Rogue Counselors: Kissinger, Brzezinski and the Ambiguous National Security Advisor Open Access

Weiss, Gideon Isaac (2016)

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The 1947 National Security Act restructured the United States' foreign policy apparatus. The bill created the National Security Council, a new forum for cabinet level policy formulation, and a research and support staff. A few years later, in 1953, President Eisenhower created the National Security Advisor, who would serve dual roles, head of the NSC staff and policy advisor to the President. While the NSC had a basis in federal law, the National Security Advisor did not. When Henry Kissinger in 1968, the position's flaws, stemming from a lack of structure and oversight were revealed. Kissinger controlled foreign policy for eight years, shutting out Secretary of State William Rogers and often maneuvering unilaterally. While new administration attempted to fix the system, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski was able to achieve a similar dominance over policy. The reason for Kissinger and Brzezinski's control is one in the same; the amorphous and abstract nature of the position they held. Both men used the NSC system to control information flow and decision making power while using the position's lack of oversight to operate independently. Documents from the Nixon and Carter libraries give new insight into the two men's control. Kissinger used deputy Secretary of State Joe Sisco as his own staffer, usurping Secretary Rogers and operating a quasi-State Department out of the West Wing. Brzezinski used his power to dictate policy during the political crisis in Iran brought on by the Shah's departure. Brzezinski pushed for a coup and worked with military advisors outside of his purview to advance his goals. The structural deficiencies in the National Security Advisor position show up repeatedly during Kissinger and Brzezinski' terms in office, and allow the advisor to operate as an autonomous agent, the broad powers of which have yet to be curtailed.

Table of Contents


The West Wing's Foreign Policy Machine...7

The NSC in South Asia...22

Rogers' Guerilla War...30

The Shadow Secretary...36

Mistakes of (the Nixon) Past...45

A New Cold War...53

The Brzezinski and Vance Administrations...58

Carter Epilogue...74

Concluding Thoughts...79


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