Condoleezza Rice is a conservative academic and writer who served as national security adviser and later secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration. After leaving the administration, Rice became a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution—a hawkish think tank where Rice had been based before Bush was elected—and co-founded with fellow ex-Bush official Stephen Hadley the consulting firm the Rice Hadley Group.
From her perch at Hoover, Rice has written op-eds for major news and opinion outlets covering mainly foreign policy, including everything from relations with Russia (one of Rice's specialties) to the impact of the Arab Spring." She also worked to boost the 2012 GOP presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, implying in her public statements that President Obama was weak in his leadership on foreign affairs, despite his string of foreign policy successes during his first term, including most notably the killing of Osama bin Laden and bringing the Iraq War to an end.
During her speech at the 2012 Republican Party Convention in Tampa, Florida, Rice said: "We cannot be reluctant to lead. And you cannot lead from behind. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan understand this reality, that our leadership abroad and our well-being at home are inextricably linked." She then added, paraphrasing a rallying cry of neoconservative groups like the Center for Security Policy, "Our adversaries must have no reason to doubt our resolve because peace really does come through strength."
Earlier in 2012, after protests erupted in Russia over the election of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as president, Rice wrote that "this victory may be both Putin's last and the final one for Putinism. The future turns on the behavior of a rising Russian middle class that is integrated into the world and alienated by the Kremlin's corrupt politics." She concluded that the United States has "a stake in their success and an obligation to help them achieve it." Rice, a former board member at the Chevron oil company, conceded that the United States did not have much influence on the outcome, but suggested that the United States could assist the Russian protesters by speaking out for human rights—and by developing its own domestic energy resources. "Undoubtedly," she wrote, "lower oil prices would rob the Kremlin of the easy money that fuels corruption, personal fortunes and authoritarianism. This is yet another compelling argument for developing North America's significant sources of energy."
Rice saw a bigger hand for the United States in Egypt following the fall of dictator Hosni Mubarak, although she expressed a measure of regret for past U.S. policies in the region. In a February 2011 Washington Post op-ed published shortly after Mubarak's ouster, Rice conceded that "the United States had, in the Middle East more than any other region, sought stability at the expense of democracy, and had achieved neither." Although U.S. support for Egypt's military had sustained the Mubarak regime for decades, Rice suggested preserving such ties during Egypt's democratic transition, "We cannot determine the foreign policy preferences of Egypt's next government," she admitted. "But we can influence them through our ties to the military, links to civil society, and a promise of economic assistance and free trade to help improve the lot of the Egyptian people. The most important step now is to express confidence in the future of a democratic Egypt."
Secretary of State
Rice served as a secretary of state during Bush's second term, replacing Colin Powell. Her tenure was marked in part by her efforts to revive U.S. diplomacy, which had severely languished during Bush's first term. In an apparent departure from the preemptive, go-it-alone posture that had dominated U.S. policy in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Bush allowed Rice to attempt to repair relations with key allies in Europe and elsewhere, initiate talks with "enemy" states like Iran, and pursue multilateral diplomatic efforts, most notably in response to North Korea's provocative missile tests in July 2006. Commenting on the administration's restrained response to those tests, Time magazine observed, "Under the old Bush Doctrine, defiance by a dictator like Kim Jong Il would have merited threats of punitive U.S. action—or at least a tongue lashing. Instead, the administration has mainly been talking up multilateralism and downplaying Pyongyang's provocation. As much as anything, it's confirmation of what Princeton political scientist Gary J. Bass calls 'doctrinal flameout.' Put another way: cowboy diplomacy, RIP."
