America Tries its Best

Editor's Note: PolicyMic recently hosted an OpenMic debate, in which users responded to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent op-ed on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Here, Dr. Rice responds directly to Anna Day, the contributor with the most Mic'd comment.

Dear Anna:

Thank you for your thoughtful question.

The point that I had made earlier to Matar Matar is an important one. The United States is not an NGO, meaning it does not have a narrow set of interests that can be pursued at the expense of other policy objectives. Rather, on any given day, policymakers within the U.S. government face tradeoffs in decision-making and seek to develop a balanced approach. In this regard, Egypt deserves particular attention.

To those in Egypt today who question the United States’ commitment to their democratic future, I say that if we let you down, it was not for a lack of trying to hold you up. The reality is that the United States does not always have direct means to empower oppressed segments of a population or to sustain democratic institutions. In Iraq, the brutal dictator Saddam Hussein was a threat to international peace and security. After his overthrow, the United States had direct means to insist upon, structure, and encourage a new democracy. This was not the case in Egypt, where we had to work closely with the Mubarak regime on establishing a Palestinian state, keeping Hamas at bay, stopping the Iranian nuclear threat, and a number of other regional issues. Managing these challenges required a working relationship with the Egyptian president, but it would not prevent the United States from speaking up for its values.

We coupled strong rhetoric with other tactics as well. As Secretary, I directed roughly 50% of U.S. assistance for Egyptian civil society to groups that the Mubarak regime refused to recognize. We would no longer accept an Egyptian veto over which Egyptian organizations received U.S. aid. We tried to give the Egyptian people the tools they needed to speak for their own freedom. And we took the U.S.-Egypt Free Trade Agreement off the table when Mubarak’s abuses became particularly egregious. These were deliberate policies that sought to guide President Mubarak down the path of reform, and they were met with fierce resistance. In fact, Mubarak refused to visit President Bush in Washington anytime after 2004.

When in 2006 we were not seeing the results we wanted to see in Egypt, I continually asked myself whether there was more we could do. At the time, we were supporting forces for peace in Palestine, seeking to end the Lebanon War, and trying to give the Iraqis a chance at democracy. If in doing all of that we did not succeed completely, I hope that we at least laid the foundation for thousands of brave, impatient patriots to act upon universal freedoms and begin to realize their goals.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice is currently a professor of Political Economy in the Graduate School of Business; the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution; and a professor of Political Science at Stanford University. She is also a founding partner of The Rice Hadley Group. From January 2005-2009, Rice served as the 66th Secretary of State of the United States, the second woman and first African American woman to hold the post. Rice also served as President George W. Bush’s Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (National Security Advisor) from January 2001-2005, the first woman to hold the position.

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