The Unique Reality of Condi Rice

The Unique Reality of Condi Rice

In case you missed it–or, if you didn’t miss it, in case you didn’t have the energy to read the entire 9,000 words–Condoleezza Rice’s interminable lead article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs is a doozy.

It’s an extended fugue on the importance of democracy promotion, whether by hook or crook. “We recognize,” she writes, “that democratic state building is now an urgent component of our national interest.”

In the piece, Rice concocts something she calls “a uniquely American realism.” In it, it’s America’s job to change the world, and in its own image:

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In case you missed it–or, if you didn’t miss it, in case you didn’t have the energy to read the entire 9,000 words–Condoleezza Rice’s interminable lead article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs is a doozy.

It’s an extended fugue on the importance of democracy promotion, whether by hook or crook. “We recognize,” she writes, “that democratic state building is now an urgent component of our national interest.”

In the piece, Rice concocts something she calls “a uniquely American realism.” In it, it’s America’s job to change the world, and in its own image:

“We have never accepted that we are powerless to change the world. Indeed, we have shown that by marrying American power and American values, we could help friends and allies expand the boundaries of what most thought realistic at the time.

“How to describe this disposition of ours? It is realism, of a sort. But it is more than that–what I have called our uniquely American realism.”

Of course, the bastard child of that marriage between “American power” and “American values” is the war in Iraq, which Rice endorses. Some of Rice’s gems:

“The democratization of Iraq and the democratization of the Middle East [are] linked. … As Iraq emerges from its difficulties, the impact of its transformation is being felt in the rest of the region. … Our long-term partnerships with Afghanistan and Iraq, to which we must remain deeply committed, our new relationships in Central Asia, and our long-standing partnerships in the Persian Gulf provide a solid geostrategic foundation for the generational work ahead of helping to bring about a better, more democratic, and more prosperous Middle East.”

I love the euphemism about Iraq’s “difficulties.” But what she lays out is a “generational” U.S. effort to impose American “geostrategic” power in the Middle East and the Gulf. And, oh yeah, some of that democracy stuff.

The most amazing part of Z.Z. Rice’s essay is her take on her own earlier Foreign Affairs piece, from 2000, in which she explicitly renounced nation building. Here is the passage from the 2008 piece:

“In these pages in 2000, I decried the role of the United States, in particular the U.S. military, in nation building. In 2008 it is absolutely clear that we will be involved in nation building for years to come.”

That’s it. “Fooled ya!” Now, Rice says that America has loaded up on nation building capacities, and that those capabilities must be expanded by the next president. She says Washington has “prepared a new generation of military leaders for stabilization and counterinsurgency missions, of which we will likely face more.” She demands a “new kind of partnership between our military and civilian institutions.” She calls for “better integration of the United States’ institutions of hard power and soft power.” And she warns: “Those who follow us must build on this foundation.”

So there you go. John McCain or Barack Obama better take notes. Z.Z. Rice says they’ll have no choice but to build new U.S. capabilities for global democratization.

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