out Condoleezza Rice
me get the bemusedly angry sidebar out of the way first. The most
egregious offender in the media I saw was Tom Raum of the Associated
Press, who began his story, "Carrying through on a promise
to bring diversity to his administration, President-elect Bush on
Sunday named a second black to his foreign-policy team and selected
a Hispanic Texas Supreme Court justice to be chief White House counsel."
Does anybody outside the tight little media-policy elite really
political system has become more race-conscious than Nazi Germany
or the segregated South. Of course, this race-consciousness is supposed
to be benign and constructive, always paying attention to race first
because the bean-counters are supposedly fretting about ways to
make more opportunities available to approved minorities. But it
still amounts to judging people-or at least describing them first
and foremost-on the basis of the color of their skin. In the cases
of both Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, that attribute is strictly
course it's easier to define "diversity" on the basis
of surface manifestations like race, gender or ethnic origin than
on the basis of something slightly more complicated (and immensely
more relevant to a political job), like political beliefs. But doing
so obscures the fact that a Bush administration, regardless of how
many approved minorities or women are in it, is not more likely
to be genuinely diverse-especially not as diverse as the American
people-than the Clinton administration was or is.
is especially fascinating that dealers in political "diversity"
want to place the heaviest emphasis on characteristics that are
not only secondary in terms of what really matters about people,
but over which they have no control. People choose what their ultimate
values and opinions are, have some control over their choice of
vocation, avocations and enthusiasms. They have no control over
the ethnic group into which they are born or the color of their
skin. Yet political analysts want to make such non-chosen characteristics
the defining and most important characteristics.
Sen, 1998 Nobel Prize economics winner, has an interesting piece
(unfortunately not available online) in the December 18 issue of
The New Republic on the question of identity in a political-cultural
context. He notes the phenomenon of "plural identity:"
"A person can be a Nigerian, an Ibo, a British citizen, a resident
of the United States, a woman, a philosopher, a vegetarian, a Christian,
a painter, and a great believer in aliens who ride on UFOs,"
he points out, "each of these groups giving the person a particular
identity that may be involved in particular contexts."
Democrats won with Clinton and Clinton appointed their kind of people,
people with different ethnic characteristics who shared a common
left-to-soft-left (I know, the terms are only mildly descriptive)
governing philosophy. Bush will appoint people with a right-to-soft-center-right
governing philosophy. Both will appoint mostly professional people
or academics with some government experience (no carpenters or plumbers
of the kind who know a wrench from a ballpene hammer), which is
understandable but hardly diverse as America is diverse.
can't wait for America to get beyond race. By rights it ought to
come pretty soon, inasmuch as the elite obsession with racial bean-counting
coincides with increasing intermarriage that makes the matter almost
impossible to judge except obsessively (think Tiger Woods). Colin
Powell's skin color is lighter than mine in the summer, so who's
black? But the obsession will probably outlive me.
important question for those interested in foreign policy, of course,
is not the skin color of those in positions of responsibility but
their approach to international issues. In this regard Bush's appointments
and his and their general approach, while hardly satisfactory to
a firm advocate of American political and military non-interventionism,
are mildly encouraging.
heard one liberal professor on a radio interview saying the choices
were unfortunate because Colin Powell is a career military man with
no diplomatic experience and Condoleezza Rice is an expert on the
old Soviet Union, which no longer exists. Those are matters worth
thinking about but hardly dispositive. Colin Powell spent his career
in the military at a time when political skills, if not necessarily
diplomatic, were probably more important to an ambitious officer
than military prowess, and he has political skills in abundance.
(That's not necessarily a compliment.) Condoleezza Rice may have
made her foreign-policy bones as a Soviet expert, but she is hardly
uninterested in or uninformed about the rest of the world.
least as important as knowledge or experience, however, and perhaps
more so, is the general approach to foreign affairs. Gen. Powell,
like many military men who know from experience who pays the price
in blood for the ambitions of diplomats, seems more cautious about
committing American military forces overseas than the Clinton administration,
which contained virtually nobody with direct military experience
besides protected military journalist Al Gore. Some even speak of
a "Powell Doctrine" (remarkably similar to the old Weinberger
doctrine developed by a former defense secretary whose experience
was in business and finance) of using force only when there is a
clear goal, popular support, an exit strategy, an overwhelming advantage
in deployable forces and some definition of what "winning"
fell in line, but there were reports that he was uneasy about the
indiscriminate and strategically inept bombing of Kosovo. Condoleezza
Rice has raised concerns among some die-hard internationalists and
advocates of "collective security" (talk about being mired
in the Cold War era) with her suggestion last summer that maybe
it was time for Europeans to take up the "peacekeeping"
mission in Kosovo, if there is to be one, reserving the American
military for actual military conflicts.
