Condoleezza Rice served as the 66th US Secretary of State from 2005 to 2009 and as the National Security Advisor from 2001 to 2005. She is currently the Tad and Dianne Taube Director and the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Stephen J. Hadley was deputy national security advisor during George W. Bush's first term and is the editor of Hand-Off: The Foreign Policy George W. Bush Passed to Barack Obama, a book that details the Bush administration’s national security and foreign policy as described at the time in then classified transition memoranda prepared by the National Security Council experts who advised President Bush.
In this wide-ranging conversation, Hadley and Rice reveal the insights and discussions that informed US foreign policy and national security, particularly in the months and years following 9/11, concerning the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Russia. Decisions made during the Bush years would impact America and the world for years to come, presaging many of the issues being faced today in the Middle East and in Ukraine.
To view the full transcript of this episode, read below:
Peter Robinson: As the administration of President George W. Bush prepared to leave office, it composed detailed memoranda on foreign policy for the incoming Obama administration. Now, those memos have been collected in a new book entitled "Hand-Off", the Bush Administration's summing up. To discuss the book, former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and former National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley. "Uncommon Knowledge", now. Welcome to "Uncommon Knowledge". I'm Peter Robinson. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Condoleezza Rice wanted to become a concert pianist and ended up as Secretary of State. Before reaching that position, she served as Provost of Stanford and during President George W. Bush's first term, as National Security Advisor. Today, Dr. Rice serves as Director of the Hoover Institution, where we are filming this conversation. A native of Toledo, Ohio, Stephen Hadley pursued a career that took him back and forth from the private practice of law to government positions. During President George W. Bush's first term, Mr. Hadley served as Dr. Rice's Deputy National Security Advisor. When she went to State in the second term, Mr. Hadley became National Security Advisor himself. Mr. Hadley is the Principal Editor of "Hand-off". As you note in your joint preface to "Hand-Off", quoting you both, "President Bush did not take off as intending to be a wartime President, which, of course, brings us to September 11th, 2001." It is impossible to understand the Bush foreign policy without first grasping what that day meant to the country. I want to get to the book and to the substance of foreign policy. But very briefly, just to establish that moment, where were you? And how did you respond when you first heard of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Condi?
Condoleezza Rice: Well, first of all, Peter, thank you very much for having us. And Steve, it's great to have you here at the Hoover Institution. So I was at my desk. I had gotten in early that morning. Steve was also at his desk, which is very interesting because it meant that neither the National Security Advisor, nor the Deputy National Security Advisor was with the president that day. It was a domestic trip to Florida, and that was our pre-9/11 thinking. I don't think there was ever another time when the President was out without either the National Security Advisor or the Deputy. And it meant that we thought about attacks as coming from the outside. And so, the real shock was that this was on the territory of the United States of America, the first time since the war of 1812 that we'd had an attack like that. It was a shock to the system. There was a lot to do that day. But if I think just a little bit further into it, two things really emerged. The first was that the President really at that moment became a wartime President. He had not intended to be. But now his overriding consideration had to be to protect the country. He was first and foremost, now Commander in Chief. And secondly, we had very few institutions, very few strategies for dealing with an attack on the territory of the United States. We had no military command for the United States. We actually borrowed the Combat Air Patrol from NATO at that moment. We had no Homeland Security Department. We had no way to talk to governors. We had to make some of it up. But we knew right away that what this would mean is that we had to go take the fight to the terrorist. And that became, of course, the Bush Doctrine.
Peter Robinson: So for the rest of us, I can remember watching this on television and having just a terrible time grasping, making myself believe what had happened. But you are there as Deputy National Security Advisor. You have to assimilate the facts as they take place and presumably put together some kind of action. It was your responsibility. What was that like?
Stephen J. Hadley: You know, Connie mentioned, sometimes after the fact, we sort of saw the planes hit the building. And at that point, we become operational. Our job then is to help the President and the Vice President, since the President was out of town, out of Washington, manage the crisis. And that's what we did for the rest of the day. We were very operational. We go down in the President's Emergency Operation Center, supporting the Vice President, who's in contact with the President, managing the crisis, getting the airplanes outta the air, making sure that this is not the first step of a series of attacks. So making sure that we're in a position to deter or defend against any subsequent follow-up attacks. It's a... You know, I'm a lawyer and I've sort of been making notes about what I'm doing in the course of any day. And at the end of 9/11, they said everybody sort of get your notes and submit your notes 'cause we need for the historical record what happened on 9/11. I didn't have a single note on a single piece of paper. It was an operational intensity that you could not really underestimate because this was an attack on the country.
Peter Robinson: From the intensity of that moment, I'd like to step back and ask about the structure in which you found yourselves. You as National Security Advisor, eventually, as Secretary of State, you as Deputy National Security, and then as National Security Advisor yourself. And here's the picture. One man, George W. Bush, is President. Outside the White House, we have the Pentagon, which has 2.3 million uniform personnel, another 640,000 civilian personnel, 750 bases and installations around the world, the State Department, 30,000 employees at State, another some tens of thousands in the 260 embassies and consulates around the world. And I am not even including in the foreign policy apparatus, our intelligence agencies because, of course, their budgets and personnel are secret. It is a vast apparatus. And yet, democracy vests all executive authority in one man. It felt to the two of you somehow to mediate this structure, this institutional setup. Did it work?
Condoleezza Rice: Well, most of the time.
Peter Robinson: Most of the time. All right. We hear now about the deep state, right? We hear now... The deep state is a term that's... It sounds as though it's malicious. But at a minimum, in olden times, when I was in the Reagan administration, the term was permanent bureaucracy to indicate that they had their own interests, all right.
