Book Talk. Zbigniew Brzezinski, America’s Grand Strategist by Justin Vaïsse

Thursday, March 1, 2018
1:00pm - 2:00pm
801 International Affairs Building (420 W 118th St, 8th floor)

Please join the Harriman Institute and the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies for a talk with Justin Vaïsse, historian and Director of Policy Planning at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, about his new book Zbigniew Brzezinski, America’s Grand Strategist (English translation by Catherine Porter, Harvard University Press, March 2018). Richard Betts, Director of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, will moderate.

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.

French historian Justin Vaïsse has been Director of Policy Planning at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2013. In this role, he advises the Minister on strategic decisions and provides background analysis and forecast on international affairs. More recently, President Emmanuel Macron tasked him with the organiztion of an international conference on global governance called the Paris Peace Forum, which will premiere on November 11, 2018.

Prior to his post at the Ministry, Justin Vaïsse was a Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution and taught at SAIS (Johns Hopkins University). An adjunct professor at the Paris School of International Affairs, Dr. Vaïsse is the author of numerous books on the United States, including Neoconservatism – The Biography of a Movement (Harvard University Press, 2010). His biography of former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was published in France in 2016 and in the US in early 2018 under the title Zbigniew Brzezinski, America’s Grand Strategist (Harvard University Press).