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Rice Looks Back at Bush’s Foreign Policy

Posted June. 10, 2008 08:31,   


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently ran a piece in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, reflecting on U.S. foreign policy over the past eight years.

Entitled “Rethinking the National Interest,” the article is a follow-up to her first contribution to the same magazine’s January/February issue in 2000, “Promoting the National Interest.”

Eight years ago, Rice went from Stanford University faculty member to national security adviser after George W. Bush was elected president. If the first article written around that period showcased her great ambition for foreign affairs just prior to his inauguration, her latest piece is nothing but a plea to accept Bush’s foreign policy, which has bogged down.

▽ Revisiting U.S. national interest

She began her latest piece, “What is the national interest?” and answered “democratic state building.”

Rice said “Although the United States` ability to influence strong states is limited, our ability to enhance the peaceful political and economic development of weak and poorly governed states can be considerable.”

“One of the great advances of the past eight years has been the creation of a bipartisan consensus for the more strategic use of foreign assistance,” she added.

On why democratic state building matters, she said, "Over the long term, U.S. security is best ensured by the success of U.S. ideals." She said the five pillars of the ideals are freedom, human rights, open markets, democracy and the rule of law.

What is interesting is that she stressed that the spread of democracy cannot be forced from outside, and a country undergoing such a process needs time to realize democratic principles to be reborn a strong democratic country no matter how long it takes and how it struggles.

Citing the examples of Mideast countries, she said, "The answers to these and other questions can come only from the Middle East itself." "The task for Washington is to support and shape these difficult processes of change and help nations in the region overcome several major challenges to their emergence as modern democratic states," she added.

▽ U.S. national interest 8 years ago

Rice’s attitude is quite different from the foreign policy vision she formulated eight years ago, when the Bush administration was about to take office.

At the time, she advocated the projection of national power through strong military force as the new priority of America’s foreign policy. She also urged strong action against rogue states such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

She said the United States should make every effort to remove Saddam Hussein using all possible measures, including assisting his political enemies who developed weapons of mass destruction.”

On North Korea, Rice said that if Pyongyang tries to use WMDs after acquiring them, Washington should punish the country to force it out of existence.

The United States should concentrate on world powers such as Russia and China, she said, and Washington should share its values with its alliances through strengthening its foreign relations with the nations.

▽ Reason behind attitude shift

The shift in her attitude can be construed as U.S. admission of its limits in unilateralism and that it cannot do anything without help from its alliances. Rice also acknowledged that if there is something greatly different from the past, it is dynamics and the distribution of power among nations.

In this strategic environment, she said, "It is vital to U.S. national security that states be willing and able to meet the full range of their sovereign responsibilities, both beyond their borders and within them." "This new reality has led to significant changes in U.S. policy, and Washington recognizes that democratic state building is now an urgent component of national interest," she added.

In other words, securing as many as alliances that share U.S. values is an important factor for U.S. national interests.

Rice, however, did not admit U.S. failure in its Middle East policy, saying instead, "For six decades under both Democratic and Republican administrations, a basic bargain defined U.S. engagement in the broader Middle East." "Washington supported authoritarian regimes, and they supported a shared interest in regional stability," she added.

Indeed, she asked, "The quest for justice and a new equilibrium on which the nations of the broader Middle East have embarked are very turbulent. But is it really worse than the situation before?”