Rice IV With Time Magazine Editorial Board
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice With Time Magazine Editorial Board
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
New York City
September 20, 2005
(4:20 p.m. EDT)
QUESTION: Many of my colleagues, I know, are going to ask questions about North Korea and Iraq and things like that, but I thought I'd start off a little differently and talking a little bit about the President and race. Obviously, the hurricane -- you know, a lot of people are responsible for the procedures not going well. The President himself is taking responsibility for whatever the federal government failed to do. But I know people close to the President always find it confounding that he doesn't get better marks from African Americans. Can you give us some personal insight into why that is and if you ever talk to him about this problem?
SECRETARY RICE: I can't figure out why it is. I'm also confounded as well. First of all, I hope it goes without saying that no President of the United States, especially this President of the United States, would leave people unattended somehow because of their race. To the degree that there were shortcomings in the system, there were shortcomings in the system, but no American wants to see another American suffer.
And the President has gone out of his way to, I think, reach out to the black community, but also he has a view of America and American opportunity that believes very strongly that it ought to be opportunity for people of all races, and he's been particularly focused on African Americans and Hispanics. So whether it is belief that you can't have access to opportunity unless you are well educated, and therefore no Child Left Behind, because let's be realistic. When third graders can't read at third grade level, a disproportionate number of those kids are minority kids who can't read at that level. They're not kids going to school in Palo Alto where I came from.
And he has been focused on minority home ownership because that's another way that the kind of American dream gets expressed for people. He's done initiatives for community colleges, for historically black colleges, faith-based initiatives which the black church has always been a center of social programs and help for the needy. My father was a Presbyterian minister in Birmingham, Alabama and we had tutoring at night in our church to make up for the fact that the schools in segregated Alabama were not very strong.
And so these are all initiatives that I think speak to the mainstream problems that lead to the exclusion of African Americans, particularly poor African Americans. And so I have found any argument that it might somehow have been racially motivated that people got slow help just ludicrous. And frankly, I think that people were allowed to say that without those assumptions being examined is really too bad because it's poisonous.
QUESTION: Thank you. One follow-up. You've known the President for a very long time. Do you discuss this with him? Do you --
SECRETARY RICE: Sure. Of course. I mean, we are -- first of all, we're both Southerners and he's been interested from time to time in my views on education in particular because I'm an educator. And it's not as if this is something that the President needs to be educated about because, as Governor of Texas, it was something that he was tremendously concerned about, whether it was, you know, trying to build a program of what he called affirmative access to make sure that the Texas system was integrated, or I know what strong relations he had with historically black colleges of Texas, it's something that has very much been on his mind and has been there a long time. So it's not as if he needs to be educated on it, but sure, it's something that we've talked about and we've talked about the effects when race and poverty come together and how people ought to be -- America is a land of opportunity and when somebody doesn't emerge, you have to ask yourself what barriers are in their way. And in certain parts of the country, race has been an additional barrier, particularly in the Old South.
But I hope that when we look at this we'll find a way to address the question of how you open opportunity to people. I've not liked some of the language that I hear of taking care of people. I don't actually think that's the way to think about people who have been left outside of the circle of opportunity.
At some point in the lives of any successful person, but particularly if you're a successful black person, there was a teacher or a parent or a grandparent who -- or a school or a church that intervened and broke you out of what might have been a cycle of poverty. In my case, on my father's side, it was a grandfather who, in Eutaw, Alabama in the early 1900s, decided he was going to get book learning and made his way to Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. And on my mother's side of the family it was grandparents who managed to educate all five of their children.
And so you can break out of that but it takes something to do it. And I think asking the question for people who have been left behind, "How do you key them to be able to break out of that and to take advantage of opportunity," is really the question we ought to be asking. And I guess it exposes my own prejudice on this, but I think I'd focus an awful lot on the educational side.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. I have lots of questions but I want to give other folks a chance.
QUESTION: I'd like to follow up on this particular area because the poverty rate has gone up each year the last five years, and this is during the time of your Administration, yours and the President's Administration. And so has some thought been given to the fact that the brand, the kind of compassionate conservatism that you're practicing is not working?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that whenever you look for causal effects, you have to look outside of a five-year impact. I can be quite certain that anything that happened in the last two or three years doesn't actually have its root causes in the last five or six. Social science will tell you that.
And so I would actually look back a number of years and say, "What might explain an increasing poverty rate?" And there are big economic changes that are going on in the world and in our own economy as to what kinds of jobs are available to people, what kinds of skills and training it takes to get jobs that are high-paying as opposed to another time in our history. And so I actually think it's probably not sound to just assume that if poverty has gone up over the last five years it has to do with policies of the last five years.
