“He is not a serious person,” said Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Who was he speaking of — Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu, or Donald Trump?
Brzezinski is a serious person. The former advisor to Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter and international relations realist played key roles in major international events such as the normalization of relations with China, the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II), the Camp David Accords that led to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, and the arming of Afghanistan rebels to fight the Soviet invasion.
Above, Brzezinski could have been speaking of all three, but in this case he was speaking of Netanyahu and his impetuous view of the Iran nuclear agreement.
“I think any intelligent person knows in their gut, if we don’t’ approve it, the consequence might be devastating,” Brzezinski said on Morning Joe.
General Colin Powell is another serious person. He advised Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and served as George W. Bush’s Secretary of State. Also, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he oversaw numerous crises including the Panama invasion and Operation Desert Shield/Storm in Iraq and Kuwait. As a military historian and strategist he advocated military intervention only as a last resort and then only if the operation had specific objectives and would minimize military casualties – now called the Powell Doctrine.
“It’s a pretty good deal,” Powell said of the Iran agreement on Meet the Press. “We have stopped this highway race that they were going down (to build a nuclear bomb) — and I think that’s very, very important.”
Two other serious people recently spoke for the agreement, former Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and George Mitchell (D-ME).
Lugar was the long-time chairman/ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Since his retirement he has worked with his foundation, the Lugar Center, on issues such as the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and effective bipartisan governance.
Mitchell was Senate Majority Leader and has been a prominent international envoy playing key roles in peace negotiations in Northern Ireland and in the Middle East. In 2007, Mitchell joined former senator majority leaders Bob Dole (R-KS), Howard Baker (R-TN), and Tom Daschle (D-SD) to form the Bipartisan Policy Center, a non-profit organization that develops politically balanced policies based on “rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation, and respectful dialogue.”
So, what distinguishes “serious people” from Putin, Netanyahu, and most of our presidential candidates?
Breadth of experience; thoughtful consideration of complex issues, their history, and the long-term strategic consequences of chosen interventions; and the courage to put country ahead of politics and peace ahead of war.
Since most leaders of nations don’t get chosen because they are serious people, it is important for them to hear and consider the views of serious people. That was a main strength of Ronald Reagan.
As you evaluate presidential candidates, try to discern their likelihood of having serious people as advisors… and that they will listen to them.