OF AMERICAN DIPLOMACY
As anyone who has read these pages knows, I have had a less than positive opinion of the current American Secretary of State. A time server, mediocrity, whose sole qualification for her current position, and her prior position, was her ability to run the treadmill alongside President Bush the Younger. And, of course to discuss policy at a debased level that the American chief executive seems to prefer.I can easily think of many men who are much more qualified to hold office at foggy bottom, than Mme. Secretary Rice. Which is not to gainsay the fact that under her tenure, there has been the stirrings of a return of intelligence (admittedly from a very low base) and open mindedness to American Diplomacy. Something that anyone will welcome considering the disastrous nature of the American diplomatic track record between 2001 and 2005. All one needs do is pronounce the horrible word: Iraq. And, that is enough to conjure up the debacle on all fronts which the Bush regime's diplomatic ineptness has landed the United States in.
What role Rice played in that debacle is something which is not altogether certain.I would surmise that she was more of an enabler of the neo-conservative clique which ran policy prior to 2006, than a convinced adherent. It would appear that while perhaps in some vague fashion recognizing the harm done to the American position by the catastrophic policies pursued, she showed absolutely no wish to fight to prevent injury and damage being done. In short, Secretary Rice, played the role of the 'Good German' in the Bush regime, in those horrible years(horrible for diplomacy that is).
Have things now changed for the better? Yes, I will admit that due to a combination of American diplomatic weakness (due to Iraq), and, a weakened political position at home, Rice has been able to tack (to use a sailing metaphor) the American diplomatic ship, into more sensible and intelligent waters. The agreement with North Korea, the(slight) moderation of American hostility towards the Hamas Government, the willingness to be seen talking with Persia and Syria, all these are signs that in fact, the wilder days of the Bush regime are at an end. However, unlike her acolytes such as the Washington Post's David Ignatius (for his columns see:www.washingtonpost.com), I see little new or particularly unusual in Rice's latest diplomatic endeavors. Having retreated, perhaps markedly so from her 'pro-Democratic' pronouncements of less than two years ago, the idea that she is still engaged in 'transformational diplomacy', is a complete non possumus. It would be truer to state that she is engaged in a diplomatic equivalent of a silent, night retreat, in which the defeated army, under the cover of darkness, withdraws from the field of battle, without allowing the enemy to become aware of the fact. Similarly, Rice's statements that the United States is still pushing for democratization in the Near and Middle East, is of course a smokescreen for the fact that recently it is the authoritarian, Sunni regimes in the region, which the USA has been attempting to corral into an anti-Persian cordon sanitaire. The silent American responses to the recent sham elections in Egypt and elsewhere in the region, speak of course volumes, which I see no need to emphasize.
Of course I am not gainsaying this 'retreat', by Rice, et. al., in fact I happen to believe that such a retreat has been long overdue. And, similarly, I am also of the belief that Rice's dropping of her 'transformational diplomacy' rhetoric (and any policy behind it) are all well and good. Were that the debacle in Iraq, so easily dropped and hidden away. Unfortunately such is not at all possible. A state of affairs that Secretary of State Rice, bears a great deal of responsibility.
Below is a transcript of an interview in the Financial Times with Secretary of State Rice. It has been posted in the Department of State's web site (www.state.gov/secretary), and, I run it, for the interesting light it shows on the American Secretary of State at this time, of 'diplomatic retreat'. Read and enjoy!
Washington, DC April 20, 2007
QUESTION: I thought I would start with a somewhat philosophical question.
SECRETARY RICE: All right.
QUESTION: Which is, now you've been National Security Advisor four years, Secretary of State for more than two years --
SECRETARY RICE: I know. Getting too long --
QUESTION: Seen a lot --
SECRETARY RICE: Long in the tooth. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But I mean, if you look back now, what sort of lessons do you think you draw about the conduct of American diplomacy and the projection of American power after these six years that you think might have been useful when you started back in January 2001?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it is a little bit difficult because so much changed on September 11th. We all knew of transnational threats. We all knew of state-sponsored terrorism and indeed of terrorism of the kind that al-Qaida was. We all knew that there were failing states that were dangerous. We had seen it in Somalia and -- but I think that the degree to which the weak rather than the strong can significantly undermine your security, indeed endanger your security is something that had not been fully accounted for in American foreign policy and in American foreign policy doctrine and not just in American foreign policy, but in international policy.
