Sitting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in her office recently reminded me of why I loved a professor I had in college. Like him, she is so interested and enthusiastic about her subject that the depth and breadth of her knowledge becomes contagious.
Dressed impeccably in a dark St. John's knit (yes, ladies, I know these things), Rice expounded on the world and its trouble spots like the professor she once was and desires to be again. We disagreed on only one major issue, which I shall get to in a moment.
I began with a general question. Why does she think there are so many trouble spots simultaneously challenging the United States? In addition to Iraq and Iran, there is North Korea, Venezuela and Nicaragua, where it appears Daniel Ortega may be returned to power in the Nov. 5 election.
Rice said, "We're at the beginning of a big historic transition. When I was here the last time working for President George H.W. Bush, we were at the end of 50 years of containing the Soviet threat and ultimately defeating it. And so we got to harvest the end of that. Š This time we're at the beginning of a new, big historic transition where we're trying to lay the foundation for the ultimate victory of democracy and triumph against the ideology of hatred and the defeat of terrorism and the rogue states."
Is she confident all of this will happen, or is it wishful thinking?
"I have no doubt that it will (happen), but it certainly won't be on our watch and it may be several watches into the future."
She's right and our enemies believe we don't have the stomach for a protracted war possibly lasting decades. Rice said, "I believe we have the will to do this." But she acknowledged that, "Americans need to see progress. I don't doubt that." As the election approaches, visible lack of progress, at least in Baghdad, may be what is hurting the Republicans and weakening the national will on Iraq.
Rice thinks the Chinese are serious about restraining North Korea's nuclear program and that truck inspections along the border are more than window dressing. "The Chinese have every reason to be very worried about a North Korea nuclear program or a North Korea nuclear weapon. It causes destabilization in the region. They worry about whether other states will start thinking about going nuclear (and) that the North Koreans might traffic in dangerous materials and these can end up in the wrong hands."