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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Brent Scowcroft

"AMERICA AND THE WORLD: CONVERSATIONS ON THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY," by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, moderated by David Ignatius, Basic Books, 292 pages, $27.50

Zbigniew Brzezinski (the national security adviser to President Carter) and Brent Scowcroft (the national security adviser to Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush) team up to take a bipartisan look at trouble spots and challenges for America around the world.

"The fundamental reason for this book is to push for a stronger element of bipartisanship in foreign policy," Scowcroft said in a telephone interview. "We have a wide number of very difficult problems in the world. They are difficult enough to solve by themselves without shouting at each other as Democrats and Republicans."

Of most note, both the Democrat and Republican opposed the latest war with Iraq and correctly predicted many of the problems that came afterward. But they differ on a strategy for troop withdrawal, and how long it may take.

While the book is designed to be forward-looking, Scowcroft — a native Utahn — talks about why he helped convince the first President Bush not to invade Iraq at the end of the first war with that country, and why he opposed the second war with Iraq for many of the same reasons.

The book is an easy-to-understand briefing on topics from globalization to terrorism, Palestinian-Israeli tensions and challenges with Russia and China. It outlines potential pitfalls and possible strategies to avoid them from two of the most important foreign policy strategists of the past quarter century.

However, it has some shortcomings. The book is essentially merely the recording of eight interviews with the pair moderated by Washington Post writer David Ignatius. Sometimes they seem to get sidetracked without answering some of the most important questions (such as what should the incoming president focus on most during his first 100 days in office).

Sometimes the pair seem to be speaking off the top of their heads — which still has value because of their high level of expertise. But it still feels too often like a "quick and dirty" book that could have benefited by more thought, rewriting and careful editing.

Still it is interesting to sit in with the pair and listen as they walk through the world's stickiest foreign-policy problems. It is a book the incoming president should put at the top of his reading list.


E-mail: lee@desnews.com