Condoleezza Rice: Well, there's no doubt that the President is looking over and trying to get to respond to his concerns, to his agenda, this vast bureaucracy. Now, one of the things that this book tells you is that a substantial part of the US government that is responsible for foreign policy will change with the change in President. That's the political appointees that come in. And in our system, those political appointees are not largely politicians. They are people appointed by the President with Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, et cetera, the Presidential staff. And it really then falls to those people to make sure that the permanent bureaucracy, it's kind of like turning an aircraft carrier. They've been told to do a certain set of things with one person, particularly difficult when you're changing parties. And therefore, changing agendas pretty dramatically. And so, it does fall to those political appointees to make sure that that permanent bureaucracy is responsive to the President's concerns. The people who do that are well-served and should, in fact, take into consideration the experience and the background of that permanent bureaucracy. I can speak to this as Secretary of State. You have a foreign service of people who've served all over the world in difficult circumstances. They're completely committed to the country. They've given up what could have been many more lucrative careers to do this. And you would be foolhardy not to listen to them and take advantage of their experience. And yet, you have to make sure that the experience doesn't become a "block" to the President's agenda. Now, when you have something like 9/11, no one has experienced that. And so all of a sudden, you're trying to create a new set of dynamics. You know, the institutions that we know so well, the Secretary of State, Defense, National Security Advisor, et cetera, the so-called National Security Council, was created in 1947 out of the National Security Act. It was an institution that grew up thinking about external threats, essentially. On the day after 9/11, we had in the room the Transportation Secretary, the Treasury Secretary, the people who handled the borders. All of a sudden, this national security apparatus was not adequate to what the new reality was. And the new reality was that there was an enemy within. This may seem extremely hard because-
Peter Robinson: Like highway safety or the railway safety, financial system.
Condoleezza Rice: The energy, folks who had to worry about the threats to the grid. And so, what you suddenly realize is this thing is completely inadequate. And I remember Peter sitting in the room on September 12th. And the group was now too big to have the meeting in the Situation Room. So we actually had it in the Roosevelt, the Cabinet Room. We have a huge number of people around the table. And I'm looking around, I don't know half of these people because they do domestic affairs. And I remember thinking to myself, "Oh, my goodness. This is never going to work. We have all of these institutions." And we started creating things on the fly. And so, one of the things that we did was to ask Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania to come and be the first, the first Homeland Security Secretary, Homeland Security Advisor for the President. And so, suddenly you had to worry about things that you never thought you would be worrying about as the National Security Advisor. A kind of a funny story about this when one of the big threat lines out there was against critical infrastructure. Now, to be fair, none of us really knew what critical infrastructure might entail because we'd never been asked to think about it before. So we asked the Deputy Attorney General, Larry Thompson, to do a pod, as we call them, on critical infrastructure protection. Several years later, Larry said to me, "I didn't know anything about critical infrastructure protection." I said, "Larry, nobody knew anything about critical... We just needed somebody who was competent." And so, crisis, in a crisis like that, you do tend to start to just invent on the fly. Later on, you have a chance to go back and try to rationalize it. But I can't overemphasize to you the degree to which these were problems for which we were not really prepared as a country. And in fact, the very attack itself was because our intelligence agencies were split between external intelligence, which is what the CIA did, and internal intelligence, which is what the FBI did. And they had a wall between them.
Peter Robinson: Steve.
Stephen J. Hadley: You know, the other thing is it wasn't just the trauma of 9/11 because the intelligence community after 9/11 came to the President and said we think that this is gonna be the first of a series of mass casualty attacks on the United States by Al-Qaeda, some of which could involve weapons of mass destruction. That's kind of a... That's the kind of a bad news morning when your intelligence community comes and gives you that. And within two weeks, envelopes containing white powder that turned out to be anthrax powder starts showing up in the Congress at offices of Senators and in media centers in Washington and elsewhere in the country. Nobody knows... And some people were killed by that anthrax. Nobody knew who was responsible, where it came from. And over the course of that year, we again forget between then and the end of 2002, there were 38 terrorist attacks around the world in 13 countries. It was like every couple weeks there was another terrorist attack that killed a dozen or two, a lot of kids, a lot of folks on vacation, a lot of different sides. So this war, you know, there's a lot of criticism of the Bush administration about the War on Terror. If you sat where we sat, it felt like a war. And we were on the defensive. And we didn't know enough about who was coming after us. And we certainly didn't have the structures that we needed in order to keep the country safe. And that became the President's first responsibility.
Peter Robinson: Can I... We start with 9/11. We have the War on Terror. And pretty quickly, 18 months perhaps, you... Needless to say, feel free to correct me, you were there. It turns into something larger and becomes the Freedom Agenda. Now, I'm going to quote you again from this joint preface. You both signed this... You both worked on this preface in the book, in "Hand-Off". And you talk about Henry Kissinger, who draws the distinction between the idealist tradition in American foreign policy, which tends to dominate American foreign policy, and the realist tradition. Now I'm going to quote you. "The idealists tradition saw the principles on which a regime was founded as a central determinant of the nation's international behavior. By contrast, what mattered to the realist tradition was raw power and national interests." Then comes what I take as one of the most important sentences in this book. "The Bush administration rejected the idea that it had to choose between these two alternatives." Steve, could you explain that?