This diplomatic shift was applauded both at home and abroad, despite the vociferous criticism of many hard-line nationalists and neoconservatives in the United States. Once again crying "appeasement," groups like the Center for Security Policy (CSP) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) excoriated the administration for a supposed failure of nerve in the face of "existential threats." In a June 7, 2006 National Review article entitled "Is Bill Clinton Still President?" AEI scholar Michael Ledeen characterized the "appeasement of North Korea" thus: "We're offering light-water reactors, which aren't as dangerous as heavy-water reactors, we won't give them anything unless they agree to stop enrichment, blah, blah, blah. All of which is true, and totally insane, since a madman is, famously, a person who thinks that he will produce a different outcome by doing the same thing over and over again."
Similarly, in mid-2006, CSP attacked Rice for her efforts to pursue negotiations with Iran. A CSP editorial said, "In the face of intensifying Iranian intransigence and provocations, President Bush has decided to adopt the recommendations of appeasement-prone subordinates. The decision announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today that the United States would be prepared to participate directly—as opposed to through European and United Nations proxies—in negotiations with the terrorist-sponsoring mullahocracy in Tehran, if only it will promise to suspend its nuclear weapons activities, will only reward and lead to more of such behavior."
But Rice's diplomatic turn was also trumped by her use of hawkish crisis rhetoric. After the outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah in July 2006, for example, Rice echoed neoconservatives like Richard Perle in arguing that the Israeli strikes are "an entirely appropriate response to the existential struggle in which Israel is now engaged." Rice rejected calls for an early ceasefire, arguing that it "would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo." As for the destruction wrought by the Israeli strikes, Rice commented that these were the "birth pangs of a new Middle East."
Contradictory postures were also apparent in the Rice State Department's dealings with Iran. While offering direct negotiations with Iran if the country were to cease its uranium enrichment program, State promoted regime-change strategies, budgeting some $85 million for this purpose and establishing a bevy of specialized outfits—including the Office of Iranian Affairs and the Iran-Syria Policy and Operations Group—which at minimum seemed aimed at communicating that the administration's real goal was overturning Tehran's "mullahocracy." As Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a State Department official under Colin Powell, told the Los Angeles Times, "We are telling Iran, 'We want regime change, but while you're still here, we'd like to negotiate with you to stop your nuclear program.' "
Commenting on Rice's first months at State, which included refusing to a give a post to John Bolton, the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl wrote: "The emerging picture is of a secretary of state focused on solving problems and cutting deals with key allies. That necessarily means toning down U.S. preeminence and occasionally compromising on the hot-button causes of U.S. conservatives, such as Cuba or the [International Criminal Court]. Colin Powell tried and failed to lead Bush's first-term foreign policy in that direction. If her first months are any indication, Condoleezza Rice will make pragmatism a stronger feature of the second term."
Rice's tenure as Bush's national security advisor was plagued with controversy. Her assistant, Stephen Hadley, took the fall for the administration's effort to push the idea that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger, thereby throwing a harsh light on the NSC. According to the Washington Post, then-CIA Director George Tenet told Hadley that the Niger allegations, which Bush and Cheney repeatedly used as a justification for invading Iraq, were probably bogus and should be discarded.
Both Hadley and Rice were subjects of the 9/11 Commission's investigation of the intelligence failures that preceded the attacks. Even though both had seen a counterterrorism report in August 2001 warning that Al Qaeda was planning an attack on the United States, Rice told the commission, "There was no silver bullet that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. There was nothing demonstrating or showing that something was coming in the United States. If there had been something, we would have acted on it."
During the debate over her nomination as secretary of state, lawmakers charged Rice with refusing to acknowledge errors in planning or judgment and avoiding accountability for the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. "In the end, I could not excuse Dr. Rice's repeated misstatements," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), said of his vote against Rice. Massachusetts Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry were among the Democrats who also voted against her.
As the Washington Post reported in a front-page story on Rice, "She has ... become enmeshed in the controversy over the administration's use of intelligence about Iraq's weapons in the run-up to the war. She has been made to appear out of the loop by colleagues' claims that she did not read or recall vital pieces of intelligence. And she has made statements about U.S. intelligence on Iraq that have been contradicted by facts that later emerged. Either she missed or overlooked numerous warnings from intelligence agencies seeking to put caveats on claims about Iraq's nuclear weapons program, or she made public claims that she knew to be false."
