Tuesday, October 04, 2005

 

Secretary Rice at Princeton

Princeton University rendered great honor upon its celebration of the 75th Anniversary of their Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, by inviting Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to speak, September 30, 2005.

Secretary Rice gave a stirring speech, and revisited the great US Foreign Policy achievements of these last 75 years, and drew ready parallels between earlier perils and achievements, and today’s Global War on Terror (although Secretary Rice never used those words).

She set the current situation in just the right context:
Today, however, democracies are emerging wherever and whenever the tides of oppression recede. As President Bush said in his Second Inaugural Address, "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

Now, to forge realistic policies from these idealistic principles, we must recognize that statecraft can assume two fundamentally different forms. In ordinary times, when existing ideas and institutions and alliances are adequate to the challenges of the day, the purpose of statecraft is to manage and sustain the established international order. But in extraordinary times, when the very terrain of history shifts beneath our feet and decades of human effort collapse into irrelevance, the mission of statecraft is to transform our institutions and partnerships to realize new purposes on the basis of enduring values.
This is the challenge the Bush Administration, against all odds and expectations, took on with great courage and commitment. No one can seriously argue that George W. Bush gave himself any great advantage in a future re-election by taking on the mission of the difficult transformations this struggle required. How much easier it would have been to bask in the glow of 9/11 and his huge surge in popularity and public approval. History shifted beneath our feet, and many still cannot seem to find their footing.

Is the path as clear as some seem to think it always was in our previous great struggles for civilization? Not at all, and it wasn’t then, either. Secretary Rice precisely describes the wreckage left by World War II:
The solutions to those challenges seem perfectly clear now with half a century of hindsight. But it was anything but clear for the men and women who lived and worked in those unprecedented change. Long after he was present at the creation, Dean Acheson remembered the early years of the Cold War as cloudy, and puzzling, and perilous. "The significance of events," he wrote, "was shrouded in ambiguity and we hesitated long before grasping what now seems obvious."
To assume such a view was obvious or universally acclaimed by the Foreign Policy elites immediately following the war, would be revisionist history indeed. No, there were those who still perceived FDR as nothing more than a Communist, and World War II an unfortunate accommodation to warmongers and Empire coddlers. No less in the modern era, naysayers adopt the mantle of isolationism, “America first,” or conversely, “America last,” in deference (and appeasement) to perceived aggrievements.

Secretary Rice also asserts why everything changed on September 11, 2001:
But lurking below the surface, old hatreds were gaining new power. And on a warm September morning, America encountered the darker demons of our new world.

People still differ about what the September 11th calls us to do. And in a democratic society, that debate is healthy and just and right. If you focus only on the attacks themselves and believe they were caused by 19 hijackers, supported by a network called al-Qaida, and operating from a failed state -- Afghanistan -- then our response can be limited. The course of action presumes that we are still living in an ordinary time.

But if you believe, as I do and as President Bush does, that the root cause of September 11th was the violent expression of a global extremist ideology, an ideology rooted in the oppression and despair of the modern Middle East, then we must speak to remove the source of this terror by transforming that troubled region. If you believe as we do, then it cannot be denied that we are standing at an extraordinary moment in history.

Some would argue that this broad approach to the problem is making the world less stable by rocking the boat and wrecking the status quo. But this presumes the existence of a stable status quo that does not threaten global security. This is not the case. A regional order that produced an ideology of hatred so savage as the one we now confront is not serving any civilized interest.

For 60 years, we often thought that we could achieve stability without liberty in the Middle East. And ultimately, we got neither. Now, we must recognize, as we do in every other region of the world, that liberty and democracy are the only guarantees of true stability and lasting security.
In response to those who say we are trying to impose Democracy on reluctant or hostile populations, Secretary Rice riposts:
It is not liberty and democracy that must be imposed. It is tyranny and silence that are forced upon people at gunpoint.
Condi Rice is a brilliant and highly effective advocate for this new, muscular and progressive era of American Foreign Policy. She understands the threat, and is deeply committed to courses of action that are validated every day that the American military stands astride the ratlines of Islamofascism, and guarantees freedom to peoples who have only know fear or threats. And she will not surrender our cause:
The choice we face in Iraq is, thus, stark. If we quit now, we will abandon Iraq’s democrats at their time of greatest need. We will embolden every enemy of liberty and democracy across the Middle East. We will destroy any chance that the people of this region have of building a future of hope and opportunity. And we will make America more vulnerable. If we abandon future generations in the Middle East to despair and terror, we also condemn future generations in the United States to insecurity and fear.

Ladies and Gentlemen: We have set out to help the people of the Middle East transform their societies. Now is not the time to falter or fade.
Secretary Rice ended her historic speech recalling the days immediately at the end of the Cold War, when the wall fell, when people rose up against the Paper Tigers of the Warsaw Pact, when even the greatly feared but largely decrepit USSR fell into the ash can of history:
I saw things that I never thought possible. And one day, they seemed impossible; and several days later, they seemed inevitable. That is the nature of extraordinary times.

But as I look back now on those times, I realized that I was only harvesting the good decisions that had been taken in 1947, in 1948, and in 1949.
Secretary Rice reminded her audience that there were many dark days in the fight against expansionist and totalitarian communism after WWII:
These were not just tactical setbacks for the forward march of democracy. Indeed, it must have seemed quite impossible, that we would one day, stand at a juncture where Eastern Europe would be liberated, Russia would emerge, and Europe would be whole and free and at peace. If we think back on those days, we recognize that extraordinary times are turbulent and they are hard. And it is very often hard to see a clear path. But if you are -- as those great architects of the post-Cold War victory were -- if you are true to your values, if you are certain of your values, and if you act upon them with confidence and with strength, it is possible to have an outcome where democracy spreads and peace and liberty reign.

Because of the work that they did, it is hard to imagine war in Europe again. So it shall be also for the Middle East.
So shall it be also for the Middle East.

Keep watching, Ladies and Gentlemen. For so you see the political rise of the next President of the United States. You better believe Hillary is building the playbook to beat her as we speak. And it shouldn’t look easy, and she might start losing sleep. Hillary, that is.

(H/T RightWingNation, who likewise gives a H/T Curiouser & Curiouser)

Links: Mudville Gazette, Outside the Beltway, bRight & Early, Dawn Patrol at Mudville, Cafe Oregano



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