Condi’s Failures on Iraq and Terrorism

The Economist has a quite unflattering look at Condoleezza Rice while reviewing two books on her:

Ms Rice’s star, which rose so fast, has plunged back into obscurity, and the reason is easy for anyone reading this pair of biographies to see. As secretary of state, she has mostly failed in grappling with a web of problems that she herself helped to create when she was turning out to be a notably weak national security adviser. Mr Powell presciently said of Iraq, “If you break it, you own it.” That might serve as an epitaph for Ms Rice’s career at the top of American policymaking.

In reviewing a biography by Marcus Mabry they describe her relationship with George Bush.

Which makes it mysterious how she came to serve him so badly. The national security adviser is meant to co-ordinate foreign-policy making. Yet in that job Ms Rice seemed entirely unable to resolve the many disputes between Donald Rumsfeld at Defence and Mr Powell at State. Even without that failure, it would have been impossible not to allot her much of the blame for the mistakes in Iraq. If she realised America was sending too few troops and had rejected all post-war planning, she should have told the president: she had his ear, and access. If she did not realise, she should have done.

Mr Mabry dwells at length on Ms Rice’s inability to admit to error. This quality of impenitence also extends to her refusal to accept any blame for failing to anticipate the attacks of September 11th 2001. The book presents abundant evidence of the warnings repeatedly sent to her by the CIA (one of the agency’s untrumpeted successes) and of her failure to take them seriously. He notes that Ms Rice seems to have had a blind spot about the potency of terrorism in general.

This was Rice’s biggest failure of all. She not only ignored warnings about terrorism, but later lied about even receiving them ad I’ve discussed in previous posts. In a column in the Washington Post on March 22, 2004 she wrote, “No al Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration.”

Documents obtained from the National Security Archive  showed that these statements from Rice were untrue. The documents include a January 25, 2001, memo from counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke to national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and “Tab A December 2000 Paper: Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al-Qida: Status and Prospects,” These documents show that Rice had received both warnings about al Qaeda and plans for handling them from the Clinton administration but ignored the warnings.

The consequences of Condi’s failure was seen on September 11, 2001.

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  1. 1
    section9 says:

    The Economist is, sadly, peddling Conventional Wisdom. Of course, they are the voice of the Gordon Brown Government, and Brown and Rice have never got on. That’s what you don’t know. The people at Number 11 Downing Street don’t like Condi at all. The Economist speaks for them.

    The famous August 6th PDB that liberals like to go on about was actually a collection of old information whose data dated from 1999. And Rice was dead-on about a plan for dealing with AQ not being turned over by the Clintons: at no point did the Clintons ever consider sending large numbers of American troops to Afghanistan. They were still at the point where they were working through the Pakistanis and their ISI; the latter being an intelligence agency that routinely leaked information to Al Qaeda.

    In the end, liberals are stuck defending the CIA, the worlds most incomptent, inept intelligence agency, and their “Hair on Fire” directorship, who engaged in ass-covering all through 2001 instead of doing their damned jobs and protecting the country. People like Rice and Bush were the consumers of intelligence. It was up to CIA to get timely, actionable intelligence to the policymakers. They failed. Miserably. For an outline of how catastrophic their failure was, read Tim Weiner’s superb new history of the CIA, “Legacy of Ashes”.

    CIA was outwitted by Men in Caves. Liberals don’t get this, and what’s more, don’t want to get this, primarily because CIA is made up, primarily, of liberals.

    So, instead of engaging in meaningful reform, the CIA closed ranks and made sure that they blamed everyone but themselves. It’s as if Husband Kimmel and Walter Short were left in command after Pearl Harbor. CIA enablers and apologists like Ray McGovern and Larry Johnson merely continue this tradition. This does not excuse Bush for leaving Tenet and Cofer Black in charge, however. They should have been given the heave-ho just as Kimmel and Short were after the Japanese attack in 1941.

    Less defensible is Rice’s performance as NSC head. However, the blame is actually George Bush’s, not Rice. Scowcroft put it best when he said that it is up to a President to actually render authority to his NSC head. Bush wanted Powell and Rumsfeld to fight things out, and never saw the value of giving Rice any authority of her own. With no beauracracy to command, Rumsfeld not only ran over her, but also, with Cheney’s help, over Powell.

    Bush was too dazzled by Rumsfeld’s brilliant bullshit. We simply don’t know if Rice advocate higher troop levels earlier on. We do know that when she became Secretary of State, she sent Zoellick over to find out what was working and what wasn’t. It was Rice who discovered and promoted H.R. McMaster and David Kilcullen after the former’s victory at Tal Afar in 2005. Much to Rumsfeld’s chagrin, I might add. Kilcullen, General Petraeus’ top COIN adviser, is Condi’s liason to his staff and her eyes and ears in-country in Iraq.

    In the end, liberals fall into the trap of forgetting what was on Harry Truman’s desk: “The Buck Stops Here.”

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:


    The warnings received prior to 9/11 consisted of far more than old informaiton dating from 1999.

    Nobody ever said that the Clintons consider sending large numbers of troops to Afghanistan. The Clinton admlinistration did pass on recommendations for dealing with al Qaeda. Rice not only ignored the recommendations, but was caught lying about receiving them as the links show.

    While the CIA made errors, the problem was more in the Bush administration where they didn’t believe that a non-government group could pose a serious threat.

    I don’t often hear of the CIA being a hotbed of liberalism (although this has come up from time to time in the past.)

    Liberals certainly do not fall into the trap you mention. It has been liberals who have been calling for holding Bush accountable for his many mistakes.

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