QUESTION: Even though before for the last five years it was going down?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, no, I think that again, generally, you would expect, just on a kind of normal social science curve, you would expect that there's a lag effect, that there's an effect but the effect probably came into being some time ago. And I would look to larger trends in the economy. I haven't done the work. I am a social scientist by training. I could design -- do the research design for you to answer that question. But if I were doing this research design, I would not start with policies over the last five years to explain what's happened in the last three.
QUESTION: Fair enough.
QUESTION: I do have a question about Iraq. Last week, the military spokesman --
SECRETARY RICE: Which I actually have been doing research on. (Laughter.) As opposed to where I can't represent -- I don't want to represent myself as an expert on poverty. I do international politics.
QUESTION: I understand. Okay. The military spokesman Rick Lynch said last week that -- I forget the exact quote but it was basically we've got Zarqawi on the ropes. After the post-Talafar attacks in Baghdad, in particular the major loss of life last week, I have to ask, do you agree with that assessment? Are we near victory against the insurgents? And I guess, what would victory look like?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would start with your last point. I'm not really one who talks about victory against the insurgency. I, rather, am trying to understand the trends and whether or not the insurgency is strengthening to the point that it has the capability to derail the political process. I think that's really the interesting question for us.
There is no doubt that the violence is at a plenty a high enough level to cause a lot of misery for the Iraqi people, to cause a lot of deaths of innocent people, and frankly, I expect that that's going to be the case for some time. But it doesn't actually take that much to pull off a suicide bomb. Yes, they've been able to pull off simultaneous ones. That shows some level of coordination. But I don't think that you can expect that you're going to have enough effect on the insurgency that they're not able to wreak havoc and violence on innocent people.
The question is: Is what they're doing on that line causing the political process to be derailed? And there I think the argument is -- the evidence is no, that they're not, in fact. The majority of Iraqis are continuing to be focused on and involved in a political process that is moving inexorably toward the election of a permanent government in December. People are registering in huge numbers. I want to be careful on quoting the numbers because they came from the Iraqis. I haven't tried to verify them. But as many as a million Sunnis registering to vote in recent months, 15 million Iraqis registered to vote.
This suggests that the Iraqis understand that it is the political process that is going to control their future. And the insurgency is not a popular insurgency. It is a combination of former hardcore Baathists who want to return to old ways and I think increasingly, more and more, foreign fighters who have a view of an Iraq that I don't think many Iraqis find very palatable.
I actually thought Zarqawi's decision to go out and say that we're now going to attack Shia was not a particularly smart thing to do because the Iraqis have demonstrated that they, in fact, do not want to get ground down into sectarian violence. And most of the reaction to that has been that the Iraqis do not appreciate Islamists from outside the country coming into their country to tell them to attach each other.
And there have now been cases of tribals running these guys out of town in various places. I think you will see more intelligence about them. It doesn't mean that they can't still pull off the car bomb here and there, but I think it does mean that they do not have and have not been able to create a political constituency for their violence. That ultimately will undo them.
If you look at a number of other insurgencies -- you know, there was a time when the FARC was actually a strategic threat to the existence of the Colombian Government. Slowly but surely, that has reversed itself now and the government is back in control of the whole country and so forth. So I think that's how you have to think about insurgencies: Are they having an effect on the political process?
QUESTION: Excuse me, Secretary.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you think that -- aren't you kind of placing undue emphasis on Zarqawi and foreign fighters? I mean, in -- we're at 80 attacks a day now. In the month of August, last month, we had -- there were 1,700 improvised explosive devices, about 130 car bombs. Military estimates are that the foreign fighters represent no more than 2 percent of the people killed or captured. There are only like 430 that we have -- that we control right now. Isn't this a much more broad-based Iraqi movement? And do you --
SECRETARY RICE: Actually, Joel, I don't think so. I mean, look, there are Iraqis --
QUESTION: Are you just giving those figures --
SECRETARY RICE: Look, I'm not going to get -- I, frankly, couldn't follow the figures. You were going through them so quickly. I could -- you know, you can sit there and go through them more slowly.
As I've said to you, I don't actually think the number of attacks is the issue. I think what effect is the number of attacks having, that's the issue. And let's talk about the insurgency. Yes, there are two aspects in the insurgency. I did not say that the foreign fighters were the only aspect of the insurgency. I said there is an Iraqi part of this that is essentially Baathist, you know, Saddamist, who want to return to an older -- to old times. But I think we do believe that an awful lot of the kind of more sophisticated car bombing, spectacular attacks on civilians are associated with the foreign fighters.
Now, are there Iraqis who are outside the political process? Absolutely. My point was that if you look -- if you take snapshots in time and you look at the number of Iraqis that were outside the political process six months ago, the numbers of Iraqis that were outside the political process three months ago and the number of Iraqis who apparently are going to be outside the political process in December, that is a shrinking number. And that says something about where Iraqis are placing their bets because even among the Sunni who sat out the last election and now have decided they made a mistake in sitting out the last election, you're getting now very intensive engagement with the political process.
