How to explain the compulsive need to gush PR lauding Condi?
As Exhibit A, we have Condoleezza Rice Completes Washington's Geostrategic Shift, by one Dr. Michael A. Weinstein for PINR Dispatch.
The Stiftung reads PINR now and then. But this item deserves extended comment.
Here, Weinstein seemingly boldy asserts that:
Rice's announcements culminate a major revision of Washington's overall geostrategy that has been in the making since 2004 when the failures of the Iraq intervention exposed the limitations of U.S. military capabilities and threw into question the unilateralist doctrine outlined in the administration's 2002 National Security Strategy.
If by this, Weinstein asserts that Rice has modulated U.S. policy to reflect a weaker geopolitical hand, it would be accurate and unexceptional. But Weinstein goes further.
He claims “[t]hat picture [of the 'Wolfowitz Indiscretion' qua U.S. policy 2001-2005] changed in 2005 when Rice became secretary of state and moved to fill the policy vacuum by implementing her realist vision based on classical balance of power.”
If only it were so.
Certainly the Stiftung wishes it were true. But the evidence Weinstein relies upon unfortunately shows rather that Rice, like the rest of the Administration, remains in the thrall of more rhetorical political shadow play and word games than clear analysis and policy implementation. And the proof of this lies in the two examples Weinstein relies upon for support of Rice's triumphant “Realism”.
First, Weinstein points to Rice's pronouncements to “transform” the State Department. He claims this initiative marks a shift from the Administration's long standing policy. Second, Weinstein claims “Rice's analysis [in a January speech] was preceded by a change in the Pentagon's perspective through 2005 (emphasis mine) in which military planners introduced the idea that Washington was entering a ”long war“ to secure its interests against Islamic revolutionaries and a long term attempt to contain rising regional power centers that would require partnerships and stabilization efforts around the world.”
Both assertions are incorrect.
As the Stiftung wrote below, OSD has been talking of the “Long War” and the “20 Years War” and the “Battle of Afghanistan” and the “Battle of Iraq” since early 2002. This “Long War” view is not the change in 2006 that Weinstein believes it to be. A “Long War” reflects no change in OSD conversations the Stiftung had within OSD since 2002. Contra Weinstein, this “Long War” view is now 4 years old.
Second, Rice's “transformation” initiative is wholly in keeping with Newt Gingrich's neocon-inspired critique of the State Department and its need for “transformation” — an analysis at the time that prompted Armitage to quip that “Newt must be off his meds”. The “transformation” Rice is seeking to instill is also wholly in step with the “Force Reset” that Rumsfeld et al. initiated, with its focus on lilypads and changed center of gravity towards Central Asia and across the Pacific — the much publicized U.S. forward and expeditionary posture.
So if Weinstein is wrong, what is going on?
As the Stiftung has noted, Rice is a fundamentally mediocre mind, manager and steward of American national interests. (See 'Clueless'). In this, the Stiftung is in wholehearted agreement with “Global Paradigms” and its incisive piece “How to say that Condi Rice is not very bright — without using these exact words...”
To the extent that Rice recognizes that U.S. coercive capital is at a low ebb, this inescapable reality hardly requires a probing mind. To the extent that Rice recognizes that China and India are rising economic, political and military challenges similarly is an insight available to even the dimmest of undergraduate students. What is troubling, however, is Rice's effort (she is 'efforting' as they say on Fox?) to square this rudimentary Waltzian analysis with the core principle of neoconism — that the greatest threats to peace are the internal characteristics of regimes themselves (and hence the rationale for regime change). And in this effort to shove a square peg into a round hole, Rice betrays a graduate student's efforts to reconcile competing 'teachings' (with all that that word entails) from her various mentors. (See 'Soul of a Staffer'). The result is not a triumph of “Realism” that Weinstein trumpets. But intellectual mush. A hash.
As Leon Hadar quoted from Sabastian Mallaby's column on Cher Condi:
In January 2000, as the Bush campaign got underway, Rice published a manifesto in Foreign Affairs that laid out the classic “realist” position: American diplomacy should “focus on power relationships and great-power politics” rather than on other countries' internal affairs. “Some worry that this view of the world ignores the role of values, particularly human rights and the promotion of democracy,” she acknowledged. But the priority for U.S. foreign policy was to deal with powerful governments, whose “fits of anger or acts of beneficence affect hundreds of millions of people.”Now Weinstein would have us believe that Rice's embrace of (a) “[t]he greatest threats now emerge more within states than between them”; and (b) that “[t]he fundamental character of regimes now matters more than the international distribution of power. In this world it is impossible to draw neat, clear lines between our security interests, our development efforts and our democratic ideals” is 'classical realism' (his words).
How needy must one be?
But if Rice is mishmashing competing theoretical approaches to the international system, even here, Rice can not wholly claim much originality. Indeed much of what she has been spouting around town is actually a watered down lifting from the serial policy entreprenuer Thomas P. Barnett, although as the Stiftung has noted, Condi mercifully has omitted his “Core” and “Gap” mantra.
We close with the final paragraph of Mallaby's column quoted in “Global Paradigms”:
The big question today in foreign policy is not whether you are a realist or an idealist. It's whether you are an optimist or a pessimist: whether you think that Iraq has gone badly merely because the Bush administration mishandled it, or whether you believe that no amount of skillful management could have achieved stability after three years. I've watched Rice handle squadrons of aggressive journalists, and there's no doubting her intellect. But her forays into grand theory are disappointing. Last week's call for “transformational diplomacy” merely slides past today's big question. It doesn't offer an answer.Weinstein's hopes will have to wait another day, and another Rice press release.