Should Governor George W. Bush become president, expect Dr. Condoleeza Rice to play a central role in shaping his administration's foreign policy.
Rumor control pegs the vivacious 44 year-old Rice as GWB's National Security Advisor. At the moment she's a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, a political science prof, and frequent flyer racking up airline miles between Silicon Valley and Austin.
Rice served as Director of Soviet and East European Affairs for the National Security Council in President George H. W. Bush's White House. During the Reagan Administration she served in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff, working at the action officer level on rubber-meets-asphalt military policy issues. The job gave her direct experience with military planning and operations, a critical experience possessed by fewer and fewer civilians in today's foreign policy arena.
This week I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions.
(1) Why should Americans care about foreign policy and international affairs?
Because one way or another what goes on around the world affects American lives. In a stable international environment, with peace and free trade, the US is able to bring to bear our capabilities to promote our values and address our concerns. Think about the Cold War, where a third of the world market was shut off to free trade. That's open now, and we're benefiting economically. The US is also big. What we do and do not do matters. If we're not involved in the world in a positive way we'll end up involved in a negative way, because others who don't share our values will act in the vacuum.
(2) Why is the next century going to be an American century?
Well, that's not a foregone conclusion. The US, however, is perfectly positioned in terms of characteristics, values, and attributes to be successful in a global environment. Our individual responsibility, our creativity, that's what's required in this new world. We're open to ideas and people. We attract the best and the brightest from the around the world and they become Americans. Immigration benefits America.
(3) What would a Bush Administration do to lay the foundation for international peace and prosperity?
Pay attention to the fundamentals of foreign policy. Pay attention to the strength and robustness of our armed forces, the final guarantors of peace. Pay attention to free trade. Focus on the big relationships, Russian and China. Pay attention to our allies so when we need our allies we can count on them. President Bush would work on foreign policy every day, not just when there's a photo op.
(4) How can we develop a better integrated foreign policy, one that relies on proactive diplomacy which prevents crises and lessens the likelihood of using military forces in a failed situation?
That's the 64 thousand dollar question of foreign policy. We can't keep calling on the military like it's 911. Unfortunately, government tends to be crisis driven. That means you have to have a perspective that says you are going to do foreign policy every day and look for places where diplomatic action might prevent situations that would require military force. Policy makers can't be so concerned about the press cycle. The press would like to know what has the president's done for world peace today, not tomorrow. But very often creating peace is a slow, behind-the-scenes, step-by-step process.
(5) Has Clinton Administration damaged the American military?
Yes. They were handed an amazing military, the one that won the Gulf War. The damage isn't undoable but it must be consciously undone. The Clinton Administration robbed the future to pay for today's adventures abroad. It takes 10 to 15 years to build new military forces. A President Bush will never command the military he builds, that's left to his successors. That's why it's the fiduciary responsibility of the president to leave his successors a military that's better not worse. Clinton's failed to do that.
Copyright Austin Bay January 25, 2000, THE SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS January 27, 2000 All Rights Reserved, used with permission