QUESTION: There's a big debate in the intelligence community, or a small debate among the people I've talked to, about, you know, they acknowledge that the Sunnis are moving into the process with the intention of trying to defeat the constitution. And there are a number of people in our intelligence community who believe it might not be a bad thing if they did because it would, you know, set the stage for a better deal. And almost universally, the people I've talked to think that the current government, the Jaafari government, is corrupt, incompetent and a disaster.
Do you think that it would be a good idea if they -- it would not be a bad thing if they shot down the constitution?
SECRETARY RICE: The Iraqis have a process by which they can decide what to do about their constitution. I don't have a view of what they ought to do about their constitution. I do think that it is a constitution that represents the most liberal constitution in the region; that protects the rights of women, of minorities, of religious freedom; that, in fact, does try to balance the interest of various groups that have not had to balance those interests in the political process.
I mean, I was saying to my friend, Jack Straw, a little earlier at a meeting, of course, the British cut a swath right through the Shia-Sunni fault line and that swath is called Iraq. And so they are having to come to terms with something that has actually never been come to terms with in the Middle East, which is what happens when Sunni, Shia -- and then throw in Kurds, a few Turkomen, a few Assyrians and others -- have to live in the same body.
And so yes, the constitution is not a perfect document but it seems to me to balance those interests quite well. That said, the TAL set up a process by which this constitution has to pass the bulk of the Iraqi people or it's not the constitution of the country, which seems to me a perfectly legitimate process.
What we're hearing from Sunnis is that whatever happened in the constitutional process, they are actually preparing for the elections because they do believe that the wielding of political power in the elections is key to their interests. So I don't want to say the constitutional process isn't important. It's very important. But there are a series of steps that are going to be gone through here and people are focused a lot on what these elections are going to look like. And I think you're going to see a lot of coalitions and cross-cutting coalitions to try and get to a government that will be able to perform.
This government has been at a disadvantage. It's, you know, by design a temporary government whose principal goal was supposed to be to get things pulled together so they could have a permanent election.
QUESTION: On North Korea, you have a breakthrough agreement but it includes a concession in allowing North Korea to pursue at some point a peaceful nuclear --
SECRETARY RICE: No, let me say what the agreement says. The agreement says that North Korea will abandon its nuclear weapons and its nuclear programs. So not just its nuclear weapons but it will be denuclearized.
Secondly, it says that the Korean Peninsula will be denuclearized verifiably. It says that North Korea will come back into the NPT and adopt IAEA safeguards. But of course, since it's had an illegal program it's got to dismantle before it could be in good standing with the IAEA.
And then it says, and at an appropriate time we'll discuss the issue of a light-water reactor.
The North Koreans asserted that they have a right to peaceful nuclear uses. We took note of that and said at an appropriate time we'll discuss a light-water reactor.
Now, the associated statements by various parties to the agreement make clear that even the discussion of a light-water reactor is after the North Koreans have dismantled, come back into the NPT and been into IAEA safeguards. Frankly, by that time, when the North Koreans are verifiably denuclearized, we can discuss anything.
And so call it a concession if you will. I think saying you'll discuss a light-water reactor sometime in the future when the North Koreans have disarmed and are back in the NPT and the IAEA, it seemed worth it.
QUESTION: Well, what led to the breakthrough? Did that language, that particular language, help or --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, actually, the language that says "discuss an LWR at an appropriate time" was in the Chinese -- the Chinese did a composite fifth draft and they essentially asked for an up/down on that draft. We debated it long and hard as to whether or not we wanted to agree to that draft. It had the good language, from our point of view, about abandoning nuclear weapons and nuclear programs because the North Koreans had fought to have it say nuclear weapons-related programs or whatever. It had the good language on IAEA safeguards. It had the good language on verifiably denuclearized Korean Peninsula. It required really that the United States only state things that we've been prepared to state before about not attacking and so forth. So the agreement was good from our point of view.
The question was: Were we prepared to leave in "discuss a LWR at an appropriate time"? We did have concerns that if "at an appropriate time" was vague that the North might try and tie up the next round saying, "Where's our light-water? You know, where's the discussion of our light-water reactor?" And that's why we thought it was important that other states make clear that there is a sequence here and that the light-water reactor is an issue for the future. The key here is the dismantlement of the nuclear programs.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the President of Iran made a remarkably unhelpful speech on Saturday in terms of their nuclear interests.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: Suggesting they will be even less amenable to the kind of diplomacy that ultimately seems to have borne some fruit in North Korea. Even if this enables you, the Bush Administration, to persuade the UN to address sanctions, then what? What if there are sanctions and Iran just continues to go its own way and ignore all this process? How do you really carry this through to a successful ending?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let's start by saying that what we are seeking right now is that there is an understanding that Iran can not go on in the way that it is going on. You know, we backed the EU-3 in discussions, in negotiations, and to which the Iranians voluntarily entered, and now the Iranians have just decided, well, they didn't like those so they're going to walk out of those and they're going to start talking about finding other negotiating partners -- I think they're actually going to have trouble finding other negotiating partners -- and they have all of these rights. They spoke almost none about -- they spoke not at all about Iranian obligations.