Stephen J. Hadley: Sure. One of the things that the War on Terror really had two aspects to it. There was the, if you will, the operational aspect of going after the terrorists and making sure, confronting them abroad, so we didn't have to fight them, here at home. But the other one was to counter the ideology of the terrorists, this dark vision, this twisted view of Islam that was used to reach out to people who sort of were in despair about their situations and recruit them to terrorism. And the President said that part of the War on Terror has to be a war of ideas. We have to have an alternative to the vision offered by the terrorists as they recruited in the Middle East and elsewhere. And that alternative was democracy and freedom, rule of law, and respect for human rights. And the reason we rejected the choice between the two because the realistic objective, which was to keep the country safe by terrorists, could not really be accomplished unless we had an idealistic vision to give to people who were in societies, which were not working for them to say, rather than go with the terrorists and blow things up, why don't you try to build a free democratic society that can provide prosperity and stability and freedom for your people? So in this case, idealism became a vehicle for achieving the realistic objective of keeping the country safe
Condoleezza Rice: I would add another point, which is that it's not as if we were unaware that there's something called a balance of power, and that power matters, assets matter, your military power, your economic power. You know, we studied international relations, most of us, so we were not unaware of that. But we talked about a balance of power that favors freedom. So the United States with its great power could use the verb that you wish, insist, attempt to impose. Great powers don't mind their own business. Great powers try to shape the international system. And so, shaping, using our power to shape the system in a way that you would create more opportunity, more space for democratic states to emerge became an important part of the Freedom Agenda. Now, where we had direct effort, Afghanistan, Iraq, so forth, you could be more involved in the creation of those institutions and the like. But in some places with really giving voice to those who wanted to have freedom, who wanted to have the basic rights that we have, which is why, for instance, we had in the Middle East an effort to encourage women's rights, to encourage civil society, and et cetera. But I wanna just follow one further thing about this. We'd had an experience with this in the past. So after World War II, if you had taken a pure realist perspective, you might have done what supposedly Churchill once suggested, which is to have as many Germans as possible. Why not break it into Bavaria and Prussia? And that way they're never a threat.
Peter Robinson: What was the line? I like Germany so much, I'd like to have as many-
Condoleezza Rice: I want as many of them as possible. That would've actually been a realist because you're now gonna just think about the balance of power. But in fact, the United States and a man named Konrad Adenauer had a different view, which was that if you could actually have a democratic Germany within a Democratic union, eventually the European Union, within a democratic collective security organization called NATO, it would never threaten its neighbors again. It would become prosperous. And in fact, in 1990, it would not just be prosperous, it would be reunited with that part of Germany that had not followed those democratic principles. And so, when I hear people say that this was somehow idealistic or not realistic, I think, you know, actually, maybe the lack of realism is to suggest that the more authoritarian states you have, the safer we will be. I don't really think that plays out.
Peter Robinson: You just threw a punch and I'm happy to see that because I am now going to assume the role of a skeptic. And I'm going to give you the arguments, not... It's not as if the two of you haven't heard these over the years, but let's go through the arguments. And I'd like to go sort of region by region very quickly. I mean, we have a book of hundreds of pages. This is a brief conversation by contrast. So let's start with Iraq. I'm going to quote from the memorandum in this book on Iraq prepared by Deputy National Security Advisor, your Deputy, I gather, Megan O'Sullivan, right? "President Bush," this comes from the memorandum for the Obama people. "President Bush could have chosen 'a western friendly autocrat' to establish order in Iraq. He chose instead to build a democratic political system as the only way a traumatized nation could peacefully manage the competition for power and resources.'" All right, here we go. The only way? Come on, you have the Arab world. And in the Arab Muslim world, we have had 700 years, in which there has been only one democracy, very briefly, Lebanon. And that was when the Christian Druzes minority was running Lebanon. There's just no historical precedent for this at all. And the argument is, the wrap is, oh my goodness, how naive could you be? And you got us into... Now, this is a... It is impossible to look at these events of some two decades ago without thinking of them in terms of the intellectual apparatus we have now. So the phrase now is the never ending war. You got us into a never ending war. There. That's the wrap. Let's start with you, Steve.
Stephen J. Hadley: Okay, so the realists...
Peter Robinson: Oh, come on, don't you get a little angry?
Stephen J. Hadley: No, no. We've been around this block before.
Peter Robinson: You've had...
Condoleezza Rice: Yeah .
Stephen J. Hadley: The realist view was the Middle East is not congenial for a democracy, right? So let's support the authoritarians, and at least they'll give us stability.
Peter Robinson: Right.
Stephen J Hadley: Well, it didn't give us stability. What it made was... And we saw on 9/11 the fruits of that policy, which was very interesting. UN Development Report came out in 2002, which basically said the problem in the Middle East, which is stagnant economically and discouraged politically, is that there isn't enough freedom, democracy, and not-
Condoleezza Rice: And that was written by Arab intellectuals, by the way.
Peter Robinson: Was it really?
Condoleezza Rice: Yes, it was.
Stephen J. Hadley: Written by Arab's intellectuals. So their view was that the Middle East is stuck. The wave of freedom and democracy that you saw in Europe, you saw in Latin America, in some sense, even Africa, had bypassed the Middle East in the 20th Century. And we accepted the autocrats in the name of stability. And we did not get stability. What we got was 9/11. We got a Middle East that we became a breeding ground for terrorism. So the realistic objective then is, so how can you help states become states that will not be breeding grounds for terrorists that will kill Americans and kill our friends and allies? And the solution for that in the President's view was that you have to have a framework, in which these people can work together for a common vision of a future and try to build a prosperous democratic society that provides services and satisfaction to their people. And the only way you're gonna do that is in a democratic framework. Because in the Middle East, the model was when Sunnis dominated, they oppressed the Shia. Where the Shia dominate, they oppress the Sunnis. And both of them beat up on the Kurds. And our view was the realistic objective of an Iraq that would be stable, that would not be a continuing source of terror, was it had to be a democratic structure, in which Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds could work together for a common future. And that was what the Iraqis, after Saddam Hussein was deposed, said they wanted. So it wasn't imposed by us. This was what they said they wanted. It was consistent with our values. And it was a way to achieve the realistic objective to make sure the Middle East would no longer be an incubator of terror.
