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Rice's Reality-Based State Department

There's a lot to be said about this New York Times article which argues that Condoleezza Rice and Robert Zoellick will be trying to implement a more reality based foreign policy in the second term. The mere fact that some people close to Rice and Zoellick want to get this message out is good news of a sort. But I have concerns.

Most notably, we already spent four years under George W. Bush with a Secretary of State and a Deputy Secretary of State who advocated a more reality-based approach than the one we had, and it didn't do us much good. Instead, we got a much more Cheney/Rumsfeld sort of approach. And I don't think there's any real reason to believe that Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their more properly neoconservative underlings somehow bewitched the president into following their line. At times they wound up getting overruled. Bush is able to make up his own mind. He just usually chose to side with them. The changed dynamics of a Rice regime at Foggy Bottom might change that, but they very well may not.

My other major concern relates to the evidently heavy emphasis Rice is putting on better public diplomacy as a solution to our problems. Public diplomacy is important. And we haven't been doing it very well or investing nearly the appropriate level of resources. On the surface, then, the rise to power of someone who's aware of this is a good thing. But public diplomacy can also be a trap. For many people, it seems to be an excuse for not seeing that substantive action is needed to give public diplomacy a real chance. Many people, for example, believe that our continued presence in Iraq is motivated not by a desire to create an Iraqi democracy, but by a desire to install a pro-American regime that will host permanent US military bases. This perception isn't really driven by a failure on the part of the administration to explain itself better, nearly as much as it's driven by the fact that, near as anyone can tell, we're trying to establish permanent military bases in Iraq.

The entire Broader Middle East Reform agenda is shot through with similar problems. When we're for a free press, but against al-Jazeera, people conclude that we're not really for a free press. Again, not because we're not communicating our message, but because we're actually hostile to the essence of the idea of a free press -- that the powers that be and their agenda may be subject to criticism, including overly-harsh criticism, by the media. When we say that we can't have diplomatic relations with Iran because it's a dictatorship, and Israel can't have relations with the Palestinian Authority until it becomes democratic, but we have no problem dealing with the existing regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, then democracy looks like an excuse rather than a reason for US policy taking the shape that it does. Again, we're not failing to communicate the sincerity of our desire for democracy. We're failing to be sincere. Or, at least, we're failing to take actions that would be consistent with a sincere belief. I'm sure that in some sense the president's subjective understanding of what he's doing is perfectly genuine, but communicating the contents of his heart isn't the issue. To effectively communicate the message that the United States is a force for good, we need to act like we are. To effectively communicate the message that we don't have a hidden agenda in Iraq, we need to not have hidden agendas. To effectively communicate the message that we're on the side of freedom, political reform, and justice, we need to actually be for these things, even when it creates short-term inconveniences.

January 17, 2005 | Permalink

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» Yglesias on public diplomacy from Explananda
No comment on this except: yes, yes, yes. Public diplomacy is important. And we haven't been doing it very well or investing nearly the appropriate level of resources. On the surface, then, the rise to power of someone who's aware... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 17, 2005 12:46:41 PM

» A Bad Sign from chez Nadezhda
Condi to focus more on public diplomacy:


She declined to be interviewed for this article[Read More]

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» Poverty and Politics, Indonesia and Iraq: the chances for a new foreign policy from Kermit the Blog
Americans are more aware these days of world poverty and suffering than they have ever been before. This is the global village effect, one of the warmer consequences of globalization that critics of the process rarely acknowledge. The stateside respons... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 18, 2005 9:32:29 AM

» The Condi Hearings from THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH
Listening to John Kerry and Joe 'the Blowhard' Biden question Condi Rice was not disimilar from hearing Fat Joe, Ja Rule and Ashanti ask "Who the Mack Now"--over and over. Paraphrasing: Kerry: See, Mubarak told me that.. ("Every Arab leader... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 19, 2005 10:46:14 PM

» The Condi Hearings from THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH
Listening to John Kerry and Joe 'the Blowhard' Biden question Condi Rice was kinda like hearing Fat Joe, Ja Rule and Ashanti ask "Who the Mack Now"--over and over and over. Paraphrasing: Kerry: See, Mubarak told me that.. ("Every Arab... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 19, 2005 10:47:00 PM

» Sort of Good Chrenkoff from Liberals Against Terrorism

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Comments

"Most notably, we already spent four years under George W. Bush with a Secretary of State and a Deputy Secretary of State who advocated a more reality-based approach than the one we had, and it didn't do us much good."