So the process now has to be that the message has to go to Iran that this is unacceptable behavior. We think that it will end up in the Security Council if Iran continues down this road. The timing is a matter for diplomacy. When you think you have a consensus that makes sense, then I think you go with it. We have the votes now, but the question is do you have enough of a consensus to send the right kind of message.
Ultimately, I don't believe the Iranians can afford to be completely isolated from the international community in the way that a referral to the UN Security Council that is not responded to positively by Iran, that kind of isolation would be brought on the Iranian Government.
Frankly, the North Koreans are much more capable of isolation from the international system just by the nature of their regime. The Iranian people are accustomed to interaction with the international community. This is a very worldly population that is accustomed to being a part of the international economy, international politics. I don't think Iran wants to get that isolated. And I think it's one reason that they have been so anxious to avoid referral to the Security Council. So I think there's still a lot of levers to get them back into negotiations.
QUESTION: But they elected him president and he didn't make any secret about his intentions to go down this road.
SECRETARY RICE: Right. That's right. But we'll see, now that he is President, how they eventually interpret the best interests of Iran given what I think is increasing isolation of Iran. The isolation was already there. I think it increased manifoldly with that speech.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you're meeting tonight with the G-8 and you've been talking all weekend with your allies and you have the votes, at least 20 of 35, at the IAEA. Why don't you just go for it now? Why should there be a breathing period for Iran?
SECRETARY RICE: We might. But look, we are not trying to be in the lead on this one because it's the EU that they walked out on. Remember that our strategy has been that the European Union offered to engage them in these talks. We then found a way to make clear that we support the EU talks. And it is now the EU that has been walked away from. I mean, the talks have been walked away from by the Iranians. So we've been in close contact with the EU but it is an EU resolution that would likely -- if there is a resolution, it would likely be an EU resolution. And I think we'll just consult with the EU about the timing of it.
QUESTION: Can I come back to North Korea for a second and talk specifically about the implications for the U.S.-China relationship? Because it does seem that in many ways China did play a key and constructive role with regard to North Korea. Does that in any way have an impact on U.S.-China relations? I think about, say, the speech that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld gave that tended to characterize the Chinese ultimately as a threat to the U.S. and thinking about things like, if you will, the congressional reaction to the CNOOC effort to acquire UNOCAL and so forth. And I'm just wondering what impact this might have on both Congress and Bush Administration with regard to China.
SECRETARY RICE: Sure. I think it emphasizes the positive side of relations. This is a complicated relationship. It has puts and takes. It has good sides and it has bad sides. On the good side, we obviously have been pretty effective with them in this multilateral diplomacy and we'll see how it goes from here. And I want to emphasize in this North Korea deal that we got today is really a first step so we have a long road ahead of us. But obviously, they've played a constructive role.
We have good cooperation in the war on terrorism. I think you'll see that we have good cooperation in the UN on things like Haiti. There are a lot of good aspects of the relationship. There are good aspects to the trade relationship in that the growth of the Chinese economy is good for markets. It's been particularly good for commodities producers. And so there are good things about the economy.
On the other hand, a Chinese economy that is that big and that robust that isn't reformed is going to be a problem for the international system. So when you hear people talking about their currency reform or about protection of intellectual property rights, I think it's just acknowledgement that the reason for integrated China into the WTO was to integrate China into a rules-based economy so that you didn't have a huge economy playing outside of the rules and creating a different kind of playing field. And on that, the question -- the picture is mixed.
On the defense side, I couldn't agree more with Don. China's military buildup looks outsized for its regional interests. Now, does that necessarily have to be a threat to the United States? Not necessarily. It also depends on how -- whether or not the United States maintains its own robust defense capabilities and technological advancement in this region, which I'm sure we will.
So I think trying to characterize the U.S.-Chinese relationship as all positive or all negative is just difficult to do because it's such a complex relationship and there's so many different aspects, you're going to have good and bad existing side by side. But on balance, I think at this point in time I think it's a relationship that is better than it's ever been and it's really our job, given that China is going to be a factor and an influence, it's our job to try and make that a positive influence in international politics, not a negative one.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to Prime Minister Sharon since his comments suggesting that if Hamas were to contest the Palestinian parliamentary elections that Israel would somehow intervene or -- I'm not exactly sure, you know, what they'd be planning to do. But given that we classify Hamas as a terrorist organization, wouldn't he be justified in doing that? I mean, should we expect Israel to recognize a Palestinian government that includes members of a terrorist organization or has representation of such a group?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we are talking to the Israelis. I think there is a difference between the question of whether or not you interfere in somebody else's elections, you know, in some way by not letting them take place or whatever -- that's one question. But look, on the question of whether or not you can have a situation in which a group maintains both an option for politics and an option for violence, I think that's a real question for the international community. The Israelis shouldn't be the only ones asking that question.
