On everything that is wrong with Condoleezza Rice

When Condoleezza Rice emerged into prominence as George W. Bush’s foreign policy advisor in the 2000 presidential campaign, I had a positive impression of her as a woman who eschewed racial politics and seemed sensible, sane, and appealingly all-American. On substance, she struck me as a moderately realist foreign policy thinker, not brilliant, but not foolish either. Unfortunately, after she became national security advisor, her lack of intellectual distinction became more and more apparent. Every time I heard her speak, her ideas seemed merely conventional and rote. However, I still saw her as competent and patriotic, utterly unlike her vile predecessors in the Clinton administration.

Then, starting in 2003, several developments made me turn decisively against her:

1. Her endorsement of racial preferences in college and graduate school admissions—a betrayal of her earlier statements against treating blacks as blacks instead of as individuals. Also, it was completely inappropriate for her in her role as national security advisor to pronounce on this subject, a gross example of the more lenient standards allowed for blacks.

2. Her smugly smiling testimony before the 9/11 commission, where she made one of the stupidest utterances I’ve ever heard from a high public official (this is a close paraphrase): “Commissioner, if I had known that Arab terrorists were going to hijack airliners on the morning of September 11th and fly them into the World Trade Center, I would have done everything I could to stop that.” As though that were the issue! Of course if she had known about a specific attack, she would have tried to stop it. The point was that she was not sufficiently on the lookout for possible attacks.

3. Richard Lowry’s cover article in the October 25, 2004 National Review, “What Went Wrong?”, in which he pointed out that Rice in the period preceding the Iraq war had utterly failed in her responsibility to integrate the various contradictory recommendations and plans coming from a host of government agencies concerning both the war itself and how we should manage Iraq in its aftermath. The chaos of our policy in post-Saddam Iraq—and the resulting chaos on the ground—was the fault of Rice more than any other person. Yet despite her incompetence, she was made Secretary of State.

4. Her complacent chanting of President Bush’s democratist mantra. I have sometimes referred to Rice as Bush’s “twin brain,” because of the way both of them keep repeating, in response to every question and problem that arises, the same slogan about democracy as the all-purpose solution to terror. Their attitude is, democracy is the most self-evidently correct idea in the world, and their critics just don’t “get” it yet, but eventually (if Bush and Rice hold to their guns) the critics will get it. Therefore, any further discussion or proof is unnecessary.

The irony is that, though the democratist mantra contradicts the real world, it has a certain superficial coherence and plausibility. This makes it superior to any challenge currently coming from the left, since the left’s only idea is anti-Americanism and anti-Westernism. Meanwhile, the right’s energies are wholly taken up with defending Bush from the left’s anti-Americanism, so they never ask Bush and Rice any intelligent questions; and journalists are too stupid to ask them any intelligent questions. So Bush and Rice are home free. In a society in which rational public debate has disappeared, their democratist boilerplate gives them a “line” they can confidently utter in every circumstance, blowing past all opposition. Thus these two intellectual mediocrities have come to see themselves as the voices of truth in a fallen world.

5. Rice’s aggressive pushing for further Israeli concessions leading to Palestinian statehood, despite the fact that the Palestinian have not uprooted their terror networks and not stopped the incitements to murder Jews.

6. Her endorsement of political participation by Hezbollah in Lebanon. While this completely contradicts the anti-terror side of our foreign policy, it is perfectly consistent with the other side of our foreign policy, namely the promotion of democracy, which in practical terms has been defined by the Bush administration as the holding of an election, any election. If we believe in democracy (so defined) as our aim for the whole world (as Bush said in his 2005 inaugural), and if Hezbollah can win popular elections, then we must support them.

All that is preface to the latest development in the Rice view of the world, as reported in the Washington Times:

JERUSALEM—Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday rejected calls for U.S. engagement with the militant Palestinian group Hamas and urged Palestinians not to vote for the group’s candidates in upcoming parliamentary elections.

“I frankly don’t think that it is the dream of mothers and fathers around the world that their children will be suicide bombers,” she said. “I don’t think it is the dream of people around the world that their children will have no future but one of violence.”

Note the sentimentality of this rhetoric, which of course is the standard Bush/neoconservative rhetoric. It’s all about what she, Rice, imagines that parents around the world “dream” for their children, not about what is demonstrably true. The emphasis on people’s “dreams” is the contemporary, personalist version of the democratist idea: that all people have the same basic desires; that these basic desires are good; and that therefore it is America’s transcendent moral purpose to help people realize their desires. This applies both to their individual desires (particularly their desire to immigrate to the U.S.) and their collective desires (as expressed through elections). The fatal flaw with this reasoning, of course, especially in its Rice version, is that in the world of reality lots of Moslem mothers and fathers do in fact want their children to be suicide bombers and do in fact believe in jihad to advance Islam, as they have repeatedly and openly expressed. But because Rice has defined the good as a content-free process (i.e. democratic elections by which people’s desires are realized) rather than as a particular substance (i.e., the construction of decent, civilized societies with which we can live at peace), she has opened the door to the very thing—jihadism and terrorism—that she substantively opposes. If Palestinian voters choose a Hamas government, then Rice, notwithstanding her current blather about people’s “dreams,” will have no choice but to support that result. Indeed, she has already said as much with regard to Hezbollah.

This shows the folly of making democratic process, rather than a substantive good, our criterion of success. And the folly becomes sheer madness when it is applied to Moslems, who don’t believe in “democracy,” but in Islam; who don’t believe in making “peace” with non-Moslems, but in waging Holy War to conquer and kill them.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 19, 2005 02:30 PM | Send

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