American foreign policy will soon have a new face-and much of the world is already doodling in red horns and a curled moustache.
President Bush's nomination of Condoleezza Rice to succeed Colin Powell as secretary of state sent shudders down the world's spine. With his soft-spoken manner and moderate image, Mr. Powell was widely seen as the voice of sanity in American foreign relations. His successor, on the other hand, is viewed as a presidential clone, a hard-liner who believes America should run roughshod over the international community.
"Among the most pessimistic conjectures made when George W. Bush gained reelection was that with a mandate, he'd keep Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon and nominate Rice to replace Powell," the French newspaper Le Monde said. "The second of those has now come true. . . . It is bad news for European leaders."
Italy's La Stampa worried that Ms. Rice's appointment marked the "confirmation of a more aggressive diplomacy. . . . We know her programme-the Great Middle East, confrontation with Iran, zero Palestine, zero Europe-and she is not a moderate."
The Kommersant newspaper in Russia was even more dismayed. "Now the hawks will attack us," it opined.
For all the hand-wringing overseas, however, Ms. Rice may face her toughest audience closer to home. Once confirmed by the Senate, the former academic will take over the oldest U.S. cabinet department and one of the most difficult to tame. The department's 40,000 foreign-service employees in Washington and abroad oversee everything from civilian contractors in Baghdad to international adoptions in Mongolia. They are used to running the day-to-day machinery of U.S. public diplomacy their own way as administrations come and go.
Many hoped this particular administration was about to go. When President Bush won a second term, explains one State Department official who asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of in-house relations, Foggy Bottom was full of "glum looks and long faces. There were certainly a lot of folks here who were secretly or openly rooting for his opponent.
"With Dr. Rice coming there's a sense among a lot of people that she's a lot closer personally and ideologically to President Bush. For a number of State Department staff and officials who are either indifferent or resistant to the president or his agenda-his freedom-focused strategy-there's some skepticism towards Dr. Rice."
Among career diplomats, Mr. Powell would be a tough act to follow in any case. "I think it's safe to say there's great affection and admiration for Sec. Powell for his managerial and organizational skill," which elevated morale and increased resources, according to the official at State. "You'd find folks across the spectrum affirming him for that."
But despite his popularity among the rank and file, Mr. Powell was never regarded as particularly close to President Bush, and his views seemed to hold little sway within the administration. Most observers said he was odd man out during meetings of the cabinet, constantly outvoted by Ms. Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
With Ms. Rice at the helm, by contrast, the State Department will be back at the center of the administration, led by one of the president's most trusted advisers. Conservatives hope that will be good news for fast-tracking the president's initiatives on AIDS in Africa, holding the line on aid to controversial family-planning programs, and limiting the reach of the UN and other world bodies. But that's small comfort to some Europeans, who see her as an unabashed cheerleader for military intervention and American unilateralism in world affairs.
The irony is that prior to 9/11-and long before her legendary comment that the United States should "punish France, ignore Germany, and forgive Russia" for refusing to take part in the invasion of Iraq-Ms. Rice was a champion of American cooperation with Europe. In a June 2001 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), she noted that some critics predicted the two continents would drift apart because of a "values gap" on issues such as gun control and the death penalty.
It was a prediction she rejected outright. "The president and his administration fundamentally reject this premise," she told the CFR. "Europe and the United States are partners today. We will continue to be partners tomorrow and the day after-strong partners. Not because of destiny, but by choice. Not because of the inertia of our history, but because of our shared interests, and, indeed, our common values."
With those shared interests and values severely strained by the war in Iraq, experts predict Ms. Rice will have to spend much of her time repairing relations with America's historic allies. But national security and hurt feelings-as time-consuming as they may be-won't be the only items on her agenda.
During her stint at the National Endowment for Democracy, Ms. Rice was a tireless proponent of winning human rights through democratic reforms. "I think she will focus hard on this subject," says Mark Palmer, a former ambassador during the Reagan administration and now vice chairman of Freedom House. Mr. Palmer believes the new secretary of state is one of the few leaders who recognize that "national security and international peace are inextricably related to democracy." Indeed, he says, after Madeleine Albright, "she's only the second one with a clear history on these issues."
