Secretary Rice's "Foundation for History's Judgment"

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave an end-of-term interview this morning to Rita Braver of CBS Sunday Morning. There's a lot to chew on given the far-reaching nature of the interview that covered the image of the US abroad, the war in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Sino-American relationship, North Korea and the Six-Party Talks, AIDS relief in Africa, the rise of authoritarianism in Russia and more. But early in the interview is a very telling exchange:

QUESTION: Looking at the big picture of what's the whole foreign policy of this Administration - you come out of the academic tradition so I think it's fair to ask, what kind of grade do you give yourself and this Administration on foreign policy?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I don't know. It depends on the subject. I'm sure that there are some that deserve an A-plus and some that deserve a lot less. But what I think this Administration has done is, in the most complicated circumstances after September 11th, to put the country on a course where we have built a different foundation for a different kind of Middle East, where Saddam Hussein is out of power, where that will bring -- where there's an Iraq that is multi-ethnic and multi-confessional democracy and a friend of the United States, rather than an Iraq that is invading its neighbors and using weapons of mass destruction and seeking weapons of mass destruction. We've left a lot of good foundations.

QUESTION: You know, you say that, but the Pew Global Attitudes Project released a new report very recently. On the very first page it says, "The U.S. image abroad is suffering almost everywhere." The most recent CBS News/New York Times poll shows that only 26 percent of Americans approve of the President's foreign policy. It has to be more than just a perception problem.

SECRETARY RICE: No. Rita, first of all, it depends on where you're talking about. In two of the most populous countries, China and India, the United States is not just well regarded for its policies, but well regarded. And -

QUESTION: This report says the only place the U.S. is really - you know, people are happy about the U.S. is in some of the southern African countries, but --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, that's no small fact either, that in Africa, the policies of AIDS relief and so forth have been so regarded. But you know, this isn't a popularity contest. I'm sorry, it isn't. What the Administration is responsible to do is to make good choices about Americans' interests and values in the long run, not for today's headlines, but for history's judgment.

And I am quite certain that when the final chapters are written and it's clear that Saddam Hussein's Iraq is gone in favor of an Iraq that is favorable to the future of the Middle East, when the history is written of a U.S.-China relationship that is better than it's ever been, an India relationship that is deeper and better than it's ever been, a relationship with Brazil and other countries of the left of Latin America better than it's ever been, a relationship that has given an umbrella to anti-terrorist activities so that this country is not yet safe, but clearly much, much safer. When one looks at what we've been able to do in terms of changing the conversation in the Middle East about democracy and values, this Administration will be judged well, and I'll wait for history's judgment and not today's headlines.

QUESTION: So you think that people are just short-sighted and they - that the pain that maybe we're going through now because of what's still going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places, is causing people to say, look, you know, we just don't think this Administration has done a very good job. I mean --

SECRETARY RICE: Rita, it's not a popularity contest. It is to lay a foundation for where this will all come out. Do you really think that in 1947 or 1948 or 1949, anybody thought we were going to win the Cold War, flat out, that Germany would unify on Western terms, that the Soviet Union would collapse, that Eastern Europe would be fully integrated, and that this President would welcome nine countries into NATO that are former captive nations? I know that your business is to report today's headlines, and I respect that, but my business is to lay a foundation for history's judgment.

Well she was always a popular professor winning the Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching and she was an easy-grader at Stanford. Not sure if these two are correlated, but to be fair Professor Rice was a remarkable and engaging professor. It would be hard to describe her tenure as Secretary of State in such terms.

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