September 13, 2019

Condoleezza Rice

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joins Firing Line to discuss the breakdown of the Trump administration’s negotiations with the Taliban. Dr. Rice also reflects on how the post-Cold War order has evolved, and warns against nativism and protectionism. She additionally criticizes elected officials who make policy on Twitter.

Read Full Transcript EXPAND

She’s known for breaking barriers and has even been called the most powerful woman in the world, this week on ‘Firing Line.’

My parents couldn’t take me to have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, but they had me absolutely convinced I could be president of the United States if I wanted to be.

When Condoleezza Rice grew up in the segregated South, she was taught that she could be anything she wanted as long as she did everything twice as well.
♪♪ Her first dream, to be a concert pianist, fell flat.
But she would make it onto the world stage.
[ Cheers and applause ]
We cannot be reluctant to lead, and you cannot lead from behind.
A trusted adviser to the first President Bush and then his son, she was at the White House during 9/11 and when the United States went to war with Afghanistan and Iraq.

Colin Powell leaves big shoes to fill at the State Department, but Condi Rice is the right person to fill them.

She went on to become the first African-American woman to be Secretary of State, meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
A decade after leaving Washington, what does Condoleezza Rice say now?

‘Firing Line with Margaret Hoover’ is made possible by… Additional funding is provided by… Corporate funding is provided by…
Welcome to ‘Firing Line,’ Secretary Condoleezza Rice.

Thank you very much.
Great to be with you.

It’s a real honor.
You had served in two White House National Security Councils for both Bush administrations.

That’s right, yes.

You are now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where you had also served as provost.
And the Hoover Institution is an organization that I’m also affiliated with.
Now, you have written a new book.
It is co-written with Philip Zelikow, and it is called ‘To Build a Better World: Choices to End the Cold War and Create a Global Commonwealth.’
Why is now the moment to write about the end of the Cold War?

We wanted to do a couple of things in this book.
First of all, it will have been 30 years next year since the unification of Germany.
And the way that the Cold War ended is a reminder of two very important principles, going forward.
The first is, diplomacy matters.
The second point — and given some of the news of this last week or so, sometimes you have to stay the course in order to achieve what you want.
The United States waited 45 years, from 1945 and the end of World War II, until 1990, when Germany could be unified completely and totally on Western terms, within NATO.
We had to wait.
And when I look at all of the calls now for ‘We have to get out, we have to leave,’ I think to myself, ‘Sometimes it takes time, and the stability that America can bring, if we are patient.’

Also, what you’re referring to, I think, there is, the news this week that President Trump had plans to sit down with the Taliban in a peace negotiation at Camp David.

Right.

Which he then called off after the Taliban took credit for a suicide bomb that killed an American soldier in Kabul.

Right.

There’s several questions that come from this news.
One, what is your view about bringing the Taliban to Camp David?
Just for starters.

Right.

The heralded place where peace negotiations and, frankly, war planning happened.
In the wake of 9/11, you were in Camp David, helping to plan the response.
How did it strike you that the Taliban would be invited to Camp David?

Well, it wouldn’t have been my chosen venue.
Let me put it that way.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong, frankly, with doing the negotiations at Camp David because, after all, we had Yasser Arafat at Camp David at the time that the PLO was really a terrorist organization.

After significant concessions had been made and…
That’s right.
And the timing would have been kind of bad.
The week of 9/11 is not the time to have the Taliban at Camp David.
But the decision to end the negotiations, the President was right about that because there were some really bad signs about where these negotiations were going.

What were the bad signs?

Well, first of all, when you have the Taliban unwilling to even acknowledge the legitimately democratically elected Afghan government that has been our partner for more than a decade and a half, that’s a bad sign.

Mm-hmm.

When they say that they were some kind of puppet government, that’s a bad sign.
When they really weren’t able to give any assurances that they were going to keep their territory safe of terrorism, that’s a bad sign.
And so, it seems to me that the Taliban was beginning to believe we wanted an agreement more than they did.

