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Condoleezza Rice on Foreign Policy

Secretary of State


American exceptionalism is based on an idea of opportunity

When the world looks to America, they look to us because we are the most successful economic and political experiment in human history. That is the true basis of American exceptionalism. You see, the essence of America, what really unites us, is not nationality or ethnicity or religion. It is an idea. And what an idea it is. That you can come from humble circumstances and you can do great things, that it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going.

Ours has been a belief in opportunity. And it has been a constant struggle, long and hard, up and down, to try to extend the benefits of the American dream to all. But that American ideal is indeed in danger today. There is no country, no, not even a rising China that can do more harm to us than we can do to ourselves if we do not do the hard work before us here at home. People have come here from all over because they have believed our creed of opportunity and limitless horizons.

Source: 2012 Republican National Convention speech , Aug 29, 2012

Listen to other countries before pursuing US interests

On the AmericansElect.org foreign policy question, Dr. Rice chose 'D' from the list below, with a relative weighting of 30%:
Source: AmericansElect email questionnaire with Condi Rice's staff , Feb 13, 2012

Castro should pay for '62 Cuban Missile Crisis until he dies

One of my most vivid childhood memories is the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, in which the US and the Soviet Union engaged in a tense standoff over the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba. We were glued to the set every evening during those 13 days. It was a very scary time. In school, we went through duck-and-cover drills.

But the crisis in Cuba was no drill. I could tell that my father was worried, and I realized that this was something my parents couldn't save me from. It was the first time that I remember feeling truly vulnerable.

The whole episode had a surprisingly strong impact on me. I once told an audience of Cuban Americans that Fidel Castro had put the US at risk in allowing those missiles to be deployed. "He should pay for it until he dies," I said. Even I was surprised by the rawness of that comment.

Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p. 39-40 , Jan 10, 2012

Joined Republican Party when Carter boycotted 1980 Olympics

In the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, everyone was worried about growing tensions between the US and the Soviet Union. I'd previously registered as a Democrat and voted for President Jimmy Carter in my first presidential election in 1976; I had this narrative in my head about reconciliation of the North and South and how he was going to be the first Southern president. Now I watched him say that he had learned more about the Soviet Union from this Afghanistan invasion than he had ever known. "Whom did you think you were dealing with?" I asked the television set. When Carter decided that the best response to the invasion was to boycott the Olympics, he lost me. I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980, and a few years late I joined the Republican Party.
Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.188 , Jan 10, 2012

Berlin Wall fell thanks to bureaucratic screw-up

The unthinkable happened: the Berlin Wall fell. The most momentous event in 40 years of international history occurred thanks to a gigantic bureaucratic screw-up in the GDR. To stem the exodus of its citizens, the East German government developed new, liberalized travel policies that would give East Germans the ability to leave the country. The hope was that in making it easier to travel back and forth, people would visit other nations but ultimately return home. Officials intended to have these relaxed restrictions apply to the border between East and West Germany, but NOT in Berlin. That point, however, was somehow left out of the draft regulations.

The new policies were written on Nov. 9, 1989, but the internal security forces didn't yet have clear instructions on how to implement them. People began to flock to the Berlin Wall. Faced with the flood of people, the commander made a historic decision: he ordered his troops to withhold fire. The Berlin Wall collapsed in joyous celebration.

Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.250-251 , Jan 10, 2012

Development assistance should support US objectives

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) had always considered its mission to be separate from and yet equal to that of the State Department. Development was thought to be a long-term process and--theoretically--free of political and strategic motivations.

The problem was that the cultures of State and USAID were very different, the latter eschewing the idea that it was involved in "US foreign policy." That attitude, I was sure, would have come as a shock to taxpayers. I needed to make the point that the US is not a nongovernmental organization. We can't simply focus on a single issue at the expense of others. I saw--and still see--nothing wrong with the proposition that development assistance ought to support broader US foreign policy objectives.