In multiple cases, take Afghanistan, for instance, one of the requirements of people running for office was that they had to disarm the militias. They had to either (inaudible) their weapons or -- they couldn't simultaneously be an armed militia and a political entity. If you look at the Northern Ireland situation, while Sinn Fein did (inaudible) while there was still an IRA, it was clearly a part of the Good Friday Agreement that the military wing of the Irish movement would disarm. There is a requirement under Resolution 1559 for the Lebanon to eventually disarm the militias.
Because people understand that there is not a circumstance that I can think of in which you have a functioning democracy in which part of that government or part of that political -- of the political entity maintains an option for violence. Any functioning democracy has to have one authority and one gun, as Mahmoud Abbas has put it.
So I think we will want to work with the international community to address this question. I think it is an extremely important question because I don't, frankly, think Hamas can have it both ways.
Now, I think it would be a good start for the Palestinians, by the way, if they would disarm the militias of Fatah. That would be a good start. They have a roadmap obligation to disarm terrorist organizations and militias. But as a starting point, because I understand that there are complications with Hamas and there are questions about how capable they would be of actually insisting on disarmament of Hamas. They really do need to start getting, as Abbas has called it, one authority and one gun.
But I would separate the question of how the Israelis approach the question of their elections, the Palestinian elections, where I think you will want to elect -- the elections be carried out, from what I think is a legitimate question for the international community to ask about those who wish to keep a political option and a violence option.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, what does President Assad have to do to get back into your good graces?
SECRETARY RICE: I'd start if he could get back into the good graces of the Iraqis, the Lebanese and the Palestinians.
QUESTION: I mean, after that?
SECRETARY RICE: I mean, you know (laughter) the problem isn't with us. The problem is a Syria that is on the wrong side of the divide in the Middle East. The Palestinians Islamic Jihad we're just sitting here talking about the threat of these militias to democracy in the Palestinian territories. They sit with offices in Damascus.
Hezbollah. We're just learning that the, you know, the 1559 is being implemented, the Mehlis report is coming along as to what is actually going to who was actually culpable for the murder of Rafiq Hariri. The Iraqis are, as we've just been talking, trying to deal with a bloody insurgency that is principally just people who want to blow up their chances for a peace.
And where are they coming through? And let me be very clear, they're not crawling across the border the way they are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They're coming through Damascus airport. So this could be cut off if he wished. And by the way, when he wanted to cut off 47 percent of the Lebanese trade to "teach the Lebanese a lesson," which is, I think, that that was about, he did it in 24 hours.
So I think it's pretty clear what the Syrians need to do and what we're not going to do is let them turn this into a row between the United States and Syria. This is about Syrian behavior in a region that is changing that is antithetical to the interests of the people who are moving toward democracy.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, are you satisfied that the Saudis have done enough to curb the charitable institutions that were funding terrorism and the madrasas (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: They've clearly made a very serious effort. I can't tell you that it's been 100 percent effective or probably even 75 percent effective, but then frankly, our efforts to curb organizations that have been funding terrorism haven't been 100 percent effective either because there is a situation in which they, of course, appear to be charitable institutions. You learn that actually they have terrorist ties. You try to freeze the assets of the charitable institution or shut it down, and it morphs into something else.
And so it's a complicated problem to track terrorism financing and to actually get a handle on it. But I do think they've made a really strong effort, particularly over the last year or so. And I think if you were to talk to Fran Townsend, who has been really leading this effort on behalf of the United States Government, she would tell you we've seen significant differences. And you know, things like the listing of al-Haramain with us in the UN is a pretty big step from their point of view, but it's a complicated web that developed over a long period of time. It's going to take a while to get it to diminish the effects.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, when President Musharraf was talking to us on Friday, he made it clear that Pakistan would not allow U.S. forces to come into Pakistan to track down or chase down of Usama bin Laden. Do you believe that Pakistan itself has: a) the desire; and b) the capability to do that job themselves. And if so, why hasn't it already been done?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it hasn't been done because he's hard to find. You know, have you ever seen the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan? I think you see the problem. And it is a tribal area, we assume, where until the last year or so, Pakistani forces had never gone and now there are tens and thousands of them up there and it's having an effect on the apparatus, but precisely where Usama bin Laden has been, I don't know. It was a number of years before we found Abu Nidal, for instance, who was a much not as difficult person to track.
