Rice reflects on Bush tenure, Gadhafi in new memoir

ByJudy Keen, USA TODAY
October 30, 2011, 6:54 PM

— -- Condoleezza Rice says Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was "a monster" who "wasn't totally sane," and she hopes Libya's transitional leaders can overcome tribal rivalries to create a stable government after his death.

"It's by no means beyond the realm of the possible that they'll pull this off, but obviously in a place like Libya it's very difficult," she says.

Rice says the strategy of undermining the dictatorship through support for rebels would not have worked in Iraq, which the United States invaded in 2003 in hopes of ousting Saddam Hussein.

"It would be a mistake to make the leap of faith that this would somehow have worked in Iraq," she says in her first newspaper interview about her memoir, No Higher Honor. The book about her tenure as national security adviser and secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration is out Tuesday.

"Gadhafi … wasn't Saddam Hussein in terms of his reach and capacity," she says. "I do think that an Arab spring in Iraq would have been unthinkable under Saddam Hussein."

Gadhafi had an odd fixation about Rice. A scrapbook of photos of her was found among his possessions, and he commissioned a song titled Black Flower in the White House when she visited Libya in 2008. Gadhafi "was weird," Rice says. "He lived inside his own head."

In the book and interview, Rice doesn't directly criticize President Obama's foreign policies, but she makes it clear that former president George W. Bush and his team should share credit for recent dramatic changes in the world.

For example, she says she is "grateful we disarmed (Gadhafi) of his most dangerous weapons. Sitting in that bunker, I'm pretty sure he would have used them." In 2003, Gadhafi agreed to dismantle Libya's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.

The demise of repressive governments in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere during this year's "Arab spring," she says, stemmed in part from Bush's "freedom agenda," which promoted democracy in the Middle East. "The change in the conversation about the Middle East, where people now routinely talk about democratization is something that I'm very grateful for and I think we had a role in that," Rice says.

Gadhafi unlike Hussein

Rice says pressing Pakistan to control extremists is the USA's most urgent foreign policy priority and could be the key to stability in Afghanistan.

"The Pakistanis need to get serious about their internal problems. … The Pakistani military and security forces really need to turn their attention full time, completely, totally to the problem with extremists and forget about what I think is an increasingly unimportant conflict with India," Rice says.

The Obama administration, she says, has gotten "properly more impatient" with Pakistan, whose leaders "tend to want to blame others." Many of Afghanistan's problems, she says, "really start and end with Pakistan."

In the book, Rice, 56, who teaches political science and political economy at Stanford University, describes conflicts with then Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about postwar Iraq and other policies, and she defends Bush.

"The most bizarre misconception" about Bush, she says, "is that somehow he was not curious, didn't ask difficult questions, was somehow reflexively ideological about how to respond to events."

She hasn't spoken with Cheney or Rumsfeld since writing the book, Rice says. "We were all working under enormous pressure. It was tough. We didn't always agree, and everybody's human," she says.

Women in the Obama administration sometimes felt frozen out, according to Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President, a book by Ron Suskind published this year, but Rice says she never felt her gender was a factor in her professional life.

"If I let someone mistreat me because I'm a woman, then it's my fault, not theirs," she says.

Life away from Washington

Rice says she's "happy to be away" from Washington. "I love policy," she says. "But politicians are a different breed of people."

Rice also says:

•She has more time now to play the piano. She's taking lessons again and performs in benefits to raise money for school music programs. "I'm appalled when I hear that music and the arts are extracurricular and they keep getting cut out of budgets," she says.

•She understands why foreign policy has not been a centerpiece of the Republican presidential campaign. "Our first priority has to be internal repair," she says. Rice hasn't met Herman Cain, but says, "He's got an interesting background, interesting personal story and he's stirring up the debate. That's a good thing."

•The mistake that "haunts" her is the Bush administration's inability to pass changes in immigration laws to ease the path to citizenship.

•She believes attitudes about Bush's presidency are softening. "I think it's already happening that people are understanding better the things that we tried to do in really uncharted territory and under unbelievably difficult circumstances after 9/11," she says.

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