Reporter Glen Kessler of The Washington Post has a new book about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called The Confidante set for release this week. I haven't read this book, which might have some worthwhile reporting in it, so this isn't a book review. However, this preview is already enough to make me want to slap the author.
For one thing, there's this quote: "She was one of the weakest national security advisors in US history. Her inexperience and her mistakes in that job have shaped the world and colored the choices she must handle as secretary of state."
That's a subjective judgment, and he's got a whole book in which he might make some reasonable points for taking such a dim view. But on the face of it, that just sounds pretty ridiculous – as if Carter's Zbigniew Brzezinski or Clinton's Anthony Lake had a better handle on controlling the world. Sure couldn't tell it on the basis of results. Mr Brzezinski has a blurb endorsing the book, picking up particularly on the supposed "absence of any coherent foreign policy vision." Hey, Carter and Brzezinski had a coherent foreign policy vision – that resulted in the mullahs gaining power in Iran and all that has brought us.
But right here's the money quote that has me wanting to put a boot in Mr Kessler's ass: "The invasion of Iraq, the missed opportunity with Iran, the breach in relations with Europe, the Arab anger at a perceived bias against the Palestinians — all of these problems were the direct result of decisions she helped make in the White House."
That right there has so many levels of stupidity impacted together as to defy easy description. Now, I don't know just how much of which Bush administration decisions were her doing. Also, there's certainly plenty of legitimate room to argue about the woulda, coulda, shouldas of Bush foreign policy. But this quote from Kessler pretty much lays the blame for every problem in the frickin' world at Rice's feet.
See, Iraq was doing fine until Condi and W came along and screwed it up for no obvious reason. This puts Kessler on about the level of Sean Penn in Team America carrying on about the rivers of chocolate and gumdrop smiles. What we had been doing in Iraq and the Middle East just wasn't working, for US or the Iraqi people. We're in a messy and expensive intervention that has gotten mixed results after four years, but anything the Bush administration did or didn't do was going to be wrong.
Every phrase of that Kessler quote brims with foolishness. "Arab anger at a perceived bias against the Palestinians" is Condoleezza Rice's fault? How about that it's the fault of Palestinian's for being monstrous barbarians. The Bush administration hasn't made enough of an effort to take their side of things? But they mostly don't have a legitimate side to take. Is it Kessler's contention that if Condi coddled the Palestinians better, there'd be less killing?
By his lights, the Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon in 2006 somehow represents a foreign policy failure by Rice. Also, the lack of progress in the supposed Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" apparently counts as her failure. How figure that as the fault of any American? Hey, I'm no fan of Bill Clinton or Madeleine Albright, but Arab barbarity isn't their fault either.
What "missed opportunity with Iran" might there have been? Other than destroying them militarily, what exactly is it that we could do to dissuade those evil bastards from their brutal rogue ways? Did Clinton or Bush the elder or even the great Ronald Reagan have them under control? I think not. Oh wait – I know what we need: more diplomacy and dialogue with the Iranian regime.
Now, it's perfectly reasonable to hold the Bush administration responsible for missteps in the conduct of the Iraq invasion – though that would be more on Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld or Decider in Chief Bush, rather than Ms Rice at State. If we'd done this and that differently, maybe we'd have gotten different and better results.
But it's nonsense to blame any American for the hatefulness and barbarity of thousand year old conflicts on the other side of the world.