Condoleezza Rice: “Leading from behind” is an oxymoron

Condoleezza Rice: “Leading from behind” is an oxymoron

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat down for an extensive interview with Foreign Policy as part of the rollout of her new book, No Higher Honor. Rice criticized the notion of "leading from behind"; called for a return to a focus on human rights in foreign policy; lamented the downfall of democracy in Russia, calling Putin’s likely return to power a "terrible turn of events"; and contended that George W. Bush’s administration, despite avowals by the current White House to the contrary, had always intended to negotiate an extension to the agreement that required all U.S. troops to exit Iraq by the end of this year.

On the contentious subject of Middle East peace, Rice fully endorsed the U.S. decision to withdraw from any U.N. organization that grants full membership to the Palestinians, as UNESCO did this week. "If the U.N. wants to go down this road, let them see how well they do without U.S. support," she said. Rice also said that by initially pressuring the Israeli government to accept a settlement freeze, Barack Obama’s administration had "put the Palestinians in a position of having to be less Palestinian than the United States," forcing them to adopt more extensive demands.

Here’s an excerpt:

Foreign Policy: The terminology that many people use to describe the Obama administration’s foreign policy is this phrase, "leading from behind," which is now confirmed to have come from a White House official. Does that accurately portray the Obama administration’s foreign policy?

Condoleezza Rice: I sincerely hope not, because it’s an oxymoron. I never understood the notion of "leading from behind." If you mean leading in concert with others, that’s one thing, and America has a long history of having allies. But without having American leadership, it’s very rare that difficult things get done. I fully understand the pressures, and indeed the attractiveness, of dealing with our internal issues — whether it’s the budget deficit, entitlements, or K-12 education, or immigration. And I understand why Americans are feeling a bit weary of the world. And I’m a big believer that until we do that internal repair, it’s actually going to be difficult for us to lead.

But we don’t actually have an option to sit on the sidelines. That will either provoke chaos, or maybe somebody else will try to lead who doesn’t share our commitment to the balance of power that favors freedom, and that would be bad for our interests, not to mention our values

Read the rest of the interview here: