Condoleezza Rice waits for vindication
After George W. Bush spent all of Colin Powell’s political capital, he installed Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State for his second term in office. The image of the United States had taken a beating around the world and was in dire need of a makeover. Enter Dr. Rice.
Initially, the cable news channels could not get enough of Rice’s stylish boots and cosmopolitan demeanor, a foreshadowing of the patronizing canonization of Michelle Obama. Underlying the disgusting fawning was a genuine hope that Rice would restore our tarnished reputation.
Foreign diplomats recognized the rift between Powell and Bush, so the State Department did not carry much clout. WIth Rice, other nations could be assured that her words and deeds were completely in line with the intentions of the president.
Rice wanted to revitalize the State Department. She pulled people out of cozy posts in Europe, and began placing them in areas that required more attention such as India, China, South Africa, and Brazil. Diplomats were required to do some hard time in trouble spots like Iraq and Afghanistan. They were also directed to become fluent in at least two languages and gain expertise regarding at least two regions of the world. More emphasis was placed on local and regional approaches to drug trafficking and disease. Bilateral discussions were to be promoted on the basis of improving infrastructure and lessening the need for handouts. These efforts were collectively dubbed "Transformational Democracy."
Rice's touting of democracy as the cure for all ills had some uncomfortable consequences. Bush and Rice pushed for Palestinian elections against the wishes of the Palestinain leadership and the administration's own inside sources. Hamas, designated by the U.S as a terrorist organization, won the majority. It was a naive thought that elections would provide the breakthrough in the push for peace with Israel. The U.S. supported Muhammed Dahlan, former security officer for Yassir Arafat's Fatah party. He was charged with the mission of confronting Hamas. Fatah forces had been crippled after Israel's response to the second infitada. They were no match for Hamas, and were rolled over in five days. Hamas took over Gaza, and procured the weapons that were provided to Fatah by neighboring countries at Rice's insistence. Now, Mahmoud Abbas is an impotent figurehead, controlling only half of his "country." Rockets are still fired into Israel from Gaza on a near daily basis.
Iraq sucked up most of the energy of the Bush administration. Rice was a consistent and vocal supporter of our invasion of Iraq and she stood by Rumsfeld's doomed strategies. Late in Bush's second term, Rice opposed the change in tactics that would come to be known as "the surge." The pouring in of more troops eventually resulted in a significant decrease in violence in Iraq.
Next door, in Iran, RIce attempted to persuade Iran to give up its' nuclear program. Along with three European nations, a considerable bribe was offered. It was pocket vetoed by the supreme leader.
The intensive focus of the Bush administration on the Middle East continued. Rice gained success when Syria troops left Lebanon and when women in Kuwait were allowed to vote for the first time. Another triumph was her winning over Muamar Qadafi. He agreed to jettison Libya's WMD program and supported the U.S. in Iraq. About Rice he cooed, "I support my darling black African woman…I am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders…yes, Leeza, I love her very much."
Rice's performance in public were often uneven. Her responses ranged from opaque mumbo jumbo to assertive truths that only the most partisan hacks would challenge. There is no doubting her intellect, only her courage, the lack thereof being a common defect in Washington, D.C.
Rice has prided herself on her Russian studies. It is curious that when Russia put a vice on Georgia in support of Ossetian separatists, Rice was on, and stayed on, vacation. There were no military options for the U.S. in this conflict, and the diplomatic effort was lacking.
Rice promised that the U.S. would be North Korea's best friend if they gave up their nuclear program. The results of her efforts with Pyongyang were the same as every other diplomat who tried to make a deal with the basket case of Asia. Kim Jong-Il played the familiar game of making promises only to perform multiple dramatic about-faces.
Rice was criticized for continuing the condescending attitude of the U.S toward Latin and South America. The Bush administration pushed hard, unsuccessfully, for free-trade agreements with Peru, Panama, and Colombia. Despite the shuffling around of diplomats, Latin and South America remained mostly neglected. Cuba was still in deep freeze, and Venezuela was willingly joining them. This diminished our stature among our hemispheric neighbors and facilitated the rise of leaders who pursued agendas contrary to our own. Some South American nations began negotiating free-trade agreements with economic rivals of the U.S. Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega both went as far as establishing relationships with Iran, becoming members of a junior league of evil.
What is the verdict on Rice and her Transformational Democracy? There were few notable immediate gains. Rice maintains that history will judge in her favor. In a generation or two, we may see a prospering, peaceful Middle East and trace it back to our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Or, we may see a world that is exponentially darker. Rice can only hope that , in this case, the right decisions were not the popular ones.
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