"Condoleezza Rice Goes to the Seashore," my essay in the new Claremont Review of Books

My review of former Secretary of State Rice’s book “Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom” is available through the generosity of Claremont Review of Books at this link.

Watching the episode of the “Crown” about Britain’s disastrous Suez intervention in 1956, the horrible thought formed in my mind that America’s foreign policy Establishment is no less delusional, insular and self-policing than the failed British Establishment after the Second World War. When the Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser seized the Suez Canal, its owners Britain and France invaded Egypt with the help of Israel. The Eisenhower Administration, convinced that “Third World” liberation movements were the wave of the future, sent them home with their tails between their legs. Prime Minister Anthony Eden, Winston Churchill’s right-hand man, resigned in ignominy, but the Establishment trundled on oblivious. They had all signed onto the mistake and they all protected each other.

America is still in a strategic tailspin after wasting (as President Trump so often lamented) roughly $5 trillion dollars to build democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. All we have done is hand Iraq over to sectarian Shia allies of Iran, while leaving Afghanistan in chaos. We are worse off than before, and much poorer; the American public is disgusted with foreign interventions and our military is depleted. If we had spent one-tenth of those funds on advanced defense R&D, we would have a range of technologies that would terrify the Russians and Chinese, who now rattle their sabers (and nuclear-tipped underwater drones) at us.

Nonetheless the authors this disaster have learned absolutely nothing and cling to the ideology that led American to ruin. Perhaps the most egregious offender is former Secretary of State Condileeza Rice, whose new book is entitled “Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom.” Dr. Rice believes that “democratic transition” in Russia, China, Iran and other countries blighted by dictatorships is the natural and inevitable course of events. That is because America–in her view–also underwent a “democratic transition” during the 1960s, through the Civil Rights movement.

Brought up in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Rice as an eight-year-old girl suffered the loss of a close friend in a racist atrocity, the 1963 bombing of a local church. She sees the world through the prism of the civil rights movement: Racists claimed that black Americans were culturally incapable of governing themselves, so it must be racist to claim that any group anywhere in the world isn’t ready to govern themselves. The Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, the “Orange Revolution” in the Ukraine, the handover of Lebanon to Hezbollah, the disastrous “Arab Spring” — all of these catastrophes are minor mishaps on the inevitable march to democracy.

In my review, I obdserve: “In Jules Dassin’s 1960 comedy Never on Sunday Melina Mercouri’s Piraeus demimondaine weeps at the awful denouement of “Medea,” but cheers up when the actors take their curtain call. They didn’t die after all, Mercouri exclaims, adding, “And they all went to the seashore.” Former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Rice Condoleezza Rice has written a report—Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedomon the tragic failure of democratic movements in the Middle East, Russia, and elsewhere, but with the sad bits left out. So convinced is she of democracy’s inevitable triumph that every story has a happy ending.”

One would think that the Establishment that dished up so many disasters would be put out to pasture, especially after the election of an outsider presidential candidate who ridiculed them uphill and down. Not so: The US diplomatic corps, intelligence services and military were reared, trained and promoted in the same ideology, and it seems impossible to find qualified people to take a different policy direction. Condoleezza Rice’s influence remains enormous in the councils of state. All the more reason to see through her illusions and once and for all rid ourselves of the Establishment straitjacket, before we follow our British cousins down the road to irrelevance.