Page 63 - Foreign Service Journal - February 2013

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the Iraq War largely defned
the Bush presidency, so they
appropriately loom large in
Higher Honor
. But her sweep-
ing account covers many other
foreign policy
triumphs and fail-
ures during those
eight years.
In the notes on
her sources, Ms.
Rice states that
she relied on her
“daily calendars
and ofcial trip logs to recall various
meetings and travel.” Tough the result-
ing approach is basically chronological,
it still gave me a real sense of being in
the room, as well as a feel for what she is
like as a human being. She’s at her best
when relating funny anecdotes, such
as Vladimir Putin showing up an hour
early to a dinner at President Bush’s
Crawford ranch because someone for-
got to tell the Russian leader that Texas
is in the Central Time Zone.
But she also shares poignant inner
thoughts, like her feelings of personal
responsibility for talking Sérgio Vieira
de Mello into taking the United Nations
job in Iraq, a decision which would
ultimately lead to his tragic death in
the August 2003 bombing of the U.N.
headquarters in Baghdad. Another mov-
ing vignette comes during a discussion
with Muslim leaders about the United
States’ history with minorities, when
she defuses the tension by noting that
“When America’s founding fathers said,
‘We the People,’ they didn’t mean me.”
In contrast, her conversations with
Pres. Bush tend to be of the “How was
your day?” variety. Te quotes confrm
the close personal relationship that they
enjoyed, but are rarely illuminating
beyond that.
Despite, or perhaps because of,
Rice’s openness, there are incon-
sistencies; as with any memoirs,
we can expect a certain amount
of rationalization. For instance,
criticism for not
heading of 9/11,
she insists: “I did
everything I could.”
Elsewhere in the
book, however, she
concedes: “Given
the severity of what
occurred, I clearly hadn’t done enough.”
Yet instead of explaining what else
she should have done, she blames
the attacks on unspecifed “systemic”
failures. She also takes a cheap shot at
counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke,
one of her harshest critics, citing his
“awful reputation” among many who’d
worked with him instead of refuting his
detailed critique of her performance as
national security adviser.
Rice’s views of the Foreign Service
are similarly dismissive and frankly
disappointing. Her description of the
American Foreign Service Association
as a “kind of union for U.S. diplomats” is
jarring and bafing, as is her declaration
that she was “prepared to face down
[AFSA] before Congress and the Ameri-
can people if necessary” to get more
Foreign Service ofcers to bid on Iraq.
Worse, she rehashes the canard, based
on media hype and a badly run town
hall meeting, that the men and women
of the Foreign Service were unwilling to
do their part.
Despite these faws,
No Higher Honor
should grace the bookshelf of every
foreign afairs practitioner. However
one views the wisdom of the decisions
Secretary Rice made, or advised Pres.
Bush to make, there is no denying that
they profoundly changed the way the
Foreign Service operates. In particular,
her emphasis on “transformational
diplomacy” led to a more expedition-
ary organization whose members are
still called upon to serve under condi-
tions under which we have rarely served
Tat process is still playing out, so it is
useful to witness the opening curtain—
albeit through the eyes of the director.
William D. Bent, a Foreign Service ofcer
since 1992, is currently chief of post opera-
tions in the Ofce of Visa Services. A State
representative on the Governing Board,
he serves as liaison to the Foreign Service
Journal Editorial Board.
Despite Rice’s dismissive
attitude toward the Foreign
Service, this book should
grace the bookshelf of every
foreign afairs practitioner.
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