Stanford Review: How have you been received since coming back to Stanford?
Condoleezza Rice: I have been very well received—particularly by students, who come often. They send emails, and ask me when I’m going to start teaching again.
SR: What is the role of politics in the university setting?
CR: I think it would be too much to believe that people won’t have political views, particularly in Political Science or History or Economics. Because generally if you are studying those areas and you have no political views it is a little odd. But the question is how you communicate those views in the classroom. And I think it is very important that the curriculum be balanced in two ways. First of all, every faculty member should have an obligation to entertain alternative views. So it’s not just you have to have a balance in the faculty, though I think that’s a good thing too, I think its good to truly have people that represent those different views. But it’s also important for individual faculty to allow for alternative views both from students and from their colleagues.
SR: Why are conservatives underrepresented in academia?
CR: I’ve been asked that a lot and I have never really been able to come up with a good answer. Some people say that it dates back to the 1960s, when really universities were the epicenter of more revolutionary, activist thought and that [they say that the liberal] people stayed, and the conservatives didn’t. I think it would be an interesting research project to set up to see why that’s the case. I do think there are a lot of varying views. You have people who would be almost 100% liberal in their views and you have people who might be libertarian in their views. But I think if you looked at most faculty you will find that they have eclectic views—you will find social liberals and fiscal conservatives. You will find people who are socially conservative but don’t mind big government. I think it’s probably one of the reasons why it looks that way is voting patterns, but I think it’s more eclectic than people think.
SR: Can you tell us about the toughest decision you had to make as National Security Advisor or Secretary of State?
CR: Let’s take the case of September 11th. Once something like that happens and you’re in a position of authority, the hard question for you is there anything that I didn’t do or could have done? You really do resolve to not let it happen again if at all possible. That means making some very tough decisions concerning the use of force. I look now at, for instance, we hunted [Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi for years in Iraq. We knew that he was keen to the sectarian violence, and when he was found and killed, I never thought that I would be someone who would be so gratified by all that: I’m a ministers daughter…
That kind of toughened attitude about the use of force and what you have to do is something that comes with living in an environment in which you have seen Americans jump out of 80-story buildings as the Twin Towers came down. I think it was a difficult decision for the president to finally decide that Saddam Hussein had to be dealt with. One of the things I find very odd is this argument is that somehow people were looking for a reason to go to war. Nobody wants to go to war. But if you’re facing a circumstance in which you’re told and really believe [Saddam] has weapons of mass destruction, and he’s continuing to shoot at American aircraft, [and] he’s been a scourge in the Middle East. He’s dragged you into war several times. It’s a tough decision. Because any decision involving the use of force is very, very hard.
SR: In terms of your foreign policy trainings, you came up during the Cold War focusing on the Soviet Union. Was it a difficult transition focusing on new challenges?
CR: I think those of us who came up during the Cold War believed it was the end of conflict. Because we were so steeped in this bipolar in which you had the balance of terror between the Soviet Union and the United States—and spheres of influence. I remember when Germany was unified people thought “what else could be done” once Germany unified. Obviously people thought about transnational threats, people thought about terrorism. But I don’t think anyone in the country, specialists, or pundits, were prepared for just how much it could transform security threats. Probably, there was almost a little bit of a false lull between the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991 and what starts to happen with Al-Qaeda, at least by 1998 when they bombed our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. [At the end of the Cold War] I think there was a little bit of a sigh of relief. The extreme version of it was the book The End of History by Francis Fukayama. It wasn’t quite the end of history.
SR: Do you see yourself getting involved with the move by former Secretaries of State Kissinger and Shultz, and other Hoover Fellows to rid world of nuclear weapons?
CR: I plan to leave foreign policy aside for a while. I had my chance. I got to negotiate the end of the Lebanon War in 2006, I tried my hand in Middle East peace, I got to help with the liberation of Liberia, I was there in Baghdad, and Anbar and Kabul. Now they [Obama officials] get their chance. So I will likely avoid that. I am going to do education and those issues. I was fortunate to do diplomacy at the highest possible levels, and I think I will take a break. I talked to George [Shultz] and Henry [Kissinger] about their project and I think it’s very interesting. They are also looking at the hard questions, like what does it mean to be at zero. I guess I think what the big nuclear threat right now is comes at a somewhat different way. To me the biggest surprise on the nuclear front is not the North Koreas or the Irans of the world, I fully expected those, but when I really got to understand what the AQ Khan Network was about—the Pakistani scientist who was a black marketer in nuclear technology—that seems to me is a threat that is very hard to get your hands around and needs some attention.
SR: Would you be opposed to their plan if China surpassed us militarily and economically?
I think you could make an argument that when the United States was dependent on nuclear weapons, a world of more nuclear weapons was actually more advantageous to the United States. Now when the United States is by far the most powerful country in the world militarily, economically, I know we are having our troubles, but still, and I would argue [the US is most powerful] in terms of influence. I actually think nuclear weapons will recede as an instrument of state power. Nuclear weapons have been coming down, the number have been coming down dramatically since the cold war. It is because they are not useful. You need to keep enough for deterrence, but I would be much more concerned if we did not keep our conventional strength up to speed. I have been asked many times about the rise of Chinese military power. And there is no doubt that it is outsized relative to China’s regional role. But if we allow Chinese military power to outstrip American military power then we’ve done something really stupid. We should be able to maintain both the technological and even numerical edge that is significant in the Asia-Pacific. Particularly when you look at the alliances that we have in the region. We’re also talking about strong militaries like South Korea, Australia, and you know, capable states like Japan. I would worry much more about the maintenance of our conventional strength more so than nuclear strength.
I’m much more interested in missile defense, frankly, because I think with missile defense you can deny to states North Korea and Iran any benefit from seeking these long range missiles with nuclear capability.
SR: What do you make of the Obama administration’s movement with respect to European Missile Defense.
CR: You can make a lot of critiques of whether or not it was a good idea to put missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland. I happen to think it was a good decision. But let’s stipulate that people have an argument that we should have put them in Turkey, or Great Britain or Denmark—Great Britain and Denmark already being part of the missile defense network. But you can’t go back and re-visit that decision. Now this becomes about geopolitics. This becomes about whether or not Russia is going to have a veto over what the United States does with its NATO allies, Poland and the Czech Republic both, of whom have put a lot of political capital into allowing these missile defenses to be deployed. The Russians told me straight up, “we would not care if they were in Turkey or Britain.” This is about Poland and the Czech Republic, [which] used to be a part of the Warsaw Pact. So you cannot encourage thinking that suggests that there is a deal to be made over Poland and the Czech Republic because that empowers elements in Russia that want to revisit the terms of the end of the Cold War. So I’m more concerned about that. We actually told the Russians, Bob Gates and I, sat with Putin and told him that we will not put missiles in the interceptors unless the Iranians test long range. We told them, “you [Putin] can put people in the Czech Republic and Poland that can watch what is going on with the missile defense system to make sure it is not aimed at you. We can do things to make sure that the radar is not aimed at you.” This isn’t about missile defense. This is about Poland and the Czech Republic.
SR: What would you say is the Obama Administration’s biggest foreign policy challenge?
CR: There are plenty of them. I think Afghanistan has more going for it for all that is given to them. They have a pretty good army, but it is a very poor country. If you have ever flown over the mountains as I have, it is very easy to see how terrorists hide. So it is going to be very challenging.
I think the challenge in Iraq is not to lose focus. It is not a question of when American combat forces withdraw. The distance between what the Obama Administration is talking about and what we negotiated is very small, but Iraq is on its way to becoming a strategic asset, but it’s not there yet. You can’t afford to lose focus on it.
But one [challenge] that I would pay a lot of attention to is Mexico. I think what’s happening on the border with the cartels, cartels that are being fed through Central America… There were 5,000 assassinations in Mexico last year by the cartels. This is starting to take on Columbia-like proportions. And I think the Calderon government is trying to do the right thing. It’s a very strong government, friendly government to the United States. When the Mexican president tried to ask the United States to help with law enforcement…. we now have a Samaritan initiative. I spend a lot of time worrying about that because it’s a real security threat to the United States as well.
SR: In Afghanistan, do they have the capacity to become a functioning government like you said Iraq is on its way to becoming?
