Shock news: Condoleezza Rice was bad at her job and Donald Rumsfeld was a jerk

Esquire has a wonderful series of memos by Donald Rumsfeld to, and about, Condoleezza Rice, who was National Security Advisor before she became Secretary of State (for Europeans, Secretary of State = foreign minister). Some of the best excerpts:

December 13, 200l
TO: Honorable Condoleezza Rice
FROM: Donald Rumsfeld

We just had the Principals Committee meeting on Iran and Russia. At the last minute, we were told not to bring the “plus one.” I arrive, and I see you have Steve Hadley, Bob Joseph, Robin Cleveland, and Al Gonzales there-and I am like a one-armed paperhanger. I am going to start bringing “plus one” to my meetings at the White House, unless there is just an enormously good reason not to. I sure cannot imagine what it would have been on that meeting, particularly since there were so many people in the room anyway…

May 20, 2002
TO: Honorable Condoleezza Rice
FROM: Donald Rumsfeld
SUBJECT: Moscow Proposals

I just saw this article from the London Times saying, “President Bush will propose . . . that Russia and the United States join forces to develop the controversial Star Wars missile defense system . . .” What is that about? Second, I have asked repeatedly for a copy of these other documents that are supposedly going to be dealt with by President Putin and President Bush in Moscow. I still haven’t seen a copy of anything other than the treaty. I need to see them. Please get them over to me. Thank you.

And so on. Basically, this confirms what everyone has always believed – that, while Rumsfeld was a jerk, he was at least somewhat serious about his job (he was, after all, White House Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense under Nixon and Ford, and served in various other government positions). Now, that doesn’t mean he was good at what he did, or knew what he was talking about (as this memo from 2003 to then-Under Secretary of Defense Doug Feith shows). He was basically just an arrogant jerk-off, to be honest. But at least he was more qualified to do his job than Condi, who was a sovietologist who failed to predict the fall of the USSR and a former board member of Chevron.

Look, I don’t claim for a second that Barack Obama’s foreign and defence policy is perfect. Far from it – the Obama administration has done little on the Middle East peace process, has been extraordinarily unreactive in the face of the massive recent protests in North Africa, and has done almost nothing to engage vital allies like India. At the same time, however, at least President Obama has actually picked qualified people to run foreign and defence policy, instead of turning to oil industry execs like Bush did.

My point is that, as much as I would have loved to have seen the president do more on many foreign policy issues about which I care deeply, at least we no longer live in the Bush era where laziness, arrogance and blind dogma guided America’s foreign relations. For all of his flaws, President Obama has allowed the USA to rebuild its image abroad and ‘reset’ vital relationships with foreign partners. For that alone, we should be thankful that he, and not cranky old man John McCain, is the current occupant of the White House. Can you imagine Joe Lieberman and Rudy Giuliani in charge of American foreign policy, with Sarah Palin as VP?


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