Condi = Powell - The Minimal Independence.

-----

In a related matter, I'm begging to wonder if these fools are really stupid enough to try to hang around in Iraq indefinitely? I'd been assuming that after the elections, we'd hand over the keys to Sistani, declare victory, and get the hell out.

But I'm starting to get the vibe that Cheney wants to stick to the original plan and maintain our imperial possession.

Can't we be like the Ukraine and have new elections?

Posted by: Petey | Jan 17, 2005 11:49:18 AM

And OT, you really need to re-read the Lind column. I think you missed his point by a mile or two.

Posted by: Petey | Jan 17, 2005 11:51:34 AM

Condi Rice as reality based? Huh? Where are the Iraqi WMDs?

Posted by: Ari | Jan 17, 2005 12:15:57 PM

The fundamental problem with Powell, Rice, and, in his own way, Kerry, is that, compared to Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle and others, *they don’t know what they want*.

Which is the reason behind their persistent suggestion of banalities such as "involving the international community/UN" or "public diplomacy".

For someone who knows what he wants, see Wes Clark's article in the Wash Monthly a while back.

Posted by: Otto | Jan 17, 2005 12:29:39 PM

What about European opinion? Maybe its just my perspective, but from where I stand, the rabid anti-American voices seen over there are nothing like the objections of lefists over here. That is, the leftist while opposed to some action, still love their country to a certain degree whereas in Europe, the chances of getting verbally scolded simply for being an American is quite high. Is THAT primarily a communication problem or a problem of action?

Posted by: Adrock | Jan 17, 2005 12:50:54 PM

European perspective

Chance of American success from the start: Not very likely
Who will get most of the trouble afterwards: We

Posted by: c | Jan 17, 2005 1:48:43 PM


"...she shows every sign of setting a course aimed at putting diplomacy at the top of the Bush administration's foreign policy agenda..."


Hello! This is news? Diplomacy at the top of the deplomacy departments list. How amazing.

Posted by: Abdul Abulbul Amir | Jan 17, 2005 2:21:14 PM

What Ari said. Does Clueless Condi even know what reality is?

Of course, this is a trick question. If she answers yes - then we can fire back she lied to us during the first term. But then Condi can talk for 20 minutes and say nothing. It may be her only talent, but then that's why the big boss likes her.

Posted by: pgl | Jan 17, 2005 2:27:53 PM

Condi is Bush's No. 1 yes-man -- or yes-woman in this case -- who certainly can't be counted on to bring any more reality into Bush's tiny worldview than Colin Powell. Where was this twit when Powell was pushing the State Dept's more realistic assessment of the post-war situation in Iraq?

Posted by: ScrewyRabbit | Jan 17, 2005 2:52:28 PM

As to MY's first point, the reason Rice will be more successful than Powell in pushing policy in a reality-based direction is that, as the article says, she has a much better personal relationship with the President. Even if the substantive arguments between realism and Cheney-Rumsfeld hawkishness don't really change all that much, Bush's perception of them could change dramatically if the person articulating realist views is someone whose personal loyalty is proven, someone whom he feels he can trust. Bush is not sufficiently intellectual to be interested in evaluating arguments strictly on their own merits.

Posted by: El Gringo Loco | Jan 17, 2005 3:08:59 PM

from where I stand, the rabid anti-American voices seen over there are nothing like the objections of lefists over here.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now please remember to tell that to the next jagoff that says they're the same thing.

Posted by: some guy | Jan 17, 2005 3:13:40 PM

Condi and Colin were never but fronts. The real decisions were made without even considering them. Stand by for Bush to attack Iran and take drastic measure to imlement Grover;s grand schemes.