US development assistance was critical in achieving the goals of democracy and good governance. Sometimes foreign assistance was for purely strategic purposes--but we wanted those cases to be the exception and not the rule.

Source: No Higher Honor, by Condoleezza Rice, p.426-427 , Nov 1, 2011

Channel Arab Spring into positive development

In the Middle East the Arab Spring has freed millions. American can help to channel the development there in a positive direction. We have influence with the militaries in Egypt and Tunisia; with civil society and political activists, many of whom we've helped train through America's nongovernmental institutions.

In other places, our friends--particularly the monarchs of the region--still have a chance to reform now before it's too late. The United States can coax these monarchies to adopt constitutions and reforms that give greater voice to their people. The changes will strengthen moderate voices across the region. And to our enemies, the Syrian and Iranian regimes, we should say, "Your time has come. Whatever follows you is unlikely to be worse, for your people and for the world, than who you have been."

Source: No Higher Honor, by Condoleezza Rice, p.733 , Nov 1, 2011

Support democratic aspirations abroad, not just stability

I went to Cairo in June 2005 to deliver a speech on democracy in the Middle East. I knew that there was great skepticism about the US in this audience. Yet, as I spoke about our mistakes in supporting authoritarian regimes, the mood in the room shifted. "For 60 years, my country pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East--and we have achieved neither," I said. "Now we are taking a difference course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people." At that moment and later with a group of democracy activists, I felt elated by the connection I'd made with Egypt's impatient patriots. Only later would I wonder if I'd unintentionally promised more rapid change than anyone could deliver, most especially the US.

As I watched the increasingly isolated Hosni Mubarak struggling to hang on to power in Feb. 2011 while his people ridiculed him from the streets, I thought back on my speech at the American University in Cairo.

Source: No Higher Honor, by Condoleezza Rice, p.374-376 , Nov 1, 2011

Be respectful but determined with China on human rights

The Chinese didn't appreciate our consistently raising human rights cases and the Tibetan issue, but they tolerated it. Even when the President met repeatedly with the Dalai Lama in the residence of the White House, the howls from Beijing were somewhat muted. The protests increased when the President participated in the presentation of a Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama in 2007. But in relatively short order, the fit of pique subsided. In fact, we set the terms of engagement on these difficult issues early: we vowed to be respectful but determined in challenging China on human rights. And we held fast to the belief that time was not on the side of authoritarianism in a country that was rapidly growing more prosperous.

We repeatedly told the Chinese that we believed that their economic growth was good for the international economy. They listened but probably ignored us when we said that it would be good for there to be a liberalization of Chinese politics, too.

Source: No Higher Honor, by Condoleezza Rice, p.645 , Nov 1, 2011

Liberia is part of U.S. history; stay involved there

[Liberia President] Charles Taylor became intolerable, and the international community demanded the formation of a transitional government in Liberia in 2003.

The President wanted to know what his options were in dealing with the Liberian crisis. "Why should I do something in Liberia?" he asked Colin and I.

"Because Liberia is ours," I replied. We talked about the history of the country that had been founded by freed American slaves. "Even the Liberian flag imitates the Stars and Stripes," Colin added. I told the President that my Aunt Theresa had taught at the University of Liberia all the way back in 1961. The ties of the Africa American community to the country ran deep.

The President was determined to do something about Liberia. The President reiterated that Taylor had to leave and said that the US would "participate with troops." In the face of international pressure and US resolve, Charles Taylor resigned the presidency of Liberia.

Source: No Higher Honor, by Condoleezza Rice, p.230-232 , Nov 1, 2011

Post-WWII push for democratic institutions reflected values

After WWII, the Americans had a different view. There was a moral dimension to their insistence on democratic processes and institutions. But there was a practical reason a well: equate a new and stable order with a permanent change in the nature of the defeated regimes, a change that could be secured only with democracy. They believed that the balance of power could be improved in our favor if democratic states emerged in Europe. This linking of our interests (the balance of power) and our values (democracy) was at the core of our strategic thinking. Historically, it can be demonstrated that democracies have not fought one another. Therefore democracy and stability--both within states and between them--can be mutually reinforcing.

