Condoleezza Rice arrived in Foggy Bottom in January 2005 to a standing ovation.
With critics of the Iraq War still a marginal faction of the liberal left, the new secretary of state was an international star in an administration that had few. Supporters urged her to consider a 2008 run for president as chatter of “Condi vs. Hillary” filled the airwaves.
Three years and more than 60 global trips later, Rice’s profile has plummeted, even among the conservatives who once viewed her as their ideological savior and soulmate.
In light of her changing image, Newsmax decided to take a hard look at Rice’s performance and issue a report card on her efforts to date. Her results have been mixed at best, which is reflected in our overall grade of “C-.”
Gauging the clout of an official such as Rice, tasked with so many varied and subjective duties, isn’t easy. But consider these performance points: These days, Russian President Vladimir Putin keeps Rice waiting outside his Moscow office like a pesky salesman peddling office supplies. She's in a running battle with Vice President Dick Cheney and his neo-conservative allies over diplomatic efforts with Iran. In Iraq, Rice and her aides have yet to offer a real plan for political reconciliation. Rice recently failed to keep Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf from rescinding his nation’s constitution – something he’d backed down from earlier this year.
“Look at the world. Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Russia. Venezuela. You have to search pretty hard to find some success,” says Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, who worked closely with Rice at the university and advised U.S. occupation authorities in Baghdad in 2004. “It’s a very intractable world she inherited in 2005. But, of course, it’s a product of the first term of an administration in which she served as national security adviser.
By its own admissions, Rice’s department is struggling in its stated effort to improve the way the United States is perceived around the world.
Karen Hughes — like Rice, a longtime Bush aide — stepped down recently as Rice’s public diplomacy chief. International polls show little improvement in the world’s view of the U.S. since Hughes, or Rice, took their positions.
At the same time, morale at the State Department is at historic lows. A poll conducted last month by the American Foreign Service Association found that only 12 percent of Foreign Service officers “believe that Rice is fighting for them.”
Here is our look at some key areas Rice has focused on during her tenure as secretary of state, along with our grades for each endeavor:
Explanation: U.S. diplomatic efforts to keep regional powers like Iran and Syria out of Iraq has largely failed. Efforts to encourage reconciliation in the Iraq government have also gone nowhere.
Repairing America's Image Abroad
Explanation: Under Karen Hughes, the U.S. budget for public diplomacy has nearly doubled in the past two years, to $900 million a year. But as Hughes acknowledged last week in announcing her departure, the U.S. repair effort is a “long-term challenge” that “will take a number of years.”
International Cooperation on the War on Terror
Explanation: The Bush administration has been lucky to have drawn new support in the War On Terror from once critical allies such as Nicolas Sarkozy in France and Angela Merkel of Germany. But relations with other allies are increasingly problematic. Just this month, Rice expressed great “disappointment” with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf after he suspended the country’s constitution.
Explanation: Vladimir Putin has gone from being a top U.S. ally and personal friend of Bush to a staunch critic of the United States. Putin now wants to withdraw from the landmark Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) unless it is expanded to include China (something the U.S. opposes). Putin also has characterized U.S. military action as illegitimate. “They bring us to the abyss of one conflict after another,” he said recently. “'Political solutions are becoming impossible.”
Explanation: Rice worked tirelessly to persuade Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories and free up commerce and travel between the two areas. But critics believe that she so far has lacked the follow-through she’ll need on her limited success in Gaza with the kind of intense diplomatic efforts many of her predecessors displayed.
Relations with China
Explanation: While she is fluent in Chinese, Rice and her Chinese counterparts are not always speaking the same language. Nonetheless, there have been recent successes in working with China on the North Korea situation.
Explanation: With Rice at his side, President Bush recently announced sanctions against three Iranian state-owned banks and the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards. It was a badly needed boost to the administration’s stated campaign to stop Tehran's nuclear program by nonmilitary means. Still, diplomats have failed to win support for a third round of U.N. sanctions, which many critics believe should have been implemented last summer.
Explanation: Despite recent outreach, activists remain skeptical about the administration’s commitment to climate change. Rice recently conceded that the U.S. is a major source of the problem. She said the U.S. was willing to lead the international effort to reduce global warming. But she repeated the Bush administration’s mantra that solutions can’t starve struggling economies of fuel or slow growth. “Every country will make its own decisions, reflecting its own needs and interests,” she told a White House conference on climate change in late September. As climate change watchers noted, there was a key word missing from Rice’s comments: “Mandatory.”
Overall: Rice earns a “C-.”
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