Sec­re­tary Rice’s world view

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Cal Thomas

Sit­ting with Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice in her of­fice re­cently re­minded me of why I loved a pro­fes­sor I had in col­lege. Like him, she is so in­ter­ested and en­thu­si­as­tic about her sub­ject that the depth and breadth of her knowl­edge be­comes con­ta­gious.

Dressed im­pec­ca­bly in a dark St. John’s knit (yes, ladies, I know th­ese things), Miss Rice ex­pounded on the world and its trou­ble spots like the pro­fes­sor she once was and de­sires to be again. We dis­agreed on only one ma­jor is­sue, which I shall get to in a mo­ment.

I be­gan with a gen­eral ques­tion. Why does she think there are so many trou­ble spots si­mul­ta­ne­ously chal­leng­ing the United States? In ad­di­tion to Iraq and Iran, there is North Korea, Venezuela and Nicaragua, where it ap­pears Daniel Ortega may be re­turned to power in the Nov. 5 elec­tion.

Miss Rice said, “We’re at the be­gin­ning of a big, his­toric tran­si­tion. When I was here the last time work­ing for Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, we were at the end of 50 years of con­tain­ing the Soviet threat and ul­ti­mately de­feat­ing it. And so we got to har­vest the end of that. [. . . ] This time we’re at the be­gin­ning of a new, big his­toric tran­si­tion where we’re try­ing to lay the foun­da­tion for the ul­ti­mate vic­tory of democ­racy and tri­umph against the ide­ol­ogy of ha­tred and the de­feat of ter­ror­ism and the rogue states.” Is she con­fi­dent all of this will hap­pen, or is it wish­ful think­ing?

“I have no doubt that it will (hap­pen), but it cer­tainly won’t be on our watch and it may be sev­eral watches into the fu­ture.”

She’s right and our en­e­mies be­lieve we don’t have the stom­ach for a pro­tracted war pos­si­bly last­ing decades. Miss Rice said, “I be­lieve we have the will to do this.” But she ac­knowl­edged that, “Amer­i­cans need to see progress. I don’t doubt that.” As the elec­tion ap­proaches, vis­i­ble lack of progress, at least in Bagh­dad, may be what is hurt­ing the Repub­li­cans and weak­en­ing the na­tional will on Iraq.

Miss Rice thinks the Chi­nese are se­ri­ous about re­strain­ing North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram and that truck in­spec­tions along the border are more than win­dow dress­ing. “The Chi­nese have ev­ery rea­son to be very wor­ried about a North Korea nu­clear pro­gram or a North Korea nu­clear weapon. It causes desta­bi­liza­tion in the re­gion. They worry about whether other states will start think­ing about go­ing nu­clear (and) that the North Kore­ans might traf­fic in dan­ger­ous ma­te­ri­als and th­ese can end up in the wrong hands.”

She re­jects crit­i­cism that the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion won’t con­duct one-on-one talks with North Korea. She calls it a “myth that we haven’t talked di­rectly to North Korea. Within the con­text of the six-party talks, [As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State] Chris Hill has had din­ner with them, just Chris and his North Korean coun­ter­part. What we haven’t done is ne­go­ti­ate one-on-one with them be­cause if they get into a po­si­tion where it’s just an Amer­i­can agree­ment they’re break­ing, like the case in ‘94, then they don’t face the pres­sure of a China or a Rus­sia. The North would like noth­ing bet­ter than to have this be about North Korea and the United States. We are say­ing this is about North Korea and the re­gion.”

And what about Nicaragua’s elec­tion and Daniel Ortega’s pos­si­ble re­turn to power? “We’ll see whether or not, in fact, Nicaragua wants to go back that way,” she said. “Our goal is to make sure (the elec­tion) is free and fair.”

Venezuela? “I think you’ll see a lot of back­lash against Venezue­lan poli­cies. We used to have very good re­la­tions with Venezuela, but it re­quires a pres­i­dent in Venezuela who re­spects demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions [. . . ] and who is not med­dling in his neigh­bor’s af­fairs.”

Miss Rice and I dis­agreed on the is­sue of a Pales­tinian state. I think the Pales­tini­ans want the state to oblit­er­ate Is­rael, the proof be­ing the five wars fought by Arab states, ter­ror­ism and the con­tin­u­ing anti-Is­rael rhetoric from mosques and me­dia through­out the re­gion. Ac­cord­ing to Miss Rice, “The great ma­jor­ity of the [Pales­tinian] peo­ple just want a bet­ter life. I just don’t be­lieve moth­ers want their chil­dren to grow up to be sui­cide bombers. I think moth­ers want their chil­dren to grow up to go to univer­sity. And if you can cre­ate the right con­di­tions, that’s what peo­ple are go­ing to do.”

I asked if she just thinks this, or does she know it? “I think I know it,” she said. “Do you think you know it be­cause you want to be­lieve it, or do you think you know it be­cause of con­ver­sa­tions with [them]?”

Miss Rice ad­mits to hav­ing had “lots of con­ver­sa­tions with Pales­tini­ans,” but then added: “If hu­man be­ings don’t want a bet­ter fu­ture, don’t want their chil­dren to grow up in peace and have op­por­tu­ni­ties, then none of this is go­ing to work any­way.”

Ex­actly right. But their def­i­ni­tion of “peace” and “op­por­tu­ni­ties” are dif­fer­ent from ours. We can­not trans­pose (or im­pose) our moral­ity on those who don’t share it. And the pro­pa­ganda, re­li­gious teach­ings and his­tor­i­cal re­vi­sion­ism com­ing from ev­ery pore of the Pales­tinian struc­ture con­vinces me they mean it and re­gard the State De­part­ment view over sev­eral ad­min­is­tra­tions as self-delu­sional.

Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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