Condoleeza Rice: I Will Go To The Middle East--If They Need Me
I had to laugh (grimly) when I read these two headlines; headlines from wire stories that were filed by the same reporter. It seems the second story was written mere minutes after the first:
07 28 06 Rice ready for new Mideast trip if needed
By Lin Noueihed
34 minutes ago
07 28 06 US sends Rice to try to end Middle East war
By Lin Noueihed
23 minutes ago
Hezbollah is kidnapping and murdering Israeli soldiers, Israel is invading Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah, and Syria may come in as the situation continues to deteriorate. The first response to the crisis by our conservative leadership? Bush’s Secretary of State’s tells the world that she will go over there and try to straighten things out “if they need her.”
“If they need her.” I mean, a remark like that, made in public by a top state official and leading conservative—it sort of gives you the impression that the conservative leadership isn’t following the Middle East situation very closely.
But still, Condi has a point—why should she go? What possible need could they have for her, in this crisis, even if she is (technically) the American Secretary of State? Why send Condleeza Rice, of all people, to try to resolve a complex foreign policy crisis? She’s really more an “office helper” type. The Arabs and Israelis already have plenty of office helpers over there; people who get the coffee and tell their bosses what they want to hear. They don’t really need another one; strictly speaking, Condi’s right.
It’s not as though she’s ever shown any sort of knack for this "foreign policy" thing. It’s not like they’ve got a string of “foreign policy” and “international security” trophies on display, know what I’m sayin’? She got promoted despite her stint as National Security Adviser, during which time she lost the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon to terrorists. You can see why she wouldn’t see herself as a necessary player in solving a world crisis.
But then, ten minutes after she says she’ll only go if they “need her”—a call comes in from the White House:
WH: What you said there just now… That sounded a little…
WH: That thing you said about being willing to go over there and work on the Israel/Lebanon thing “if they need you”… it sounded…
WH: It sounded a little…I don’t know…cavalier… a little too casual…
Condi: Did it? I didn’t mean it that way—
WH: Yeah, well—people have this sort of image of a Secretary of State, they think of George Schulz or Henry Kissinger or Dean Acheson, they have this image of a Secretary of State as being sort of—actively engaged in world affairs, you know?
Condi: Yes. So?
WH: Well, that doesn’t sound so good if they’re at war over there and we’re supposed to be a force for peace in the Middle East and you’re up there saying that you’ll go over there, but only if they really need you—
Condi: I didn’t say “only if,” I said “if” they need me--
WH: Yeah, well, it sounded a little funny and now it’s a headline, it’s out on the newswires—it’s kind of like if you were a cop and there was a domestic violence situation going on and you told the press you’d head over there and try to stop it, but only if they need you—see what I mean?
WH: Yeah, it makes it sound like we don’t really care what the hell happens over there. We think you better get your ass on a plane out to the Middle East, right now.
Condi: Oh, come on! You’re not going to send me all the way over there again just to kill a news headline you don’t like!
WH: Well, it sounded really bad, Condi, “I’ll go if they need me.” We’re trying to convince everybody that you’re on top of the situation--
Condi: Oh, I don’t believe this! And if I do go over there again, what exactly am I supposed to do once I get there?
Condi: I don’t have a clue about how to straighten that mess out, do you? I mean, it’s not like we have any kind of a plan or anything.
WH: Well…no, but maybe you could think up something on the plane—
WH: Well, you could try, I mean, you are the Secretary of State—
Condi: Look, I just do what you guys tell me, if you guys don’t know what to tell me, then why should I have to go? What could I possibly contribute? And I don’t want to go all the way over there again and have things not work out again—that’s what happened to Colin Powell when the President sent him that time, and he looked like a fool. And I think I’ve got theatre tickets, too.
WH: How about if you just go over there and do what you always do, just go over there and say “hi” and get your picture taken, and read something about how committed we are to the cause of peace—
Condi: (groans) Do I have to?
WH: Well, yeah. You have to. You’ve got to make it look as if they do need you. For something.
Condi: Oh, shoot. And how’s that going to make me look, I just told them I’d go if they needed me, and now ten minutes later I’m telling them I’ve decided I’ve got to leave right now--
WH: It’ll make you look decisive.
WH: Condi, it’s your job. I hate to be the bad guy here, but really, it is part of the job and you knew that when you took the promotion.
Condi: Can I talk to the President?
WH: He’s busy. You’ll see him in the gym when you get back. Now be a good girl and tell the reporters you’re going, before this “I’ll go if they need me” thing gets to the editorial pages.
Condi: (groans, hangs up.)