So I don't it's a lack of effort, or a lack of will, or a lack of desire that has made it difficult to find Usama bin Laden. I think he just operates in a way that makes it very difficult to find him. But are the Pakistanis would they do they want to find him? Absolutely, particularly Musharraf who they tried to assassinate twice; al-Qaida has tried to do away with Musharraf. I think he's got plenty incentive to want to find him. And do they have the capabilities? Well, we have helped and enhanced their capabilities through assistance and through cooperation, and I think what they are probably better suited to this task than American forces would likely be.
So this an alliance that's working and the relationship that's working and while we haven't found Usama bin Laden, an awful lot of his field generals have gone down and most of them have gone down in Pakistan, whether it's Abu Zubayda or Ali Sheikh Mohammed or any number of others who have gone down in recent months. So the network has been pursued very aggressively by the Pakistanis and I think they are going to continue to do it.
Pakistan is an interesting case because, yes, it is not 100 percent where we would like it to be in terms of democratic development or having rooted out extremism but if you look at where it was four years ago and where it is now, it is night and day. And I'm a very big believer as a student of international history that you don't take snapshots. You look at trends. And in this case, you have somebody who I think has made a principled decision to rid Pakistan of its extremist elements and of the extremism that started to grip that country when it became a transit point for jihadists at the time of the Afghan war. That's how they got an extremist problem and it was very close, I think, to destabilizing the government. I've often said, you know, it's not clear to me that after a number of years, you might not have been dealing with the kind of 'Talibanized' Pakistan.
So we are a long way from that. We're also four years ago, you had A.Q. Khan running the world, selling centrifuge technology to all kinds of people. That has been shut down. Four years ago, I will never forget Christmas 2001 on the phone with Colin Powell and Jack Straw, and David Manning, trying to figure out who was going to visit from Great Britain or the United States so that they wouldn't go to war between India and Pakistan. Now, you have an Indian-Pakistani rapprochement in large part because Musharraf has taken a stand against extremism. You know, it's a very different picture and so I think he's a remarkable figure and he's making a difference.
QUESTION: He also said that the United States was the least popular country among ordinary Pakistanis.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm quite sure that after decades of extremist propaganda and madrasas, and satellite TV that had a particular view of the United States that is the case. It's also the case the Pakistanis felt abandoned by the United States after the Afghan war and they have some reason to have felt exactly that.
But the United States has had to do some difficult things and make some difficult decisions, and press people to face up to some unfortunate and uncomfortable realities. And it doesn't make us the most popular country in the world. But it does mean that we're doing our job, which is to try to respond to the circumstances that produced the perpetrators of September 11th .
QUESTION: Since you have come in as Secretary of State, you've been very much identified with efforts to stimulate the political liberalization throughout the Islamic world. And without commenting on the specifics of things such as the elections in Egypt, nonetheless, I wonder if you could talk a bit about whether you have any concerns that a political liberalization might lead to religious or Islamic religious states that might in fact be less friendly to the United States and some of the regimes that are now in power.
SECRETARY RICE: I've been asked that question in a more direct-like, but
QUESTION: (Inaudible) direct person.
SECRETARY RICE: No, more directly, don't you think the extremists will win? So let me take it from that.
And frankly, I think that in the absence of political liberalization; in the absence of economic modernization; in the absence of legitimate channels for political activity, the extremists are going to win. And so it's not as if by opening up the system, you are going to somehow empower people who are currently disempowered. You're dealing right now with the situation in which extremists are actually the only political game in town. And I would frankly rather be in a circumstance where if Hamas is going to run the streets with their masks, covered and waving their weapons, that they have to confront an open political system that allows the Palestinian people to decide whether or not this is actually the best thing for their livelihood and for their well-being.
Or if you're going to face the situation in any of these countries, you know, take a country like Egypt, and the absence of a channel where people can engage in legitimate political work rather than being repressed by authoritarian governments to try to keep the lid on it, I think you've got a better chance in an open political system. I'd frankly rather have these people out in the open than in the shadows. And you ultimately believe in these values or you don't and I think that the democratic processes and having people contest and having in the Middle East to now.
It is not as if the status quo is evil. That's what we have to remember. Whenever you look at all the difficulties in the Middle East; whenever you look at what's happening in Iraq; or if you look at what's happening in Lebanon; or if you look at what's happening in the Palestinian territories, and you ask yourself, is this the breakdown of a stable system? No. Actually, it is the beginning of a new system because the old system had already broken down. The status quo was already dead.
