Condi Rice: Back to the Future
Posted by Patrick Barry
You know we’ve hit the fever pitch of Bush Administration legacy salvaging when Condoleezza Rice has a piece in Foreign Affairs. Rice takes the Marty McFly approach, looking back to her original assessment during the 2000 Presidential Campaign, Rice surveys 8 years of Bush Administration policy – policy which she played a principal role in formulating - and big surprise, she has a lot of trouble putting their record in favorable terms. Ultimately, however, it doesn’t matter whether its 2000 or 2008, if you try to square Rice’s analysis with the state of the world today, you end up with a catalog of faulty recommendations and squandered opportunities.
In 2000, Rice articulated the Bush Administration’s guiding principle for dealing with our allies:
“to renew strong and intimate relationships with allies who share American values and can thus share the burden of promoting peace, prosperity, and freedom;”
“I believe that one of the most compelling stories of our time is our relationship with our oldest allies.”
“If someone had said in 2000 that NATO today would be rooting out terrorists in Kandahar, training the security forces of a free Iraq, providing critical support to peacekeepers in Darfur, and moving forward on missile defenses, hopefully in partnership with Russia, who would have believed him?”
Sadly, as far as our relationships go, the Bush Administration’s record under Rice’s tutelage has been abysmal. In Europe, opinion of the U.S. has never been lower, and administration officials and their minions have been happy to pour salt on the wounds. On the subject of NATO, the Administration’s lapses in Afghanistan and the consigning of the mission to “do what we can” status have given rise to perceptions that the historic alliance is “divided” or “unwieldy.” Those aren’t results we can believe in.
But let’s not stop there. Rice’s understanding of the military is just as alarming. It’s not a surprise that Cheney and Rumsfeld bulldozed Rice when she was National Security adviser, because she doesn’t have the foggiest idea what she’s talking about. Take a look:
“Thus the next president should refocus the Pentagon's priorities on building the military of the 21st century rather than continuing to build on the structure of the Cold War…In order to do this, Washington must reallocate resources, perhaps in some cases skipping a generation of technology to make leaps rather than incremental improvements in its forces. “
Sound familiar? That’s because she’s echoing Don Rumsfeld’s plan on military restructuring, a plan so addle-minded that even Fred Kagan thought it was nuts. Faced with U.S. forces that have stretched themselves beyond comprehension for horrendously bad Bush Administration policies, this is the best Rice can offer up:
“The experience of recent years has tested our armed forces, but it has also prepared a new generation of military leaders…”
Huh? That’s interesting because, in the case of the Army, future leaders are leaving the service in record numbers. Again, Rice suffers from a bit of a reality problem.
However, there is one area where Rice’s analysis holds up, where her words still have relevance for how the U.S. relates to the world, and more specifically, Iraq. In 2000, Rice wrote:
“Military force is best used to support clear political goals, whether limited, such as expelling Saddam from Kuwait, or comprehensive, such as demanding the unconditional surrender of Japan and Germany during World War II. It is one thing to have a limited political goal and to fight decisively for it; it is quite another to apply military force incrementally, hoping to find a political solution somewhere along the way. A president entering these situations must ask whether decisive force is possible and is likely to be effective and must know how and when to get out.”
I couldn’t agree more.