CR: Ultimately yes, but it is going to be a long struggle. The Iraqi budget for 2009, I think was 49 billion dollars, or something like that, The Afghan budget with 5 million more people was $678 million. They just are poor. It’s the fifth poorest country in the world. We often said when you’re talking about Afghanistan, you’re not talking about “re-constructing”, but you’re talking about “constructing” Afghanistan. It’s a place with no roads—we’ve put enormous amounts of money into road networks. One reason that people continue to grow poppy is because it’s easy to transport poppy—it doesn’t spoil. It’s always been very decentralized. Kabul has never had a great stroke over the rest of the country. And it’s had 30 years of civil war. But it’s got very hardy, resilient people. It’s got a good army; it’s got a lot of will. I think we’ll make it but it’s going to be a struggle. I’ve always thought it would be tougher than Iraq.
SR: In terms of the stability of the international system, how does the financial crisis affect the Washington Consensus? Have American economic values been discredited?
CR: The Washington Consensus comes out of the collapse of central planning and statist economies. I don’t think anyone wants to go back to central planning. But I think you will see a degree of statism creeping in through regulation. That’s only natural and will be corrective. One impact for US policy is that there are a number of countries across the world not just in Europe, but in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa that bought into the de-regulation, “Let businesses get started quickly” use your foreign assistance to fight corruption but, basically free market economies, flat taxes. The Baltic States are in that category Estonia, which is probably the most wired country in the world, they do e-commerce and so forth. They sort of bought into that model in a major way. Second, the pressures on trade policy, shortly after the G-20 meeting in Washington they all took an oath not to go back and do anything protectionist, then immediately India and China go back and do something protectionist.
So I think trade policy is going to be under a lot of pressure. That’s really dangerous, because if you start to get into protectionist trade policies then you’re really going to deepen the global recession. Third, the issue of political stability in some places, I’m concerned about Eastern Europe, although I think that the institutions are strong enough. Some of them followed aggressive economic and financial engineering and now they can’t pay patrons. Fourth, I’m concerned about foreign assistance. The United States can’t afford… we tripled foreign assistants world-wide, we can’t afford to have that rollback. Countries have made big bets with us; it’s really important to not have that rolled back. I was pleased to see that growth rates in Africa next year are projected to be around 3.5%. So that’s not good [compared to] if it were 7% or 8%, but it’s better than if it were negative growth in those countries. Places like Ghana, Senegal, Mozambique, that are just coming out and becoming reasonable and stable democracies in Africa, you don’t want them to fall back. Now on the other hand, there are some big places where you’ll see some stresses. China: Ju Jintao told us that he needed to create 25 million jobs per year in order to keep pace with the exodus out of the villages. They’re creating 9 million this year. You’ll see some stresses there. You’re seeing stresses and strains in Russia; one of the silver linings is that the lower price of oil will probably disable some of the states that were using high oil prices for foreign policies that were very antithetical to US interests whether it’s Hugo Chavez in Venezuela or the Russians, you know, “Russia Inc.” That’s some of the silver linings about the Washington Consensus, which had already given way to what we call the Monterrey Consensus—that you do have to worry about things about education and healthcare, that they cant just be macroeconomic policies. You have to have a microeconomic effect.
SR: Is the world more or less safe than it was ten years ago? Will it be more or less safe ten years from now?
CR: I think that it is safer because we know what’s out there and we have structures in place to start to deal with them. I think there was a false sense of security in the 90s in the Middle East, which was just toxic with Al-Qaeda underneath the surface, and with these radical madrasahs, and radical mosques that were growing this thing and that explodes and we get semblances of it in ’93 and ’98 when the embassies are bombed and then the USS Cole, it explodes and then 911. It was all underneath the surface and largely because of the absence of legitimate political channels in these authoritarian states. So instead you had this malignant thing—there was politics but it was just in the radical mosques. The very fact now that some of that is being addressed I think makes it safer though not yet safe. When I hear how much more unstable the Middle East is, I say to myself “as opposed to what?” In 2001, with Al-Qaeda growing up underneath the surface, Syrian forces occupying Lebanon, Yassir Arafat in power in Palestinian territory stealing his people blind and refusing to make peace? An intifada between the Palestinians and the Israelis where we were talking about thousands of Palestinians dying, and we weren’t talking about suicide bombings in the West Bank, we were talking about suicide bombings in Tel Aviv. So when I hear this argument about the stable Middle East, and therefore we’re not making it safer, I think people just forget what it was like.
