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Global Viewpoint

Condi Rice: Iran is weak, Afghanistan is better, and the tea party is good for America

Condoleezza Rice, the former US Secretary of State, discusses her family, growing up in the segregated South, racism and sexism, the Iraq war, Iran, the war in Afghanistan, the world after 9/11, China's power, the tea party, and the state of things in Washington.

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Afghanistan is a better place now

Ward: And Afghanistan – has that campaign been weakened by the Iraq war?

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Rice: I was very much inside the government at that time, and I can say it’s simply not true. We spent enormous amounts of time on both Afghanistan and Iraq. ... It was a deliberate decision in the early years to have a light footprint in Afghanistan, to have most of the fighting done by Afghans. When things went bad [on the border of] Pakistan that had become a safe haven for terrorists, then the strategy had to change. Afghanistan was always going to be hard ... but it’s now a place where there is a constitution, girls are going to school, women aren’t executed in a soccer stadium as they were under the Taliban. I think we undervalue the contribution of the NATO alliance, and Canada in particular, which made great sacrifices in the war to move Afghanistan forward. It doesn’t mean democracy has arrived, but it’s a better place than it was in 2001.

Will China dominate the global economy?

Ward: The world has changed since September 11, 2001 – the two wars and the economic meltdown. Is the US prepared for the rise of new global powers?

Rice: It’s natural in the international system. China is the strongest of those countries, but its economic miracle is not without political and social strains. [It should be] looking for ways to loosen the reins a bit on this rigid political system to accommodate the rapid economic and social changes that are taking place. When people say China is going to dominate the global economy, I just ask, "Can a country so terrified of the Internet that it is hacking into servers to catch the last human rights advocate lead the knowledge-based revolution?" I don’t think so.

The tea party won't have a negative effect

Ward: The US political landscape has also taken a hit. Has the tea party changed the nature of the game?

Rice: I certainly hope so. It’s a grassroots movement that is concerned – maybe even alarmed – by what it sees in Washington. A lot of people feel the federal government has overreached. The US has a long history of smaller government than most of our friends around the world. I also think it’s saying that the conversation in Washington and the one in the rest of the country are not the same conversation. The distance between Washington and the rest of the country is pretty dramatic. I am one who does not think it will have a negative effect.

Ward: Not a ringing endorsement of Washington coming from a former insider.

Rice: I fled to California as soon as we were done. It’s no accident I didn’t stay in Washington, DC.

Ward: If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?

Rice: I hope that we stood for the proposition that no man, woman, or child should have to live in tyranny. I grew up in segregated Alabama, so I don’t have rose-colored glasses about the US. But for all its problems, it’s a free and vibrant society. I believe that democracy takes time – but it’s worth it.

© 2010 Global Viewpoint Network/Tribune Media Services. Hosted online by The Christian Science Monitor.

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