Political debate pits Right against Left
Condoleezza Rice, Susan Rice discuss international affairs
CLINTON, N.Y. » Two foreign policy veterans from opposite sides of the political aisle agreed Wednesday that the Trump administration lacks leverage to impose its will in Syria.
In a debate at Hamilton College, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice said there was no clear path as tensions grow over alleged use of poison gas by the Syrian government, a situation complicated by Russian support for Syria.
Moderating the debate was NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who opened the appearance by asking what the best course of action was in Syria.
Susan Rice, who served under President Barack Obama, said there were really no good answers to the questions and noted that Obama did not want to use military force in Syria. President Trump, she noted, did hit Syria with missiles after the government there used poison gas, but Trump needed to use the leverage created by that strike by following up with diplomacy.
Condoleezza Rice, who served in the George W. Bush administration, agreed and added that during the Bush and Obama administration, the United States did not have any leverage in Syria and that Iran and Russia now have the upper hand there.
“The leverage was there when Trump was first in office and struck the Syrian bases,” Condoleezza said.
When it came to Russia, Condoleezza insisted that Russian President Vladimir Putin is getting away with hyperventilating rhetoric, but his nation is currently declining.
“Putin once said to me that Russia has only been ruled by great men. But Russia is declining and they need an enemy,” Condoleezza said. “They have nothing going for them but military. When’s the last time you saw something that said ‘Made in Russia’?”
Susan Rice remarked “vodka” and got a laugh out of both the crowd and Condoleezza, but Condoleezza countered that even vodka is being made more by the French.
They agreed on many topics, but voices were raised when the topic of the Iran nuclear deal
came up and Trump’s comments about it being the “worst deal in history.”
Condoleezza said that, while the Iran Deal has, for at least another eight years, stopped Iran from producing a nuclear warhead, she believes the U.S. was too quick to agree to the deal and could have gotten the deal in perpetuity with the right to inspect on demand.
“This was not a deal done in a hurry,” Susan re- sponded. “This deal was two and a half years of negotiation and stopped Iran from purchasing what was needed to produce nuclear weapons. And, if the U.S. backs out, it gives the Iranians a pathway to return unfettered.”
“Obama admitted Iran will be further along because they can still do lab work,” Condoleezza said. “Howlong does it take if the U.S. wants to investigate a site? Can the U.S. go to any site without any dispute?”
Susan said if there is credible evidence, a demand for inspection can be presented to the European parties to the deal.
The debate got especially heated when Susan Rice insisted there was no way for the inspectors to easily clean up operations before an inspection, as Condoleezza Rice insisted they could and added there are cameras in every nuclear site Iran has.
“There are cameras in every site that we know of,” Condoleezza said. “We could have gotten the deal with snap inspection, you were in a strong position.”
Both agreed that withdrawing from the deal at this point would be a mistake.
Condoleezza Rice served as the 66th secretary of state of the United States from 2005 to 2009, the second woman and first African-American woman to hold the post. From 1989 through March 1991, Rice served on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council staff. She is currently the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution, and a professor of political science at Stanford University.
Susan Rice served President Barack Obama as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013. From2013 to 2017, she served as National Security Adviser, leading the diplomatic, intelligence, and development experts of the NSC staff. Rice is currently a Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow at the American University School of International Service and a non-resident senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She is also a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.
Susan Rice, left, Andrea Mitchell, center and Condoleezza Rice at Hamilton College for debate on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.
Hamilton College hosts the debate and people wait for Susan Rice and Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.