How Rice Uses History Lessons

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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice often calls herself "a student of history." And increasingly, she is using history -- or her chosen slice of it -- both to explain and justify the Bush administration's Middle East policy.

When Ms. Rice talks about the challenges the U.S. faces across the Mideast, she points, somewhat surprisingly, to Europe after World War II and to the West's decades-long face-off against the Soviet Union, which happens to be her area of expertise. It is a penchant that has scholars scratching their heads.

Citing the Cold War's denouement as context for today's bloodshed and tumult may seem far-fetched to some. But Ms. Rice uses the analogy both to beg for patience -- the Cold War, after all, consumed decades -- and to try to elucidate a diplomatic strategy that is increasingly assailed for its lack of assertiveness.

While traveling this week through the Middle East and Europe, Ms. Rice engaged in several long historical tutorials with reporters in tow. Her point in referring back to the Cold War, she said, isn't to argue that history repeats itself or that the analogy is exact.

"The reason that I cite some of these other times, like Europe, is that it is so clear in everybody's mind that the United States and its allies came out victorious at the end of the Cold War," she said in Kuwait. "But if you...look at the events that ultimately lead to that, you would have thought that this was failing every single day between 1945-1946 and probably 1987 or 1988."

Her contention is while things may look bad now in Iraq and elsewhere in the region, history is on the administration's side. She pushed a similar argument to reporters last month. The Middle East is "moving toward something that I am quite certain will not have a full resolution and that you will not be able to fully judge for decades," she said....

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Maia Cowan - 1/20/2007

I believe there's another reason for Secretary Rice to talk so much about the Cold War: as she and her boss get increasing criticism for the incompetent handling of the Iraq War, she wants to remind her audience that she's is an Expert ... in something. On the subject of the Cold War, she can sound like she knows what she's talking about.