Gauging by the ubiquitously positive response to Condi Rice’s convention speech from conservatives, I’m probably in the minority feeling disconcerted with her overwhelming reception at the convention.
For much of the last two nights, the convention crowd was lackluster and sleepy, yet from the second Condi stepped out onto the stage, the attendees were on their feet. I understand the desire to cheer a smart, articulate, and accomplished Republican who happens to also be black, especially after incurring libelous allegations of racism from the left on a daily basis. And undoubtedly, the speech itself was solid, well delivered, and touched on some important themes of American leadership throughout the world – themes that have been lost in this era of laser-like focus on economic issues.
Now there are many conservatives pining for a future presidential run or some other prominent place in the party for this rare black Republican rock star. However, has anyone stopped for a moment to cut through the optics and ponder whether her actual policy positions are conservative – whether social, fiscal, or even foreign policy?
Domestic policy is real simple. Aside for free trade and maybe some vague references to free markets, she has never professed conservative views on specific issues that are important to us. In fact, she is pro-abortion, pro civil unions (and ultimately will probably support gay marriage), pro global warming regulations, pro affirmative action, and pro open-borders (something she alluded to last night).
Foreign policy is always more complicated, as it is governed more by prudence than by doctrine. Even though the overarching principle of any foreign policy initiative is American exceptionalism, the murkiness of America’s security interests has long blurred the distinction between divergent foreign policies. For far too long, we’ve been presented between the false choice of Ron Paul’s policy that rejects the entire war on terror and the threat of Iran vs. the neoconservative view of endless intervention in order to promote democracy in any and every Arab country, irrespective of whether that “democracy” is inimical to our interests.
Much of Bush’s second term foreign policy was Obama-lite, and Condi’s tenure at the State Department was awful. She pursued “outreach” policies to North Korea and Iran that were reminiscent of Clintonian foreign policy. She largely ignored the threat in Venezuela and South America. In her pursuit of so-called democracy in the Arab world at all costs, she bullied Israel into making concession to the Palestinians at all costs, even when it required them to loosen their security measures. I challenge anyone to find one difference between her views on the Palestinians and Obama’s demand that Israel return to pre-’67 borders.
Indeed the pursuit of democracy in the Arab world, or anywhere else for that matter, is not an ends in itself for America’s self-interests. There are times when promoting democracy in a specific country is beneficial to our national security interests and harmful to our enemies. But there are also times when supporting democracy in specific countries is beneficial to our enemies and harmful to our interests, especially when the new government is ultimately less democratic than the old one.
If we’ve learned anything from Jimmy Carter and the Shah it’s that we should oppose the Arab Spring, not help promote it. We must understand that our consummate national security threat is Islamofascism, which is primarily a two-headed animal; 1) Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups 2) Iran and its affiliates (Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.).
When presented with a choice of whether to intervene on behalf of citizens desiring to overthrow their governments in the Middle East, we need to ask ourselves if such action would help or hinder our enemies; whether it would help or hinder our national security interests.
In the case of the Iranian protesters, they were fighting against our primary Islamist enemy. Iran is not an Arab country (the protests predated the Arab Spring and obviously have nothing to do with it); the people are young and educated and would undoubtedly set up a government that is friendlier to America. Support for the protesters was a no-brainer, and we are all united in condemnation of Obama’s failed leadership on that front.
But supporters of spreading democracy in other countries, like Condi Rice, are overlooking the consequences. Although Muammarr Gaddafi was a bad person, he did not represent a threat to our interests in 2011 like he did in the ‘80s. Quite the contrary, it was in his best interest to fight Al-Qaeda, and our disposal of Gadaffi has emboldened our enemies in the region ever since we wasted time and resources on his ouster.
Egypt is also a no-brainer. Mubarak was as good of an ally that we could get in that country. Now we are stuck with the Muslim Brotherhood. This has emboldened both Iran and Al-Qaeda. Israel is now besieged.
What aboutYemen? Should we promote democracy there? The only alternative is Al-Qaeda. What about Bahrain? Should we support the Shiite protesters who want to overthrow the Sunni minority that governs them? Should we help create another Iranian proxy?
Should we support the overthrow of the Jordanian government – the friendliest in the entire Middle East? Does anyone think that Jordan is capable of installing a government that will be friendlier than King Abdullah?
And what about the Palestinians? Is in in our interests to help them create a state so Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran can have a private playground in the heart of Israel?
These are all questions that people like Condi Rice needs to answer. Nobody is saying that we need not intervene and lead in the world, but the question for us is what type of intervention we should support. That decision should be guided by prudence and perspicacity on a case-by-case basis, not by a wholesale desire to create a fantasyland in the Middle East.
I sincerely hope that Condi Rice is not given a prominent role in Romney’s foreign policy shop.
As for presidential aspirations, obviously we are far away from any debate over 2016, especially if Romney wins the election. However, before anyone wishes to coronate Condi as the next-in-line, they should look beyond her gifted speeches into her political philosophy and world view. We’ve seen the pitfalls of allowing soaring oratory to elevate an individual to the highest levels of prominence. That did not turn out well.