March 25, 2004

Note: Rice Unqualified for Her Job?

Steven Coll and Griffe Witte (2004), Ghost Wars (New York: Penguin: 15941200076), p. 539:

Bush relied heavily on Condoleezza Rice... a self-described "Europeanist." She had written... on... communist-era Czechoslovakia and on the reunification of Germany. She had run the Soviet affairs directorate of the NSC.... "I like to be around her," Bush explained, because "she's fun to be with. I like lighthearted people, not people who take themselves so seriously that they are hard to be around." Rice... had to cram during the campaign about areas of the world she knew less about. At one point she described Iran as "the state hub for technology and money and lots of other goodies to radical fundamentalist groups, some will say as far-reaching as the Taliban." But Iran's Shiite regime and the Taliban's radical Sunni mullahs were blood enemies...

Posted by DeLong at March 25, 2004 12:40 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post
Comments

Indeed, Condi was probably unaware from the beginning (whereas the rest of us maybe forgot) that the Taliban and Iran nearly went to war in 1999.

http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/meast/9902/03/afghan.iran.01/

Posted by: P O'Neill on March 25, 2004 12:57 PM

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Just for the record, who in this administration is qualified. It is a perfect example of corporate dysfunction where the tone is set by a leader who has no qualifications for the job. A similar situation exists in the question of is this "statement" by the administration true. A more honest framing of the problem would be, when if ever did they provide a true statement.

Posted by: slothrop on March 25, 2004 01:02 PM

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Ah, but at least she could explain her wrong ideas in a way that George W. Bush could understand them.

Posted by: praktike on March 25, 2004 01:17 PM

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nice to know that Condi's geopolitical knowledge became obsolete right around the time that the first Bush left office. i'll be sleeping the sleep of angels with that fact in my brain.

Posted by: brandt on March 25, 2004 01:23 PM

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I think Condi would make a great president. Of Hati!

Posted by: nanute on March 25, 2004 01:42 PM

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Remember when Bush's qualification were uh questioned the response was that he would be the First CEO president...surround himself with strong people... like Powel...Rumsfield...whatshisname...the Vice President...Reading any reasonable account of this presidency, on any level of policy making one can say it compares unfavorably with most of the monarchies of the Middle Ages. Then at least you had a pope determining social policy. While the Barons were off feuding, sacking one anothers castles and occasionally uniting to face an external threat.

Posted by: Lawrence Boyd on March 25, 2004 01:45 PM

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There is a perfectly reasonable context in which to interpret her statement. To say that Iran had a hub for terrorist action that was as far-reaching as the Taliban could also be interpreted as her drawing an analogy between the taliban-al quaeda network and the shiite terrorist network of Hezbollah et al

Posted by: Suresh on March 25, 2004 01:48 PM

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You also have to remember that she did not do to well on predictions of the USSR, her core area of expertise.

She predicted that Yeltsin was a flash in the pan, and that Gorbachev would back for a LONG time after it was clear that the USSR was well and truly gone.

In fact, according to some reports, she was looking for something like the USSR to come out of Russia when she came in in 2001.

She is a talented academician, she knows the language, she footnotes well, and she sounds convincing, but her record in producing predictions is on a par with the "March Madness" pools all over the country.

She is not a foreign policy expert, she just plays one on TV.

I wish that her parents had allowed her to become a proffesional Pianist.

I think that her poor performance is an artifact of her hating what she does for a living.

Posted by: Matthew Saroff on March 25, 2004 01:49 PM

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"Talented academician"'s are not judged by their footnotes but by their ideas and arguments.
Apparently she was considered a hack in the 80's, and she's certainly a hack now.

Posted by: marky on March 25, 2004 02:17 PM

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Uhhhh....Considered a hack in the 1980s?

Do you have any sources? I'd love to check them out.

Posted by: Matthew Saroff on March 25, 2004 02:54 PM

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On hackness:
Judging from the reception of _The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army, 1948-1983: Uncertain Allegiance_. the book she made out of her dissertation, I'd say it's hard to tell. The reviews are mixed. A review in the American Political Science Review 79 no. 3 (Sep. 1985) calls it "first rate," though I'll add that the reviewer only regurgitates the argument and doesn't evaluate the evidence. Walter Ullman in Russian Review 45 no. 3 (July 1986) is similarly favorable. Josef Kalvoda, in the American Historical Review 90 no. 5 (Dec. 1985), is highly negative. He complains that she frequently fails to "sift facts from propaganda and valid information from disinformation" and that she "passes judgments and expresses opinions without adequate knowledge of facts." She also seems to lack basic historical knowledge of her subject and doesn't seem to grasp nationality. Finally, her writing abounds in "meaningless phrases" such her final word: "The Czechoslovak People's Army stands suspended between the Czechoslovak nation and the Socialist world order." (Ullman called it a questionable conclusion)

Posted by: Batavicus on March 25, 2004 03:37 PM

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If Rice's job is telling what ever spin the Office of Political Affairs wants put out for the day, she is very qualified. Now - I know, this SHOULD not be her job, but doesn't every senior advisor to Bush really work for Rove's spinnning?

