Rice urges patience on Afghan war By MIKE TOLSON Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6679685.html FormerMessage 1 of 1 , Oct 22, 2009View Source
Rice urges patience on Afghan war
By MIKE TOLSON Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said staying the course in Afghanistan is vital for United States security interests and urged those critical of progress there to be patient with the tentative efforts of a fledgling democracy.
Speaking on Wednesday to a Houston luncheon banquet sponsored by the World Affairs Council, Rice touched on her own experience growing up in the Jim Crow South and living through the tumultuous civil rights era to point out how long the world's greatest democracy required to work out its own imperfections.
“This is a real change for Afghanistan,” said Rice, who returned to Stanford University to teach after ending her term as the nation's top diplomatic officer. “Who are we to be so impatient … as these people try to find their way? The main thing is to stay connected to Afghanistan. It will take a long time.”
While President Barack Obama wrestles with the thorny decisions of how and whether to commit additional troops and what their precise mission would be if committed, Rice said the U.S. should learn from its mistakes.
We failed to show sufficient interest in Afghanistan after the U.S.-supported insurrection drove out Russian invaders in 1989, and we tried to punish Pakistan too severely for a coup prompted in some measure by the instability that followed, she said.
Rice said world leaders must take a hard line with Iran concerning its nuclear ambitions, which she said are clearly aimed developing the means to produce weapons. But she also predicted that the current leadership of Iran ultimately will fall because of its repressive reaction to demonstrations that followed a controversial national election this summer. Young Iranians will not forget the fraudulent election and brutal crackdown on subsequent protests in the streets of Tehran, Rice said.
“Iran is weaker than it has been,” she said. “Its economy is in shambles. The clerics are at each others' throats. Whether it's three years or five, that administration is done. It lost any legitimacy it might have had.”
Rice said the global economic crisis will have profound diplomatic and political consequences. Some are welcome, such as the crimp in oil revenue going to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Others are cause for concern. The crisis, for example, could affect the economic progress of Eastern European nations. It also has caused unrest among people in China who are without jobs, which she said eventually will force changes in the structure of Chinese government.
Rice said the modern geopolitical landscape is one in which the biggest threats to our safety and national security come not from large countries, as was the case throughout the 20th century, but from smaller, struggling countries, which could include portions of Mexico.
“The dangers to us come … from failed or failing states,” she said. “What we learned on Sept. 11 was that the threat came from Afghanistan, a failed state. These are the kind of threats … that we have to be attuned to.”
She encouraged Americans who feel nervous or overwhelmed by current world events to keep things in perspective. She recalled the state of the world in 1950, when the Soviet Union controlled all of Eastern Europe and had emerged as a nuclear power. Communists had triumphed in China and were winning many votes in Western European elections. A war in Korea had broken out.
“If you think optimism doesn't fit the times,” Rice said, “think of things that we once thought impossible and that we now view as inevitable. If you told anyone in 1950 that the hammer-and-sickle would come down from over the Kremlin for the last time, they would have said you should be locked up.”