Condoleezza Rice: See, he did get animated.
Peter Robinson: He did, that's right. This may have been 20 years, but he still almost came out of his chair there, all right.
Condoleezza Rice: But I have to add one thing.
Peter Robinson: Yep.
Condoleezza Rice: Politics was going on in the Middle East. It just wasn't going on at the ballot box and in legislatures. It was going on in radical mosques and radical madrasas. So the idea that people were not expressing themselves politically is simply wrong. When I talked to Hosni Mubark about this in Egypt, he kept saying, well, the problem is, you know, if we have democracy, the Muslim brotherhood will come to power. He's probably right about that, why? Because he had systematically destroyed all liberal elements in his society. And so, of course, because the Muslim brotherhood could hide in the radical mosques and in the radical madrasas and create their power, there was no alternative. He was absolutely right. But it was his fault, not that of the Egyptian people.
Peter Robinson: Okay, now, you know what? The two of you, surprisingly enough, are very persuasive. And not only that, listen to this. This is the late Bernard Lewis, writing in "Foreign Affairs" in 2005. Bernard Lewis may have been the preeminent scholar of the Islamic world of the entire 20th Century. "The creation of a democratic and political and social order in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East will not be easy, but it is possible." This is 2005. You're working at it. And you have the greatest scholar of the Islamic world saying it's possible. "The end of World War II opened the way for democracy in the former Axis powers," as you said, Steve. "The end of the Cold War brought a measure of freedom and a movement toward democracy in much of the former Soviet domains. With steadfastness and patience, it may be possible to at last bring both justice and freedom to the long tormented peoples of the Middle East." To read that today is heartbreaking.
Stephen J. Hadley: Yes and no.
Peter Robinson: It didn't work.
Stephen J. Hadley: Well, yes and no. I mean, look, hold on.
Condoleezza Rice: Excuse me, I just have to say one thing.
Peter Robinson: Two of you are a tag team, go ahead.
Stephen J. Hadley: I'll flip you for it.
Condoleezza Rice: Yeah , I'll flip you for it, right, right, right.
Stephen J. Hadley: No, go ahead, go ahead.
Condoleezza Rice: 20 Years, how long is that really in the forward march of democratic states? How long was it before South Korea was democratic? How long was it before the United States of America was actually truly democratic, in that it was born as a slave honing state? 150 years or so later, it freed its slaves. But in 1960, in Birmingham, Alabama, my parents and I couldn't go to a movie theater. So democracy actually takes time because it's actually a kind of unnatural thing. I'm often asked, you know, why do democracies fail? I wanna know why in the world do they succeed? You ask people to leave behind tribalism, and family, and violence, and we'll solve it in the streets for these abstractions called institutions, elections, and legislatures, and constitutions. And you say, now, you have to believe that your rights are going to be protected by this. Your interests are going to be protected by this. That takes some time. And oh, by the way, in the meantime, while that is evolving, you don't have an autocrat or a dictator who is leading you into a senseless war against your Ukrainian brothers, or who's putting you in mass graves at about a million in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And so, maybe even if you're struggling to get to that democratic piece, as political scientists now call it, it might be a better ride than what happens to you under authoritarians.
Stephen J. Hadley: You know, it's... I think, it's fair to say our reach probably exceeded our grasp. The President thought that if we could build, help the Iraqi people, build a Democratic Iraq, if we could get a Democratic Palestinian state able to live in peace and security with Israel, they would be the catalyst for the transformation of the Middle East, the way Bernard Lewis talked about. We, like every other administration that's tried it, did not get a Palestinian state able to live in peace and security beside Israel. The Iraq is a very interesting case because it's had now about six democratic elections and peaceful transfers of power. And it is a fragile democracy. I would grant a lot of problems, but it is held together in a region that has put a lot of pressure on it. They had the war against, the uprising in Syria, the destabilized Iraq. It's got Iran, which is meddling. This is not an easy neighborhood in which to try to build a democratic state. And the Iraqis are doing pretty well. And everybody points to 2011 and the Arab uprising, which resulted not in the burst of freedom that we had hoped.
Peter Robinson: It did raise hopes.
Stephen J. Hadley: It raised hope and resulted mostly in authoritarianism or failed states. But the spark of the vision of a democratic, more prosperous, more free future in the Middle East is not dead. 2018, 2019, Bouteflika gets thrown out of Algeria, Al-Bashir gets thrown out of Sudan. There are uprisings, popular uprisings in Iraq, in Lebanon and elsewhere. And they result in changing of prime ministers and new governments. So let's see what happens. The seeds of freedom and democracy have been planted in the Middle East. Let's give it some time and see if they come to-
Condoleezza Rice: Consolidation of democracy takes a while, takes a while.