The belief in the power of democracy to overcome old rivalries & establish a basis for peace & prosperity did not transfer verbatim to the Middle East. Still, the echoes of it were unmistakable in the way that we came to view that troubled region after 9/11.

Source: No Higher Honor, by Condoleezza Rice, p.326 , Nov 1, 2011

2001 Uzbekistan: Human rights trump security

In 2001, Amnesty International called the Uzbek government's "indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force." After the facts were uncovered, it was clear that the Uzbek authorities had confronted an effort intended to overthrow the local government. The government's security forces and public affairs officials functioned poorly, but this was not a simple case of soldiers slaughtering innocents, as had been widely alleged and misreported.

My arguments did not prevail. At an NSC meeting, Condi Rice responded to me by declaring, "Human rights trump security." I wondered if she had really thought that through. She seemed to be saying that if a country didn't behave as we did or as we expected, it would be shunned, even if turning it away from us took a toll on our nation's security, and to make matters worse, it arrested their progress on human rights. "We made a clear choice, and that was to stand on the side of human rights," a senior State Department official echoed in the press.

Source: Known and Unknown, by Donald Rumsfeld, p.634-635 , Feb 8, 2011

Bush's views on foreign policy were one & the same as Rice's

Lacking a deep background in foreign policy, Bush counted on a team of foreign policy heavyweights with diverse expertise to help formulate policy based on his guiding principles, such as freedom, a strong military, and free trade. Bush developed a strong personal bond with Rice and came to trust her judgment, instincts, and insights. As Hughes' and Bush's style and tone of communicating were one and the same, so too were Rice's and Bush's views on foreign policy.

Rice headed the group, referred to as the Vulcans. It included Richard Armitage (Colin Powell's alter ego), Paul Wolfowitz (protege of Dick Cheney), Richard Perle, and Bob Zoellick (a James Baker prot‚g‚). George Shultz was often called on for advice, an once Dick Cheney became the vice presidential nominee, he too was directly involved. The name of the group was based on the imposing statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking, that is a landmark in Rice's hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p. 85 , May 28, 2008

Nothing positive about Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was elected in 1998, but is often caricatured as a "foreign dictator." The clashists who came to power with President Bush would have none of that; they need every nation labeled and driven into one of two camps: all good or all bad.

On Jan. 18. 2005, [at her confirmation hearing, I questioned] Condoleezza Rice; she would not acknowledge that the Venezuelans had voted their president into office in free and fair elections. I said in exasperation, "Is it possible for you to say SOMETHING positive about the Chavez administration?"

"It's pretty hard to find something positive," she said. Viewed through the official White House lens, the freely elected government of Venezuela was all bad. I never asked her to embrace that democracy or pretend we had no differences, just to step out of attack mode for a moment. She could think of nothing positive, and my time was up.

Source: Against the Tide, by Sen. Lincoln Chafee, p.196-201 , Apr 1, 2008

2005: UN needs a "revolution of reform"

(In 2006, our assessments for the regular UN budget were just under $423,464,855, and for peacekeeping operations, $1,399,027,000.) In fact, Henry Hyde's bill would cut our assessed contributions by 50% if 32 of 39 specified reform conditions were not met, and it had passed the House on June 17. Even if its fate in the Senate was uncertain, the bill was a sign of Republican rumblings of mutiny against the administration position that we should pay our full assessments.