the time I spent as a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution at
Stanford I had the opportunity to talk with Condeleezza Rice for
a couple of hours in her office when she was still Provost of Stanford
University but had announced her intention to leave and advise then-candidate
Bush. She is certainly charming-much more attractive in person than
in photographs or on television in one man's opinion-and well informed.
I couldn't help but like her.
is not a non-interventionist by any stretch of the imagination,
and it didn't take her long to figure out my questions were coming
from that end of the spectrum. We were able to discuss our differences
civilly, and she is fully aware that there are non-interventionists
who are not knuckle-dragging isolationists, people who can hold
their own with interventionists in anything remotely resembling
a fair discussion or interchange.
noticed that most people, when they come to the Orange County Register
for an editorial board meeting, figure out where we stand and try
to come up with at least one or two examples of how they're for
free markets too, I'm reasonably sensitive to the possibility that
people tailor their answers to those who are questioning them. But
Condoleeeza's responses to me that day were fairly consistent with
what she has said since, in more public and more general venues.
brief, Condoleezza Rice said she would have a higher threshold,
a higher bar to jump, before recommending direct US intervention
than was the case with the Clinton administration. She was a reluctant
defender of the Kosovo war, noting that as she views matters the
United States has a natural "security zone" or sphere-of-influence
area that includes Europe and the Middle East. One wouldn't always
intervene in every little dispute in that area, she said, and one
would want to be sure an intervention would be effective rather
than an empty gesture. But she believed that Milosevic was engaging
in something close to "ethnic cleansing" against Kosovar
Albanians and that the Balkans are smack in the middle of the US
the same time, she criticized both the incremental nature of the
bombing campaign and the fact that NATO and the US might learn the
wrong lesson from the war that important political and diplomatic
objectives can be achieved through a standoff bombing campaign from
15,000 feet. "Military conflict always entails risks, and usually
bigger risks than are at first anticipated," she told me. "If
we start to get the idea we can have risk-free wars whenever some
foreign leader displeases us, we'll be in a lot of trouble."
Her major warning was simple: "Don't let strategic air power,
and especially the cruise missile, become a drug."
Rice is generally associated with the "realist" school
of foreign policy exemplified by Hans Morgenthau, Henry Kissinger,
Brent Scowcroft and Paul Wolfowitz. It is a more expansive view
of the proper scope of American foreign policy than mine, by a long
shot. But it is potentially (it is not always easy to predict actions
from first principles, especially in a complex and compromise-driven
arena like foreign policy) a less expansive vision than the "humanitarian
intervention" espoused by the Clinton administration or the
notion of forward engagement with social or cultural problems like
poverty and environmental degradation espoused by Al Gore in some
18 months ago she was worrying rather actively about President Clinton
bragging so openly about the fact that the United States had managed
the Kosovo bombing campaign in such a way as to avoid any US casualties.
"That fact is already resented in much of the rest of the world
and will be resented more if we make a big deal of it," she
said. She also criticized Madeleine Albright's apparent fixation
with advertising the United States as the "indispensable nation,"
a position she took in several subsequent interviews.
a Bush administration has a more modest view of America's role in
the world than the Clinton administration did, if it is less inclined
to endorse crusades and imperial meddling, that could be an improvement
for those who hope for fewer wars in our future. But it would be
a mistake, I suspect, to imagine that a Bush administration will
seriously move toward reducing the view of the United States as
a big player on the international scene.
Powell may be more cautious about committing US troops overseas
than some of the Clinton people were, but he has called for toughening
the cruel and ineffective sanctions against Iraq. I don't anticipate
a serious rethinking of the potentially disastrous US commitment
to enter the Colombian civil war in the name of the drug war unless
something dramatic happens early on.
Bushies may be New World Order types with a somewhat more modest
vision of where and when the United States should intervene in the
rest of the world. But they will be New World Order types who might
well see it as in the US interest to pick fights with Russia or
China just to keep our hand in and our "influence" strong.