Abstract: American economic policy has dominated most of the current
national political campaign. As important as our nation’s economic strength and
vitality clearly must be, however, it cannot overshadow the role international
affairs continues to play, and most definitely will play, in assuring our
overall national well-being. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reflects
on the world situation today, the unprecedented challenges before us, and why
America must not forsake a strong leadership role in the international arena.
KIM R. HOLMES: Welcome to The Heritage Foundation for this important and
timely lecture. It is timely because events overseas are constantly raising
questions about our national security, as we saw yesterday with the North Korean
test launch of a ballistic missile. It is timely as well because foreign policy
has been a topic of great interest during the presidential debates. It is
important because Americans are debating how we should respond to the events not
only in North Korea, but also in Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and other hot spots.
There have been many questions raised by the actions of the Obama
Administration, actions that suggest that the President wants to change the way
the U.S. engages the world. There is the “pivot” to Asia now that troops are
coming home from Afghanistan, and there is the President’s now-famous request
that certain countries be patient and wait until after the election to see what
he will do.
Foreign policy often takes a backseat to the domestic problems plaguing our
country—problems like the debt, jobs, and health care. Surely, these issues are
vitally important. But as several of the recent presidential debates have shown,
foreign policy also matters to Americans. Americans want to know how our
leaders—today’s leaders and those we elect in November—will protect our nation
and safeguard our liberties in an increasingly threatening world.
We have with us today someone who is eminently qualified to talk about American
values, American interests, and American leadership on the world stage. I had
the honor of working for Dr. Condoleezza Rice when she served as Secretary of
State under President George W. Bush. She previously had served as President
Bush’s National Security Advisor and also, before that, on the staff of
President George Herbert Walker Bush’s National Security Council.
During both of these presidencies, America faced particularly grave threats, from nuclear
proliferation and terrorism to rogue regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere.
In both presidencies, Dr. Rice helped shape policies that enabled America to
help free thousands of people from tyranny and set them on the road to freedom
Today, Dr. Rice is teaching new generations about American values and American
interests. She is a professor of political economy and political science at
Stanford University and the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on
Public Policy at the Hoover Institution.
I recall the words of Heritage’s President, Ed Feulner, on the occasion of one of Dr. Rice’s
previous visits to The Heritage Foundation. He called her “a woman of many
talents: a musician, a writer, a teacher, a scholar, a leader, and as Secretary
of State, a representative of American values and American interests here and
abroad, and frankly, the best America has to offer.” I couldn’t agree more.
It is my high personal honor to welcome America’s 66th Secretary of State, Dr.
Condoleezza Rice, to the Allison Auditorium of The Heritage Foundation to talk
about leadership, America’s critical role in foreign policy.
—Kim R. Holmes, PhD, is Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies,
and Director, The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International
Studies, at The Heritage Foundation and author of Liberty’s Best Hope:
American Leadership for the 21st Century (2008).
THE HONORABLE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: It’s a pleasure to join so many friends,
and thank you very much for that introduction and for your service to our
country. I very much enjoyed our time working together.
It’s now been a while since I left government, and there’s a question that I’m
asked all the time, and that question is: Is it different being outside of
government? Well, yes, it’s different being outside of government. In fact, one
of the big differences is that I get up every day and I get my cup of coffee, I
go online to read my newspapers, and I read them and I say, “Isn’t that
interesting? I’m able to go on to other things because I no longer have
responsibility for what’s in the newspaper.”
I, like you, am concerned about the state of our country—the state of our world—and I’m
concerned because it’s been quite a decade or so. It’s been a decade in which
the international system has experienced three great shocks.
Three Great Shocks
September 11. Of course, first was the shock of September 11, a day that
none of us will easily forget. Those of us who were in a position of authority
remember September 11 as the day that every day after became September 12,
because, as we fought to keep the country against terrorists who would try and
do it again, we recognized that it was fortune—not, perhaps, skill but
fortune—that led us to be able to protect the country. There were those, though,
who were skilled: our intelligence officers, our Homeland Security people, and
perhaps most importantly, our men and women in uniform who volunteer to defend
us at the front lines of freedom, and we owe them our eternal gratitude for
And so, after 9/11, we suddenly confronted the fact that it was failed states and ungoverned
spaces and the potential nexus between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction
that threatened our very country. The fact that a stateless group of terrorists
had come from a failed state, one of the poorest countries in the world,
Afghanistan, to attack us to bring down the Twin Towers, to blow a hole in the
Pentagon, and perhaps they had paid $300,000 to do it—after that, your
conception of physical security is never quite the same.