Right.
And all of the talk, not just in this administration but going back to the Obama administration, that we have to get out, we have to end the war, I think had given the Taliban a false sense of security.

Then I’d like to get your sense of why an 18-years war in Afghanistan is so politically toxic on both sides.
And I’d like to show you a clip, from the campaign trail, of both President Trump and the Democratic candidates urging exactly what you’re advising — get out now.
Let’s take a look.

Great nations do not want to fight endless wars.

To continue to keep troops and more troops forever and ever and ever in that part of the world is not — It is not working.

I want to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.
It should’ve happened long ago.

Will you withdraw all U.S.
servicemembers by the end of your first year in office?

We will withdraw.

All right, Secretary Rice, we have troops in Germany and Japan 74 years after the end of that war.
We have had troops in South Korea for 66 years, since the end of armed conflict.
Why, in your view, is it so politically untenable that we still have troops in Afghanistan 18 years after we were attacked on 9/11?

Well, that’s a very good question, because we would not have gotten a unified Germany on our own terms without that American presence at a time when Joseph Stalin was astride Europe.
And we waited 45 years to unify Germany, and our forces are still there.
You mentioned Korea.
We’re still keeping peace on the Korean peninsula, and that has prevented war.
And if we are premature in our exit from Afghanistan, are we going to forget the lessons of the week that we’re in now, that 9/11 came out of Afghanistan?
And I worry that, for instance, we hear from intelligence that the Islamic — that ISIS is sort of regrouping around this area.
So, I understand.
I understand that people are tired.
I understand that people say, ‘When is this gonna end?’
But the President should ask, and I think it can be done, ‘What is a minimum presence that we can keep that largely would be a train-and-equip presence, that would largely be advising the Afghans on how to deal with the Taliban, that would largely be a counterterrorism and intelligence presence so that terrorism doesn’t arise again on that soil?’
I heard the word ‘endless war.’
In effect, you’re talking about a different kind of mission for the American forces than the one that we had in October of 2001.

It has changed over the course of 18 years.

It’s changed over the course of 18 years.
These are now stabilization operations to help the Afghan army and government make Afghanistan a safe place.

So, it brings me to the question of nation-building, right?
‘Cause this is not something that conservatives had been previously for, and President Trump has been quite clear that he’s against nation-building.
He doesn’t want to be nation-building.
And you wrote in in 2008 that you had previously been against it, but it’s clear that ‘now we will be involved in nation-building for years to come,’ is what you said in that essay.

I believe that we have to think about it as not just building their nation but securing ours.
When you have ungoverned territory, when you have places the terrorists can train and equip, and arms dealers can run wild, that is going to be bad for our security.
And so, when we talk about nation-building, I don’t want to fight them on our territory the way that we did on September 11th, when, from Afghanistan, they came here and took down the Twin Towers and blew a hole in the Pentagon.
I don’t want to do that again.
Now, I do think that the American people have kind of two impulses going on simultaneously, and they’re a little bit conflicting.
We’re tired of the burdens of leadership.
We’re tired of always having to solve everybody else’s problems.
But we don’t want to see, as President Trump himself said, Syrian children choking on nerve gas.
We don’t want to see people beheaded on television by ISIS.
We don’t want to see car-bombs in Afghanistan.
We aren’t going to want to see women executed again in soccer stadiums by the Taliban or kept from going to school when they’re girls.
We’re not gonna want to see that again.
And so, in a sense, that is the price of America’s continued engagement.
And, again, the war, in a sense, is no longer the same war.

You write in the book that you believe that the world may be drifting towards another great systemic crisis.

Right.

What systemic crisis do you fear?

Well, the crisis is, in many quarters, a rejection of the very international order that George H.W. Bush and Helmut Kohl and others helped create after the Cold War.
And remember that this was the extension of ideas from 1945 that we ought to have free markets, an open international economy that was not zero-sum-gain, where everybody could grow.
We believed in free peoples.
And now you see what we’ve called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — populism, I’ll call it nativism, not nationalism, because I think, in the American context, nationalism is not a bad thing.

It’s an important distinction.