And so if you look at, for instance, a discussion that we might have had when we were sitting in the office in 2001 about NATO, I doubt that it would have had a section discussing how NATO might fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and find a counterinsurgency doctrine that would require simultaneously to root out terrorists and destroy them while winning the hearts and minds of the population alongside them. I think it was a concept, but it was a concept studied in the National Defense University and perhaps in institutions -- academic institutions, but really not something that was central to either American foreign policy or to the policy of our allies.
And I think that we would not have had a discussion about how to organize ourselves to deal with transnational threats like a black market institution or black marketeer in nuclear weapons technology like A.Q. Khan or how to think about mobilizing financial sanctions to deal with those who were abusing those powers. I just think that after September 11th, the inadequacies of our doctrines and of our policies to deal with those kinds of threats came very, very clearly to us.
I would say that we've reorganized ourselves, both the United States and increasingly, the international system really rather quickly to begin to deal with them, but we've got a lot more work to do.
QUESTION: What about nation-building, because you were famously skeptical and actually that arose in the conversation.
SECRETARY RICE: I still am skeptical about the military having to do nation-building and that was really the point. It's why I've spent a lot of time here at the Department in something that we generally call transformational diplomacy, but it really is kind of fancy term for something which is quite simple, which is that the civilian side of our national security establishment has to be more capable in helping to prevent and if necessary, repair failed states through helping to build governance structures. It usually starts with police forces and justice systems and it moves on to everything from taxation, systems of taxation to helping to create opportunities for development so that people don't turn to nefarious work.
And we are still struggling to organize ourselves appropriately for what some call the nation-building task. It's why we here in the United States have just begun this work on a civilian reserve corps because, rightly, that shouldn't be the business of the military.
QUESTION: I'm going to come to Iraq in a minute, but do you not think that General Petraeus was engaged and is engaged in nation-building?
SECRETARY RICE: I think General Petraeus is engaged in counterinsurgency, which has an aspect of -- certainly of improving the lives of people. But the process of nation-building is a longer-term one. That means giving the institutions or helping to create the institutions so that those people will be able to do it for themselves. And that is something that is absolutely a function that will have to be done by civilians.
But look, we are all involved in one way or another in what is really a continuum between war and peace. It's not a matter that you end the war and begin the peace, but rather that you have in many places, whether it's Afghanistan or Iraq or Haiti, where we've been very involved or -- earlier on, Liberia -- that you're simultaneously trying to deal with the sources of insecurity and the violent forces that are trying to destabilize at the same time that you're trying to build healthy forces. Now if you want to call that nation-building, that's fine, but I think that it is a continuum and we have been -- the whole international community -- we've done it in a sort of ad-hoc way, from Bosnia to Afghanistan, now to Iraq. And I think we finally now are beginning to seek the kind of institutions that will make us capable of doing that on a longer-term basis.
And here in the Department, we've been working to think about how to train people differently. Do we need Foreign Service officers with different skills? I moved quite a few hundred officers out of Europe, for instance, and into places that are on the front lines.
QUESTION: We miss them.
SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can we just talk about one recent important development, which the United States with the help of China secured, which was the diplomatic breakthrough on North Korea? Can you give us an update on the dismantling of – or how far the North Koreans have moved?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we believe now that the United States has done what it was obligated to do, which was to resolve the issue of the frozen accounts in Macau coming up out of the Treasury action against the bank there. And we have had discussions with the Chinese and the Macanese authorities and with the North Koreans about the unfreezing of those accounts and that has happened. The ball is really now in North Korea's court.
We continue to hear -- I think there was a statement even today -- that they are committed to the February 13th agreement and don't intend to delay it. There are some technical matters that they are apparently still trying to work out on the banking measures, but those need to get worked out rather quickly and we believe that we need to get on with the denuclearization. But we've discussed and consulted with the Chinese, with our other partners in the six-party talks, and I think everybody believes that we can and should be on track here fairly soon, but --
QUESTION: But is there work being done now by the North Koreans on Yongbyon?
