Rice Talk

By Rice, Condoleezza | The International Economy, September 2000 | Go to article overview

Rice Talk


Rice, Condoleezza, The International Economy


The International Economy sat down with Condoleezza Rice, the odds-on favorite to become National Security Advisor in a George W. Bush administration. The Stanford professor's views on American arrogance, trade with Mexico, and "photo-op foreign policy."

TIE: Under President Clinton, there seems to be a shift of emphasis from strategic foreign policy to economics. International economic policy seemed to play a big role in his administration, almost as a substitute for what we have traditionally known as strategic or defense issues. Would the same thing be true under George W. Bush? Will international economic issues drive the foreign policy debate?

RICE: Well, you must ask yourself, strategically, what is important at this particular point and time, what are you trying to achieve? And, if you look at the collapse of the Soviet Union, you're looking not just at the collapse of a super power, you're looking at the collapse of an entire alternative paradigm for how to organize the international system. Now there is one international economy, and it's an international economy in which all states are trying to find a place, in which there is a lot of pressure for economies around the world to open up, to be more transparent, to be places that are attractive for private capital investment. After all, we talk about the IMF and the World Bank, but that's a drop in the bucket, given private capital flows. And, on balance, this is a very good world for the United States because to the degree that you have increasingly open economies in a free-trading framework, you will get economic liberalization and ultimately, political liberalization. This is a world that the United States ought to want to support and push forward.

So, I do think the international economic issues are critical -- in a strategic context, not just as international economic issues, but also as issues that have a potential to reshape the entire international political dynamic by creating a more prosperous, more democratic environment. In order to achieve that, though, you have to pay attention to keeping the peace. You cannot have the American armed forces involved in every local conflict in the world, to the detriment of its readiness to keep the peace in East Asia or in the Persian Gulf, places of global strategic significance.

TIE: Under President Clinton, it seems there was almost a substitution of foreign aid in exchange for building up the nation's defenses. Instead of having a defense build-up, we gave a lot of aid to help countries develop. They were sort of substitutes. Would you agree with this assessment?

RICE: I don't think we did either very well, actually. On the defense side, the problem is that we permitted defense budgets to continue to decline -- they were declining after the Cold War, and they should have been declining after the Cold War. But the situation declined to a point where the resources were not matching the multiple missions that we were asking the armed forces to perform. This is showing up in morale and readiness problems, procurement problems, not being able to keep people in the armed forces, and not being able to recruit people into the armed forces. So we have significant problems on the defense side. We need to think about foreign assistance a little differently anyway. If you consider that the real goal now ought to be to get countries prepared internally, to the point that they can grow economically, then your entire purpose for assistance of any kind is somewhat different. Now, there's always going to be humanitarian assistance -- the AIDS problem in Africa, the World Health Organization, and so forth. But if the real goal is to create more prosperous trading economies around the world that can do something for their own people, then you think differently even about foreign assistance.

TIE: Do you believe that there has been a problem of American arrogance in international economic affairs? …

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