbelievably boring and couched in a language so innocuous as to require some
sort of tribal code to decipher.

William Roth, who is a member of the commission's executive
committee, told me that he did not think the published output was important.
What matters is that "They provide an occasion for influential people to
meet, to get to know each other and to hammer out some common positions."

For Carter, this allowed him to pass muster with influential
Northeast crowd that might have thought of him as an unreconstructed
isolationist rebel. He was thereby credentialed as a centrist and an internationalist.
Which means he is committed to keeping the pressure on for U.S.
"involvement" in the world.

It also means accepting the view that the large
multinational corporations and their international activity are basically sound
and that a new global politics is necessary to permit their operation.

As George Franklin told me. one of the main purposes of
outfits like the Trilateral Commission is to find out who the "good
guys" are.

Carter worked hard at absorbing the commission's rhetoric
and passing out its pamphlets when he worked with the Democratic National
Committee. But Carter only did one memorable thing during his four years as a

At one dinner meeting the commissioners had with Kissinger,
Carter and Brzezinski were sitting at a table in the rear when Patrick Gordon
Walker, the somewhat dotty former British foreign secretary who was sitting at
Kissinger's table, got up to ask the first question.

The question was impossibly rambling and inaudible. After
about 20 minutes of that, Walker sat down, whereupon Carter jumped up and said
to Kissinger, "Mr. Secretary, would you mind repeating the question?"
And everyone had a good laugh. Which is admittedly not much of a story, but it
is the only single time any of the half-dozen commissioners I talked with ever
recall Carter standing out. What he managed to do was say the right things and
be generally affable.

As George Franklin recalls: "After he announced for the
Presidency, we thought, well, this looks like a fellow who's sincere, who's got
a lot of vigor, who's, well, sort of in the center of the spectrum."

But that doesn't mean they took him all that seriously.
Franklin said, "That's what was so amusing about it. that it was sort of
fun to have a Presidential candidate. (But) he hasn't got a Chinaman's

Writing of the commission in his book, "Why Not the
Best," Carter said: "Membership on this commission has provided me
with a splendid learning opportunity, and many of the other members have helped
me in my study of foreign affairs."

They are a
prestigious bunch, and having some in his corner no doubt helped the candidate.
But what they can offer a President is less clear.

To date the commission's policy suggestions have been of
minor interest. They advocated a plan whereby the World Bank and the U.S. would
encourage the OPEC nations to lend money to the poorer nations, which is of
course advocated by everyone except the OPEC nations.

They advocated that American allies play a more dynamic role
in aiding U.S. interests, but Brzezinski himself admitted in a recent article
that this has come to naught. They published a report by Samuel Huntington
which says that we have too much democracy and, in particular, too much press

This report, which claims we are afflicted by a disease called
"democratic distemper" and calls for increased centralized power, has
proved an embarrassment to the commission. Brzezinski had selected his former
coauthor to write this report and once agreed with the thrust of it, but now he
tends to disown it. Carter knew it was a potential bombshell and went out of
his way to express disagreement.

Finally, the most provocative action of commission members
was an analysis of the Mideast problem by Brzezinski and two others. The
Mideast is the No. 1 item on the foreign policy agenda and Brzezinski's views
were interesting.

He advocated the creation of a Palestinian ministate in
which the PLO would play an obvious key role in exchange for a guarantee of
Israel's borders. But such a peace would have to be pushed on Israel and the
Arabs by the United States in an alliance with the Soviet Union.

"Essentially, Israeli policy should aim at trading the
occupied territories for Arab acceptance of the partition of the old Palestine
mandate territory between Israel and what would probably be the PLO-dominated
state of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza Strip."

This statement, which took some courage for one who wanted
to enter a Democratic administration, appeared in Foreign Policy magazine in
the summer of 1975. But when Brzezinski became involved with the Carter
campaign, he felt compelled to make a pilgrimage to Israel and withdraw his

Carter himself never advocated anything of the sort during
the campaign. Another top Carter adviser; George Ball, pointedly refused to
visit Israel at that time, saying he would go after the election, but to go in
response to an insistent request by Israeli Defense Minister Shimon Peres, as
Brzezinski had done, was improper. Ball, who had been the front-runner for
secretary of state at one point, was dropped abruptly by Carter.

So the Trilaterals\u2019 big new initiative on the Mideast had
failed. But Brzezinski and Carter both had the jobs they were after and the
Trilateral Commission was helpful in these efforts.

Indeed, the Trilateral Commission has been more successful
as an establishment placement service than as a source of new policy ideas,
which was its original stated purpose.

In addition to Brzezinski and Carter, other Trilateral
Commission members in the new government include Vice President Walter Mondale,
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Secretary of the Treasury W. Michael
Blumenthal, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and assistant secretaries Lucy
Wilson Benson, Anthony Lake, Richard Cooper, Dick Holbrooke and Ambassador
Richard Gardner.

The Trilaterals\u2019 no doubt bring to the government a sense of
personal bond and perhaps a clearer view of the interests which concern them
and the institutions for which they work. But they have no miracle program or
even any serious beginnings of answers.

The obvious problem with groups like the Trilateral
Commission or the Council on Foreign Relations is not that they represent an
elite which is fading because of "biological fatigue," as Brzezinski
would have it, but rather that their actual power in the world is being more
effectively challenged.

As an example, David Rockefeller's Chase Manhattan Bank has
fewer options in the world economy because it is challenged by revitalized
Western European and Japanese interests, upstart nations of the OPEC variety,
powerful planned economies and a Third World that is desperate and often
prepared to fight some hard battles, as in the case of Vietnam.

This changed world reality matters a great deal more to
Chase Manhattan than the fact that David's daughter, Abby, has rebelled against
him and now manufactures portable outhouses that produce energy.

For Brzezinski to talk of the problem being that "the
elite has lost its own sense of legitimacy" could be judged obscurantism
and begs the obvious questions.

What would the elite do if it had a sense of legitimacy?
Should we have an elite? Is what's good for the elite good for the rest of
America, or for the world?

Once again, as with his technocracy, Brzezinski's esoteric
sloganeering allows him to avoid the real points of controversy what is the
proper role of U.S. multinationals? Is OPEC a threat to the American economy?
Can we have a huge arms budget and maintain a high standard of living in a
world of increasingly tight limits?

His technotronic age writing implies that questions of
scarcity, unemployment, even work, would soon be passe, but quite the opposite
has happened. Kissinger's

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