SECRETARY RICE: We are not aware of any work there. They were again in touch with the IAEA to say that they would shortly as soon as these matters were resolved. So there was -- the banking matters turned out to be far more complicated to resolve than I think anybody realized. And so we got a bit of a late start on finishing the obligations after 30 days, but the parties are still very committed to this and we expect it to go forward. We expect the North to live up to its obligations.
QUESTION: Now this was an important creative approach, I think, by Americans in the sense there was some echoes -- perhaps I'm reading too much into this -- of the 2+4 arrangement within the six-party talks. And you were looking at -- you know, baskets beyond simply the nuclear issue and perhaps even a peace treaty eventually.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, eventually.
QUESTION: So this was a comprehensive diplomatic approach adopted towards a member of the "axis of evil." Help me understand.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, a comprehensive approach is the 2005 -- the September 2005 agreement is really the framework agreement for all of this and these are now implementing agreements based on the '05 agreement. I really do believe that in order to resolve the nuclear issue in a way that also deals with the political realities on the Korean Peninsula and in the region more broadly, you have to have a --
QUESTION: So it's a realist -- a bit of a realist approach, isn't it?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, no --
QUESTION: There's a bit of --
SECRETARY RICE: No.
QUESTION: -- well, Baker-ism, isn't --
SECRETARY RICE: No, nobody --
QUESTION: The ghost of Jim Baker?
SECRETARY RICE: Nobody is going to suggest that we have no difficulties with the North Korean regime. That's not the issue. But what we have been able to do is to join forces with all of the really directly interested parties in the region -- and I say directly interested because we're really talking about the neighbors -- to get incentives and disincentives properly aligned here, I think, to come to a solution.
Now, this is perhaps a metaphor that's not quite as appropriate for you; we're in the first quarter, right? I don't know what the --
QUESTION: I don't know about actual quarters. These are like football quarters.
SECRETARY RICE: I don't know what the soccer equivalent would be. But in any case, we're at the beginning and there's still a lot of work to do. But yes, I think we would like to get to the place where there's an overall political resolution.
QUESTION: But in the beginning when you trashed the Sunshine Policy, you were actually behind the goal line.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, but even the Sunshine Policy, which by the way, the President -- we've said all along that we understood why North Korea wanted to pursue this. But the genesis of this policy was to try to align the interests of all of the important powers here, because we knew that everybody wanted to denuclearize North Korea.
QUESTION: Just help me to understand why you couldn't have approached the issue with that kind of creative comprehensive approach three years, four years ago.
SECRETARY RICE: It takes times to get alignments right. When we first started, we knew that we all shared, particularly with China, a desire to have a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. But we had not come together as a coalition, if you will, worked together, worked through the issues, come up with approaches, learned to use both carrots and sticks together until more recently, until at least September 2005. And then we had a couple of situations with the North Koreans' missile test and nuclear test, I think which did nothing but solidify, again, the coalition. Sometimes it just takes time to have the alignment take place and when it does then you can move forward.
I think in 2003, it was still very much the view that this was a North Korea-U.S. problem. And what people really have come to realize is this is a regional problem of which the U.S. is one of the powers. And with that recognition and with the intensive work of the others as well as the United States, we have been freer to engage the North Koreans bilaterally because no one is asking us to engage the North Koreans bilaterally to achieve denuclearization on our own. That's no longer the case. The bilateral contacts now are to reinforce the multilateral framework.
QUESTION: Do you think "axis of evil" was a useful phrase?
SECRETARY RICE: I think it was descriptive. I do think it was descriptive.
QUESTION: Do you think North Korea still is a member of the "axis of evil"?
SECRETARY RICE: The North Koreans, I hope, are about to demonstrate that they've made an important strategic choice.
QUESTION: If you can talk to the North Koreans, Madame Secretary, why not talk to Syria?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have talked to Syria.
SECRETARY RICE: We have diplomatic relations with Syria. And it's not a matter of not -- of having an allergy to talking to certain states. Now, Iran is a bit different because for 27 years we've had no relationship for a variety of historical reasons, although we made the offer to reverse that under certain circumstances.
But with Syria it's simply been a matter that we've talked and talked and we've never been able to get anywhere. And so when we think that it is going to serve moving the policy forward, we could do it --
QUESTION: Tony Blair thinks it's really worth talking to the Syrians.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that Great Britain did talk to the Syrians, to Syria. I think a lot of people have talked to Syria. I haven't seen much in the way of change in Syrian policy.