Peter Robinson: From the transition memo in "Hand-Off" on Russia, "Russia perceived US efforts to promote democracy in former Soviet countries, in particular Georgia and Ukraine, as a smokescreen for advancing US interests at Russia's expense." This is already clear in 2008, as you're about to leave office. "Russia had," again, I'm quoting the memorandum, "Russia by now had stepped up its campaign to undermine our presence throughout the former Soviet space." Okay, here we go again. It falls to me to put the argument that you were naive, that you weren't paying enough attention to history. And then, I will duck and bob and weave as you throw punches at it. But here's the argument. For goodness sake, people, a thousand years ago, Russia started in Kiev. And for a thousand years they expand and expand and expand. And being imperial, running the Eurasian landmass, is what Russians do. It is every decade of their history for a thousand years. And you thought they'd step back and let a democracy flourish in Georgia and let Ukraine drift off to the West. What were you thinking?
Condoleezza Rice: Well, how's it...
Peter Robinson: So goes the argument.
Condoleezza Rice: Yeah, right, right. How's it working out for them today that they haven't found something to replace the empire? And for me, this is very sad, you know, that I... in some ways, Russia is my adopted culture.
Peter Robinson: Of course.
Condoleezza Rice: I love the place. I love the people. They've just had the worst politics for 300 plus years. But as a people, they're creative and they are warm. And if I had a hope for them, it would be that there isn't something in their DNA. I don't believe there's something in their DNA. But that somehow changes institutionally, changes over time that Russia and Russians would finally start to realize their potential. Not as imperial conquerors, but as people who could be integrated into a Europe that was transforming into a Europe that was changing. Gorbachev said to me at one point, and it was, again, it was rather sad. He said, "You know, actually, when I talk about a common European home," which was his phrase, "what I mean is that the Soviet Union will be a normal country. And it will be the far left end. You know, you'll have us, and then you'll have social democrats, and then you'll have CDU, and places like Germany." And he had this notion that Russia was gonna, or the Soviet Union was gonna find its place in the common home of humanity, that we tried to help to make that true for some period of time, including even trying to hope that Vladimir Putin might be encouraged in that direction. I don't apologize for that. Was it always a long shot, particularly, given the kind of failed consolidation of democratic institutions in Russia, which by the way goes back to Boris Yeltsin? It was really Boris Yeltsin that ruled by decree, that crippled the Russian legislature in its infancy. But sometimes, you have to proceed from the possibilities that are there. It's not naive today. I know the history of Russia as well as anyone. But it is a hope that not every people on the face of the Earth are condemned to be just vassals of their history. If that were the case, Japan would not be a great democracy today. If that were the case, Germany would not be a great democracy of today. If that were the case, Latin Americans would still be preferring kadyos to the democracies that are emerging there. And so, I've always been resistant to this notion. You know, with all due respect to my historian colleagues in the audience, you know, the Norman Naimarks and the Steve Kotkins and others, I just don't believe that people are necessarily trapped in their history.
Stephen J. Hadley: I have a non-Russians expert slant on this one. So my sense is, and Connie's the expert here, for 400 years, Russia has had this struggle with how to define its relationship with the West. Sometimes it brings the West in, sometimes it pushes the West out. We thought that after the trauma of the breakup of the Soviet Union, the end of communism, there was a chance that in this historic struggle of how does Russia finds this position with the West, that Russia would actually come West in a more permanent way. And Bush would talk explicitly to Putin about this. He would say, "Vladimir, you have a historic opportunity to bring Russia permanently into the West." And Putin would say, "George, that's what I wanna do. But there are dark forces in Russia that must not be awakened. And therefore, you need to do it my way and in my time." And what we found over the eight years... So our strategy was, look, let's try and see if we can integrate Russia in Western institutions and help bring it permanently into the West, and we did. And we built a remarkable amount of constructive relationships with Russia over the eight year period. But over that eight year period, Putin got more and more authoritarian. So we were not naive. We thought it was worth the effort, but we hedged our bets. And that's why NATO enlargement and NATO expansion was so important because we wanted to respond to the demand and desire of those countries that had been under the Russian thumb as part of the Warsaw Pact to become West. We thought we couldn't say, "No, you're not admissible." But also, that was the hedge to build a platform from which Russia, if it became revanchist, it could be effectively resisted. It is interesting that the only two countries that Russia has invaded, Ukraine and Georgia, are not members of NATO. And so, we have... And it is also interesting that the platform that President Biden is now using to deal with Russian aggression in Ukraine is exactly those alliance relationships, which we strengthened and the NATO that we strengthened in the Bush administration.
Peter Robinson: All right, on Russia, may I ask if you apply the same kind of hopeful analysis to Russia that you mentioned just now with regard to the Arab world. This takes decades. Putin is... He still looks pretty vigorous, but he's an old man. This is a game for the grandchildren. What you did, maybe it will take some decades. But there was a demonstration of goodwill, there was institution building, and that will not be lost on Russians someday.
Stephen J. Hadley: That's the hope. That's the hope.
Peter Robinson: Is it a grounded hope? You're the Russian expert.
Condoleezza Rice: It's very hard right now to know what the institutional landscape post-Putin would look like.
Peter Robinson: We just don't know. We're supposed to have very good intel, but we don't.
Condoleezza Rice: But authoritarians destroy institutions. That's what they do. And so, it's very hard to see what might emerge. I will say this. Toward the end of our time, my hope that this kind of imperial instinct could be overcome really did start to diminish. And it really goes to one conversation that I had with Putin, me personally alone with him, where I think it must have been sometime in 2007. It was well before the invasion of Georgia. And he said, "Condi, you know us. Russia has only been great when it's been ruled by great men, like Peter the Great and Alexander II." And I had known for a long time that all of his instincts, all of his sense of glory was somehow tied up in the Russian Empire. By the way, not in the Soviet Union.
Peter Robinson: Right?
