Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Secretary of State Rice, Now and Then

American foreign policy under the next administration will be based on the Bush legacy, like it or not. It is important to understand Bush foreign policy in early days and how it has changed. Quite a few people argue that American preeminence is eroding, due to worldwide criticism to the Iraq War and the rise of emerging powers like Russia, China, and India. Recent appeasement to Iran and North Korea is regarded symbolic among multipolar declinists.

I am concerned with recent US policy change to Iran and North Korea as I mentioned in previous posts (see 1, 2, and 3). However, I do not agree with declinists, and it is crucial to notice policy nuances have changed substantially since Condoleezza Rice came to Washington.

Let me review two articles by Secretary Rice, contributed to Foreign Affairs. One is written during the election campaign before President George W. Bush took office (“Campaign 2000: Promoting the National Interest”; January/February 2000). The other was written quite recently when President Bush is completing his presidential term (“Rethinking the National Interest: American Realism for a New World”; July/August 2008). The most important difference between both articles is that Secretary Rice has changed from Metternichian realist to Wilsonian idealist. Also, global security environment has changed since the late Clinton era. The United Sates has come back from the holiday of history without Cold War threat. Now, the United States has experienced 9-11, and faces serious challenges with the rise of illiberal capitalisms.

Keeping these differences in mind, I would like to compare past Rice and current Rice. In general policy guidelines, past Rice emphasized that it was necessary to clarify national interests, and the United States act in accordance with the priority. Also, past Rice was so “unilateralist” that she criticized obsession with multilateral agreements and institutions. Rice argues that the Kyoto Protocol and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty undermine US national interest as China and rogue states are not bound with these agreements. Regarding humanitarian intervention, Rice insists that humanitarian issues are not just humanitarian, and political and strategic considerations are required for the final decision to intervene.

On the other hand, current Rice emphasizes uniquely American realism, consisted of realism and idealism, and stresses promotion of human rights and democracy. While past Rice emphasized cool headed realism that United States focus on its own national interests, current Rice advocates coalition of shared values and responsibility with industrialized democracies. Despite criticism to the Iraq War, current Rice trumpets American values more extensively than past Rice.

Also, current Rice stresses America’s special role in the world as mentioned the following.

Perhaps of greater concern is not that the United States lacks the capacity for global leadership but that it lacks the will.

Has Rice become a neocon? Not really. Secretary Rice understands the balance of value and realism.

Admittedly, our interests and our ideals do come into tension at times in the short term. America is not an NGO and must balance myriad factors in our relations with all countries. But in the long term, our security is best ensured by the success of our ideals: freedom, human rights, open markets, democracy, and the rule of law.

Stark difference between Condoleezza Rice’s uniquely American realism and neoconservatism can be found in policy against challenges of Russo-Chinese authoritarian capitalism. Both past Rice and current Rice are willing to incorporate Russia and China into US led global economy. While past Rice mentioned strategic contention with Russia and China over Eastern Europe and the Taiwan Strait, current Rice regards both giants as fellow permanent members of the UN Security Council carrying special responsibility and weight. This is completely at odds with neocons who talk of inevitable adversary between liberal democracies and illiberal capitalists.

Some issues of policy focus have changed between past Rice and current Rice. While past Rice talked much about rogue regimes, current Rice talks more about Middle East peace process and stability in Iraq. There is no way of knowing whether this is the reason why the Bush administration is appeasing Iran and North Korea these days. Secretary Rice has changed from a Hobbesian unilateralist to a Kantian multilateralist. However, she is steadfast to assert legitimacy of the Iraq War. The Kantian transformation is not because of apologism to the attack against Iraq. Lefties should remember this point, and stop speculating prewar information fraud.

Remember! As stated in the 2000 article, early Bush administration’s foreign policy was defined by the Clinton legacy. Condoleezza Rice insists how to improve issue by issue foreign policy in the era of post Cold War uncertainty. Likewise, the next administration will inherit the Bush legacy. The media focus on the rivalry between unyielding navy pilot and empty rock star. However, it is important to understand the evolution of US foreign policy under the Bush administration. Therefore, I recommend comparing both articles by Secretary of State Rice thoroughly and carefully. The more you read them, the more you learn about American foreign policy and its future.