QUESTION: So they're still allowing terrorists to come across the border?
SECRETARY RICE: I think we do not believe --
QUESTION: -- sponsoring --
SECRETARY RICE: We do not believe that Syria is doing what it should to help stabilize Iraq. But we have a neighbors’ conference coming up. We'll have a chance to, in a sense, test the proposition that the neighbors have more to lose from an unstable Iraq than to gain from it. I think that's a good format in which to have that discussion. And we'll see what develops. This is -- it's important for Iraq's neighbors to really examine what they're doing and ask whether what they're doing is in the best interest of Iraq but also in their own best interest. Sometimes when people come together and have a chance to talk, they get to see these questions differently.
QUESTION: I'm going to allow our Iran expert to come in, but let me ask you one more question about Iraq broadly. What hope is there and what can you do to encourage Iran to play a more constructive role regarding Iraq where things are pretty bad?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I wouldn't --
QUESTION: You know, in terms of the violence --
SECRETARY RICE: I would hope that the Iranians see that their own interests are not going to be particularly well served by an Iraq that can't -- that isn't able to defend its people and able to be a force for stability in the region. Iran lives next door to Iraq. To me, it should be self-evident. Again, we'll have opportunity, I would hope, to discuss these issues. They did discuss them in Baghdad and I hope we'll have an opportunity to discuss them in the ministerial.
QUESTION: On Iran, it would seem to me that the last few months has been a really sharp deterioration in the situation between the U.S. and Iran, particularly since the President made his speech on January the 10th.
SECRETARY RICE: I feel a little differently. I think there's been a rebalancing.
QUESTION: A rebalancing?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: What does that mean?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it means that I think after Lebanon, perhaps there were questions about whether and how the United States could defend its interests. I think there were -- apparently the Iranians questioned whether or not it was possible for the world to come together concerning its nuclear program.
And in recent months, meaning since the President's speech, I think we've established first of all that indeed we will defend our interests and our allies in the Gulf, which is frankly the reason for the carrier strike group and the PAC-3s. I think we've demonstrated that we are going to engage in force protection and not permit Iranian personnel who are engaged in activities that are harmful to our soldiers to simply go unchecked.
And I think the Iranians have learned that indeed the international community could come together on not just one but in pretty rapid succession two Security Council resolutions, Chapter 7, 15-0, with a variety, an array of states, that make it very difficult for the Iranian Government to argue that this is a problem between the United States and the West, much less a problem between the United States and -- between -- I'm sorry, between Iran and the West, much less between Iran and the United States.
And I frankly think it was a bit of a shock. I think that the collateral effect of that has been that particularly in the private sector people are making assessments of the reputational and investment risk associated with Iran and you are seeing, to my mind, for the first time, real debate or criticism or searching in Iran for whether or not some of their policies are leading to exactly the kind of isolation that they hope to avoid.
QUESTION: On the ground you have events like a sharp increase in violence in Iraq, you have the Iranians taking the British sailors and marines hostages, and recently there's an American citizen in Kish, you have more evidence of Iranian weapons and movements into Iraq and also recently into Afghanistan, the Iranians have actually increased the number of centrifuges that they've installed rather than decrease, so wouldn't you agree that while you may call this a rebalancing on the U.S. side (inaudible) responding to Iran with stepping up the pressure, actually the events on the ground are contributing to a general escalation? It's not that the Iranians have stepped back in response to your efforts.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it may well be that Iran will again try and defy the circumstances in which it finds itself, but we will see. I think it is a little too early to tell on some of this and we'll see whether or not more reasonable heads prevail in Iran.
In terms of what's going on on the ground in Iraq, I think it was to be expected that when the Iraqi Government and the coalition, principally the United States, started a more aggressive plan to try and bring population security that you would have a reaction to that by hostile forces.
QUESTION: Including Iran?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't -- well, possibly, although I'm really talking now more about what you're seeing in the suicide bombings and which have -- I can't tell you definitively, but which have the hallmark of al-Qaida. And that's perhaps not surprising. And the inputs for the Baghdad security plan have been going well, but they are not yet complete, including an additional two brigades of American forces that are due.