Posted by: Harold McClure on March 25, 2004 04:15 PM

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From ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. It was true then, and it's true now. It's the beginning of the "follow the money" scene:

Bob Woodward: The story is dry. All we've got are pieces. We can't seem to figure out what the puzzle is supposed to look like. John Mitchell resigns as the head of CREEP, and says that he wants to spend more time with his family. I mean, it sounds like bullshit, we don't exactly believe that...
Deep Throat: No, heh, but it's touching. Forget the myths the media's created about the White House. The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.

Posted by: richard on March 25, 2004 04:43 PM

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Expertise in a less relevant area doesn't strike me as a lack of qualification. Inability to pick up pertinent facts in other fields would. But I always wondered about her academic career. PhD from University of Denver to provost at Stanford is quite an unusual (and remarkable) career. The question is really how much of it is attributable to achievement and how much to patronage? (And that is a real question, not a rhetorical one.)

Posted by: ogmb on March 25, 2004 04:45 PM

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" At one point she described Iran as "the state hub for technology and money and lots of other goodies to radical fundamentalist groups, some will say as far-reaching as the Taliban." But Iran's Shiite regime and the Taliban's radical Sunni mullahs were blood enemies..."

Since "blood enemies" can both be "far-reaching", what's the problem?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on March 25, 2004 05:01 PM

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The Taliban (Pashtun quran scholars which took over Afghanistan) is not far-reaching. Al Qaeda (umbrella organization for Islamist terrorist groups) is. If she meant "same reach as" (which I doubt) rather than "includes" she was still factually wrong.

Posted by: ogmb on March 25, 2004 05:32 PM

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"Since "blood enemies" can both be "far-reaching", what's the problem?"

I haven't read the book but the way I read the line is Rice suggested that Shia Iran was supplying the radical Sunni Taliban with technology and money at a time when they almost went to war and that's a demonstration of her lack of knowledge in this area. On the surface I think there's good reason to agree with Coll and Witte. Weren't the Iranians supporting the Northern Alliance? On the other hand Pakistan and Iran found a way past their enmity to exchange technology. But then that just brings up another uncomfortable truth that Dr. Rice seemed to miss; Pakistan, not Iran, was the goody hub.

Posted by: dennisS on March 25, 2004 06:20 PM

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At one point she described Iran as "the state hub for technology and money and lots of other goodies to radical fundamentalist groups, some will say as far-reaching as the Taliban."

This statement is ambiguous.

Reading One: they give goodies to places as far away as the Taliban.

Reading Two: they give goodies to places as far away as the places the Taliban gives goodies to.

Only on Reading One does the criticism apply, but why not accept Reading Two?

(That said, I do think Condi's an incompetent hack, but for other reasons.)

Posted by: ruttiger on March 25, 2004 06:33 PM

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"Only on Reading One does the criticism apply, but why not accept Reading Two?"

I addressed this point two posts earlier.

Posted by: ogmb on March 25, 2004 07:28 PM

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Dr. Rice seems to have incomplete basic knowledge. She has admitted to not knowing what seem to be basic facts or reading briefing papers. No one can know or read everything, but Dr. Rice seems to be comfortable with a level of avoidable ignorance I have found surprising in an official at this level of responsiblilty. Further, her method of consulting others to fill these gaps seems faulty or even lacking.

Very Peter Principle.

Posted by: clio on March 25, 2004 07:35 PM

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It is a COMPLEATE SCREW UP!!!!. The Taliban was supported by bin Laden and the Sunnis in Saud!!!!!! The Taliban MURDERED Iranian SHIA DIPLOMATS!!!! IF you cannot parse this, you are UNBELIEVABLY UNQUALIFIED to be head of National Security.

A Russian expert might have made sense in 1980. In2001???No way!!

I have discovered an interesting tendency of the right wing. They accept the truth of the past, but not the truth of the present. They retreat to ancient ideas. Pre Darwin biology. Pre Keynsian economics, etc.

Posted by: bakho on March 25, 2004 08:15 PM

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Absolutely. Condi Rice is a YES MAN. That is how she has advanced her career. She tells people what they want to hear. THey name an oil tanker after her. Bush has so often in his administration appointed women in key positions to deflect criticisms of his policy. Condi Rice is his most cynical unqualified appointment. Of all the qualified women, of all the qualified blacks. of all the qualified black women, Bush appoints an unqualified YES MAN. If Bush wins, he wins. If he loses, at least he supports the racists in their fight against affirmative action. The mendacity is mind boggling.

Posted by: bakho on March 25, 2004 08:29 PM

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So are you saying that these guys have "puffed Rice"?

Posted by: SW on March 25, 2004 09:56 PM

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"I have discovered an interesting tendency of the right wing. They accept the truth of the past, but not the truth of the present."

The term Conservative is not just a randomly chosen moniker. It has a meaning.

Posted by: ogmb on March 25, 2004 10:05 PM

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"I have discovered an interesting tendency of the" usual suspects who post here. They don't read at all carefully.

"the state hub for technology and money and lots of other goodies to radical fundamentalist groups, some will say as far-reaching as the Taliban."

