Condoleezza Rice is a somewhat enigmatic person. In the next few weeks or months, however, she could be very important in determining the aftermath of resolving the issue of Iraqi President Saddam Hussain.
In general, the Old Guard "Bushies" have managed to find a succession of ways to postpone dealing with the Palestine problem. Secretary of State Colin Powell, on the other hand, was ready to deal with the issue very early in his tenure.
It became clear, however, that President George W. Bush wanted to postpone the subject, perhaps because there was some slight hope that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon might lose his reelection bid on Jan. 28, 2003-or at least that he would be politically crippled, meaning a new election within a year or so.
That might explain why Bush decided to go ahead and deal with Saddam Hussain rather than first turn his attention to Palestine. The question now is whether Bush again will try to postpone acting on the world's urgent demand for action on the Israeli-Palestinian peace.
It may be that Bush really does expect to deal with the Palestinians now. One can't forget, however, that there are a lot of people in his administration who, year after year, have made a career of postponing the Palestinian problem. If the president tends to postpone this matter again he may find that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis becomes the defining crisis of his administration.
Secretary of State Powell may insist on dealing with Palestine before any other crisis emerges, even if North Korea must be considered simultaneously. In fact, these two co-nundrums can be dealt with concurrently-and, since the rest of the world is waiting impatiently, there is no reason to delay.
At this point, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice may or may not weigh in. Although such an intervention would be uncharacteristic of her, it cannot be completely ruled out.
Rice was a child during some of the worst chapters of Birmingham, Alabama's unhappy history. Her father, a Presbyterian minister, and mother, a long-time educator, actually took Rice to see the freedom marchers as they passed through Birmingham. An even more traumatic experience occurred when one of the children in Rice's class, Denise McNair, was killed along with three other girls in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.
This period in Rice's development came to an end when her family moved to Denver. After skipping two grades in school, Rice enrolled in the University of Denver. Early in her undergraduate years, Rice was an accomplished figure skater, and also hoped to become a concert pianist. However, under the guidance of Josef Korbel-father of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright-Rice decided to specialize in political science. Just before she graduated, Korbel took her aside and said, "You are extraordinarily bright. It would be a shame for you not to become a teacher."
After graduating in 1974 with a degree in political science, Rice earned her master's degree at the University of Notre Dame, returning to the University of Denver for her Ph.D.
She then joined the faculty of Stanford University. As a professor of political science, Rice won two of Stanford's highest teaching honors, the 1984 Water J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching and the 1993 School of Humanities and Sciences Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching. She also was a member of the Center for International Security and Arms Control, a senior fellow of the Institute for International Studies, and a fellow of the Hoover Institution.
Her books include Germany Unified and Europe Transformed (1995) with Philip Zelikow, The Gorbachev Era (1986) with Alexander Dallin, and Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army (1984). In addition, she has written numerous articles on Soviet and East European foreign and defense policy. …