February  2005

Machiavelli or  Metternich?

Condoleezza Rice:

Diplomacy as a tool of foreign policy

By Adel Darwish

Leaders in the Middle East who turn deaf-ears to their peoples' calls for reform, had a rude awakening recently : reform, peace and democracy are coming to the region and they'd better not block them, with a list of excuses topped by ` Palestine.'
The arrival of newly appointed American Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice breathed a new life in the peace process, with her commitment to an independent Palestinian state, the birth of which, has long been used by autocratic regimes to postpone the restoration democracy where it once flourished prior to military coups.
In her last month whirl-wind tour of Europe and the Levant Miss Rice brought a clear message: America's allies can no longer enjoy American protection while thwarting American purposes.

The purposes are peace and defeating terrorism through reform and democratisation, as spelt out by President George Bush - in his State of the Union address- and by Miss Rices's answers to the congressional Committee scrutinising her appointment to office.

Unlike her predecessor Colin Powell's time in Foggy Bottom, US diplomacy will not be used to rein in the President's ambition to ``create a balance of power in the world that favours freedom'', but rather to support it, as illustrated by her stand on Iran.
While ruling out military action, ``at this point in time,''' she fired warning shots across Europe's and Iran's ships. `` Diplomacy is an important tool at our disposal...... to eliminate the danger of [possible] Iranian nuclear threat,''she said, advising Iran, not to miss the opportunity offered by European negotiators.
So Europe must act in consort with America, while, Iran was ``not immune'' to the changes sweeping the region. The sight of exiled Iraqis and Afghans, voting in Iran for the elections in their home countries must have had an effect on the Iranian people, whom she said `` were a majority deprived by a non elected minority of performing their right to chose their system of government.''

The location of her joint Press Conference with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw emphasised the important role of Britain, `` whom the US has no better friend or ally.'' It was also at the Foreign Office, when, in 1997, New Labour first Foreign Secretary Robin Cook launched his `` ethical Foreign Policy,'' that never was; as many Middle Easterners and Muslims longing for democracy would testify. Paradoxically, it was Condi, the high priestess of the Bush doctrine - a doctrine hated by a chores of European leftists like Mr Cook - that, for Palestinians and other democracy starved peoples, put ethical foreign policy back on the agenda.

The conventional wisdom, held by the usual suspects of anti-war, anti-American liberal leftists, is that US is ruthless in advancing its interests, while sophisticated old Europe specialises in more classical, conflict avoiding diplomacy of goody-goody ``soft power'', `` dialogue,'' and `` constructive engagement''; even old Cold War warriors - like British former Prime Minister John Major, accepted this view as `American realpolitik.'

Cynicalss say Washington has a ``selfish strategic or economic interest,'' in countries where Miss Rice actively wants to promote freedom: Cuba, North Korea, Iran; while, conveniently discounting others mentioned by Miss Rice like Zimbabwe, Belarus and Burma.

Her stand with Israelis and Palestinians appeared to be, ethically, even handed, quarter a century after Andrew Young, America's first black ambassador to the UN, had to submit his resignation to President Jimmy Carter ( 1979) for meeting Palestinians ( 1979). Miss Rice made no secrete of the Administration quest to tilt the balance of power towards freedom, and democracy, while in contrast, European policy has been to mend fences with dictators like Robert Mugabe and instructing their embassies in Havana to cease contacts with anti-Castro dissidents, while seeking accommodation with the Iranian ayatollahs.

``Stability'' and ``constructive engagement'', in Euro-speak mean doing deals with dictators. ' Miss Rice, by contrast, talks without embarrassment about exporting liberty.

Solving the Palestine issue tops her agenda. ``We will ask of our partners and our friends in Israel that Israel continues to make the hard decisions that must be taken in order to promote peace and . . . the emergence of a democratic Palestinian state'' She told reporters before meeting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in response to Palestinians seeking her help in pressing Israel to remove dozens of unauthorised settlement outposts ( The Israelis say 23, peace activists counted 50), freeze settlement expansion and halt construction of Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank. She told the Israelis as much, behind closed doors, according to sources in Jerusalem. In 2003, as National Security Chief, she confronted Israeli officials over the ``security barrier'' demanding they take more account of Palestinian concerns.

She told Israelis they must refrain from taking unilateral actions that would prejudge the outcome of future peace negotiations. She singled out Jerusalem, claimed by both sides as a capital, and specifically referred to recent Israeli efforts to seize Jerusalem land owned by West Bank Palestinians, saying, repeatedly, that Israel should live up to its obligations under the road map peace plan.

She praised President Abbas, for working to restore calm in the Palestinian areas and helping jump-start peace efforts with Israel. She made clear to the Israelis that attacks by splinter terror groups cannot be used as an excuse to freeze peace process. `` It is 100% efforts in containing violence that we are seeking, '' was her reply to Israel Radio London correspondent on attacks by militants against Israeli settlements after President Abbas banned armed activities,`` and [ President] Abbas is making 100% efforts.......that is why we should all help him rebuild his security forces to do the job, and I am coming to London in March [meeting organised by Tony Blair March 1 & 2 to shore up Abbas's government] to give him support.''

Palestinians complained that Bush administration favoured Israel and was not active enough in trying to resolve the conflict. ``We will be very active,'' Miss Rice said at a joint news conference with President Abbas. She urged Israelis and Palestinians to make ``maximum effort'' to make the best of the current chance for peace.

