It's no surprise that Zbig Brzezinski is visiting Damascus. First of all, Bashar Assad would be delighted to see him, as he has seen other marginal players in U.S. foreign policy. Secondly, Zbig is a fan of Assad's, as is the ex-president for whom he pondered heavy matters, Jimmy Carter, a really big fan. Visiting America's enemies is, in any case, a good way to get attention at home. (Jesse Jackson made nearly a full-time profession of visiting our for years. Soneone should ask him what he thinks of President Chavez now.) The visitors may say they are pushing along the "getting to yes" process. But what they're usually doing is fomenting mischief.
Now, Zbig published a new book in 2007, Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of Superpower. This is a book you need not feel bad about passing up, as almost everyone did. The only one of his books I've read -- for my sins, several of them -- that is important is The Permanent Purge, published in 1956, when he was 28. He is now 80 and is a danger to no one, except Barack Obama whose foreign policy advisory board he co-chairs. Zbig went to Damascus without thinking that, in these circumstances, his travels to Assad's palace might affect the fortunes of his candidate. Or maybe he just said to himself, "fuck it." He didn't tell anybody in the Barack circle, and the campaign knew nothing about his tourism until Eli Lake of the New York Sun raised questions about its adviser's travels. And reported the telling story.
Brzezinski grades the last three presidents in Second Chance. To George H.W. Bush he gives a solid B; to Bill Clinton an uneven C; to the burning Bush a "failed F." The fact is that you'd also need to give Zbig and his former boss something worse than an F for their bright idea that the Ayatollah Khomeini could be an instrument of American foreign policy against the Russians and, what's more, to get the Muslims of the U.S.S.R. to rise up against the Kremlin. What idiots, actually! Did Zbig even know that the ayatollah, being a Shi'a, would have little sway with Sunnis which most of old Moscow's Muslims were.
I wonder who advised my candidate Barack Obama to choose Zbig as one of his advisers. And it's not as if all the other advisers are so good. Take two, just as instances: Tony Lake with his shabby record on Bosnia and Susan Rice who was responsible (along with Jesse Jackson) for the Clinton administration's systematic aversion to seeing what blood was being shed in Sierra Leone and Liberia over "blood diamonds."
In any case, I don't believe that Zbig is visiting just Assad. I believe -- in fact, I think I know -- that he is going to meet with Khaled Maashal, the most vicious of the Hamas leaders, who has been headquartered in Damascus for years. Here "tea with Assad" is just a cover for a pernicious encounter.