Condoleezza Rice: He actually told President Bush that the reason he'd made that statement about the collapse of the Soviet Union being the greatest tragedy of the 21st Century was because 25 million Russians had been left outside of Mother Russia, right? So you could sense this coming.
Peter Robinson: He's a 19th Century man.
Condoleezza Rice: He's a 19th Century man, and perhaps, reinforced as a KGB officer because, what did the Soviet Union do? The Soviet Union allow the collapse of the Russian Empire within it and stranded 25 million Russians outside of Mother Russia. In fact, with that speech, that weird speech that he gave upon the invasion of Ukraine that blames Lenin for the creation of Ukraine, it gives you a sense of where he thinks the real fault for the collapse of the Soviet Union rests. But it didn't mean also that we shouldn't have tried to have a decent relationship with them. I will tell you, I think early on, going back to 9/11, he was the first Head of State with whom I spoke. The President was on his way to try to get to a safe location and Putin was trying to reach him. So I took the phone call. And I essentially wanted to say to Putin, our forces are going up on alert because we didn't want to get into a spiral of alert with the Russians. And Putin said, "I can see that." And I thought, of course, you can. He said, "I can see that our forces are coming down. We're canceling all exercises." Toward the end, he came to NATO at the last summit that we attended in Bucharest. And he gave this talk about how Ukraine was a made up country. And so, it was perhaps beginning to become clearer and clearer where his true sympathies were.
Peter Robinson: China again, the transition memo, "The core of the administration's strategy was to build a security and trade architecture with regional allies that would reinforce the role of the United States as a Pacific power, encourage China to play a responsible role in East Asia, and hedge against the emergence of a more aggressive China." So far so good. "President Bush chose to," from the memorandum again, "deal with China as a friend, not an enemy." Now, there's a sentence that doesn't age so well. So however, I will say, beginning with Reagan, I was in the Reagan White House. From Reagan all the way through to Donald Trump... So from Reagan through Obama, we hoped the Chinese could be our friends. We had the example of South Korea, which becomes economically vibrant, and then a democracy. Taiwan becomes economically vibrant, and then a democracy. Why were we wrong about China?
Stephen J. Hadley: Well, I think one of the interesting things about the book if you read the transition memo, and I'm sure it struck you, the dominant thing that comes across is how different the China President Bush faced was the China of today.
Peter Robinson: Yes.
Stephen J. Hadley: The China President Bush faced under two separate Presidents, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, was the China that wanted a benign international environment, so he'd focus on his own economic development. It was a China that didn't wanna overturn the international order, but was desperate to be a part of the international order. And it was a China that wanted a constructive relationship with the United States. That's the message we got with China. And we thought that the proper course was to try to respond to that to see if we could integrate China into the international system, why? So that China would be a supporter of that system. Remember, that system is based on our values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and rule of law. And that as part of that international system, China was less likely to act in a way that was harmful to our interests. So that was the... That was the policy The President pursued. This is the same President, by the way, who early in the campaign said he thinks of China less as a strategic partner and more as a strategic competitor. So in some sense, Bush was ahead of his time. But he decided to treat it like a friend to see if we could bring it into the international system for the reasons we described. But as the portion you read described and Well states, we hedged. We strengthened our alliance relations with South Korea, and Japan, and Australia. We enhanced our own diplomatic, economic and military presence in the region. We started a strategic relationship with India, which could serve as part of a counter to an emerging China. So that if our efforts with China failed, we would have a platform to deal with a much more aggressive China, which is the platform Joe Biden is using today. And I would say to you that if we had not tried to do that, we would be up here and you would be saying to us, "You know, China actually... There was an opportunity to bring China into the West, but you aggressive, war mongering Bush administration people, you alienated China. You pushed them away. You lost the opportunity to bring China West. So I would say we had the right policy, we made an effort to do it. It was what... And all the data suggested it was possible. We hedged a case, it would failed. And I would say to you, I think that instead of Xi Jinping in 2012, if we had gotten another leader, like Jiang Zemin or Hu Jintao and had the last 10 years been a China under that kind of leader, we would be in a different place with China today. And China would be in a very different place than it is today.
Condoleezza Rice: I think the people... I'm not usually one for the great man theory, that there's a single explanation and it's the leader. But the closest I can come to that is Xi Jinping. I think that he not only decided to change the rules of the game internationally, he decided to change the rules of the game in China. So that for instance, something that worked very well for the Communist party, which was that you had term limits. You had an empowered Premier, who took care of the economy while you did the politics. And you hide... You would hide and bide, so you could do things domestically and you would not have more than two terms. Remember, that all of that gets wiped away. He also, of course, decides that you would have no alternative power centers. So the kind of geese that were laying the golden eggs, the 10 cents, and the Alibabas of the world suddenly get pulled in. So I think he's a really kind of transformative and different figure.
Peter Robinson: We didn't misread China, China changed.
Condoleezza Rice: I think China changed. I will say that you have to be a little bit careful in that I never... I'm very careful about causal explanations. And that's why just as Xi Jinping makes me a little bit nervous, things were evolving underneath. I remember in 2007 when the Chinese had an anti-satellite test that surprised everybody in terms of its sophistication. We were seeing increases in Chinese military spending in the construction of what looked like a blue water navy. So one could say maybe they were preparing the ground for a Xi Jinping. But I do think Xi Jinping, more quickly than perhaps the Hu Jintao would have done it, took advantage of that growing power. And so, things were happening underneath. And there's one other point, you know . Steve mentioned that South Korea, Taiwan, other places had become democratic as economic liberalization took place. You know, we always had this notion. Economic liberalization and political control cannot coexist. And I think Xi Jinping has said, "You're absolutely right, I'll take political control." And that's the piece that perhaps we'd not counted on, that there would be a Chinese leader who would be willing to sacrifice so much of internal development for party and political control.