But nativism means ‘we against them.’
We’re seeing the return of protectionism.
We’re seeing the return of isolationism.
We don’t want to be involved in ‘their’ problems.
This didn’t serve us well the last time around.
It won’t serve us well again.
Margaret, one of the things that really worries me is that America is not a confident country again these days.
We were confident in 1945 — we were confident in 1991 — that we could sustain an order of free markets and free peoples.
And I do think that part of the loss of that confidence is that we worry about the fact that the benefits of globalization have not been equally shared in our society.
But it doesn’t mean that we turn away from the order that has served us so well.
It means that we fix the cracks that are there.

So, part of the cracks are populism, as you identify.
You write in your book that the rise of far-right populist parties in places like Hungary and Poland really began in 1989.

Yes.

And I wonder if you see a direct flow line between the emergence of these right-wing, populist movements in Europe and the populism that has emerged in Western Europe and the United States.

I do.
And I think that part of the flow is that, those who wanted to sustain the global order didn’t see the cracks coming in time.
So let’s just talk about the United States.
Our processes of governing are meant to be slow.
That’s how the founding fathers created them.
That’s why they created three branches of government and two houses of Congress, and separation of powers and federalism with states that have rights.
And so, when you try to make policy by instant social-media gratification —
By tweet?

By tweet.
If I could have a rule, it would be that nobody in government can tweet — not just the president but also in the Congress.
Because it takes time to build consensus.
It takes time to listen to your colleagues.
Just think, Margaret, if the first thing that came into your mind was what you said, which is a little bit the way social media encourages you to be.
It wouldn’t be — There would be no time to actually hear the other side, and I think that what — And I am a social-media user.
I love it.
But I think that what it’s done is, it has shortened the timeframe in which we try to make policy.
And with institutions that, by their nature, move slowly, that’s a problem.

Well, I mean, this is the critique of populism that you write, is that populism actually undermines the sustainability of our institutions.

Well, populism is not, in and of itself, anti-democratic.

But it is anti-institutional.

It’s anti-institutional.
It seeks to go around the institutions, directly to the people.
And I marvel every day at the wisdom of the founding fathers and the American Constitution.
I just marvel at it every day.
Because they understood the need for institutional intermediation between the desires of the people and the policies that came out.
That’s why they created representative government.
And when you constantly go around those institutions, you do that at your own peril.

So, one of the institutions that came out of the international world order and the post-Cold War order and the pre-Cold War order was NATO.

Yes.

And you write in the book that the NATO alliance now finds itself ill-adapted for the problems of the 21st century.
You also say that… Now, some might read that to say that you’re suggesting that NATO is obsolete.

I’m suggesting, and we’re suggesting, Philip and I, that maybe renovation is — If you have a wonderful historic building, you don’t want to tear it down.

So, how would you renovate NATO?

I think one thing that’s been great for NATO is the inclusion of the East Europeans, because they’ve given it new energy.
They actually remember what it means not to be free, and so they’ve given new meaning to the mission.
I know that NATO is trying hard to build cybersecurity capacity.
I think NATO has tried to reform on issues of terrorism.

Mm-hmm.

And I think some of the impacts there have been quite good since 9/11.
But looking at these new missions and saying, ‘How are we gonna take on these new missions?’ that’s what NATO has got to spend more time doing.
And by the way, President Trump is right — if you’re going to do the old missions, ’cause the Russians are still there, and you’re going to do the new missions, everybody’s gonna have to pay their fair share.

You’re a student of Soviet Russia, and you also, in your time as National Security Adviser to President Bush, witnessed a real transformation in the stature and the posture that Vladimir Putin took on as he reasserted himself.
There’s concern about whether NATO will be strong enough to sustain a test to NATO by Vladimir Putin or Russia.
Do you worry about that?

Well, my concern is not about a direct challenge.
We’ve always depended on a force presence to remind the Soviet or Russian president, ‘Don’t go there, because you might kill an American, and that will cause an American president to attack.’
That’s why we had a tripwire for all of those years.
So, on a direct challenge, I’m not as worried.
What I’m worried about is that you would find the Russians using these hybrid attacks, where it’s a little bit cyber, it’s a little unclear who the people are, the kinds of things that they’ve done in Ukraine.
And I worry more about something along those lines.