Posted by: ken melvin | Jan 17, 2005 4:47:29 PM

"When we say that we can't have diplomatic relations with Iran because it's a dictatorship, and Israel can't have relations with the Palestinian Authority until it becomes democratic, but we have no problem dealing with the existing regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia...."

How about "...but we have no problem dealing with the existing regime in Israel." In other words, we don't have a problem dealing with a regime that disenfranchises on a racial basis elements of its own population. A single example, of many:

"No Israeli law prevents Arab citizens from marrying Palestinians of the Occupied Territories. A new amendment to the Citizenship Law, however, makes such marriages impossible unless the Arab citizen leaves Israel. It freezes all naturalization procedures aimed toward family unification, where these concern Palestinians who have already married Arabs in Israel. It even forbids their continuing to reside in Israel as non-citizens."

What were you saying about Egypt and Saudi Arabia?

Posted by: Elias | Jan 17, 2005 4:57:04 PM

Elias-
Matt mentioned Israel as a democracy. The policy you mention is illiberal, but it is not, as far as I can tell, undemocratic. Since Matt's claim wasn't "Israel is a perfect model of a liberal democracy" but rather,"Israel is a democracy and Egypt and Saudi Arabia aren't democracies," exactly what point are you making?

Posted by: washerdreyer | Jan 17, 2005 5:54:03 PM

Rice is a status-hungry sycophant, and I do not recall her producing an original idea, while reconciling this Administration with reality requires a lot of creativity -- if it can be done at all.

Posted by: piotr | Jan 17, 2005 7:58:49 PM

Die, blockquote tag, die!

Posted by: fling93 | Jan 17, 2005 9:03:25 PM

And the strong tag, too!

Posted by: fling93 | Jan 17, 2005 9:17:31 PM

Sounds like a good time for Democrats to ask aloud why Bush has done nothing to pursue energy indpendence and promote democracy in Saudi Arabia, whose people you'll note *still* hate us and want to fly airplanes into our respective places of work for continuing to enable their corrupt and repressive government.

Sounds like a good time for Democrats to ask aloud why Bush has done nothing to pursue a fair and equitable peace between Israel and Palestine and promote democracy in Egypt, whose people you'll note *still* hate us and want fly airplanes into our respective places of work for continuing to enable (not to mention fund) their corrupt and repressive government.

Sounds like a good time...

Posted by: Scoop Democrat | Jan 17, 2005 11:12:20 PM

From what I've been able to observe over the last four years, Condi Rice hasn't accomplished much as National Security Adviser and, in fact, failed to watch certain issues closely such as the threat from al Qaida in 2001; furthermore, like much of the administration, her thinking goes back to the 1980s and therefore the 90s simply don't exist in her assessment of world affairs.

In the fall of 2003, she was given a chance to exercise more authority and seems to have largely muffed it. She has no control over Cheney and Rumsfeld even when she supposedly has had support from Bush to exercise more control and accountability.

Something to keep in mind is that whenever Bush gave Powell the green light to exercise his talents on some given issue Powell would make considerable headway despite games being played by Cheney and the Pentagon. When has Condi Rice ever made something happen?

Why does Bush keep her? First, loyalty. Second, she has demonstrated some public relations skill and is adept at staying on whatever message Bush is pushing. Bush will not have an instrument of foreign policy in Condi Rice. He will have a spokesperson. I hope I'm wrong but public diplomacy simply sounds like a euphemism for more Rice-style public relations and more excuses about information or policy being lost or mishandled somewhere in the bowels of some wayward government agency.

Posted by: Craig | Jan 18, 2005 1:24:07 AM

From what I've been able to observe over the last four years, Condi Rice hasn't accomplished much as National Security Adviser and, in fact, failed to watch certain issues closely such as the threat from al Qaida in 2001; furthermore, like much of the administration, her thinking goes back to the 1980s and therefore the 90s simply don't exist in her assessment of world affairs.

In the fall of 2003, she was given a chance to exercise more authority and seems to have largely muffed it. She has no control over Cheney and Rumsfeld even when she supposedly has had support from Bush to exercise more control and accountability.

Something to keep in mind is that whenever Bush gave Powell the green light to exercise his talents on some given issue Powell would make considerable headway despite games being played by Cheney and the Pentagon. When has Condi Rice ever made something happen?

