Condoleezza Rice has somehow cultivated a reputation as being one of the more sensible voices from George W. Bush’s team. While it’s easy to roll one’s eyes and ignore assorted tirades from the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, Rice is often perceived as less partisan and more cerebral; less of a hack and more of an academic.
It’s well past time for a reevaluation of this reputation.
Just one week after Bill Kristol decided he had the credibility needed to lecture America’s “war weary” public, Rice agreed to do the same.
Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice says that American leaders need to resist the temptation to become weary of war, according to a report of her remarks at a fundraiser.“I fully understand the sense of weariness,” she told a GOP fundraiser Wednesday, according to reports. “I fully understand that we must think: ‘Us, again?’ I know that we’ve been through two wars. I know that we’ve been vigilant against terrorism. I know that it’s hard. But leaders can’t afford to get tired. Leaders can’t afford to be weary.”
Based on reports, Rice didn’t specify exactly which military confrontation – or confrontations – she’d like the United States to prepare for, though she apparently complained about U.S. policy towards Syria and Russia.
On a substantive level, Rice’s complaints ring hollow. For all of her handwringing about that rascally Obama administration withdrawing from the role of global leadership, there’s ample evidence to the contrary. It President Obama and his team who’ve helped isolate Russia in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis; it was Obama and his team that helped change regimes in Libya; it’s Obama and his team that’s disarming Syria of its chemical weapons; it’s Obama and his team that’s had far more success against al Qaeda than the previous administration.
For that matter, we’ve also seen this administration tackle foreign-policy issues – climate change, human rights – that have nothing to military force.
For Rice, a president who ends two disastrous wars is somehow necessarily responsible for creating a leadership vacuum on the global stage. That’s both foolish and backwards.
But even putting this aside, why in the world is Condi Rice giving lectures on this subject in the first place?
I’ve long marveled at the misplaced affection Rice tends to receive from the Beltway, but hearing one of the officials responsible for the invasion of Iraq complain about American war “weariness” is especially tough to stomach.
Credibility and accountability should still matter, at least a little.
And when it comes to Rice’s recent past, the ignominious record is evident to anyone who looks. She was, for example, a rather dreadful National Security Advisor, where she had a nasty habit of saying things in public that weren’t true and politicizing her office – during two wars – in ways no one has ever seen.
After failing at the job, Rice was given a promotion to Secretary of State – becoming the nation’s top diplomat – despite not having any background in diplomacy, where she helped oversee the foreign policy of an administration burdened by a series of international debacles.
She then transitioned to a “surprisingly partisan” role for a failed presidential candidate.
“Leaders can’t afford to be weary”? Fine. But is it all right for the rest of us be weary of Condoleezza Rice?