It brings me to another question.
And, as you know, this program was first hosted by William F. Buckley Jr., and he hosted it from 1966 to 1999.
And in 1987, there was a Republican presidential primary in which all the candidates, Republican candidates, came to talk to Bill Buckley, and your former boss, George H.W. Bush, was on that stage talking about the INF Treaty.

Yes.

The Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
Let’s take a look at that.

…an entire generation of nuclear weapons, and that’s good for my grandchildren and the rest of the world.
[ Applause ]
He was good.

He was good.
That was a great moment.
But where are we now?
Because in — Just in August of this last year, President Trump actually withdrew from the INF Treaty.
Has the INF Treaty ceased to serve the purposes of this new global order?

I think the INF Treaty served brilliantly for 25 years.
And President George H.W. Bush was right — we got rid of a class of nuclear weapons.
But it is a different world than it was in 1987.
And the Russians had been trying to get out of that treaty for a long time, Margaret.
They called me on — The Russian Defence Minister called and said, ‘You know, we ought to get out of that INF Treaty, because the only –‘ This is probably around 2003 or ’04.
‘Because the only countries that it is constraining are the United States and Russia.
Doesn’t constrain China, it doesn’t constrain India.’
And I said, ‘You know, we got to get out of this INF Treaty.’
So, we didn’t because of allied concerns, principally, so they just started undermining it and cheating.
I think the time had probably come, and the Russians forced our hand, and I completely support what the President did in getting out of the treaty.
[ Cheers and applause ]
You write in your book that 1989 was the year that transformed the continent.
And one of the things you say about your first presidential boss, George H.W. Bush, whom you called the ‘Father of German Reunification,’ is that his response in that moment impressed you, that it wouldn’t have occurred to him to be a triumphal.

Right.

What did you learn from him in that moment?

I learned from him that sometimes it’s better to be low-key about a great event.
When those of us who told him he needed to go to Berlin for Kennedy and for Truman and for Reagan, and he said, ‘What would I do?
Dance on the wall?’
He knew it was a German moment.
He was able to step back, not take credit at that moment.
Yes, it had been 45 years of American resolve that had allowed that unification to take place, but he didn’t need to say that at that moment.
I learned so much from George H.W. Bush about grace.
I learned so much from him about diplomatic skill.
And I learned a lot about building relationships.
And so, he was a master of those things and one of the reasons that we were able to see the building of that better world at the end of the Cold War.

I mean, I can’t help but notice how you describe President George H.W. Bush and contrast it with some of the rhetoric we see on the international stage now.
Let’s take a look at just a sampling.

I’m getting a lot of credit for what we’re doing foreign.
But everybody gives me credit for decimating ISIS.
We just took over 100% caliphate.
That means the area of land.
We did that in a much shorter period of time than it was supposed to be.
I gave the Prime Minister my ideas on how to negotiate it.
And I think you would’ve been successful.
She didn’t listen to that.
And nobody has been tougher with Russia than Donald Trump.

Yeah.

What do you make of the contrast?

Well, it’s a different time.
You know, my grandmother used to say, probably as yours did, that ‘I’ is a word they use fairly rarely.
If you can, it’s better to talk about what ‘they’ did or what ‘we’ did.

About four months into the Trump administration, you said you saw a president who is beginning to feel the weight of the office and that you can’t sit behind the Roosevelt desk and not remember the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, you can’t look at Washington or Lincoln and not feel the weight of history, and so let’s just see how it evolves, referring to the Trump administration.
How do you feel it’s evolved?