The Global Economic and Financial Crisis. Then, of course, in 2008 there was another
great shock. That was the shock of the global economic and financial crisis.
That was a shock that exacerbated and accelerated underlying tendencies in the
international economy and called into question whether or not democratic
capitalism, which had been at the core of the economic system since at least the
collapse of the Soviet Union, was indeed itself in trouble. It exacerbated the
internal contradictions of the European Union, which is still trying to work its
way through those contradictions. It exacerbated the contradictions in Russia,
which demonstrated yet again that it has not made the transition from an oil,
gas, and minerals syndicate to a real economy based on the potential of its
It raised the profile of Brazil and India and China. But Brazil and India remind us of
something that is very important: the strength that they have, something that is
going for them that we should not underestimate, and that is they are
multiethnic democracies that are stable. Somehow they managed to make the
transition from government to government by peaceful means. And lest you
underestimate that, remember that these are countries that do it with huge
multiethnic populations—especially India. What a miracle that a billion people
who don’t speak the same language and don’t worship the same god can somehow
manage the peaceful transfer of power.
The Arab Spring. And they remind us of the essence of the third great shock, the Arab
Spring and what is unfolding in the streets of the Middle East. That itself is a
reminder that authoritarianism just isn’t stable in the long run; that those who
for 60 years looked to stability, not democracy, have been demonstrated to have
been wrong. Authoritarianism is not stable because of what I’ve come to call the
Nicolae Ceaușescu was the Romanian dictator, and in 1989, with revolutions
spreading all over Eastern Europe—Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East
Germany—Ceaușescu went into a square in Bucharest to exhort the Romanian people
for what he had done for them. As he stood there with 250,000 people in the
square, one old lady yelled, “Liar!” Then 10 people, then 100 people, then 1,000
people, then 100,000 people are yelling, “Liar!” and Ceaușescu, realizing that
something has gone wrong, decides to run. But of course the young military
officer who is supposed to deliver him to safety delivers him instead to the
revolution, and he and his wife Yelena are executed.
The Ceaușescu moment is when what separates an authoritarian from his people—fear—breaks down.
An old woman yells, “Liar!” A soldier refuses to fire on the crowd. A general
turns his tank away from the protesters, or a policeman gives way at the Berlin
Wall. At that point, the only thing that stands between the authoritarian and
his people is anger, and anger is a terrible way to make political reform.
We are watching in the Middle East what happens when reform comes too late and
it is replaced instead by anger and revolution, and it’s going to be a rocky
ride in the Middle East. But all of these shocks taken together portend
fundamental shifts in the underlying balance of power in the international
America and the New Balance of Power
The question that I’d like us to consider today is: As those shifts are taking place, will there
be an American imprint on that new balance of power? After all, the United
States has been willing to imprint on the international system. We have believed
that free markets and free peoples would ultimately result in a more peaceful
and prosperous world. We have had a view of how human history ought to unfold.
Since World War II in particular, we have actively promoted that view of human
rights, religious freedom, the rights of dissidents, the rights of women—not
just because, indeed, it is a moral case, but because there is also a practical
case for those rights. Because we have learned many times, the hard way, that
states that do not respect their own people are indeed dangerous states.
That has helped produce—that view of human history—remarkable changes over the last several
- It has helped to produce a Europe freed of Soviet power that is whole and at
peace and free.
- It has produced in Asia powerful democratic allies in Japan and in South Korea
and in parts of Southeast Asia.
- It has helped to produce in Latin America a turn away from caudillos and
military coups toward free, stable, democratic states like Brazil or Chile or
Colombia—a state that we, the United States of America, over two Administrations
of two different parties helped to pull back from the brink of state failure.
- Even in Africa, where sometimes people are so patronizing as to say, “Well,
Africa is too tribal for democracy,” we have seen the rise of a norm for
democratic governance. We’ve seen in places like Ghana and Tanzania and Botswana
a commitment to free elections so that those who would govern have to ask for
their peoples’ consent.
Oh, yes, over these decades there have been setbacks, but it’s been a remarkable string in
favor of those who believe that free markets and free peoples will ultimately
triumph and that, indeed, the value of freedom is a universal one—not an
American one, not a Western one, a universal one.
