Rice Applies Historical Perspective to Situation in Iraq
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 30, 2005 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today evoked the Cold War and its ultimate result in making the case for U.S. policy in Iraq.
Rice spoke at the 75th anniversary celebration of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs in Princeton, N.J.
"World War II thoroughly consumed the old international system," Rice said. "And it fell to a group of statesmen ... to assume the roles of architects and builders of a better world. The solutions to those challenges seem perfectly clear now, with half a century of hindsight, but it was anything but clear for the men and women who lived and worked in those unprecedented changes."
The secretary recalled that President Harry S. Truman's secretary of state, Dean Acheson, wrote years after the war ended that nothing was clear in the time that followed World War II. "Long after he was present at the creation," Rice said, "Dean Acheson remembered the early years of the Cold War as cloudy and puzzling and perilous. The significance of events, he wrote, was shrouded in ambiguity, and we hesitated long before grasping what now seems obvious. "But despite the extraordinary nature of their time," the secretary continued, "the statesmen of that era succeeded brilliantly. They conceived doctrines and created alliances and built the institutions that formed the foundation of a new international system, one organized to defend freedom from the spread of communism."
The Soviet Union's eventual collapse, she said, was "a new moment of transformation."
"This was a glorious revolution, a cause for celebration throughout Russia and Eastern Europe," Rice said. "Warsaw Pact countries became the new heart of NATO, and we transformed that alliance into one that Truman and Acheson would never have recognized, but would certainly have applauded."
In 1989, the secretary noted, she was a Soviet specialist at the White House. "I was there for the liberation of Eastern Europe, for the unification of Germany and for the beginnings of the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union itself," she said. "I saw things that I never thought possible, and one day they seemed impossible, and several days later they seemed inevitable. That is the nature of extraordinary times. But as I think back now on those times, I realize that I was only harvesting the good decisions that had been taken in 1947 and in 1948 and in 1949."
Rice recalled the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. She said that if the attacks were merely the result of 19 terrorists supported by a network called al Qaeda, working from a failed state, Afghanistan, then a limited response would have been appropriate.
"But if you believe, as I do and as President Bush does, that the root cause of Sept. 11 was the violent expression of a global extremist ideology, an ideology rooted in the oppression and despair of the modern Middle East," Rice said, "then we must seek to remove the very source of this terror by transforming that troubled region. If you believe as we do, then it cannot be denied that we are standing at an extraordinary moment in history."
The notion that the global war on terror makes the world less stable by rocking the boat and wrecking the status quo presumes the existence of a stable status quo that does not threaten global security, Rice said. "This is not the case," she said. "A regional order that produced an ideology of hatred so savage as the one we now confront is not serving any civilized interests."
Therefore, Rice said, the United States must work to advance democratic principles throughout the Middle East, and must be ready to face obstacles head-on.
"To support democratic aspirations, we must recognize that liberty still faces opponents in our world," she said. "Some will never support the free choices of their citizens because they stand to lose arbitrary powers and unjust privileges. Others know that the ideology of hatred they espouse can only thrive in a political culture of oppression and poverty and hopelessness.
"In a world where evil is still very real, democratic principles must also be backed with power in all its forms -- political and economic and cultural and moral, and yes, sometimes military," the secretary continued. "Any champion of democracy who promotes principle without power can make no real difference in the lives of oppressed people."
As Iraq's fledgling democracy takes shape and the country's security forces continue to grow in numbers and capability, the nature of the enemy dictates that the United States continue its work there, Rice told the Princeton audience.
"These terrorists target Iraqi children receiving candy from American soldiers," she said. "They line up school teachers and execute them in their classrooms. They murder hospital workers caring for the wounded. And they massacre innocent Muslims who want to serve as policemen and soldiers and government officials in the new Iraq."
Terrorists in Iraq do not represent the will of the Iraqi people, Rice pointed out. "This is not some grassroots coalition of national resistance," she said. "These are merciless killers who want to provoke nothing less then a full-scale civil war among Muslims across the entire Middle East. And having done so, they would build an empire of terror and oppression."
Rice noted that in the years that followed World War II, things looked grim.
"After all, in 1946 the German reconstruction was still failing, and Germans were still starving," she said. "Japan lay prostrate. In 1947 there was a civil war in Greece. In 1948 Germany was permanently divided by the Berlin crisis. Czechoslovakia was lost to a communist coup. And in 1949 the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule. ... Chinese communists won their war. In 1950 a brutal war broke out on the Korean peninsula."
No one, she said, could have had much hope for a democratic world. "These were not just tactical setbacks for the forward march of democracy," Rice said. "Indeed, it must have seemed quite impossible that we would one day stand at a juncture where Eastern Europe would be liberated, Russia would emerge, and Europe would be whole and free and at peace."
Rice credited the values of the post-Cold War victory architects for making the seemingly impossible come true. "Because of the work that they did, it is hard to imagine war in Europe again," she said. "So it shall be also for the Middle East."