Friday, February 09, 2007

Condoleezza Rice Job Report

In terms of sheer ability, Colin Powell was much more capable of being Secretary of State than Condoleezza Rice but he blew it when he threw in with the biggest strategic failure in American history. In the period 2002-2003, he had to know that Condoleezza Rice was a lightweight. That meant if Bush's foreign policy was to make any sense, he was the one who had to put the brakes on Bush's reckless rush to war in Iraq or resign while making his reasons clear to the public. He did neither; I give him a generous C-, largely for recognizing his blunder afterwards and for cleaning up some brushfires, the biggest being potential problems concerning Pakistan. Colin Powell might have been a great secretary of state, but he signed up with the wrong president.

The Raw Story carries a Bloomberg article on the fading star of Condi Rice:
In February 2005, Rice, already the star of the Bush cabinet, described for reporters on her maiden cross-Atlantic trip as secretary ``the tremendous opportunities ahead of us,'' including spreading ``freedom and liberty to places they've never been.''

Two years later, few of those goals have been realized. Iraq, and possibly Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, are sliding into civil war, Iran is pursuing its nuclear ambitions unchecked, Russia is ignoring demands for political and economic openness, and China is building ties with U.S. adversaries.

Rice's public approval rating is slipping, and she is getting more of the flak for the prosecution of the Iraq war than ever before.


There has been an exodus of high-level officials. Among the most prominent departures was Robert Zoellick, who resigned as deputy secretary of state in June. Rice's counselor, Philip Zelikow, who provided many of the ideas on North Korea, returned to academia, and her communications strategist, Jim Wilkinson, left for the Treasury Department.

Robert Joseph, undersecretary for arms control and international security, and John Hillen, the assistant secretary for political-military affairs who was just starting a Persian Gulf security initiative, also have quit. Neither publicly gave a reason for leaving.

In areas beyond Iraq, Rice has struggled to achieve foreign- policy objectives.

If anything, the Bloomberg article is too generous. Condi Rice will most be remembered for ignoring problems until it was too late; her performance before 9/11 was not her shining moment. She still has a small chance of redeeming herself with negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians but no one expects much. Talks with North Korea are back on track but we are simply trying to get back to where we were before Bush called North Korea part of the axis of evil. The big challenge for Condi Rice is whether she can gain ascendancy over Dick Cheney, avoid facilitating an expanding war and get some real diplomatic work done, particularly in regard to Iran. The reality is that Condi Rice has accomplished little since the beginning of the Bush Administration and she has often been eclipsed by Cheney and Rumsfeld. If she accomplishes anything from here to January 2009, she will exceed expectations. If we include her time as national security adviser, her performance over the last six years earns a generous D-, but only because Bush is particularly deserving of an F; in the end, Rice's final grade depends on what happens in the next 23 months.

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