Tag Archives: Condoleezza Rice

Rumsfeld’s memoir

Donald Rumsfeld has written a memoir.  He places part of the problems in Iraq on Condoleezza Rice.

What Mr. Rumsfeld offers is a far more believable account of events, one that holds individuals responsible for failures of execution. He describes a White House with internal problems, at the heart of which was a National Security Council overseen in Mr. Bush’s first term by Condoleezza Rice. Ms. Rice’s style of management, argues Mr. Rumsfeld, led to indecision, which in turn led to the lack of a coherent post-invasion plan, to a sluggish transfer of power to Iraqis, and to a festering insurgency. If nothing else, this gives historians something valuable to ponder as they work on an honest appraisal of the Bush years.

Mr. Rumsfeld tells me that he sees his 815-page volume as a "contribution to the historic record"—not some breezy Washington tell-all. In his more than 40 years of public service, he kept extensive records of his votes, his meetings with presidents, and the more than 20,000 memos (known as "snowflakes") he flurried on the Pentagon during his second run as defense secretary. Mr. Rumsfeld uses them as primary sources, which accounts for the book’s more than 1,300 end notes. He’s also digitized them so readers and historians can consult the evidence first-hand at www.rumsfeld.com.

Of course Colin Powell is partially to blame

The memoir relates notable instances when this dynamic played out, but none with more consequence than the muddled plan for postwar Iraq. The Defense Department pushed early on "to do what we’d done in Afghanistan"—where a tribal loya jirga had quickly anointed Hamid Karzai as leader. "The goal was to move quickly to have an Iraqi face on the leadership in the country, as opposed to a foreign occupation." Mr. Rumsfeld’s early takeaway from NSC meetings was that "the president agreed."

Yet Colin Powell’s State Department was adamantly opposed. It was suspicious of allowing Iraqi exiles to help govern, claiming they’d undermine "legitimacy." It also didn’t believe a joint U.S.-Iraqi power-sharing agreement would work. These were clear, substantive policy differences, yet in Mr. Rumsfeld’s telling, Ms. Rice allowed the impasse to drag on.

The result was the long, damaging regency of Paul Bremer as the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority—which Mr. Rumsfeld believes helped inspire the initial Iraq insurgency. Mr. Bremer, who set up shop in one of Saddam’s opulent palaces, continued to postpone the creation of an Iraqi transitional government. He instead appointed a "governing council" of Iraqis but refused to give even them any responsibility. The result: delays in elections and in building post-Saddam institutions.

"You are always better having a president look at each option, at the pros and cons, and make a decision among them, than trying to merge them," says Mr. Rumsfeld, especially when positions are "contradictory to a certain extent."

While all of these things are true, the real issue is that he ignored the advice of Pentagon planners (note: some of the Pentagon generals have taken exception to this belief) and went in with far to few troops to occupy the country and when it did go bad, he could not conceptually change his thinking to fix his mistakes.  His memoir shows some other problems (and I am sure that Rice’s management style was frustrating to him) in the White House but at the end of the day, he pushed for a light weight invasion force that couldn’t control the country (or even Baghdad) when the insurgency started.

Condoleeza Rice takes the high road

I have always liked Rice (even when I didn’t agree with her worldview) and it’s nice to see that she has taken the high road in defending her successors at Foggy Bottom and the White House.

"I am not going to chirp at the people inside," Rice said Wednesday on Jon Stewart’s "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central. "I know that it’s a lot easier out here than it is in there, and these are patriotic people who are trying to do their best every day."

Speaking to Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, she lavished praise on her successor, Hillary Rodham Clinton: "I think she is doing a lot of the right things. . . . She is very tough. . . . I think she has done a fine job, I really do."

Rice even chastised former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) for his assertion that Obama has a "Kenyan, anticolonial" worldview. "That’s over the top, and I don’t think very helpful," she told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC.

Before she left Foggy Bottom, Rice repeatedly said that she would not criticize publicly the people who came after her. Indeed, one of her most uncomfortable moments in office came when former secretary of state James A. Baker III was co-leader of a bipartisan panel that issued a tough critique of the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq – in particular, the diplomatic efforts that were part of Rice’s portfolio.

The failed benchmark

I read Bob Woodward’s book, The War Within while on vacation a couple of weeks ago.  In it Condoleeza Rice was constantly talking about providing electricity to the Iraqis as a key benchmark of success.  Well according to the New York Times, the occupiers of Iraq have not done a very good job of doing just that.

From the beginning of the war more than seven years ago, the state of electricity has been one of the most closely watched benchmarks of Iraq’s progress, and of the American effort to transform a dictatorship into a democracy.

And yet, as the American combat mission — Operation Iraqi Freedom, in the Pentagon’s argot — officially ends this month, Iraq’s government still struggles to provide one of the most basic services.

Ms. Ali’s campaign against electricity theft — a belated bandage on a broken body — makes starkly clear the mixed legacy that America leaves behind as Iraq begins to truly govern itself, for better and worse.

Iraq now has elections, a functioning, if imperfect, army and an oil industry on the cusp of a potential boom. Yet Baghdad, the capital, had five hours of electricity a day in July.

Cheney: Upset that Bush showed an independent streak

From the Washington Post

1164468525_2500Cheney’s disappointment with the former president surfaced recently in one of the informal conversations he is holding to discuss the book with authors, diplomats, policy experts and past colleagues. By habit, he listens more than he talks, but Cheney broke form when asked about his regrets.

"In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him," said a participant in the recent gathering, describing Cheney’s reply. "He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney’s advice. He’d showed an independence that Cheney didn’t see coming. It was clear that Cheney’s doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times — never apologize, never explain — and Bush moved toward the conciliatory."

I have always felt that George W. Bush would have been a better president if he had a different vice president.  I would what a White House dominated by Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice would have been like vs the White House dominated by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.