As National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928–2017) guided U.S. foreign policy at a critical juncture of the Cold War. But his impact on America’s role in the world extends far beyond his years in the White House, and reverberates to this day. His geopolitical vision, scholarly writings, frequent media appearances, and policy advice to decades of presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama made him America’s grand strategist, a mantle only Henry Kissinger could also claim.
Both men emigrated from turbulent Europe in 1938 and got their Ph.D.s in the 1950s from Harvard, then the epitome of the Cold War university. With its rise to global responsibilities, the United States needed professionals. Ambitious academics like Brzezinski soon replaced the old establishment figures who had mired the country in Vietnam, and they transformed the way America conducted foreign policy.
Justin Vaïsse offers the first biography of the successful immigrant who completed a remarkable journey from his native Poland to the White House, interacting with influential world leaders from Gloria Steinem to Deng Xiaoping to John Paul II. This complex intellectual portrait reveals a man who weighed in on all major foreign policy debates since the 1950s, from his hawkish stance on the USSR 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, Zbigniew Brzezinski raises important questions about the respective roles of ideas and identity in foreign policy.
Reading Justin Vaïsse’s impressive new book, Zbigniew Brzezinski: America’s Grand Strategist, it is difficult to miss the echoes of our own times in the early 1970s…If the publication of Brzezinski could hardly be timelier, the author could not be more apt…The book’s achievement is in part corrective. Brzezinski rehabilitates a thinker and actor whom other writers have too often underestimated…Vaïsse’s broad panorama achieves important perspective on the Carter years…Readers will encounter in Brzezinski an eloquent introduction to a major strategic thinker and a thoughtful meditation upon the useful work that ideas and intellectuals can perform in the policy arena.
Vaïsse gives Brzezinski high marks. Apart from Kissinger, no adviser so dominated a president’s agenda. His intellect was as sharp as his tongue.
Will probably stand for some time as the definitive portrayal of a sharp mind and sometimes sharp tongue that attracted critics and opponents, as well as admirers and such famous proteges and colleagues as Madeleine Albright and Robert Gates… What separates the Vaïsse book from the pack is a detailed and perceptive study of the rise of an academic complex in the making of U.S. foreign policy.
Vaïsse’s biography of U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, reminds readers just what an extraordinary phenomenon this Polish outsider was… Vaïsse’s evenhanded appraisal of Brzezinski’s contributions to U.S. foreign policy will…introduce a new generation of readers to a great American strategist.
In his compelling biography of Brzezinski, Justin Vaïsse places [him] squarely in the fourth generation of decision-makers who helped turn the United States into a world power.
Brzezinski must have been pleased by what he knew of the work (first published in French shortly before his death). The readers, too, will be pleased. This is a solid account of Brzezinski’s absorbing journey.
This man with the unpronounceable name was one of the most influential in the world, but also one of the hardest to categorize… A foremost authority on U.S. foreign relations, Justin Vaïsse enthusiastically traces the extraordinary career of this son of a Polish consul. A captivating account of a decisive figure who navigated through deep political crosscurrents in order to extend American influence across the globe.
Justin Vaïsse’s life of Zbigniew Brzezinski is remarkable in every way. More than a simple biography, this serious study is an original and meticulous account of the American diplomatic machine.
A specialist in American foreign relations, Vaïsse offers a voluminous biography of a man he considers one of the most consequential figures of the past century.
This first-rate intellectual biography of Zbigniew Brzezinski fills a longstanding gap in existing work on one of America’s most visible yet undervalued scholar-policymakers of the past fifty years. Nuanced and on the whole convincing, this book provides an excellent overview of the impact Brzezinski had after his relatively brief time in high office.
Vaïsse profiles one of the few men who transformed American foreign policy in the second half of the twentieth century. He offers a compelling account of how immigration, education, and technology changed American power and ideals. He also reminds us how important the intellectual debates about power and ideals were during the Cold War, and how important they remain today.
- 544 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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