There are many challenges ahead. Yes, there is China, and to be fair, China challenges the
concept, challenges the idea that authoritarianism is not stable. There are some
who say, well, it’s actually more efficient, this authoritarian capitalism. But
let’s not forget the strains and stresses that are emerging now in China as it
makes the greatest socioeconomic leap in human history and does it with 1.4
I was first in China in 1988, and the streets of Beijing were a competition between a few horse
carts and a few automobiles and a whole lot of bicycles. That’s not Beijing
today. They have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, but
they’ve got many, many more to go.
The stresses and strains are showing, whether in labor unrest that is driving
wages up and changing China’s profile in the international economy, to product
safety problems—bullet trains that fall off the tracks or baby milk formula that
is poisoned; and by the way, the first impulse was to execute the guy in charge
of product safety: not a long-term solution to that problem—to the stresses and
strains that one sees in reported riots of over 180,000, but perhaps most
importantly in the stresses and strains that one sees in a lack of confidence,
perhaps, in the Chinese leadership about where they’re going.
I’m not suggesting that there’s going to be a Jasmine revolution in China, but if you
were to go to the Chinese Internet during the Egyptian revolution, there are
three words you would not have seen: Egypt, Jasmine, and revolution. It suggests
that the information age is indeed a challenge to the Chinese leadership, and
they understand it.
Some of China’s leaders are beginning to suggest that maybe legitimacy based on
prosperity—which is what China bases its legitimacy on today—is difficult to
maintain because people’s expectations keep growing. Some, like Premier Wen
Jiabao, seem to suggest that maybe something that looks more like legitimacy
based on consent might be necessary.
The idea that these leaders have is that perhaps people could elect their local
leaders, but if people elect their local leaders, pretty soon they’re going to
want to elect their provincial leaders and they’re going to want to elect their
national leaders. Authoritarianism isn’t ultimately stable, and it is not
consistent with the development of human potential.
It is also true that China is a challenge for us in geostrategic terms, but only if we cede that
ground can China really challenge us. We are a Pacific military power unmatched
in human history, and we should remain so. If we pay attention not just to being
bigger and more expensive, but to being better—in cyber, in space, with missile
defense—then indeed we will be able to sustain our dominance in the Pacific. If
we pay attention to the wonderful strong alliances that we have with other
democratic states in Japan and South Korea, in the Philippines, in Australia,
then we have a basis for American leadership to dominate for years to come. And
there is the relationship with India, the other great multiethnic democracy,
which is rising as a power in the region.
We have, nonetheless, ceded the ground in one important area in Asia, and that is in
trade, where we have really been absent. The last three trade agreements that
were finally ratified in the Congress—KORUS, or the South Korean agreement,
Panama, and Colombia—were negotiated in the Bush Administration. But since 2003,
China has secured nine FTAs—free trade agreements—in Asia and Latin America,
five more are in negotiation, and four are under consideration.
Indeed, trade is the one place that we have not tilted toward Asia, Latin
America, or anyplace else. Free trade is one of America’s greatest assets in
helping both free markets and free peoples.
The Middle East
In Asia, then, we have an infrastructure for dealing with the challenges there—even a rising
China. The Middle East is much more chaotic. It lacks infrastructure. Many of
the pillars of our influence have been rattled by the events of the Arab Spring.
One senses that the U.S. wants to pull back from the Middle East.
In fact, sometimes I wonder if the so-called pivot to Asia is because the Middle
East is too hard. We can’t afford to pull back from that Middle East that is so
hard. It’s fashionable to talk about insulating ourselves by an energy policy
that finally frees us of dependence on Middle Eastern oil. We should do that
anyway. We should do everything that we can to build North American platforms,
from oil and gas to transportation to new technologies. We should build North
American platforms for energy security.
The Sunni–Shi’a Divide. But we know that we will not be insulated from the
Middle East. One way or another, the malignancies of the Middle East, as they
did on 9/11, will come back to haunt us, and so we need to move from what has
been a series of tactical responses since 2009 to a more strategic view of how
we want the Middle East to unfold. We have to remember that when our British
friends drew the lines of the Middle East, they obliterated any notion of
sectarian divides, and therefore, you have had a circumstance in which one has
had to dominate the other, so that in Iraq the 20 percent or so Sunni population
dominated the 65 percent or so Shi’a population, and in the eastern provinces of
Saudi Arabia there are Shi’a with a Sunni monarch, and so on and so on. This
Sunni–Shi’a divide will be worse without a strategic view of how the Middle East
might unfold differently.