The commitment to human rights and to democracy to the principle that nobody should live in tyranny.
It’s not as evident, as strong as I would like to see it.
We see flashes of it, for instance, in Venezuela, where the administration has stood by the opposition and said that Maduro is an illegitimate president of Venezuela, and they’re absolutely right.
There’s an impulse in the American presidency that I think is irresistible to try and do something.
I just hope that it comes out more and more, because without it, there is no other country in the world that has been willing to speak for the voiceless like the United States of America.
And they care.
People care that somebody is willing to speak for them, whether they’re Iranian dissidents or the people in the streets of Hong Kong.
It was a little unnerving, actually, to see them with American flags, because you know there’s not much we can do.

Should we have spoken more?

I always believe that you’re best off, even if you can’t do something, to stand for the right things, and I’ll give you an example.

By saying them?
By sending a message?

To send a message.
Has to be a message that’s careful.
You can’t say, ‘We will liberate you,’ ’cause we can’t.
But I will give you an example, again from the period that we studied in ‘To Build a Better World.’
The Soviet Union forcibly incorporated the Baltic States into the Soviet Union after the war, after World War II.
We couldn’t do anything about it.
But for decades, we refused to recognize the forceful incorporation of the Baltic States in the Soviet Union.
As a matter of fact, Margaret, anybody who sat at the NSC desk had a stamp, and whenever you mentioned Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia, you stamped it — ‘The United States of America does not recognize the forcible incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union.’
And you know what?
45 years later, when the Baltic States were free, they were among our best allies — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — because they remembered that we stood for the right things.
And so, yes, you have to do it carefully, you can’t give the impression to the people of Hong Kong that we are gonna come to the rescue.
We can’t But we need to stand for the right things.

And that words matter.

Words matter.
Words matter.
And sometimes, words can matter even to the Chinese government.
To know that the world is watching and that they need to find a way forward that doesn’t include trying to crush that protest, that’s an important message for everybody who wants to say to China, ‘If you want to be a member of the international community, don’t do that.’

You were not always a Republican.
Which was fun for me to be reminded of.
Now there are three challengers to President Trump in his primary.

I’m here to tell you now that I am going to get in.

You’re going to run for president against Donald Trump in the Republican race.

I am, I am.

The most recent person to announce that he would challenge President Trump is Representative Mark Sanford, who is not a ‘never-Trumper’ and simply wants to elevate certain issues in the Republican primary discussion.
And he has said it’s with humility he’d also like to have a conversation about the tone and tenor of our politics.
Do you think that would be welcomed?

It is certainly time to have a conversation about the tone and tenor of our politics.
I don’t know if doing it for a primary is the right way to do it.
American politics is confusing to me, frankly.
I’m better at international politics.
But I will say this.
We’re tearing ourselves apart because we can’t stop calling each other names.
We’re tearing ourselves apart because we can’t stop weaponizing our identities against one another.
We’re tearing ourselves apart because we’re ceasing to remember that we actually have a uniting narrative, which is that it doesn’t matter where you came from, it matters where you’re going.
You can come from normal circumstances, you can do great things.
Now, President Trump — let’s give him credit — he really recognized that there were people for whom that promise was no longer really alive.
And they were willing to vote for somebody whose first job in government was gonna be president of the United States.
That should tell us something.
And so, I’m all for traditional Republican principles, but I also understand that we’ve got work to do to make sure that those principles are reflected in better lives for those Americans who feel that they’ve been left out.
And so, while we’re talking about the Reagan Revolution, which actually we won, we need to think about what the modern version of that revolution is going to look like.
And this time around, it had better include some understanding of how we’re gonna educate our people better, how we’re gonna get a match between our jobs and our skills, how we’re gonna bring people from the most desperate circumstances of opioid addiction, how we’re gonna deal with the violence in our country that we’re seeing with mass shootings.
We’ve got to have answers to those issues, too.
It can’t just be about the grand principles.
We’ve got to move on to the modernization of those principles in ways that’s gonna work for people.

For your leadership and for giving voice to those ideas and continuing to be — to carry that torch, we thank you.
Thank you for coming to ‘Firing Line,’ Condoleezza Rice.

Thank you.
Pleasure.

‘Firing Line with Margaret Hoover’ is made possible by… Additional funding is provided by… Corporate funding is provided by…
You’re watching PBS.