American Realism for a New World

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice writes an essay in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs. It is essentially a follow up to a similar essay she wrote back in 2000.

I like this bit:

The United States did not overthrow Saddam to democratize the Middle East. It did so to remove a long-standing threat to international security. But the administration was conscious of the goal of democratization in the aftermath of liberation. We discussed the question of whether we should be satisfied with the end of Saddam’s rule and the rise of another strongman to replace him. The answer was no, and it was thus avowedly U.S. policy from the outset to try to support the Iraqis in building a democratic Iraq. It is important to remember that we did not overthrow Adolf Hitler to bring democracy to Germany either. But the United States believed that only a democratic Germany could ultimately anchor a lasting peace in Europe.

Hm. That’s not the way I remember it. And as I’m reading Scott McLellan’s book What Happened at the moment, I don’t think that’s the way he recalls it either. The argument to democritise the Middle East was often times used by the administration.

Overall, Rice is extremely positive about everything, concluding:

How to describe this disposition of ours? It is realism, of a sort. But it is more than that — what I have called our uniquely American realism. This makes us an incredibly impatient nation. We live in the future, not the past. We do not linger over our own history. This has led our nation to make mistakes in the past, and we will surely make more in the future. Still, it is our impatience to improve less-than-ideal situations and to accelerate the pace of change that leads to our most enduring achievements, at home and abroad.

At the same time, ironically, our uniquely American realism also makes us deeply patient. We understand how long and trying the course of democracy is. We acknowledge our birth defect, a constitution founded on a compromise that reduced my ancestors each to three-fifths of a man. Yet we are healing old wounds and living as one American people, and this shapes our engagement with the world. We support democracy not because we think ourselves perfect but because we know ourselves to be deeply imperfect. This gives us reason to be humble in our own endeavors and patient with the endeavors of others. We know that today’s headlines are rarely the same as history’s judgments.

An international order that reflects our values is the best guarantee of our enduring national interest, and America continues to have a unique opportunity to shape this outcome. Indeed, we already see glimpses of this better world. We see it in Kuwaiti women gaining the right to vote, in a provincial council meeting in Kirkuk, and in the improbable sight of the American president standing with democratically elected leaders in front of the flags of Afghanistan, Iraq, and the future state of Palestine. Shaping that world will be the work of a generation, but we have done such work before. And if we remain confident in the power of our values, we can succeed in such work again.

I guess she has to be positive.