Rice Invokes History As She Affirms U.S. Mideast Policy
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reinforced the Bush Administration's stance on the war in Iraq and the long-term strategy of dealing with peace and democracy in the Middle East as she addressed an audience of nearly 4,000 Friday at Princeton University's Jadwin Gymnasium.
Dr. Rice's 25-minute speech, and the brief question and answer session that followed, was bookended outside Jadwin by an organized peaceful protest against the administration's overseas and domestic policies.
Invited by the University to deliver the keynote address for the 75th anniversary celebration of the creation of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Dr. Rice emphasized the need for a long view regarding Middle East diplomatic relations, likening it to U.S. strategies in post-war Soviet Russia, when the world's democracies "were like islands in a raging sea."
"Today, however, democracies are emerging whereever and whenever the tide of oppression recedes."
Solutions to challenges posed after World War II, Dr. Rice said, "seem perfectly clear now, with half a century of hindsight."
But those solutions were not clear then, she said, adding that the years after the Cold War began were "cloudy, and puzzling, and perilous."
She related the global climate of the late 1940s and early 1950s to the four years since 9/11: "We must speak to remove the source of this terror by transforming that troubled region.
"It cannot be denied that we are standing on an extraordinary moment in history," she said, later adding that "we have set out to help the people of the Middle East transform their societies. Now is not the time to falter or fade."
Acknowledging that the end of a war on terror is difficult to envision, Dr. Rice again referred to the Cold War, whose abrupt end in 1991 was unanticipated:
"In 1989, I was lucky enough to be the White House Soviet specialist at the end of the Cold War. It doesn't get any better than that. I was there for the liberation of Eastern Europe; the unification of Germany; and for the beginnings of the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union itself. I saw things that I never thought possible. And one day, they seemed impossible; and several days later, they seemed inevitable."
Dr. Rice said that upon studying those times, "I wonder how in the course of events, the course of the moment, people like Acheson and Truman and Marshall and Vandenberg saw a path ahead," citing the German Reconstruction in 1946, the 1947 breakout of civil war in Greece, Germany's Berlin Crisis of 1948, the Soviet nuclear weapons tests of 1949, and war breaking out on the Korean peninsula in 1950.
"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."
Arguing in favor of the current change in policy in the Middle East since 9/11, Dr. Rice said that democracy was essential to the entire region.
"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."
Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, lauded Dr. Rice's achievements as both a female and a minority: "She reflects an America in which things once thought impossible have become possible."
But regarding the content of her presentation, some members of the audience were not impressed.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-12), who had taken part in an organized protest prior to event, blasted the secretary and the administration for drawing certain conclusions, based on intelligence, that led to the current situation in Iraq. "Throughout the whole talk, I kept asking myself ‘What world does she live in?'
"In so many cases, her view of the world is not what I see based on the intelligence that I see, and when she did have the observations that seemed to be on the mark, her conclusions were way off.
"As we all know now, the disconnect between reality and rhetoric, whether it has to do with weapons of mass destruction or connections with al Queda, or the support of the neighboring countries for invasion, was huge."
Princeton Township Committeeman Lance Liverman offered a decidedly more genial assessment of the talk.
"I think Dr. Rice gave a beautiful speech as to where the Bush Administration is," he said, adding that "there were points that were drawn that I'm not in total agreement with, but I do respect the whole idea that she was able to come here and raise those issues."
Mr. Liverman did, however, criticize the Administration's stance on Iraq and the entire Middle East: "It should have been dealt with differently."