Saturday, August 30, 2008

The New American Realism

The above is an article from the July/August 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs. It is by Condoleezza Rice and entitled, “Rethinking the National Interest.”

Why would Rice write this very long article assessing all our Foreign Affairs challenges a few months before the administration she is a part of leaves office? Perhaps it is a summing up, showing what has been accomplished and what still needs to be accomplished from her point of view. Perhaps it is a handing off of the baton to the next Secretary of State.

She touches on one of my recent interests, the Autocracies: “The untidiness of democracy has led some to wonder if weak states might not be better off passing through a period of authoritarian capitalism. A few countries have indeed succeeded with this model, and its allure is only heightened when democracy is too slow in delivering or incapable of meeting high expectations for a better life. Yet for every state that embraces authoritarianism and manages to create wealth, there are many, many more that simply make poverty, inequality, and corruption worse. For those that are doing pretty well economically, it is worth asking whether they might be doing even better with a freer system. Ultimately, it is at least an open question whether authoritarian capitalism is itself an indefinitely sustainable model. Is it really possible in the long run for governments to respect their citizen’s talents but not their rights? I, for one, doubt it.”

She refers to the other Iran, the one that likes Americans, the one we in the past hoped would throw out the Iranian Islamists. She just refers to them and then says “Should the Iranian government honor the UN Security Council’s demands and suspend its uranium enrichment and related activities, the community of nations, including the United states, is prepared to discuss the full range of issues before us. The United States has no permanent enemies.” I have no reason to believe Iran will be any more interested in this offer than in any of the others.

She has some interesting things to say about Iraq: “But the fundamental question that we can ask and debate now is, Was removing Saddam from power the right decision? I continue to believe that it was.

“After we fought one war against Saddam and then remained in a formal state of hostilities with him for over a decade, our containment policy began to erode. The community of nations was losing its will to enforce containment, and Iraq’s ruler was getting increasingly good at exploiting it through programs such as oil-for-food – indeed, more than we knew at the time. The failure of containment was increasingly evident in the UN Security Council resolutions that were passed and then violated, in our regular clashes in the no-fly zones, and in President Bill Clinton’s decision to launch air strikes in 1998 and then join with Congress to make ‘regime change’ our government’s official policy in Iraq. If Saddam was not a threat, why did the community of nations keep the Iraqi people under the most brutal sanctions in modern history?”

She also discusses the matter of why we became interested in democratizing Iraq: “We discussed the question of whether we should be satisfied with the end of Saddam’s rule and the rise of another strongman to replace him. The answer was no, and it was thus avowedly U.S. policy from the outset to try to support the Iraqis in building a democratic Iraq. It is important to remember that we did not overthrow Adolf Hitler to bring democracy to Germany either.”

Also of interest: “Since 2001, the president has requested and Congress has approved a nearly 54 percent increase in funding for our institutions of diplomacy and development. And this year, the president and I asked Congress to create 1,100 new positions for the state Department and 300 new positions for the U.S. Agency for International Development.”

And, “. . . President Bush has proposed to Congress an expansion of our force by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 marines.” I would have turned those numbers around, 65,000 Marines and 27,000 soldiers, but that’s just me.

COMMENT: Could Condoleeza Rice be appointed Secretary of State under McCain if he is elected? This article is a tour de force, one can read it and see who she is and what she believes in regard to foreign affairs. However, it is also the voice of the Bush Administration on Foreign Affairs, and McCain and Palin will be running on a platform of change; so though there is nothing wrong with Rice, certainly nothing wrong with her abilities, she is the Bush Administration; so I don’t think Rice “could” be appointed – unless whoever McCain did appoint didn’t work out – but that had better not happen.

Also, I suspect Rice would turn down the job if it were offered to her. The past eight years was tough enough reading about, let alone being somewhat responsible for. She is probably looking forward to several years of quiet teaching with perhaps a few forays into punditry.

Lawrence Helm

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