When those planes hit the Twin Towers on September 11th, what we had to face up to, and what the rest of the region had face up to, was that there was clearly a deep malignancy in the Middle East that had not been addressed and it had produced a situation in which the only space was for ideologies of hatred so virulent that people were willing to fly airplanes into buildings; they were willing to strap suicide belts on themselves and blow up other innocent people. These are not, you know, the Japanese that are doing this. These aren't Brazilians that are doing this. This isn't happening even in Africa. It's happening in the Middle East. The cauldron that produced this ideology of hatred is the Middle East. That's not a status quo that can be maintained. That's not a stable political system. It's a malignant system that had to be done away with.
And so my question to people when they ask, well, you know, are you afraid of the effects of change, is no, actually I'm much more afraid of the effects of trying to maintain a status quo that has really kind of really come apart.
QUESTION: So Jimmy Carter was right to have limited his support for the Shah?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it probably would've helped if there had been some sense of a political place for that to land. I mean, what we've learned is that you don't just kind of throw up the cards and hope that they land where they may. I sat through today a Core Group meeting with Lebanon, the Prime Minister of Lebanon, where there's an international system to support in Lebanon, movement toward a liberal democratic system.
In Iraq, you don't just throw up the cards and kind of leave everybody to their own devices. You have an international support system to help them get to the institutions that provide stability.
In the Palestinian territories, we're not just throwing up the cards and saying you're on your own. You have a Wolfensohn mission, a Ward mission that helped them to lay the groundwork for a more stable system.
So if I think back to that period, I don't think you just pulled the plug and assume everything will come out all right. But you do have to have some confidence that democratic institutions are going to be better for people than what they've got.
QUESTION: In terms of public diplomacy and in terms of improving our reputation in the area, it's my understanding that one of the reasons why the (inaudible) successful from Pakistan to all the way across is that they provide a lot of services for them. You know, with a madrasas your kid gets a ride to school and a hot meal.
SECRETARY RICE: That's right, that's right.
QUESTION: [Senator] Joe Biden and others have suggested that maybe we should be doing that in support of the public education system. I think he proposed it for Afghanistan. Do you agree with that? And do you think that that should be our priority rather than having like propaganda, you know, outlets, TV stations, and that sort of thing?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I don't think you have to choose between instruments to try and affect what is a really complicated problem. We are supporting others in their reform of education. I think it would actually be a disaster if we tried to do this because --
QUESTION: No (inaudible).
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. You have to. So with Musharraf, we have a large education package with multiyear package to support Musharraf's educational reforms. He has a very fine education minister that I've met a couple of times and she's leading the reform. We're helping to provide money. The EU is helping to provide money. Others are helping to provide money. And I think we'll want to do that in as many places as possible.
So, yes, I think you do try to help with the services side in the Palestinian territories. The whole Wolfensohn plan is to create better conditions for people economically, job creation as well as taking care of children and orphans. You're right, I mean, the ground was seeded to kind of Hamas and Hezbollah and others because they provided good services.
In the Palestinian territories, it's a particular problem because the PA is associated with corruption, and so getting them to root out corruption is part of it, too. So I do think this is an important issue. But it doesn't mean that you shouldn't try and communicate a message as well. And I actually think the reason we were successful with Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty was not because it was propaganda. It was because it told the truth. And what you're trying to do --
QUESTION: Good music.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, yeah, also good music. But it became the station, that or the BBC, to which you listened because you believed they were going to give you the truth and the governments weren't. In an age of satellite television, it's important for there to be outlets that can talk about and give profile to democratic movements and the like.
We will have a unit that tries to respond when there is misinformation or propaganda about what we're doing. The Koran incident is a very good example. We frankly didn't respond in time and it was an urban legend before you knew it. And I still get questions every day, well, why did people flush the Koran down the toilet?
So you do have to respond immediately.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) from Time Magazine.
SECRETARY RICE: It's all right.
QUESTION: I just wanted to come back to the question of Iran in the Security Council quickly. What's striking is how confident the Iranians seem. I mean, President Ahmadi-Nejad's statement was as, we said, it was very unhelpful and it seems that they're not actually particularly afraid of taking this, you know, (inaudible) at the Security Council and so on. What it mentions (inaudible) because of the Chinese or (inaudible) making sanctions (inaudible) probably intolerable to their national interests. But also -- because the nature of the offense, under the NPT, is nondisclosure rather than enrichment itself, which is committed under the NPT. So they're going to come there and say, essentially, look we know we didn't tell you, we were wrong but we'll tell (inaudible). That's going to presumably be their game plan and I'm wondering what you think the outcome will be if they did it that way?
SECRETARY RICE: I actually think they are quite worried about referral to the Security Council. And they're doing everything they can to avoid it. But leaving that aside for a moment, yes, the offense was nondisclosure but it was nondisclosure for 15 years of pretty significant activities. This wasn't a little experiment that, just, they forgot to tell people.
QUESTION: No, no, we all know what they're trying to do . . .
SECRETARY RICE: And this was a really rather significant -- there are also questions about whether they have a military program that they haven't been able or willing to answer. So there are significant nondisclosure issues.