New Pillars of Stability. We need to look to build new pillars of stability. It begins
first and foremost with a recommitment to our friends in the region, and in
particular to Israel, which still stands as the one strong democratic state in
the region. We need, too, to press reforms among our other friends. The Mubarak
situation didn’t have to work out the way that it did. Indeed, I remember going
to Egypt in June of 2005 and urging Mubarak and the Egyptians to undertake
reform before their people were in the streets.
We need to do the same with our other friends, with the monarchs who have some
personal authority and might make a move toward greater constitutionalism and
greater representation for their people. For those republics that are
emerging—Tunisia, which is a place that seems potentially to be on the right
course, or Egypt, where there is great confusion—we need to continue to press
for institutions that are democratic.
We need to have a relationship with Turkey, a complex but critically important country that we
forget once really wanted to be a part of Europe and was rebuffed by a European
Union that was more concerned about what Turkey would do to it than what it
might be able to do with Turkey. And so the reaffirmation of a relationship with
a democratic Turkey is key.
Recommitting to Iraq. We also need to recommit to Iraq. I know that it’s complicated in
Iraq, and I know that sometimes it feels like the Iraqis have gone off course,
but when you look at Iraq today, at least we’re not talking about a nuclear arms
race between Iran’s Ahmadinejad and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. The Iraqis have
institutions in place that might help to give an answer to the sectarian divide
between Sunni and Shi’a where you can have majority populations and even
majority governments of one sect or another, but where the rights and interests
of others are protected. Iraq needs our reengagement.
Iran and Syria. We have to challenge Iran, not just because of its nuclear ambitions
and its existential threat to Israel—though those are important in their own
right—but because Iran is a revisionist power. Iran is not satisfied with the
balance in the Middle East and would seek to undo it. It is why they have
supported the terrorist Shi’a groups in southern Iraq, why they have stirred up
trouble in the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia, why they use their tentacles
of Hezbollah and Hamas to try and cause problems whether in the Gaza or in
In this regard, Syria is critical. It’s a strategic opportunity coming from a strategic
challenge, because the collapse of the regime of Bashar al-Assad would deprive
Iran of its handmaiden in the Middle East and its launching pad for Hezbollah
and for trouble in that region.
Pursuing the Values That Make America Exceptional
Now, it’s a pretty big agenda to react to this changing world that’s undergone these shocks,
and there are those who ask: Can we handle this challenge and still pursue our
values? I would suggest we can handle this challenge only if we pursue
our values. This is what has made the U.S. exceptional: this belief in free
markets and free peoples, a willingness to try and promote them abroad, and a
belief that the world would be more stable and more prosperous as freedom wins
That exceptionalism is critical for another reason. We cannot ask the American people
to make the sacrifices for leadership if we have nothing special to say about
how human history ought to unfold. If we are just one among many representing
the lowest-common-denominator collective will of the so-called international
community, rather than leading a common cause with likeminded states and
long-time allies who share our values in Europe, in Asia, in Latin America, in
Africa and beyond, then why should we make the sacrifices of leadership? In that
way, American exceptionalism and American leadership are inextricably linked.
It’s reasonable that the American people are tired, and I take some responsibility for that. I
told President Bush as we were leaving office, “You know, Mr. President, I think
they’re just tired. It’s been terrorism and it’s been war and it’s been
challenge and it’s been vigilance, and I think people are tired.” I understand
that. And there are those who say that we’ve sapped our strength by our
overextension abroad to deal with our domestic problems at home.
But I want to suggest to you that there’s another side to that coin, that
perhaps it is our lack of confidence at home that is sapping our desire and our
will to lead abroad. The confusion at home becomes an excuse not to engage the
world, and it’s directly related to our willingness and our ability to lead.
Much comes from domestic strains, debt and entitlements, but there’s something
deeper going on.
Human potential is so key today, and America has been better at tapping human potential than any
country ever in human history. If in the 19th century it was the resources that
you could dig out of the ground that made you powerful, and in the 20th century
those resources and the industrial processes to make a better widget, in the
late 20th century and now in the 21st century, it is human potential and
creativity and innovation that are at the core of influence and power.