Prior to Bush's election in 2000, Rice was known for advocating a restrained foreign policy, one that would be strictly tied to U.S. national interests. But Rice quickly expressed a new comfort level with the aggressive ideological agendas promoted by the likes of Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney. In September 2002, for instance, she famously claimed, "There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly [Saddam Hussein] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Despite her association with the neoconservative agenda during Bush's first term, it would be inaccurate to describe Rice as a neoconservative, even if parts of her background and record—including her shift from the political left to the right—are similar to that of others affiliated with that political faction. Regarding her decision to leave the Democratic Party for the Republicans, Rice said: "I found a party that sees me as an individual, not as part of a group. In America, with education and hard work, it really does not matter where you come from—it matters where you are going." After joining the administration, Rice often resorted to neocon-flavored rhetoric, as in her February 2003 remark: "Power matters. But there can be no absence of moral content in American foreign policy, and furthermore, the American people wouldn't accept such an absence. Europeans giggle at this and say we're naive and so on, but we're not Europeans, we're Americans—and we have different principles."
Since the mid-1980s, Rice has moved briskly through the revolving door connecting government, corporate America, academia, and think tanks. Rice got her start in government in 1986, when she received a Council on Foreign Relations fellowship to serve on the strategic planning staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During the administration of President George H.W. Bush, Rice was an assistant to the National Security Council (NSC), where she became a go-to person for Soviet affairs. Bush senior once told Gorbachev: "This is Condoleezza Rice. She tells me everything I know about the Soviet Union."
Rice's ties with corporate America include her former membership on the boards of Transamerica Corporation, Hewlett Packard, and Chevron. Chevron named an oil tanker after her but renamed it after she became national security advisor.
Over the years, Rice developed a close relationship with the Bush family, including with former first lady Barbara Bush. During the two years prior to the election of George W. Bush, Rice was one of the most frequent overnight guests at the governor's mansion in Austin. During the presidential campaign, Rice repeatedly demonstrated her loyalty to candidate Bush, once referring to him as "someone of tremendous intellect."
When George W. Bush began assembling advisors for his run at the White House, his foreign policy team, which included Rice, was nicknamed the "Vulcans," a reference to the Roman god of fire and metal, as well as to Rice's hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, which is known as the center of the Southern steel industry. Among the other Vulcans were Stephen Hadley, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz. "The Vulcans," wrote James Mann in his 2004 history of the Bush war cabinet, "represented the generation that bridged what are commonly depicted as two separate and distinct periods of modern history: Cold War and post-Cold War. For the Vulcans, the disintegration of the Soviet Union represented only a middle chapter in the narrative, not the end or the beginning."
A year before Bush took office, Rice wrote a widely noted essay in Foreign Affairs entitled "Promoting the National Interest." Her prescription for a new U.S. foreign policy centered on a critique of Clinton policy, which she argued was disconnected from U.S. national interests and was tied too closely to multilateral concerns. "Foreign policy in a Republican administration will proceed from the firm ground of the national interest, not from the interests of an illusory international community," she wrote. According to Rice, "multilateral agreements and institutions should not be ends in themselves" and measures such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would constrain U.S. national interests. The United States, she argued, should return to the core principle that "power matters." Rice asserted that rather than "exercising power legitimately only when doing so on behalf of someone else," the United States should focus solely on pursuing its national interest. The "second-order effect" of this pursuit, she said, would be that the rest of the world would benefit. Concerning Iraq, Rice wrote: "Nothing will change until Saddam is gone, so the United States must mobilize whatever resources it can, including support from the opposition, to remove him."
Rice's books include Germany Unified and Europe Transformed (1995) with Philip Zelikow; The Gorbachev Era (1986) with Alexander Dallin; and Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army (1984).