Peter Robinson: May I ask a kind of throwback Cold Warry question? Our friend and colleague Stephen Kotkin, when I asked Stephen after a lifetime of examining the Soviet archives, what's your one finding? Stephen replied, without hesitation, "They were Communist." This is not a great power struggle. They really believe that stuff. The Chinese are Communists, or am I just using terms that are icky and old fashioned and don't apply?
Condoleezza Rice: Oh no, they...
Peter Robinson: They choose power because they're communists... They're Leninist, they want power.
Condoleezza Rice: Well, definitely, the piece that I think is absolutely true is that the primacy of the Communist Party has been the driving force for every leader in China. But what that has meant has differed from leader to leader. And with Xi Jinping, it means that the survival of the Communist Party is one, two, three, four, and five. He sees that in his survival, in controlling everything around him, including, by the way, reintroducing, you know I'm a musician, reintroducing the red arts into China. Whereas perhaps people like Hu Jintao and others saw the survival of the Communist Party as needing to have more liberalizing tendencies. So you can say they're Communist and the survival of the party is the most important thing. But then the next sentence, what does that mean and how they actually operationalize that matters a lot to what kind of China you are actually facing.
Stephen J. Hadley: So there are critics who would sit up here and say that we were naive because they... And some wonderful scholars, who are in command of the written records of the Communist Party. They would say all through this period of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, if you read the party documents, they have a Marxist Communist aspiration.
Peter Robinson: Our colleague, Frank, Frank's book.
Stephen J. Hadley: And that is true, that is true. But in that period of time, what you saw was people paid less, who were in power, paid less attention to the party. Government figures had more authority. Party figures had diminished authority. I remember going, being in Beijing, at a colleague, Paul Hanley's house, and he had some young entrepreneurs and folks over for dinner. And this was 2011, 2012, right before Xi comes to power. And they were all basically saying the Communist Party is finished. It has no legitimacy. We are reforming moving in the direction of government, of government institutions taking the place of the party. The Communist party is finished. Xi Jinping has changed all of that.
Peter Robinson: We're going to run long because this is too good to stop. Just a little announcement for you. Africa, may I? The President's emergency plan for AIDS relief, or PEPFAR, the President announced the initiative in his 2003 State of the Union address. By the time he leaves office, we've spent some 15 billion in Africa on AIDS treatments from the postscript, in this case, to the transition memo. "In just five years, the United States had supported life-saving treatment for two million people, provided care for 10 million, including orphans and vulnerable children, and produced a substantial reduction in new infections, meeting the Bush administration's goals on time and on budget." Okay, I can't find any argument to use against healing sick people. But I can find a question to ask. And the question is, how did that advance this country's interests?
Condoleezza Rice: Well, it certainly advanced this country's values. The United States has always been best when it leads from both power and principle. And here, the principle was that there was a continent that was essentially being ravaged by a pandemic, a continent that looked like it was going to lose millions and millions and millions of people, particularly women and the young. And the United States of America, which has also always been the largest donor of food aid, which is also the country that always shows up when somebody has an earthquake or a tsunami, that the United States doesn't just care about its own interests. It actually does care about relief of humanitarian disaster and human suffering. Now, I would argue that not only did that demonstrate American compassion and principle, but it also gave enormous great will across the continent. It actually organized the rest of the world to try to do something about this pandemic. And if you don't think that increasing America's image and the sense that America is an important and good player matters in a continent that is going to demographically dominate in the future, then you wouldn't do this. But I don't want to confuse this with the quote, "interest of the United States," because I was in those meetings with President Bush. And this was driven purely by a sense as he quoted from the Bible, that "To those whom much is given, much as it is expected." It really was for him a question of the United States having to do the right thing. 25 million lives saved by that program. And when COVID hit, a number of African leaders told us that they used the infrastructure of PEPFAR to manage COVID because we didn't just deliver antiretrovirals, we actually had to help these countries build an entire health infrastructure to be able to deliver. And so, clinics and research labs, and the like, and they were able then to use that going forward. But sometimes, great powers really ought to just try to do the right thing. This is just a great power trying to do the right thing.
Stephen J. Hadley: I would say, and I'm supporting everything Condi said. I have always thought that a world that is, reflects Americans' values is very much in American's interest because that will be a world in which Americans will be safer, more secure, and more prosperous. And also, the realists now are telling us that China is eating our lunch in Africa with their Belt and Toad Initiative, with their fairly corrupt and coercive diplomacy. Where is the United States? Well, if... And they say that to have China dominate Africa is very much not in American interests. Well, I would say from that framework, the kind of thing that President Bush did with PEPFAR and malaria and neglected tropical diseases is very much something that would advance America's interest in checking China's bid for dominance in Africa.
Peter Robinson: Okay, a couple of last questions, by which I mean, let me take a couple of final shots. And if you wanna come up out of your chairs...
Condoleezza Rice: Rhetorical questions to some.
Stephen J. Hadley: Are you having fun here?
Condoleezza Rice: Yeah .