It is telling that nobody thinks that Iranians should have enrichment and reprocessing. It's very telling. It's telling that when the Russians put together Bushehr as a civil nuclear program for the Iranians, they put it together with a fuel take-back provision so that the Iranians could not enrich and reprocess. It's telling that the EU-3 put a proposal on the table, it was not for enrichment and reprocessing. Nobody trusts them. Nobody trusts them.
And so maybe the whole world is wrong and we should all trust them. Nobody does. And so their problem is that they can argue all they want about what their rights are; the problem is they've gotten into a situation in which nobody believes that it is safe to let them exercise those rights -- if indeed they have those rights.
And so I think their problem is to come into -- it's not just coming into compliance, but it is beginning to repair the sense that Iran is a threat to the international system because ultimately if they keep doing what they've done, here, people are going to be even more suspicious of what they're doing. So --
QUESTION: If nobody trusts them, why not just go on to the Security Council? Why are you (inaudible) waiting (inaudible) and building consensus?
SECRETARY RICE: No, because I think people do want -- you know what we believe. We believe they should have probably been referred some time ago. But sometimes in diplomacy, it takes time to build a consensus and you're stronger for having done that.
Now, at some point, people will have to act. But the reason that people want, I think, people continue to want to believe that there is a diplomatic solution out there. And there might be because there are a lot of benefits on the table for the Iranians that they're prepared to take the European Union deal. It's not as if it's this is something that wouldn't have benefits for the Iranians. This is an economy that, yes, the high price of oil helps it, but we know that the economy itself is actually not in very good shape. And that one of the reasons that Ahmadi-Nejad was actually elected was that the economy has not been able to keep pace with burgeoning unemployment among youth, burgeoning underemployment even for those who are employed. This is an economy that desperately needs access to the international system and they're not going to get it while they're in this state.
QUESTION: The Secretary is on a very tight schedule so I will ask one last question. This is the tough question.
SECRETARY RICE: Oh.
QUESTION: What's the best thing about being Secretary of State and what's the worst thing? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I thought you were going to ask for an NFL -- (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: Okay. What's the best thing about being Secretary of State. It turns out that I like the diplomacy. I like, you know, what we've been doing the last few days about North Korea and trying to find where the intersection is between people's interests that you might actually an outcome. I mean, it's kind of like strategic problem solving but on a multilateral scale and I enjoy the diplomacy. And I enjoy being around -- I like my foreign minister colleagues and I enjoy working on these problems. And at a time when the world is changing in very dramatic ways -- I was sitting in a meeting today, the Core Group meeting on Lebanon and asking myself, if a year ago, we would have thought that we would be sitting there talking about a Lebanon free of foreign influence where one of the kind of missed stories out there is that when Mehlis came forward and for these -- with arrest warrants, it was the Lebanese justice system that gave him what he needed. That would have been unthinkable a year ago with the links that these people had and the allies that they had and their ability to hold that system in fear. And I think even a year ago, to think that Afghanistan would have produced two elections that have come out as well as they have or, you know, that yeah, it's very violent and tough in Iraq but that they are still struggling toward their freedom and that the Israelis would be out of the Gaza. It's a time when things are so dramatic -- and I'm very often asked, well, isn't it, you know, it's so challenging or it's so difficult and I don't think about it that way. I think of it as so exciting. And of course, historic times are challenging and difficult by their very nature. You don't get the chance for big historic change unless it's challenging and difficult. And so that's the best part of it, is doing it at this point in time.
The worst part of it, I haven't really found the worst part of it. There are oddities to it. Because it's one of the original Cabinet positions, it brings with it duties that I can't quite figure out how they ended up there. I'll just give you a small example --
QUESTION: Certainly. Absolutely.
SECRETARY RICE: I sign every presidential commission. So I signed the commission for -- Mike Chertoff as the Department of Homeland Security -- or I will sign, you know, I signed the commission for, you know, Jim Nicholson at Veterans Affairs. And you may ask, why would this be a case that the President and the Secretary of State. I said to somebody, why am I signing these commissions? There are three thousand of them.
And so they said, well, you see, you're the keeper of the Great Seal. So. Okay. What does that mean? Well, apparently, there is someplace in the State Department an actual Great Seal. And I said, so how long has it been that the Secretary of State was the keeper of the Great Seal? Thomas Jefferson, 1790. So in my, you know, kind of creating this little story about this, you know, the original four were probably sitting around and they decided Jefferson didn't have that much to do because how much foreign relations was it for the original? So he could be keeper of the Great Seal. (Laughter.)
So you find that there are kind of very ceremonial things like that --
QUESTION: Could be worse. You might have to do the vacation schedule in the Administration or something like that.
SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) I think I won't do that.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. It was delightful.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, thanks very much. It's great.
Released on September 20, 2005