So I think we have to not try and judge the balance of forces on the ground on a kind of day-to-day basis, but we have to have a little time to look at the trend lines.
QUESTION: Do you think there's a chance that Mottaki will come to Sharm el-Sheikh and to the meeting?
SECRETARY RICE: I don't know.
QUESTION: They haven't confirmed that they are coming?
SECRETARY RICE: No, they haven't. It'll be a missed opportunity if he doesn't, but obviously it's up to the Iranian Government.
QUESTION: Are you going to try to resolve the nuclear issue within Iran -- with Iran before the end of this Administration? Have you set any notional timetable?
SECRETARY RICE: No, but we -- obviously it would be very important to try and do it as quickly as possible. I wouldn't even say to the end of the Administration. I would say as quickly as possible.
And there is a way to resolve it. The Iranian Government tells its people that we want to deny Iran nuclear technology and a civil nuclear program. That's simply not true. The United States and the Europeans have been supportive of Bushehr, for instance. We were supportive of the idea of a joint venture, which was a Russian idea, as long as the enrichment and reprocessing would be done outside the country. There has been discussion of assured fuel supply for countries that will forego the enrichment and reprocessing fuel cycle -- part of the fuel cycle.
There are all kinds of ways that Iran could develop civil nuclear power without the proliferation risk that is concerning to everybody, and we have been completely committed to a diplomatic course, supporting Javier Solana in what he's doing, saying that once enrichment and reprocessing stop and are halted by the Iranians -- the suspension, that there would be -- I would come to the table, too. It would reverse 27 years of policy. We can talk about anything. We didn't say we'll come and we have to talk about these little things. Thus far, Iran has chosen not to take up that path.
QUESTION: Why not go for a multilateral forum in which you could have, if you like, some bilateral contacts within the forum rather than Solana doing a lot of legwork?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, if --
QUESTION: I mean a la North Korea.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. No, if in fact Iran were to suspend, it would be – (inaudible) six plus one, because it would be the Permanent Five plus -- and the European three -- Germany, plus Germany, and Iran. And of course, in that context, within the context of those, I wouldn't rule out that there might be some reason for bilateral discussions within that context. But we haven't been able to get to that context because the Iranians won't suspend.
QUESTION: Could security guarantees be part of an overall package --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I --
QUESTION: -- that you dispel this notion that the United States wishes to attack Iran?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, if Iran is after civil nuclear power, I've never understood what the security guarantee argument was, frankly. But I think that the -- it is probably not on the table certainly at this point, but we can talk about whatever is on anyone's mind and we should hear what's on the Iranians' minds. But we can't have a situation in which we're talking and they're perfecting centrifuge technology at the same time.
QUESTION: If I just to follow up on this. I mean it was the case that certainly important members of the Bush Administration in the first term certainly were actively talking about regime change in Iran. Is that still something that you would --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it wasn't the policy of the U.S. Government. The policy of the U.S. Government was to have a change in regime behavior, and that's the policy of the U.S. Government. And look, the President has made very clear that we want every human being on the face of the earth to live in a society and in a political system in which political freedoms are respected, and Iran is no different.
QUESTION: So let's be clear, Madame Secretary. As far as you're concerned as Secretary of State, American policy is for a change in regime behavior --
SECRETARY RICE: American policy is --
QUESTION: -- not regime change?
SECRETARY RICE: American policy is very clear on what -- and it was clear in the May remarks that I made -- that we are seeking the regime to change its behavior. It is very clear in the package of proposals that were put forward by the six that that would open up some possibilities of economic and political dialogue, even advantage. We removed our WTO objection so that Iran could apply for WTO membership. I think it's perfectly clear.
Now, I want to be -- I also want to be clear on another fact. We do believe that the Iranian people deserve the freedoms that everybody deserves. But I think our policy line here has been clear.
QUESTION: This brings me to a somewhat -- the broader point. Again, it's almost coming back to the first question that I asked in your odyssey as being one of the key architects and executioners of American foreign policy, that there is perhaps a slightly more hard-headed pragmatic approach now and that you've seen that a lot of people who talked about bringing democracy to the Middle East, for example, may be an absolutely laudable moment at some point, as you say, with the Iranian people. But at another point, there are certain problems with having elected militias --
SECRETARY RICE: Of course.