Leading our reform charge, Rice presented the annual US address to the General Assembly opening session on Saturday morning, September 17, stressing that the UN needed a "revolution of reform," a striking statement from an American secretary of state, one that would prove extremely useful in the upcoming debates. Nonetheless, it was clear from all of my study of the UN, before and after my nomination, as well as my intense activity while in NY, that no "revolution" would emerge from the "reform" goals

Source: Surrender is Not an Option, by John Bolton, p.222 , Nov 6, 2007

1970s: Adopted Russian culture; learned Russian; read Pravda

One day she wandered into a course in international politics at the University of Denver. Condi relates, "I learned that I had an inexplicable love for things Russian, that an adopted culture can teach you a great deal about yourself."

Condi's passion for Russia seemed to have come out of nowhere, and for the next 18 months Russia's history permeated her every waking moment. She quickly learned the language and began inundating herself with Russian media, even reading Pravda, the Soviet newspaper, on a daily basis. Shortly thereafter she began studying the Moscow press and military journals. She even named her car Boris after the country's leader, Boris Yeltsin.

Source: The Faith of Condoleezza Rice, by L. Montgomery, p.100-101 , Mar 7, 2007

Cuba: don’t trade one dictatorship for another

This is a transitional period for the Cuban people. We are going to stand with them for the proposition that there should not simply be the end of one dictatorship and the imposition of another dictatorship. And we are working with partners in the international community to send that message very strongly. But our role will be to help the Cuban people when the time comes to have a peaceful and stable democratic transition.
Source: Free Cuba Foundation, on www.4condi.com, “Issues” , Aug 6, 2006

Considered as Clinton's ambassador to Russia

[Former Bush administration officials met during the Clinton presidency], approximately every 3 months until 2001. They enabled Republican leaders to develop their critiques of the Clinton administration, selecting issues and lines of attack, thus laying the groundwork for the next presidential campaign.

On foreign policy the leading members at the table included 3 men who later returned to office in the George W. Bush administration: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz. These three were joined by former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger. Later a new member, Condoleezza Rice, was added to the group.

Shortly after Clinton was elected, Strobe Talbott, his friend and closest adviser on Russia policy, had suggested that Condoleezza Rice be appointed the ambassador to Moscow, as a specialist on the Soviet Union.

Source: Rise of the Vulcans, by James Mann, p.239-243 , Sep 7, 2004

Routine transatlantic relations good for business & people

Relations between Europeans and Americans are so multi-faceted that we have simply ceased to think about it any longer. Some people read it as a decline in transatlantic contacts. But if you just look at the raw numbers of contacts, I doubt that there has been a decline, I think that there has been an acceleration. But it has become routine.

In any class that I teach at Stanford now probably some 10 or 15% comes from some place else, and a significant number from Europe. The tendency of youth to think of themselves as, yes, holding citizenship [in one nation], but living here for five years, going and working there for three years, is probably the best thing we have going for us. So I don’t despair about this at all, to say nothing of the business community where the ties and contacts are almost daily.

Source: TIES-Webzine interview at Hoover Institution, Stanford Univ. , Jun 25, 2000

Redefine national interest, to avoid interest-based policy

Constituency-based politics, interest based politics, is having mostly a negative effect on foreign policy. Part of the problem here is that of having a clear view of the national interest. It was so clear that when issues 1 through 10 all began and ended with the Soviet Union, it was a lot easier for the President to dominate foreign policy. Without a strong sense of what the national interest is, foreign policy becomes a patchwork of interest group politics, like every other issue.

The change was utterly predictable [because] the Soviet Union was such an organizing principle. Americans saw every issue through the prism of Soviet Union. Today it is just not true. So now the centripetal forces are very powerful in the absence of that centralizing principle. Hence we need a much more powerful definition of national interest.

Source: TIES-Webzine interview at Hoover Institution, Stanford Univ. , Jun 25, 2000

Other candidates on Foreign Policy: Condoleezza Rice on other issues:
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George W. Bush (R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton (D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr. (R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan (R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter (D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford (R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon (R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson (D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy (D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower (R,1953-1961)
Harry_S_TrumanHarry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

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Page last updated: Jul 04, 2014