Thoughts on Dr. Rice- by a recovering Democrat.
Note: from time to time we will run pieces that include a bit of the old "what makes us tick". This is the first, by your friend and mine, Smiley.
Greetings from the Far Abroad.
My name is Smiley, and Dr. Demarche has invited me to contribute to this blog. I'm probably not a true member of the State Department Republican Underground, but then again, I'm probably not a true Democrat either (I used to be, but I find it harder and harder to align myself with the party of Moore). I suppose I'm what someone once termed "metropolitical
." I believe that the State Department, in spite of its flaws, is a good institution, not some traitorous fifth column that a few have made it out to be, and I'm tremendously proud to serve my country as an FSO.
But enough about me.
Lately, a lot of my non-FSO friends, and many in the Blogosphere, have asked me about the relative merits of our Secretary-nominate, Condoleeza Rice. Liberals tend to believe that she is a hard-line stooge of the President, and will merely act as a yes-(wo)man, rubber-stamping his policies. Conservatives tend to hope that she will bring a supposedly "off the reservation" State Department back in line. Over at the Council on Foreign Relations, James Lindsay
has it pretty much right.
To me it appears that, at least from a policy perspective, Rice will be good for the State Department, for American foreign policy, and by extension, for the country. It is fair to say that she has the trust of the President. The President has said that he intends to pursue a variety of multilateral foreign policy initiatives in his second term, notably the Middle East Peace Process (or Road Map, if you're nasty), bringing more countries on board in terms of Iraq reconstruction, and repairing the transatlantic relationship. It seems evident to me that by putting a close confidant in charge of our country's foreign policy, the President is effectively putting his money where his mouth is.
I take Rice's appointment to mean that the President is serious about effective multilateralism (I'm prepared to argue that Bush's reputation for"unilateralism" is much more the product of an abrasive style than any of his actions, but not in this post). Putting a firm ally of the President in the hot seat at Foggy Bottom sets up the President for a series of "Nixon-to-China" moments, particularly vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the remaking of the Middle East in general. As any Arab leader will tell you, solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to addressing all the other issues in the Middle East (not that I believe that, mind you- but solving it would remove the most obvious figleaf covering the true problems of the Middle East, and take one major excuse for failing to reform out of play).
If Bush, with Condi pulling strings for him, can bring about a solution (and that is a big "if") he will have gone a long way towards his accomplishing his objectives in the Arab world, particularly if he is able to stabilize Iraq and pull off relatively fair elections in the process. Given that all these items (and much more) appear be on the agenda for Bush in his second term, the appointment of his most trusted advisor as our nation's chief diplomat would indicate that he intends to use the State Department to further this mission- and that he trusts Condi enough that he will listen if she should, in the course of heading the Department, develop some points of view that differ from his own.
I'm going to address the management issues that Rice might face in future postings. For more on that now, our gentle readers should check out our brethren over at The Diplomad