As General Petraeus and Ambassador Crockett prepare to give evidence about the progress of US military offences in Iraq to Congress one person who will be notably absent from the airwaves will be the US Secretary of State. It wasn’t that long ago that Condoleezza Rice was being promoted as a possible Republican presidential candidate. She had been appointed Secretary of State after Colin Powell’s departure and was often described as ‘brilliant’ and gifted by political commentators on both sides of the Atlantic. Rice once described her boss as having “an incredibly inquisitive mind” with the President in turn describing Ms Rice as “the most powerful woman in the history of the world”. Oh how things change. According to Andrew Stephen (writing in this week’s New Statesman) the seeds of her own demise were sewn long before becoming Secretary of State. Stephen describes Rice as a ‘disastrously inept’ national security adviser where she consistently failed to attempt to arbitrate the many disputes between Rumsfeld at the DOD and Powell at the State Department - James Mann writes in Rise of the Vulcans that she consistently undermined Powell. She has steadfastly refused to accept any blame for failing to anticipate the attacks of September 11th 2001 despite the abundant evidence that she received multiple warnings from intelligence agencies and failed to take them seriously.
She also deserves to take some of the blame for the disaster in the early days of Iraq when she failed to warn Bush that the ill-conceived post-war plan could quite possibly be a recipe for catastrophe. Her more recent record of campaigning for democracy in the Middle East has not shown the touch of someone of a ‘brilliant’ or ‘gifted’ diplomat. For example when the democratic elections in Lebanon and Palestine resulted in unintended and undesirable consequences (for the US) her response was simply to treat the results as aberrations and effectively ignore them. If, like her ‘evangelical democrat’ boss, she is committed to the spreading of democracy, why do we not hear her lecturing countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan or Egypt?
A few months ago, it is reported that Rice wanted to write an opinion piece about the situation in the Lebanon. She enlisted John Chambers, (CEO of Cisco Systems) as a co-author, and they wrote about public/private partnerships and how they might be of use in rebuilding Lebanon after last summer's war. No one would publish it. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and even the Financial Times, all turned it down. Can you believe that? Not one leading newspaper or journal was interested in publishing an article by the US Secretary of State.
The most powerful woman in the history of the world. I think not.