There simply is nothing in the above to support:

"But Iran's Shiite regime and the Taliban's radical Sunni mullahs were blood enemies..."

It's an obvious non-sequitur.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on March 26, 2004 06:09 AM

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"I have discovered an interesting tendency of the right wing. They accept the truth of the past, but not the truth of the present. They retreat to ancient ideas."

Bakho, you just may be on to something. Here is a quote from the authors of the study, "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," written by John T. Jost, a professor at Stanford University, Jack Glaser and Frank J. Sulloway, professors at the University of California, Berkeley, and Arie W. Kruglanski, a professor at the University of Maryland. It was published in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin.

"One is justified in referring to Hitler, Mussolini, Reagan, and Limbaugh as right-wing conservatives not because they share an opposition to 'big government' or a mythical, romanticized view of Aryan purity they did not share these specific attitudes but because they all preached a return to an idealized past..."

This study found "that at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:"

Fear and aggression

Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity

Uncertainty avoidance

Need for cognitive closure

Terror management

http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/07/22_politics.shtml

This study is a must read for bloggers everywhere who want to get inside the mindset of the trolls.

For a summary go here:

http://www.awitness.org/journal/political_conservatism_as_motivated_social_cognition_summary.html

For the full report go here:

http://faculty-gsb.stanford.edu/Jost/_private/Political_Conservatism_as_Motivated_Social_Cognition.pdf

Posted by: Dubblblind on March 26, 2004 06:19 AM

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The ability to rub two disparate ideas, or groups, together in an ambiguous and misleading way is at the core of Bush aministration policy pronouncements. Tax cuts as jobs programs. Saddam as a supporter of bin Laden. The Rice quote, since it seems to associate two groups that are not associated, but can be defended against such a charge, is perfect.

Posted by: K Harris on March 26, 2004 06:26 AM

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"There simply is nothing in the above to support:"

This doesn't even make sense.

Posted by: ogmb on March 26, 2004 09:16 AM

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ruttiger: "Reading Two: they give goodies to places as far away as the places the Taliban gives goodies to."

Since the "goodies" in the original remark referred to *money and technology*, which as far as I know were not abundant in Afghanistan, that would be like saying "Their naval empire is just as strong as Switzerland's." Maybe everything Dr. Rice says is meant as subtle sarcasm, which would certainly put our foreign policy in a whole new light.

Posted by: Eli on March 26, 2004 11:18 AM

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I think Brad is actually teasing some of you. When one goes to the context of the quote (the paragraph's surrounding it) the authors are demonstrating how "out of it " team Bush was.

From _Ghost Wars_ p. 538
"George W. Bush never spoke in public about Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda during the campaign for the presidency....Asked if Clinton had done enough to capture the likes of Osama bin Laden...Bush demured again, 'I don't have enough intelligence briefings, 'he said."
[ And just who was not giving him enough intelligence briefings? Well Condi}
p. 538
."..His lapses prompted a writer from Glamour magazine to list a series of names and ask Bush waht came to mind: Christine Tod Whitman, Madonna, Sex and the City and the Taliban...About the Taliban he shook his head in silence...The writer produced a hint...Because of the repression of women-in Afghanistan." bush lit up. "Oh I thought you said some band. The Taliban in Afghanistan. Absolutely. Repressive."
For those of you who teach does this remind you of a certain type of student? Lazy, listless, ill prepared, not very bright?

Posted by: Lawrence Boyd on March 26, 2004 12:06 PM

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There was follow-uo In Ghost Wars for Condi as well>
p. 539
"Challenged by a reporter [how strange this seems Condi challenged by a reporte] Rice insisted that the Iranians were "sending stuff to the region that were falling into the hands of wrong players in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
"Wrong players?" well who could these be? We can eliminate one: the Pakistani Government, Another, The Northern Allliance, who recieved aid from Iran and oppossed the Taliban is never mentioned. Indicating [gasp] that she might not have known this little fact. One must infer that she is talking about Islamic Fundamentalists. Brad's quote is seems to be quite clear about wrong players they are "radical fundamentalists whose "far-reach is as great as the Taliban" She however does not explain who these players are. So much so that the reporter queries her again and responds "that of course she was aware of the enmity between Iran and the Taliban." Which indicates incredible confusion. She has basically forgotten, or is unaware, of the basic context, that the Northern Alliance with aid from Heroin, Iran, Russia and some collaberation is holding out against the Taliban, and working with the CIA in its attempt ot capture OBL She is confused about the basic players in this little drama, which means she is even more clueless about the plot.

Posted by: Lawrence Boyd on March 26, 2004 12:27 PM

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And btw, in case anybody forgot, Osama bin Laden has been on the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted List since 1999.

http://www.fbi.gov/mostwant/topten/fugitives/laden.htm

Posted by: ogmb on March 26, 2004 12:56 PM

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Dear Patrick
If
"But Iran's Shiite regime and the Taliban's radical Sunni mullahs were blood enemies..."
is an obvious non-sequitur.

Then so is
"The Protestant Orange Order and the Catholic IRA are blood enemies..."

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