The Great National Myth
As Secretary of State, I got to travel around the world and see what people
admired about the U.S. and what worried them, but the one thing that I always
saw as a source of admiration is what I’ve come to call our great American
national myth. Now, a myth isn’t something that’s necessarily untrue in this
sense; it’s just something that’s a little outsized in your thinking. Ours has
always been the log cabin: You can come from humble circumstances, and you can
do great things.
That belief has been the key to unleashing human potential, because we have never believed that
the human potential comes as a result of class or circumstances, but rather as a
result of opportunity. That belief has led us to be a magnet for people from all
over the world: The most ambitious people in the world have wanted to come here.
Whether it’s the guy who came here to make five dollars, not 50 cents, or Sergey
Brin who came here as a 7-year-old from Russia and founded Google, the U.S. has
been enriched by immigrants; it has been made stronger by immigrants; and, by
the way, it has been kept from the sclerotic demographics of Japan and Europe
and Russia by immigrants.
We must reaffirm ourselves as a country of immigrants and find a way to have a systematic set of
laws and set of practices that allow us to continue to have the human potential
come here. But it’s not enough to have people come here; it also has to be true
for people who are here.
The Education Crisis
The educational crisis that we face—particularly in K–12 education—may well be
the greatest threat to our national security. The educational crisis threatens
to continue to produce weak links, and a democracy is only as strong as its
weakest link. The crisis in K–12 is producing unemployable people who will
ultimately be on the dole because they will have nowhere else to go, and so many
of them are unfit for military service, let alone for jobs in other sectors. We
can’t continue to tolerate a circumstance in which I can look at your zip code
and tell whether or not you’re going to get a good education.
That is indeed the key to understanding another aspect of American exceptionalism. This is the
most successful experiment in self-governance in human history, built on the
responsibility of the individual, yet with the communitarian impulse not from
government, but from civil society and philanthropy and from faith-based people
who just wish to do good.
That belief that it doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you’re
going has given America a narrative, but it is not a narrative of aggrievement
and class conflict and entitlement. It is not a destructive narrative that
somehow finds fault for your challenges in someone else’s success. It is indeed
a narrative that says, I may not be able to control my circumstances, but I can
control my response to my circumstances. That is an empowering narrative of
That is, perhaps more than anything else, the key to American exceptionalism, and it is perhaps
the key that is most under assault today here at home. It may explain in part
why we lack the confidence and the optimism and the strength to continue to
advocate for free markets and free peoples abroad. Without that advocacy,
without that leadership, without the willingness to sacrifice an imprint, one of
two things will happen in this international system that is rapidly shifting
after these great shocks. Either there will be chaos—but of course chaos won’t
last, because history abhors a vacuum, and it is more likely that that vacuum
would then be filled by some who do not believe in a balance of power that
favors freedom. At that time, we would find ourselves in the worst of
circumstances where we cannot protect our values and cannot protect our
I’m optimistic, though. I believe that we will lead, because I’ve seen the United States do it
so many times before. In 2006, which was actually a pretty bad year for the Bush
Administration—things were going wrong in a lot of places—I read the biographies
of the founding fathers, and when you read them you realize that by all rights,
the United States of America probably never should have come into being. What
with a third of George Washington’s troops down with smallpox and the founding
fathers squabbling among themselves and the greatest military power of the time
against us, we probably shouldn’t have come into being, but we did. And then in
the years of civil war, brother against brother, a hundred thousand Americans
dead on both sides, we became a perfect union.
And then, of course, a little girl from Birmingham, Alabama, the most segregated big city in
America, where her parents can’t take her to a restaurant or to a movie theater,
but they have her absolutely convinced that she may not be able to have a
hamburger at Woolworth’s, but she could be President of the United States if she
wanted to be, and she becomes the Secretary of State instead. America has a way
of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect.
I think we’ll do it again, and it will be a good thing, because it is critical
that the freest and the most compassionate and the most generous, this
extraordinary place, this exceptional country called the United States of
America also continues to be the most powerful.
Questions & Answers
METO KALOSKI: I’m with the United Macedonian Diaspora, and I thank you
for your leadership on NATO enlargement, given your time as Secretary of State
and prior to that as National Security Advisor. I do have a question regarding
the Bucharest summit. Macedonia was blocked from NATO membership, and so were
Georgia and Ukraine from a Membership Action Plan.
