Introduction & Presentation
Introduction & Presentation
It is impossible to tell the story of America’s side of the Cold War without Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. Brzezinski influenced generations of policymakers and transformed the way the United States conducted foreign policy. His geopolitical vision, scholarly writings, and policy recommendations to decades of presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama made him one of America’s great grand strategists.
In his new book, “Zbigniew Brzezinski: America’s Grand Strategist,” Justin Vaïsse, historian and director of the Policy Planning staff of the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, offers the first full biography of Brzezinski, an immigrant who completed a remarkable journey from his native Poland to the White House. It reveals a man who weighed in on all major foreign policy debates since the 1950s, from his hawkish stance towards the Soviet Union to his advocacy for the Middle East peace process and his support for a U.S.-China global partnership. Through its examination of Brzezinski’s statesmanship and comprehensive vision, this intellectual portrait raises important questions about the respective roles of ideas and identity in foreign policy.
On April 11, the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings, in cooperation with the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs and the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), hosted a discussion on Brzezinski’s rich legacy. Following introductory remarks from Martin Indyk, John C. Whitehead Distinguished Fellow in International Diplomacy in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings, Vaïsse provided brief remarks on the book. Indyk then moderated a conversation between Vaïsse, Francis J. Gavin, Giovanni Agnelli Distinguished Professor and director of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at Johns Hopkins SAIS, David Ignatius, columnist for the Washington Post, and Mary Elise Sarotte, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Distinguished Professor of Historical Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Panelists took questions from the audience after the discussion.
Giovanni Agnelli Distinguished Professor and Director - Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins SAIS
Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Distinguished Professor of Historical Studies - Johns Hopkins SAIS
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President López Obrador's extension of the term of Supreme Court chief Arturo Zaldívar is part of his strong effort to recentralize power in the Mexican presidency and hollow out the independence and power of other Mexican institutions. His other moves to bend the justice system to his will include a reform that lowered the salary of judges but did not improve the quality of prosecutors and his unwillingness to allow an independent selection of the attorney general, with López Obrador himself retaining the power of appointment. His latest move with the two-year extension of Zaldívar’s term is especially worrisome. Zaldívar is also the president of the powerful Federal Judiciary Council. The council appoints and dismisses judges, sets career advancement rules and disciplines judges. Zaldívar will be setting the council’s and, thus, the whole judiciary’s, agenda and priorities for two years. This allows López Obrador to influence how courts will rule in cases regarding the executive branch, what cases they take up and the legality of new policies. These moves are taking place when the effectiveness of the judiciary in Mexico remains limited and deeply concerning. The attorney general’s office has proven weak, unwilling to take up key cases such as against the suspects in the brazen attack on Mexico City’s security minister, Omar García Harfuch—an event that symbolized the impunity with which Mexican criminal groups operate. Mexico’s justice system showed itself equally meek and disappointing in inadequately investigating the alleged complicity of former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and dismissing the case, potentially the most significant case of corruption and criminal collusion charges against a high-ranking Mexican official in two decades. A decade and a half after Mexico initiated its justice system reforms, 95 percent of federal cases still go unpunished. President López Obrador has scored some points, but the already precariously weak rule of law in Mexico, and thus the Mexican people, will suffer.