Biography for Zbigniew Brzezinski
Foreign policy specialist Zbigniew Brzezinski served as an adviser to Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter. As a consultant, as a member of the State Department, and as President Carter's assistant to the president for national security affairs, Brzezinski urged the United States to adopt a foreign policy that emphasized human rights, firm opposition to all attempts by the Soviet Union to increase its influence in the Third World, and improved relations with China. Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski was born in Warsaw, Poland on March 28, 1928. Because his father was a Polish diplomat, Zbigniew lived in France and Germany before the family settled in Montreal, Canada in 1938. Brzezinski earned a bachelor's degree in 1949 and a master's degree in 1950 in economics and political science from McGill University in Montreal. In 1953, he earned his doctorate from Harvard University and taught at Harvard until he was appointed professor of public law and government at Columbia University in 1960. In 1961, he became the director of Columbia's newly formed Institute on Communist Affairs. During the turbulent cold war era of the 1960s, Brzezinski became well known for his prediction that the changes brought about by the emergence of the postindustrial, highly technical culture in the United States, Europe, and Japan would ease tensions between capitalist and communist nations but increase the gap between them and less developed countries. In addition to writing numerous articles on foreign policy issues, Brzezinski served as one of Kennedy's preinaugural foreign policy advisers. He strongly supported American involvement in the war in Vietnam on the grounds that unless the United States managed to impose peace in Asia through the creation of a stable balance of power as it had in Europe, wars there would be endless. President Johnson appointed Brzezinski to the Department of State's Policy Planning Council in 1966. Two years later, Brzezinski orchestrated the foreign policy positions of presidential candidate Hubert H. Humphrey. In 1976, President-elect Carter appointed Brzezinski to serve as assistant to the president for national security affairs. In this post, Brzezinski became locked in a battle with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to be the primary foreign policy adviser to the president. The two clashed severely over how to contain the Soviet Union. Brzezinski favored confronting Soviet foreign policy initiatives wherever they occurred, even if that prevented successful negotiations on a nuclear arms control agreement. During the early phases of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Brzezinski supported informing the shah and his military leaders that the United States would not oppose an effort by the Iranian military to maintain control. Secretary of State Vance disagreed. An ambiguous message was eventually transmitted to the shah. Shortly after the seizing of the American embassy and the subsequent holding of Americans in Iran as hostages by the newly installed revolutionary government, Brzezinski pressed for a rescue mission against the objections of Vance. After the rescue attempt authorized by the president ended in failure in the Iranian desert, Vance resigned in protest. After completing his term of office in January 1981, Brzezinski resumed teaching, lecturing, consulting, and writing on foreign policy issues.