The upcoming NATO summit is in Chicago. This is the first time a summit is being
held in the U.S. outside of Washington, and it’s not an enlargement summit.
Macedonia has faced a lot of obstacles, it has met all the requirements, and in
December the International Court of Justice agreed that Greece violated its
treaty obligations by blocking Macedonia. I wanted to know your perspective on
Macedonia’s invitation and then, also, where do you see the future of
enlargement in NATO?
THE HONORABLE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: I’ve long believed that NATO must remain
open to any European democratic state that wishes to join its ranks, because
NATO was, after all, not to be an exclusive club; it was to be a collective
security mechanism for democracies. In this regard, we pressed very hard and, as
a matter of fact, integrated a number of East European states, including the
Baltic states, which was thought to be at the time impossible to do.
I worked very hard to try to resolve the Macedonia name issue. I know people are
still trying to resolve the Macedonia name issue, and perhaps it will be, but I
favor very much the integration of any European state that is ready, and it
seems to me that Macedonia is ready.
As to Ukraine and Georgia, it is important to recognize that at the time of the Bucharest summit,
the NATO Communiqué actually said that these countries will become members of
NATO, and so that was an affirmative statement of the rightness of their coming
in. I’m very far from this now, and I would never be one to even suggest that I
know all the ins and outs of what’s going on with the allies, but I would hope
that NATO keeps remembering not just what it has meant to have these states in
NATO, but what it has meant to the states to be in NATO. NATO and the European
Union together have managed to make relatively smooth the transition from the
collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe to the integration of those
states into Europe.
FEMALE VOICE: Thank you for coming and speaking today. Your story is
truly inspiring. I wanted to thank you also for your part in Miss
Representation, the documentary that I had the opportunity to view a couple
Along those lines, what advice would you give young women in a time where, even
though enormous strides have been made, women are still severely
underrepresented in media and in the government and in high-ranking jobs? What
advice would you give to young women, and what do you think it will take in this
country to finally receive full equality for women in government?
THE HONORABLE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: I believe that we are indeed going to
achieve full equality, but it’s going to happen one person at a time, one brick
at a time. Glass ceilings are going to be broken not by some announcement that
we wish to break glass ceilings, but because there are people who are willing to
I would remind you that, after all, three out of the last four Secretaries of
State have been women. Colin Powell, of course, was in there, but that means
it’s been 16 years since we had a white male. So someone’s going to start
wondering what’s going on there.
We are indeed making these strides. But I would say to young women to define yourself not in
terms of the ceiling that you might meet, but in terms of what you want to do,
how you’re going to get good enough at it to really make a case that you ought
to do it, and then go for it.
It helps to have mentors; it helps to have people who have been through these
stretches; but I’m going to give you a little warning: You don’t actually have
to have role models and mentors who look like you. Had I been waiting for a
black female Soviet specialist mentor, I would still be waiting. In fact, most
of my mentors have been white men, maybe even old white men, because they were
the ones who dominated my field.
So find people who take an interest in you and take an interest in your career, and I think you
will find that it is more open to you than you might imagine. Most importantly,
never ever let anybody define what you are going to be by how you look. That is
something that if you see somebody trying to do that, then you just challenge
right back, because they have no right to do it and you can’t let them.
MALE VOICE: I am the second youngest member of the Parliament in Turkey
and the youngest member of the foreign affairs committee. I would like to ask
you: How do you approach the things which are happening in Syria? Especially,
how do you see Turkey’s role? China and Russia directly support Bashar Assad’s
regime. Can we say that there, the U.S.A. still is a leading power, superpower,
but today there are less countries who are trying to follow the U.S.A.? This is
a debate in our region, especially in my country.
THE HONORABLE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: First of all, let me just say, in terms
of Turkey’s role, I think it can be quite beneficial to have Turkey, which is a
democratic country that is coming to terms with a relationship between Islam and
democratic values and democracy and does not see them as contradicting one
another. I know there are a lot of struggles in Turkey, and I know it makes
people a little unnerved about some of the things that are going on there, but I
know your leaders. I know Prime Minister Erdoğan; I know President Gül; and
these are people, I believe, who are going to build a new democratic basis in
From that democratic basis, I think Turkey has begun to advocate for the rights of others
to live in freedom as well, which is why it’s very important to see how strong
Turkey has been in support of change in Syria. Change in Syria is important
because if we were willing to say that we would not allow Moammar Qadhafi to mow
down his people but we have watched as Bashar al-Assad has mowed down nearly
10,000 of his people, we have a problem.
