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Sprinting to the Finish

Condoleezza Rice is racing, circling the globe twice this month and last.  And after a grueling series of meetings in Washington, the secretary of state will be off again, this time to China to head the American delegation at the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.  When will she finally slow her frantic pace?  “January 20th, 12:01,” she replied  today while in New Zealand.  President Bush promised a “sprint to the finish line,” and Rice is doing the running.

Yet if she wants to complete Dubya’s ambitious end-of-term agenda-denuclearizing Iran and North Korea, brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians, winning the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, and solving miscellaneous problems around the globe-Ms. Rice should travel less and paradigm change more.  In the short time left to her, she will not make any problem appreciably better if she sticks to her world view that only big powers count.  Why?  She’s relying on Russia and China to help her, but they don’t share her outlook or her goals.

Relying on Moscow and Beijing may permit her to make incremental advances in the next five months, but any little victories that result will prove to be meaningless for two reasons.  First, some of the problems she faces, such as the Iranian nuclear crisis, must be solved soon if they are not to end in catastrophe.  Second, the next president, eager to implement his own policy, will undoubtedly undo her temporary handiwork.

All this means Secretary Rice must fundamentally change her strategy if she wants success in any of the major problems she confronts.  Of course, it does not mean she will achieve her goals if she executes radical policy shifts, but it does mean she would at least have a chance of succeeding if she does so.  As it is, Madam Secretary is playing losing hands.

Neither Russia nor China is making any of the world’s problems better.  On the contrary, they’re the problem.  One of the crucial lessons of the last century is that democracies cannot build lasting partnerships with great-power communists and dictators.  If we could not do so then, why would we be able to do so now?

So, if Secretary Rice and her boss want to improve their legacies, they will have to admit they were wrong to rely on the Russians and the Chinese and start the formation of the coalition of free states that will be our only hope of achieving enduring solutions.


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