Condoleezza Rice: Middle East turmoil changes U.S. thinking

kferral@newsobserver.comApril 10, 2012 

Condoleezza Rice

— Turmoil in the Middle East underscores the importance of reform and has changed the way the United States thinks about backing authoritarian regimes, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday.

“Whatever happens, it’s going to be a rocky road in the Middle East because reform has come late,” she told a packed crowd under heavy security at Duke University’s Page Auditorium.

Rice, currently teaching at Stanford University, offered insight into the challenges facing the international system, reflected on the decisions of the Bush administration and encouraged students to stay positive about the future.

Three major shocks rocked the international community in the past decade, Rice said: Terrorist attacks on U.S. soil in 2001, the global financial crisis of 2008 and violent government over-throws in the Middle East, such as like Egypt and Libya.

Sept. 11, 2001, fundamentally altered the way the United States approaches internal security, she said. “When you go through something like that, your concept of physical security changes forever.”

Rice also commented on the dynamic of the European Union, Brazil and Mexico, India and China, and their emerging roles and influence in the international community.

Traveling the globe as secretary of state, Rice found people always viewed the U.S. as the land of free markets and free people, a place where anyone could become a part of the country.

The country needs to return to that mindset, she said.

“That immigrant culture that has renewed us … has been at the core of our strength,” she said. “I don’t know when immigrants became the enemy.”

One of the biggest regrets of her time in the Bush administration was failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, she said.

She also felt there were missteps in the country’s mission in Iraq, she said.

The administration didn’t fully understand how the tribal system worked, she said, and made a lot of mistakes in the reconstruction of that government.

“We didn’t have enough forces,” she said. “I frankly don’t think we had an institution that knew how to secure the peace.”

The question now, she said, is what role the United States will play in the changing international community. Should Americans imprint their views of how history should unfold or “move to the sidelines” she asked the crowd.

Still, there is still reason for optimism, she said.

“Somehow things that seem impossible, often seem inevitable in retrospect,” she said.

Rice also told students in the crowd that education is transforming and a key to finding one’s passion.

“Not just because it gets you a job, but because it opens …possibilities that might not be awakened,” she said. “Once you find your passion, everything else falls into place.”

Veterans For Peace in Durham issued a complaint against Rice prior to her speech Tuesday, criticizing her role in the invasion of Iraq. But only a single protestor stood outside as people filed into the auditorium.

Rice was the first woman to serve as national security adviser to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. She served as secretary of state from 2005 to 2009 during Bush’s second term.

Ferral: 919-932-8746

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