QUESTION: -- in Lebanon, Iraq.
SECRETARY RICE: Of course, but --
QUESTION: Palestine, and you much better understand that now --
SECRETARY RICE: No, but I'm a strong believer that if you are (inaudible) choose one, and I'll choose elections and democracy, even if it brings to power people that we don't like. I am not one who believes that the elections in the Palestinian territories were a mistake. I think that the Palestinian people had to have the opportunity to express their preferences. I do think that there are certain responsibilities that come with governing and that Hamas has not lived up to those because it has been unable to deliver because it is isolated from the international system because it will not give up violence. So there's a consequence to being in power and being unable to deliver.
But under no circumstances will this President or this Administration turn its back on what we believe to be the essential fact about the Middle East, which is that without reform and democratization you're going to have a false stability in the Middle East which will continue to give rise to extremism. And I think that one thing that is not perhaps often said is that, yes, extremists who manage to organize themselves politically are dangerous. Extremists who are not forced to organize themselves politically are also dangerous. And what has happened or what was happening is that extremism and political politics was going on; it was just going on in the extremes. What was absent was any really healthy countervailing forces that are the kind of more moderate political forces that one sees emerging in Abu Mazen's Palestinian Authority or Siniora or ultimately with the Iraqis.
And you're going to go through -- we're going to go through a period of time where there's, in these newly emerging democratic systems, contestation between extremist forces and moderate forces.
QUESTION: But there are these really difficult anomalies. You gave an inspiring speech in Cairo. Now how do you fit those laudable aims that you set out in that speech with what is actually going on on the ground in Egypt?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't think any of us expect that after decades, at least the last 60 years, unchallenged authoritarianism, that there will be immediate successful, stable democracies throughout the Middle East. This is a process. And I still believe that the speech that I gave in Cairo is, for me, one of the most important statements that I possibly could have made because I saw it as a challenge to the leadership of Egypt with which we have very good relations on a strategic level, but to meet the expectations of an increasingly modernizing Egypt for democratic change.
Now when people say the United States shouldn't try to impose democracy, I say, well, that's absolutely right because you can't impose democracy. But usually one needs to realize that what you have to impose is tyranny, not democracy. People rather take to the idea that they might have control of their lives. But it's going to take some time. And it has to be now and it has to be an Egyptian process. And frankly, I don't think it's helpful for the United States having made the challenge, having said that we will support those to just always be in the forefront of talking about it.
Egyptians are talking about it. The referendum said something very important about politics in Egypt. I don't think you're ever going to have a situation -- after that presidential election in which there was front page criticism of everything about the president, I don't think you're ever going to have another presidential election in Egypt that looks like the old style of election.
The fact that the referendum was not supported by the population, not by voting against it, simply not voting, says something about a political awakening in Egypt. And so I think that these are things that take time. But you also have to look at Kuwaiti women voting. You have to look at what is happening in political reform in Jordan, legislators coming -- legislatures coming alive in places like Kuwait.
QUESTION: These are noble goals. It's actually the kind of --
SECRETARY RICE: No, it's not -- these are not goals.
QUESTION: Well, they're reality.
SECRETARY RICE: Right, reality.
QUESTION: But some would say that -- what about the impact, though, of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib on America's moral standing in the world and, therefore, its ability to affect some of the -- and influence people? I mean, if I look at the Secretary of State Acheson over there --
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: -- and you read Present at the Creation --
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah.
QUESTION: You can see how he managed -- and his colleagues, the Truman Administration mobilized coalitions around the world. And that was a time when America was really seen as the great liberator, but in the most positive sense. And today that's just -- you don't have that. You've lost it.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we've mobilized a pretty good group. Would you have thought NATO fighting in Afghanistan? Would you really have thought that?
QUESTION: Half of them are not turning up, though.
SECRETARY RICE: No, no, that's not -- NATO has its difficulties in Afghanistan and I would be very happy to (inaudible) of the national caveats -- but when you look at what is really going on in Afghanistan -- Canadians, Dutch fighting, and fighting hard -- it's a remarkable thing that that alliance is fighting.
QUESTION: But what about --
SECRETARY RICE: But let me go --
QUESTION: Sorry, please, yeah.
