An eminence when I was growing up and learning about the vapidity of Sunday morning talk shows, Zbigniew Brzezinski, along with Sam Nunn, was the last avatar of the Cold War Democrat: the national security advisor who still believed in verities about the Soviet Union inherited from Dean Acheson. This frequent guest on “Morning Joe,” appearances greased by his daughter the co-host, was speaking in coherent sentences until this spring; those sentences and his haircut gave him an implacability that in a less fractious age would lend him instant authority. Foreign policy hawks praised him as the only bright star on the Carter White House foreign policy side, which should tell you something: like his contemporary Henry Kissinger, “Zbig” understood how to play the Beltway game. I tend to dismiss him because he inspired the only Cabinet resignation inspired by a White House decision in my lifetime:
Mr. Brzezinski was also a prime mover behind the commando mission sent to rescue the American hostages held by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s revolutionary forces in Iran after the overthrow of the shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi — a disastrous desert expedition in April 1980 that claimed eight lives and never reached Tehran. Mr. Vance had not been informed of the mission until a few days before. It was the final straw: He quit, “stunned and angry,” he said.
Cyrus Vance was willing to surrender limo privileges for the sake of honor. By the time the Carter administration reached its ignominious end, its defense budgets would elicit the Reagan’s team admiration. If we still belived in foreign policy Wise Men, a term drenched in irony and big glops of blood after Vietnamm, “Zbig” would be its chair.