SR: Do you think there will be more self-emerging democracies in the Middle East?
CR: Rather than the Iraqi example?
CR: Good question. I think we will see greater pluralism in Middle Eastern politics. I distinguish between pluralistic politics where you begin to open a space for competitive forces, for alternative voices for human rights to be an issue, for women’s rights to be an issue-, and democracy where you begin to grow institutions that actually secure that. So even in a place like Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah has begun to create space for people to have alternative views. How long it takes comes down to organizing a set of democratic institutions, In Kuwait, their parliament is quite active. I think you’ll see more of them [Middle East Democracies]. Lebanon is a democratic state, [although it is] a little odd because of the sectarian balance, but it is a democratic state.
SR: How did you come to the conclusion that the War on Terror would in fact be a “war” as opposed to a law enforcement problem?
CR: I think most of us who were there on September 11th never thought about it in any other way. One reason I’d like to teach decision-making is that there is a caricature of decision-making where everything is done by a set of option-papers: you sit and you debate options. [But] some things are kind of evident. On September 11th, they went after the center of American financial power, they went after the Pentagon, and they were going after either the Capitol or the White House. We think now it was the Capitol. That is an act of war. They didn’t intend to terrorize us; they intended to bring us down.
I remember going into the Situation Room, I got word of the first plane hitting and I thought it was an accident, I got down in the Situation Room and my assistant gave me word of the second plane and I knew it was a terrorist attack. Looking for Don Rumsfeld, and then seeing that the Pentagon had been hit, and false reports that the State Department had been hit and going to the Presidential Emergency Management Center, and meeting the vice president there and there’s Norm Minetta, who was Secretary of Transportation who is trying to take down numbers to find how many planes are still in the air. And then, thinking we’d shot down that commercial plane that went down in Pennsylvania. [I remember] calling up Vladimir Putin and saying that we’re going up on full alert. Him saying, “we’re bringing our forces down so that there’s no spiral of alerts.” Telling Rich Armitage at the State Department—Colin was in Latin America—that you have to send out a cable saying that America has not been decapitated. This is not war?
So I don’t even understand the argument. Why it is important though, is of course there are elements of law enforcement, but in law enforcement, you punish a crime, you investigate and punish a crime after it has been committed. [In this case] if you allow the crime to be committed, thousands of innocent people die. So, you have to prevent the crime from being committed. And that means, if you find people who you think are going to engage in an attack, you have to lock them up, and it means that if you have terrorists that you have picked up on the battlefield, you can’t just release them into an unsuspecting population. It has real policy implications, but that [idea] that it was not a war that we were in engaged in, never occurred to me. I do think that the unfortunate thing is that we were never able to make clear that it was not a war against Islam or war with the Middle East; it was war against terrorists, and we had plenty of Islamic and Middle Eastern allies, because they were the targets as much if not more than we were. We know now that Al-Qaeda’s intention was to bring down the Saudi regime. That was their number one intention, their idea was that if you could somehow separate the United States from the Middle East, that the Saudis would be exposed, and they would bring down the Saudi regime and establish the caliphate in the Middle East. It’s why, by the way, Al-Qaeda’s defeat, almost defeat in Iraq, in the center of the Middle East is so important because Al-Qaeda in exile in some other place is not like Al-Qaeda winning in the center of the Middle East.
SR: Which member of the Bush administration is most misperceived by the media?
CR: The president. The person that I know and worked for—there’s almost no resemblance to the public perception, which was as someone who was not on top of the details. Any cabinet secretary who ever went in to brief with the president, knew two things: the first was, you better get to the point, because the president was already way ahead of you. Secondly, you better have your details straight, not just from that briefing, but from the one you gave six weeks ago, because he was going to say “but on February 5th, you told me that…” [He has] a memory like an iron-trap. [He has] great familiarity with the details, and a great sense of ability to go to the strategic issue. Many cabinet secretaries, including me, would walk in and giving a briefing thinking “why didn’t I think of that” before he asks you that question. So many people when they came out of those meetings… let’s take an assistant secretary of state, would say “you know I wish somebody could have came in and seen the president in this meeting”
SR: How is he doing now?
