Condi Rice: Rhetoric vs. Policy

Condi Rice: Rhetoric vs. Policy

Glenn Kessler’s profile of Condi Rice is well worth the read. Like most articles about the Bush administration, it reads like a tragedy. And I read it with sadness, regret, and, finally, anger. Again, I was left wondering what might have been.

This graf caught my attention, and like the recent Peter Baker article, it gets the Bush administration’s “freedom agenda” wrong:

But at the same time, friends and former colleagues marvel at how Rice has been transformed by the president she so devotedly serves — from a hardheaded foreign policy “realist” to a wholehearted supporter of Bush”s belief in the power of freedom and democracy.

Let us be clear and shatter this myth for what it is. No, Rice is not a wholehearted supporter of Bush’s supposed “belief” in the “power of democracy.” She never was. Secondly, as I have discussed elsewhere, there is good reason to suspect that Bush’s “belief” in democracy promotion has been a rather weak belief, and one that rarely took precedence over more pressing strategic concerns (like wanting to bomb the Iran). Yes, we have heard Condi’s rhetoric. We know that she gravitates, at least at an abstract level, toward a foreign policy orientation known as “constructive instability.” She does wax somewhat eloquently on the missionary components of U.S. policy. But these are just words, and it is about time we judge this administration on what it has actually done, and not what it would like us to believe it would have done had circumstances been different. This is not to say that Bush and Condi do not care about democracy in the Middle East; it is only to say that they don”t care about it nearly enough.

In reality, this Administration has shown itself to be a consistent, dogged defender of autocratic regimes. In 2005, during the “Arab spring,” a different history may have been in the making. But if we look at how the Bush administration has since given a green light to Mubarak, Abdullah, Musharraf, Qaddafi – the list is a long one – then it would be easy to conclude that this administration has succeeded at one thing: dramatically raising expectations, only to shatter them, all the while pretending to still care. Few things could be more insulting to the courageous dissidents of the Arab world who, for a short while, believed – or wanted to believe – that U.S policy had changed. But they were betrayed. In the Middle East, such betrayals are not easily forgotten.