Washington Times on May 2, 2016, published a review by Jacob Heilbrunn of Zalmay Khalilzad memoirs The Envoy, St. Martin’s Press, $27.99, 332 pages. Excerpts below:
In 2003 President Bush asked Zalmay Khalilzad, a high-ranking National Security Council official, to see him. To Mr. Khalilzad’s surprise, he asked him if he would be willing to go to Afghanistan as the next ambassador. Caught off-guard, Mr. Khalilzad responded, “Well, Mr. President, I actually left Afghanistan to live here. Why do you want to send me back?”
In “The Envoy,” Mr. Khalilzad recounts his extraordinary odyssey from growing up in Afghanistan to becoming the highest-ranking Muslim ever to serve in an American administration. Mr. Khalilzad was ambassador toAfghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations.
Mr. Khalilzad, who was born in 1951, recounts that his mother estimates she was between nine and 12 years old when she married his 22-year-old father. The young Zalmay rode to primary school on horseback before moving with his family to cosmopolitan Kabul in the eighth grade. Two years later, he applied for the American Field Service exchange program to attend high school in California for a year. It proved to be a transformative experience. According to Mr. Khalilzad, “from the time I left California, I came to see myself as a person with two homes and two affiliations. And in an odd, rather unusual twist of history, I would become an advocate for each to the other.”
In 1974, Mr. Khalilzad returned to the United States on a scholarship to pursue a doctorate at the University of Chicago, where he studied with the legendary defense strategist Albert Wohlstetter. Mr. Wolhlstetter introduced him to Paul Wolfowitz, then a young official in Washington, and had him brief Defense Secretary James Schlesinger. After the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Mr. Schlesinger told him, “I’m sorry, Zal.Afghanistan is never going to be free again. Once the Soviets are in, they will not go out.” “You don’t know the Afghans,” Mr. Khalilzad responded.
In 1986, as a member of the State Department’s policy planning staff, Mr. Khalilzad had a front-row seat for the debate in the Reagan administration about how to oust the Soviet Union from Afghanistan and to deal with the reform-minded new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.
But Mr. Khalizad’s own foray into trying to adjust defense doctrine to a new world blew up in his face. As head of the Pentagon’s policy planning staff in 1992, he set about formulating a document called Defense Policy Guidance that had the explicit goal of preserving American dominance around the globe. It called for expanding a democratic “zone of peace” and barring any other challenger from taking control of key regions around the world. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney loved it. But it… was leaked to The New York Times, which depicted the document as a blueprint for a one-superpower world, an uproar ensued.
After Sept. 11 and the American campaign to oust the Taliban and al Qaeda from Afghanistan, Mr. Khalilzad’s stock quickly rose in the George W. Bush administration. Mr. Khalilzad’s message to Mr. Bush was that Afghanistan was not condemned to live in anarchy, and that it had previously enjoyed stability and a strong sense of national identity.
Despite the manifest illusions that suffused the Bush administration’s approach toward the Middle East, Mr. Khalilzad remains optimistic that America can “pave the way for liberalism, tolerance, and democracy to take root around the world.” At a moment when a very different outlook is taking hold in the Republican Party, Mr. Khalilzad remains a distinct voice of optimism about America and its role abroad.
Jacob Heilbrunn is the editor of the National Interest journal.
Comment: Mr. Khalilzad is an important Republican voice of optimism during the election year in 2016. Freedom, tolerance and democracy can indeed take root in the world. The problem is that the Obama administration for eight years has caused a retreat for the West. To be able to defend Western values around the world America must be prepared to meet the challenge from the three anti-Western empires: Russia, China and Iran.