CR: He’s great, we talk to each other frequently over email.
SR: Is that the first time you’ve been using email in the last 8 years?
CR: [laughter] Pretty much.
SR: What were the most influential books in your life? Personally or academic.
CR: Hans Morgenthau’s book, Power Among Nations was very influential to me. I got a reputation as being a realist as a result. But realist, as an analytic tool, you’ve have countries resembling billiard balls bumping into each other in international politics and it doesn’t matter what’s inside them—that actually doesn’t work in policy terms, so I wasn’t captured by realism in policy terms.
I was very influenced by a book on Russia, which is probably one of the reasons I ended up studying Russian. James Billington, who is still the librarian at this library, wrote a book The Icon and the Axe and it was a book about Russian history and culture that I still love to read. There are many of them, but those two stick out.
SR: What about books that you have personally enjoyed?
CR: I love to read biography. I went on a tear in the summer of 2006, reading the biographies of the founding fathers. I read the biographies on Washington, on Hamilton—[Ron] Chernow has a great book on Hamilton—my favorite really. [I read biographies] on Franklin, on Madison, just lots of books about the founding fathers, partly because 2006 was a very rough year, and it helped me to remember that history has a long tail, not a short one. It helped me to remember that, by all rights, the United States of America should never have come into being—fighting the greatest military power of all time, Washington losing a third of his men to smallpox every time he would raise an army; Hamilton, as Washington’s aid to camp, throwing away all of the dispatches from Congress telling him what to do, rather than bother Washington. This cantankerous group of founding fathers that we had could not even decide what the great seal of the United States would look like. There were three committees to decide the seal of the United States of America. It was a good corrective to what we were going through. There was a lot of criticism, [such as] “the Iraqis just couldn’t get it right.” Maybe their leaders just couldn’t get it right… We were lucky, we had great founding fathers, but boy did they squabble a lot and make their share of mistakes.
SR: Can we improve education in America?
CR: I do, and I think it is necessary. There are two reasons it is important for national security. As a former secretary of state, I advocate for it as a national security priority. One thing, it’s important because if we don’t do better, we won’t compete, our people won’t compete, and then we will start to protect, and that will be really bad for the world because if the United States protects then everyone will protect. Secondly, it is important for who we are. People come here from around the world because they believe that you can get ahead here on merit and it doesn’t matter what your circumstances were, you can still do great things. I call it the “Log Cabin Myth.” A myth is not something that is not true, it’s just something that is outside in your thinking, and Americans really fundamentally believe this: if you just work hard enough, you will succeed. And if we ever lose that, I believe we will lose the one thing that really unites us. Because it is not blood, it’s not ethnicity, it’s not religion, we’re all kinds of mélanges, but it’s this core belief. A great multiethnic democracy has got to have that continuing sense of upward mobility and education is the key to that. Now what do we do? I think the first thing that we do is to recognize that we have to have tough standards and we have to meet them. I came up at a time when the “self-esteem movement” was just getting started, where there weren’t any wrong answers… But actually there are in math and science! [laughter]. Getting kids to recognize that excellence is the goal to self-esteem, not just feeling good about yourself is very important. And that means that curricula have to be toughened, demanding. We need to know when kids are having trouble, which is why I think President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” was so important, because you have to test; it wasn’t punitive. You have to reward good teaching, because teachers are flat-out underpaid. Finally, you have to recognize that America will never test at the very top in math and science, but we can do better than what we are doing, but if you add to that the question of creativity, and you simultaneously ask how others are doing in terms of creativity, you might understand why 1 in 10 patents are right here in this [San Francisco Bay] Area. I think math and science education is very important, but I wouldn’t want to supplant in American education, the belief in broad education, challenging people but also [cultivating] different talents. Something I would re-introduce in the schools if I could is music education. Because if you really want to get disciplined, learn music. I would make people study languages from the third grade, because, abstract systems like that really do develop your mind. So I just think [the important keys are] rigorous curriculum and support for teachers, and it’s high standards that we need to actually assess.