Her involvement refutes claims by Arab nationalists, Islamists and European leftists who condemn America's push for democracy as serving American interests, mainly oil supplies. Editorials in radical papers like Al-Quds al-Arabi, or government controlled ones like al-Gomhouria in Egypt and the Rising Sun in Libya united in dismissing the Iraqi election on January 30 as another instrument to legalise American occupation of Iraq. But the difficulties facining President Bush in Iraq strengthens Miss Rice's hand when tackling the Middle East, genuinely believing that solving the Palestinian problems will, in theory, pull the rug from under the feet of radical groups and Anti-American propagandists.

``The return of territory is a major step forward,'' she said of the planned Israeli Gazza pullback. Her decision to appoint a security coordinator for the region is the strongest signal yet that Washington meant to keep an eye on commitments undertaken by the two parties. General William Ward has long experience in International crises, as he served in Somalia in 1993, and with the military mission at the US embassy in Cairo and commander of the stabilising force in Bosnia. She said Ward would supervise, among other things, reform of the Palestinian security forces, promising $20 million (US dollars) for the Palestinians, and an entire team of monitors, asked for by President Abbas help prevent any friction and tension'; and invited both Palestinian and Israeli leaders to meet with President Bush at the white House.

In her press conferences, she cannily managed to avoid being typecast as either a hawk like Donald Rumsfeld, the brusque defence secretary, or a dove, like Powell, - much to the irritation of both camps. One moment she sounds like an old-fashioned foreign policy ' realist' reflecting the start of her political maturity as an aide of Mr Bush's father, who believed in realpolitik - working under Brent Scowcroft at the, National Security Council.

When a BBC man asked her why America wasn't subjecting Saudi Arabia to similar pressure - like Iran - over reform, her reply came from that period:. `` Nations make their reforms in their own pace, according to their social traditions and faiths.''

The next, she sounds like a true believer in the muscular foreign policy that defined Mr Bush's first term. ``I don't think anybody thinks that the unselected mullahs who run that regime are a good thing for the Iranian people or the region,'' she said.

Miss Rice is a realist rather than an ideologist; yet not an exponent of realpolitik in the style of Henry Kissinger, the last national security adviser to move to he State Department. Unlike Kissinger and most traditional diplomatists, she believes passionately that sowing democracy and uprooting tyranny is not only the natural right for human-beings, but also a to US security. She has been a key figure in shaping Mr Bush's aggressive post-September 11 foreign policy.

Like the Monroe doctrine, which, in the past, made the American continent safe for democracy, today the Bush doctrine seeks to make the world safe for democracy. Democracies never fight each other, is the essence of this doctrine, while the consequence, that democracies support one another against common enemies, would seem to have been disproved- in Europe's rection to America's war on terrorism. Miss Rice wants to revolutionise US diplomacy into a powerful instrument of policy .

A handful of thinkers in the region [[like Egyptian social-historian Tarek Heggy, or Saudi columnists Abdel Rahman al-Rashed and Hassan al-Shubukshi,]] welcome Miss Rice's push for liberty arguing that for once , the interests of the Americans and those of the oppressed nations of the Middle East seem to match. The Secretary of State has many qualities to help her long awaited crusade for democracy: she is clever, charming, articulate, fluent in French and, when occasion demands, flirtatious. Most important she is right. Desperate for a change of tone, European diplomats cite her closeness to Mr Bush, as ` her word will count' - in marked contrast with her predecessor, who lost many battles to the hawks.

But her critics argue that since the September 11 attacks, she has been a firm believer in Mr Bush's world view and that she lacks the nuance necessary to be the nation's senior diplomat. Miss Rice's supporters argue that she genuinely does share President Bush's beliefs, and yet will not shrink from arguing a contrary view. . She has compared herself and Mr Bush to that formidable pairing of the late 1940s, Harry Truman and his secretary of state, Dean Acheson. He famously said that all presidents have ``uneasy doubts about the state department'', but not many believe this will be the case with Miss Rice in charge.
What is clear is that she intends to make a mark. She was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in the Deep South, in 1954 and grew up in a community steeped in racism. The Ku Klux Klan detonated a bomb in a Baptist church near where eight years old Coni stood, killing four young girls.

Her parents, persuaded her that education was a sure route to salvation, and she duly excelled, becoming a concert-level pianist and securing a place at Denver University at just 15 years of age, where she read political science and graduated at 19, to higher studies culminating in doctorate and becoming an authority on Soviet affairs.

She worked as an adviser on the Soviet Union to the first President Bush before taking up a fellowship at Stanford, before being lured back to politics in 2000 -. Her cold war experience in deploying a combined force of pro-liberty diplomacy, and economic powers to bring down ` evil empires', should be noted by Middle Eastern autocrats as she is serious in ` exporting,' liberty to the region.

Despite her background, she became a Republican and, as national security adviser in President Bush's first term, an advocate of a strong, pre-emptive foreign policy. Miss Rice is a living alone single who is rarely observed on the Washington circuit. Henry Kissinger, a great flirt, once described how he enjoyed the aphrodisiac called ` power.' She just prefers the power. She argued after the overthrow of Baghdad that America should ``punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia,'' for their opposition to the war - more the advice of a Machiavelli than a Metternich.

Copyright © Adel Darwish & Mideastnews and its parent company World Media UK Limited 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means or used for any business purpose without the written consent of the publisher. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained herein is as accurate as possible, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any consequences arising from its use. 

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