I think there are many things you can do. Some would say on the opposition, if
we’re going to do that, I would hope that it would be a broad policy, not just
the regional powers arming the opposition, because you’re then likely to get
something that looks more like proxy warfare in Syria. I worry that if we just
contemplate the situation in which Bashar al-Assad sort of half reestablishes
his power but there continue to be all these challenges to him, that you’re
going to have spillover, as you already have, into Turkey and into Lebanon and
ultimately into Iraq.
So there is a lot at stake in Syria, and I think it comes down to trying to
bring the opposition together as Turkey has done, trying to get the opposition
to agree to a certain set of institutional reforms that would be made that would
protect the rights of all the minorities in Syria as well as the
majority—because it’s a real mélange in Syria—and that would have as patrons
countries like Turkey, but also the U.S. and the European Union. I think you
have to say to the Chinese and the Russians, if we can’t do it through the U.N.,
then we will do it as a coalition of the willing.
I am not suggesting that the U.S. needs ground forces in that region—quite the opposite.
But we have to remember that this is not just a threat to our values, although
it is that; it is also a strategic threat, and we’ve got to find a way to bring
together those who are willing in the Arab League, Turkey and others, to deal
with Bashar al-Assad. But without American leadership, I’m fearful that it will
be a set of tactical decisions that really are because of the interests of the
regional powers, not because of the interest of a different kind of Syria later
MEREDITH BUEL: I’m Meredith Buel with Voice of America. You said the U.S.
needs to challenge Iran. Representatives of the U.N. Security Council plus
Germany will be sitting down tomorrow in Istanbul with Iran’s nuclear
negotiator. What does Iran need to agree to in order to make those negotiations
successful, and if they are not successful, as so many negotiations have been
with Iran, what should the U.S. do next?
THE HONORABLE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: First of all, I think it is a tactical
decision whether one talks to the Iranians. I think we sometimes get caught up
in that as a strategic decision. What’s strategic is what you say once you’re
talking to them.
I think there are a couple of things that have to be said. The first is that the
world has to be reliably confident, or confident reliably, that the Iranians
have been shut off from a pathway to a nuclear weapon. The problem with
enriching and reprocessing to a lower percentage is that it is basically the
same process, that you can pursue higher percentages later on. Once you’ve
solved the science problem, it’s just an engineering problem; and so there are
grave dangers in saying to the Iranians, well, you can enrich to this level and
no further, because you leave the capacity to enrich to higher levels in place.
Secondly, I think the Iranians really do have to be told that they’re going to have to shut down
the sites that are the undeclared sites, which I think are an open secret now as
to where they are. We need to be careful not just to focus on the nuclear side,
although the nuclear side is very key, but one thing we should always remember
is why Iran with a nuclear weapon would be so destabilizing. It’s because of
what Iran is: It is an existential threat to Israel; it is trying to remake the
balance of power in the Middle East in its own favor in a kind of theocratic
way; it is a state that is the poster child for state sponsorship of terrorism,
whether it is in southern Iraq or the Gaza Strip or in Lebanon. And a state like
that in the volatile Middle East with a nuclear weapon would be not just
unacceptable; it would be a grave, grave danger.
The good news is, I believe that regime is under a lot of pressure from sanctions that have been
mounting since 2006. I do believe it is a regime that has lost all legitimacy;
the clerics are at each other’s throats. It is, after all, a population that is
70 percent under the age of 30. So putting pressure on the regime itself is also
critical, because it’s hard for me to see how in the long run that region is
stable with that regime in power in Iran.
What if the Iranians don’t agree to whatever it is we’d like them to agree to? I think that
if we don’t want the President of the United States to face the very hard choice
of having to use military force, then the Iranians have to believe that he will
use military force. That is the only thing that will ultimately change their
President Obama has said that he has a military option and he will use it; he
doesn’t bluff. All the chatter around him isn’t helpful, because those who say,
“Oh, but it would be so hard,” and the games that leak out of the Pentagon about
how terrible it would be sort of undermine the message that there is a usable
military option and we will indeed use it. Let’s let stand that the United
States of America will not tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapon and will do what
is necessary to stop it and see if that will not back the Iranians off the
FEMALE VOICE: I’m wondering if you would like to share your thoughts with
us on what’s going on in China, the Bo Xilai case, which is billed as the
biggest political scandal in decades.
