10 June 2008

Condi Rice, Slow Learner

Condolezza Rice lied about the dangers posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Her lies have cost untold lives. She has collaborated in the breaking of International and Domestic law - most directly regarding the torture of prisoners held by the U.S. military. She is not fit for public office. Nor is she fit for serious intellectual debate. She has written this long article in Foreign Affairs that ultimately seeks to rationalize the foreign policy disasters she has orchestrated. Here are the initial sentences:
"What is the national interest? This is a question that I took up in 2000 in these pages. That was a time that we as a nation revealingly called "the post-Cold War era." We knew better where we had been than where we were going. Yet monumental changes were unfolding -- changes that were recognized at the time but whose implications were largely unclear.

And then came the attacks of September 11, 2001."
Her aim is to justify a policy of exporting democracy in the way we've done so smashingly in Iraq. The itsy-bitsy problem, of course, is that Iraq had NOTHING to do with September 11, 2001 or, really, any other threat to America's "national interest." No matter. Invoking the terrorist threat is a good way to divert attention, to hope readers will place their critical faculties in abeyance.

Rice refers to "untidiness of democracy" a phrase that brings to mind Don Rumsfeld's inane response to the looting of Baghdad after the U.S. invasion. And her qualms are reflected in her vision of the threats to democracy:
"The story today is rarely one of peoples resisting the basics of democracy -- the right to choose those who will govern them and other basic freedoms. It is, instead, about people choosing democratic leaders and then becoming impatient with them and holding them accountable on their duty to deliver a better life. It is strongly in our national interest to help sustain these leaders, support their countries' democratic institutions, and ensure that their new governments are capable of providing for their own security, especially when their nations have experienced crippling conflicts."
So, it seems, our task is to protect leaders from the people who elect them, to make sure that popular demands for accountability are not too dramatic. And we will do that by insuring the security of government's not of peoples. To speak only of "the goal of democratization and modernization in the broader Middle East" Rice can point to the way the U.S shores up, say, the Saudi regime as it strides toward democracy and openness. That provides a nice notion of what she has in mind. If Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are Rice's exemplars her argument seems laughable.

Rice suggests that we need a "theory of victory" but largely holds out the same old platitudes, like shoring up dictatorships because they are friendly to us. Has she forgotten our old pal Saddam? And of course, there are more platitudes about economic development:
"Ultimately, one of the best ways to support the growth of democratic institutions and civil society is to expand free and fair trade and investment. The very process of implementing a trade agreement or a bilateral investment treaty helps to hasten and consolidate democratic development. Legal and political institutions that can enforce property rights are better able to protect human rights and the rule of law. Independent courts that can resolve commercial disputes can better resolve civil and political disputes. The transparency needed to fight corporate corruption makes it harder for political corruption to go unnoticed and unpunished. A rising middle class also creates new centers of social power for political movements and parties."
But here she neglects that beyond being dictators, the Saudis like to play the markets rather than allowing them free reign. Could that be because the middle classes and their demands that Rice sees as emerging almost automatically from market reforms might challenge the dictatorship? And, for those of us who think the mantra of 'free trade' is way oversold, her recommendations are simply not credible. Institutions emerge from strategic struggles between asymmetrically situated agents. there is little reason to believe that the neo-liberal dream will come to fruition. What is required is real political contests that will challenge the elites whom Condi wants most to protect.

The problem too is that her timetable - what she terms "the work of a generation" - is laughable too. She peddles revisionist history, blindness to the failures she has brought us, with an infinitely receding time horizon. Condi Rice has apparently not learned a single thing from her experience implementing BushCo's disasters. The folks at Foreign Affairs have provided her with a very, very large platform on which to demonstrate that fact.

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