Rice changes mind on nation building

Eight years after bashing the Clinton administration for squandering U.S. resources on "nation building" around the world, Condoleezza Rice is singing a different tune.

Then, as the chief foreign policy adviser for Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, Rice denounced the use of the U.S. government assets for the promotion of human rights and democracy abroad as naive and wasteful.

Now, after serving as President Bush's national security adviser and secretary of state, Rice says she's changed her mind in an article entitled "Rethinking the National Interest" for the upcoming issue of "Foreign Affairs," the venerable journal of the international relations elite.

In it, Rice says the events of the past eight years, notably the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, make nation building _ the concept she once maligned _ essential to U.S. policy.

"We recognize that democratic state building is now an urgent component of our national interest," Rice writes, acknowledging her conversion to the cause from the position she staked out in a "Foreign Affairs" essay titled "Promoting the National Interest" during the 2000 campaign.

"In these pages in 2000, I decried the role of the United States, in particular the U.S. military, in nation building," she writes. "In 2008, it is absolutely clear that we will be involved in nation building for years to come."

Rice says the military should not be given this duty alone and has proposed the creation of a civilian reserve corps to do most of it. She also insists that nation building cannot be done only after a state fails.

"We must help weak and poorly functioning states strengthen and reform themselves and thereby prevent their failure in the first place," she says.

Looking back on her time in two of Washington's most powerful jobs, Rice offers a broad defense of the Bush administration's foreign policy in the article, from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to negotiations with North Korea and dealing honestly with rising powers China and Russia despite their divergent interests and values.

The 2000 essay lambasted the Clinton administration for some of the same behavior: military interventions in Haiti, Kosovo and Somalia, talking to North Korea and coddling China and Russia.

"The president must remember that the military is a special instrument," she wrote then. "It is lethal, and it is meant to be. It is not a civilian police force. It is not a political referee. And it is most certainly not designed to build a civilian society."

"Using the American armed forces as the world's '911' will degrade capabilities, bog soldiers down in peacekeeping roles, and fuel concern among other great powers that the United States has decided to enforce notions of 'limited sovereignty' worldwide in the name of humanitarianism," she said.

Yet after 9/11, her experiences in the Bush administration, particularly in the war on terrorism and combatting the rise of militant Islam, have clearly altered her view.

In the 2000 essay, Rice mentioned al-Qaida not once, even though Osama bin Laden's network had attacked the USS Cole warship in Yemen just around the time she was writing it and had blown up the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania two years earlier. In 2000, Rice used the word "Islam" just once, and it was in reference to Iran.

In the 2008 version, al-Qaida is mentioned at least five times and "Islam" or a variant, three times, twice within the phrase "violent Islamist extremism." (Associated Press, 6.09.2008)  http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/jun/09/rice-changes-mind-on-nation-building