SECRETARY RICE: Abu Ghraib is indefensible. It turned my stomach, just as it did the President's when it happened. Indefensible. The only thing that I can say is that just because you're a democracy doesn't mean that you're perfect. What it does mean, though, when you're a democracy is that there will be consequences and there will be accountability and so people were brought to trial for Abu Ghraib.
Guantanamo, on the other hand, we all want to close Guantanamo. The President, I think, would close Guantanamo tomorrow if someone could answer the question: And what will you do with the dangerous people who are there? And this isn't just America's problem. We could use some help from countries taking their people back and making sure that they would not come back onto the streets. Imagine the day that somebody -- and by the way, we have run into some people who were released from Guantanamo back on the battlefield. So we all have a problem on how to deal with Guantanamo. Most people who go to Guantanamo will tell you that the conditions are humane. The issue is indefinite detention; that's the concern. But there isn't indefinite detention. People are being sent back, people are being reviewed and people will be tried.
Now, that brings to the point that I wanted to make about America and why America retains the high ground on something like Guantanamo. Remarkable that Mr. Hamdan, who was accused of terrorism, can sue the Secretary of Defense of the United States and get a ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States. We are a country of laws. And that's an extraordinary circumstance. And then the Supreme Court ruled and said go back to the legislature and get a law that does this and the President did that. So that's why the United States maintains the moral high ground.
It's not to say that there won't be disagreements, even in the United States, about how we have dealt with terrorist issues. But there is a system in the United States for the rule of law.
QUESTION: So are you saying everyone in Guantanamo will be brought to trial? My understanding from what officials are saying is that only a certain --
SECRETARY RICE: No, no, we're trying as much as we can to transfer people out to their country. That's the first goal is if somebody is -- if a country will take them and they are -- we can make security arrangements, we transfer people out. We've transferred hundreds of people out. Some people will have to be tried, but the -- and will be tried.
But the real -- it goes back to the point I made here at the beginning. This is a different circumstance in which we find ourselves. And it's a circumstance in which we are all having to come to terms with the new demands of having to deal with extremely dangerous people who fight in these terrorist organizations which are not on behalf of any country, they're on behalf of this (inaudible) national movement. What do you do with them? Do you -- it's the same debate that was there about intelligence. Do you really want to say that you shouldn't use all lawful means to learn as much as you can about the next possible attack? Because the difference here is that if you do not learn -- intelligence is a long pole in the tent. If you do not learn of an attack, thousands of people die.
I remember when I testified before the 9/11 Commission that I said at one point that my greatest fear was that as the attacks faded in memory, and we want them to fade into memory, that people would also forget the kinds of things that we were talking about that might have prevented the attacks: better intelligence, the ability of domestic and foreign intelligence to work together, the ability to share intelligence across borders, the kind of failed state that Afghanistan was, that people wondered why didn't we do something earlier, why wasn't there a prevention of the place where terrorists could train? We have to remember that in this kind of war we're in a race for prevention. And when they have to be right once and we have to be right 100 percent of the time, that's a pretty tough fight.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that's going to have to be the last one.
QUESTION: I have a very, very quick question. Just to ask what difference to your life as Secretary of State having Bob Gates and Hank Paulson has made.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, my life as Secretary of State has been pretty good along. But Bob and I are old friends, you know, we go back a long way to the days of the Soviet Union when we were both --
QUESTION: He wasn't quite on the same side.
SECRETARY RICE: What?
QUESTION: He wasn't quite on the same line then, was he?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, yeah, oh, absolutely. No, we were very much on the same line. But anyway, you know, we've known each other for a long time. We've worked together for a long time. And I think what's not really known is that we didn't just work together in the government, but long after we both left the government worked together on the Bush Library and then the Bush School. And so he's a good friend and we have a very easy relationship. And Hank I've known for a while, too. And the three of us have a good time together.
QUESTION: There are policy implications to that, I mean, your ability to work well with them?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I just think it's an easy working relationship. We have a strong belief in just sitting down and talking things through early, not letting them get down to the bureaucracy and come back up to us, which is very often what happens when you're at the top of an organization like this.
QUESTION: I should conclude by saying that after six and a half years, it's really about time that we had the Rice doctrine. You surely deserve --
SECRETARY RICE: I deserve a doctrine? I think we'll skip that part. (Laughter.)
Released on April 23, 2007