THE HONORABLE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: What is striking to me about the Bo Xilai
case—and I don’t think any of us really know what happened there and the depth
of it—is that it obviously raises some questions about the strength of
institutions out in the provinces and the strength of the rule of law, which I
think raises questions again about how one achieves rule of law under
authoritarianism. I think this is really what it raises.
But one thing that’s been fascinating to me is how open the discussion of it has
been in China. It is lighting up the blogosphere, as I understand, and that
suggests that there is a Chinese population that craves information about what
is going on in its country, that is determined to know what is going on in its
country, and that, ultimately, when people know what’s going on and they’re
interested in what’s going on, they start to want to do something about what is
That presents a challenge, I think, to the Chinese leadership, particularly as they prepare for
the 2012 Party Congress. Again, we have to say, China has achieved legitimacy
based on prosperity at this point, but legitimacy based on prosperity tends not
to last very long, because people’s expectations keep growing. People become
concerned about princelings who drive around in Ferraris, the grandchildren of
the revolution in a state that is somehow supposed to be dedicated to social
So China has a lot of challenges. I suspect that if we were in the meeting rooms
getting ready for the 2012 Party Congress, people might be asking how the
political structures could accommodate some of these pressures “without becoming
Gorbachev,” which of course is everybody’s great fear as you try to reform from
the top and you end up collapsing the system.
The Bo Xilai case is interesting, and it’s intriguing, but I really think the big question is:
What does it say about China itself, how politics gets done, what the
relationship is between provincial leaders and the center, and ultimately how
the Chinese people will respond to what is in fact one of the biggest political
scandals in the country’s history?
WALTER LOHMAN: I wanted to ask you how you think the U.S.–India
relationship is panning out. It was one of the Bush Administration’s biggest
successes, really, but there’s been a few disappointments, and I wonder how you
feel it’s gone and where it’s going.
THE HONORABLE CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Thank you very much. I think the
relationship with India is one of those key two or three relationships that we
need to invest in and we’re going to have to continue to invest in. We have some
in Latin America—like Brazil, for instance; we have Turkey where we need to
invest; and we need to invest in India.
It is not easy, because for so many years in India’s history, it defined itself
in a sense in contradistinction to American power. The Non-Aligned Movement was
that way, and even in the tilt toward the Soviet Union for a long time. So
that’s not going to change overnight. It’s not going to change in the Indian
foreign policy bureaucracy overnight.
It is, however, fundamentally changing in the Indian business community. When you talk to people
from Bangalore or from Mumbai, they are really very interested in what can be
done with the U.S. to push innovation, creativity. There is so much free flow of
people back and forth for long periods of time, sometimes for short periods of
time, between India and the Silicon Valley that you can’t even count how many.
So underneath the governmental relations, a lot is happening that I think will
ultimately change the character of the U.S.–Indian engagement.
And so, even though there may be some disappointments—maybe the civil nuclear cooperation
will stall a bit as India looks to other sources; maybe as people evaluate
nuclear energy in the wake of Fukushima—the civil nuclear deal was not just
about nuclear energy. It was also about high technology and the ability to share
high technology with one of the most innovative and creative states on the
globe. Obviously, we need to engage India where it comes to Afghanistan and
where it comes to Pakistan, because India lives in that neighborhood, and that’s
not so easy these days.
But I believe that if we stay with it, if we encourage not just governmental engagement, but
engagement across the populations, across the business community, the university
community, and the like, we’re going to find that those barnacles of the
tendency to define India in contradistinction to the U.S. are going to start to
fall away, and we will have a good and reliable democratic ally in South Asia.
We’ve done some amazing things together. India was the first country to
contribute to the Democracy Fund in the U.N. We did relief for the tsunami with
India, Australia, Japan, and the U.S. in naval engagement. Military-to-military
exchanges are going forward.
So we have to be patient. This is not a relationship that’s tomorrow going to produce votes at
the U.N. that are always in our favor, but it is a relationship that is worth
investing in. It is a relationship that I think if we stay the course and push,
we’re going to continue to make league with one of the remarkable multiethnic
democracies in the world.