Brzezinski: Time to `Crack the Whip’ — Need Sec’y of State w/ `Influence’

Photograph by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former U.S. national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks during a forum on U.S. and Saudi relations April 27, 2009 in Washington.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former President Jimmy Carter’s hawkish national security adviser, says that, to the rest of the world, the U.S. looks “leaderless” in the so-called fiscal cliff debate.

“We look a little bit disorderly, indecisive, leaderless and that’s a real problem, and that’s a problem that concerns me, particularly in foreign affairs,” Brzezinski said today in an appearance on MSNBC.

Domestic squabbles have implications for U.S. foreign policy, he said, and “the presidency, not just President Obama, has lost some of the terrain that is used to dominate in the making of foreign policy.”

Obama needs to “make a serious effort to regain it, because he lost some of it himself,” said the former presidential adviser. He is now a counselor at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and international Studies.

He was generous in his advice. He said Obama should move to limit congressional intervention on foreign policy; that he ought to have closer ties to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and should “engage them personally; he has to be willing to crack the whip in some places.”

And what about a replacement for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?

Obama ought to appoint “someone with real influence up on the Hill” such as Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, and he “might even consider appointing a Republican” such as former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska or soon-departing Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana (who lost his seat in a party primary election, and has said he is not interested in State).

Kerry would be suitable, but “there might be reasons why the president doesn’t move that way,” Brzezinski said, without elaborating.

“Any one of those names” would be helpful to Obama “because he needs help” in foreign policy, he said.

A new secretary of state must “neutralize” the interventionist tendencies of some congressional committees and  lobbies. U.S. foreign policy, he said, has become “very fragmented,” whether it involves China or Russia, Syria or the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“It’s very difficult for America to assert itself,” he said, describing the situation as one of “impotence.” A recent example was the United Nations vote on Palestine, elevated to “observer state” status on a 138-9 vote, with the U.S. in the minority.

“That tells you something.”

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