Though Democrats and Republicans might gnash their teeth at the comparison, Ms. Rice can, indeed, sometimes sound like former President Bill Clinton's secretary of state. In her speech before the CFR, for instance, she touted "the important work that together the United States and Europe can achieve beyond our borders: To help foster open societies with open economies around the world. To help bring peace and health to Africa. To help set an example of multi-ethnic democracy for those lands where difference is still seen as a license to kill."
Multi-ethnic democracies and a healthy Africa may not seem like typical GOP foreign policy concerns, but then, Ms. Rice is hardly a typical GOP political figure. She was born in racially segregated Birmingham, Ala., in 1954, and Ms. Rice's parents taught her that she wasn't a victim-but that she'd have to work twice as hard as her white counterparts to get ahead. Her father, the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, resisted pressure to send the congregation's children into the streets for civil-rights protests, though he did pick up a shotgun and patrol the streets himself at night after a bombing at a nearby church killed four little girls.
Ms. Rice entered the University of Denver at age 15, graduated cum laude, then earned a master's at Notre Dame before going back to Denver for a Ph.D. By age 27 she was teaching at Stanford. A decade later she was the youngest-ever provost there.
If Ms. Rice ends up surprising critics who see her as a one-dimensional warmonger, John Danforth, her colleague at the United Nations, may end up disappointing moderates in search of a new Colin Powell. Named as U.S. ambassador to the UN last July, Mr. Danforth was a prominent contender, just months later, to succeed either Mr. Powell or Attorney Gen. John Ashcroft.
In the end, Mr. Bush passed him over for both roles, promoting instead two White House advisers with strong personal ties to the president. As something of an outsider, the former Missouri senator and ordained Episcopal priest is viewed by some Democrats as the last voice of moderation in the Bush foreign policy councils.
"Jack Danforth has the stature to go to the president and say, 'Mr. President, I disagree,'" bragged Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, during confirmation hearings this summer.
But Mr. Danforth seems to eschew the image of political maverick so carefully cultivated by Mr. Powell. "Throughout our efforts to bring peace to Sudan, my role was to be your spokesman," he told the president during his swearing-in ceremony last July. "The same will be the case in my new position. The job of permanent representative [to the UN] is to express to the world the views of the president, and that is what I intend to do."
Mr. Danforth's record suggests the loyalty isn't rhetorical flourish. In 1991, despite his own moderate politics, Mr. Danforth led the fight to confirm Clarence Thomas, a staunch conservative, for a seat on the Supreme Court. Mr. Danforth knew better than most just how conservative the nominee was: 20 years earlier, as attorney general of Missouri, he had hired Mr. Thomas for one of his first jobs.
Winning confirmation for an unpopular Supreme Court nominee may prove easier than winning the world over to America's position on issues such as abortion, AIDS, and cloning. But supporters note that Mr. Danforth has already brought warring Christians and Muslims to the bargaining table in Sudan, and a peace deal appears tantalizingly close. And last week he nearly secured a UN vote to establish a worldwide ban on human cloning. Such progress suggests that the president's new foreign policy team may have some surprises in store for the rest of the world-and the doodlers may want to keep an eraser handy.
-with reporting by Priya Abraham
- Bachelor of Arts, political science, University of Denver, 1974
- Master of Arts, University of Notre Dame, 1975
- Ph.D., Graduate School of International Studies, University of Denver, 1981
- 2001-present: National Security Advisor, National Security Council
- 1981-1999: Hoover Senior Fellow and professor of political science, Stanford University
- 1993-1999: Provost, Stanford
- 1989-1991: Director/senior director, Soviet and East European Affairs, National Security Council; special assistant to the president for national security affairs
- 1986: Special assistant to the director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Germany Unified and Europe Transformed, 1995 (co-author)
- The Gorbachev Era, 1986 (co-author)
- Uncertain Allegiance-The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army, 1984