Why does Bush keep her? First, loyalty. Second, she has demonstrated some public relations skill and is adept at staying on whatever message Bush is pushing. Bush will not have an instrument of foreign policy in Condi Rice. He will have a spokesperson. I hope I'm wrong but public diplomacy simply sounds like a euphemism for more Rice-style public relations and more excuses about information or policy being lost or mishandled somewhere in the bowels of some wayward government agency.

Posted by: Craig | Jan 18, 2005 1:28:30 AM

From what I've been able to observe, Condi Rice hasn't accomplished much as National Security Adviser and, in fact, failed to watch certain issues closely such as the threat from al Qaida in 2001; also, like much of the administration, her thinking goes back to the 1980s and therefore the 90s simply don't exist in her assessment of world affairs.

In the fall of 2003, she was given a chance to exercise more authority and appears to have muffed it. She has no control over Cheney and Rumsfeld even when she supposedly has had support from Bush.

Whenever Bush gave Powell the green light to exercise his talents on some given issue Powell would make considerable headway despite games being played by Cheney and the Pentagon. When has Condi Rice ever made something happen?

Why does Bush ke

Posted by: Craig | Jan 18, 2005 1:32:19 AM

From what I've been able to observe, Condi Rice hasn't accomplished much as National Security Adviser and, in fact, failed to watch certain issues closely such as the threat from al Qaida in 2001; also, like much of the administration, her thinking goes back to the 1980s and therefore the 90s simply don't exist in her assessment of world affairs.

In the fall of 2003, she was given a chance to exercise more authority and appears to have muffed it. She has no control over Cheney and Rumsfeld even when she supposedly has had support from Bush.

Whenever Bush gave Powell the green light to exercise his talents on some given issue Powell would make considerable headway despite games being played by Cheney and the Pentagon. When has Condi Rice ever made something happen?

Why does Bush keep her? First, loyalty. Second, she has demonstrated some public relations skill and is adept at staying on whatever message Bush is pushing. Bush will not have an instrument of foreign policy in Condi Rice. He will have a spokesperson. I hope I'm wrong but public diplomacy simply sounds like a euphemism for more Rice-style public relations and more excuses about things being mishandled somewhere in the bowels of some wayward government agency.

Posted by: Craig | Jan 18, 2005 1:36:18 AM

From what I've been able to observe, Condi Rice hasn't accomplished much as National Security Adviser and, in fact, failed to watch certain issues closely such as the threat from al Qaida in 2001; also, like much of the administration, her thinking goes back to the 1980s and therefore the 90s simply don't exist in her assessment of world affairs.

In the fall of 2003, she was given a chance to exercise more authority and appears to have muffed it. She has no control over Cheney and Rumsfeld even when she supposedly has had support from Bush.

Whenever Bush gave Powell the green light to exercise his talents on some given issue Powell would make considerable headway despite games being played by Cheney and the Pentagon. When has Condi Rice ever made something happen?

Why does Bush keep her? First, loyalty. Second, she has demonstrated some public relations skill and is adept at staying on whatever message Bush is pushing. Bush will not have an instrument of foreign policy in Condi Rice. He will have a spokesperson. I hope I'm wrong but public diplomacy simply sounds like a euphemism for more Rice-style public relations and more excuses about things being mishandled somewhere in the bowels of some wayward government agency.

Posted by: Craig | Jan 18, 2005 1:38:21 AM

Sorry for the multiple posts. I kept getting error messages.

Posted by: Craig | Jan 18, 2005 1:43:28 AM

Matt mentioned Israel as a democracy. The policy you mention is illiberal, but it is not, as far as I can tell, undemocratic.

Israel has no borders and will never have borders which sort of defines if something is a country or not. If you want to assign borders to it (which is quite pointless for an outsider) that's fine but in real terms a country is defined as the entity that controls a monopoly on legitimate violence which means that since '67 at least Israel is a democracy only in the herrenvolk terms of apartheid South Africa.

Posted by: absynthe | Jan 18, 2005 8:56:10 AM

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