Peter Robinson: A little bit. So here's at the time, and here's 20 years later, two quotations for the time, for at the time, at the moment. This is President Bush in his second inaugural address. "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements in institutions in every nation and culture." As you explained, this was the realistic approach. "Renewed in our strength, tested but not weary, we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom." Here's what Peggy Noonan said one day later in "The Wall Street Journal". "This is, how else to put it, over the top. It is the kind of sentence that makes you," the sentence about the greatest achievements, "that makes you wonder if this White House did not have a case of mission inebriation. One wonders if they shouldn't ease up, calm down, and breathe deep. The most moving speeches summon us to the cause of what is actually possible. Perfection in the life of man on Earth is not." Okay, so there you have it right there and then from someone who was broadly speaking on your side. Come on, you guys are being naive. You're getting drunk with your own... Hold that thought. Now, we come to the current moment, in which both parties are tired of nation building. Joe Biden gets us out of Afghanistan. The Democrats want out. And what do the Republicans say? They don't say we should stay there. They say, "You did a lousy job of getting us out. We would've gotten out sooner. We would've gotten out." They both agree that 20 years in Afghanistan needed to come to an end and got us nothing much. This is a bipartisan agreement right now. Okay, you produced this book. This is not a beach read. I don't think you intended this as a beach read. But you grow up in Birmingham, Alabama, and find yourself drawn to thinking about foreign policy. Steve grows up in Toledo, Ohio. In this country, we have this strange foreign policy apparatus by self-selection. It's kids who get drawn to big books and big ideas. So what do you want kids to know about the Freedom Agenda all these years later?
Condoleezza Rice: Well, Peggy Noonan is one of my very close friends. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall, that was somehow not over the top? So sometimes that at the time seems over the top, later on just seems inevitable. The second point that I would make...
Peter Robinson: That was vicious, actually.
Condoleezza Rice: No, no.
Stephen J. Hadley: That's really good.
Condoleezza Rice: Peggy will appreciate it. She will appreciate it, if I tell her that I said it, which I may not. But in any case, the second point that I would make is I can't account for, nor can I condone our lack of patience with others who are trying to make the same democratic journey that we have made, where we've stumbled, where we've fallen, where we fought a civil war, and where yet we've still come out okay. And so, yes, if I had thought at the time of what we launched in Afghanistan, or maybe Iraq, that we were just going to lose patience, I would've had perhaps second thoughts about what we were trying to do and helping the Afghans build a decent society, where women could actually go to school and could come out of, come out of their homes. But I thought that the United States of America as a great power might actually realize that sometimes we have to have staying power. And oh, by the way, Afghanistan was not our longest war. Our longest war is Korea. We are still in an armistice. We still have tens of thousands of American forces in South Korea trying to prevent that little man from the north from destroying our Korean ally. And oh, by the way, South Korea wasn't a democracy for quite a long time when we were supporting it. As a matter of fact, it was a military dictatorship at a certain point in time. But bringing back this question of realism and idealism and balance of power, even if you want to argue that nation building, yeah, we were tired. The war should have been over. I'll just ask you one balance of power question. Would you not like, from a purely realist balance of power perspective, to have military bases in a country that has a 900 kilometer border with the most active and the most aggressive country in the region, that would be Iran? So even if you were a balance of power kind of person, I think you might've kept those bases in Afghanistan. I think you might have done it with the support of allies who were willing to stay. I think you might've realized that the United States of America had lost very few people over a period of 18 months. And so, whether you wanted to take the argument that we owed something to the Afghan people, that they could have a decent life, or we owed something to American interests, that we might have stayed in Afghanistan for our own purposes, so that the war that we fought from there, that has not allowed another attack on the territory of the United States in that 20 years, I can argue both sides of that. And we shouldn't have left under either argument.
Peter Robinson: Steve.
Stephen J. Hadley: I would make three points. One is a historical point. I went to see the President after he gave that Freedom Agenda speech. And I said, "Mr. President, do you think this was a little over the top?"
Peter Robinson: You said that to him?
Stephen J. Hadley: I did.
Stephen J. Hadley: Do you wanna give a second speech that talks about how we operationalize the Freedom Agenda to make it concrete? He said, "Okay, but don't take one step back from the commitment to the Freedom Agenda." So we gave that speech, the National Endowment for Democracy. I think it was May or June of that year, which operationalized this concept and made it concrete. Nobody pays any attention to that speech. Second, there's this notion out there that these were endless wars. The point is that these wars ended for American combat troops in 2011 when President Obama took the troops out of Iraq. And they ended in terms of Afghanistan in 2012, 2013, when President Obama said and ordered that US troops would stop any offensive operations in Afghanistan. So for us, those wars were over some time ago. They continued for Iraqis. They continued for Afghans. But we had this by, with, and through notion, where with the modest commitment of a couple thousand troops, we would support local forces to fight the terrorists and bring stability. So this notion that these were 20 year long wars, endless wars for our combat troops, it's just not true. It makes great rhetoric, but it is not the case. Finally, on the Freedom Agenda, one of the things that happened to the Freedom Agenda is it got so associated with the efforts in the Middle East, that when Americans soured on the Middle East, they soured on the Freedom Agenda. And if Iraq, if we had been able to stabilize Iraq in 2003 and 2004, instead of having to wait until the surge in 2007 and 2008, people in this country would feel a lot different about the Iraq war. But even while people turned away from the Middle East, and therefore, turned away from the Freedom Agenda, guess what happened? Russia goes into Ukraine, and suddenly Joe Biden is talking about dividing the world among the authoritarians and the democracies, and how we need to be on the side of the Ukrainians, as they fight for what? For their freedom for democracy. So the Freedom Agenda, oddly enough, is back in a different form. And I think the reason is because it's indigenous to Americans and American's foreign policy in the world. Our country was formed not on ethnic identity or linguistic identity, but on a set of principles that involved freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights. And every war and every major international effort we have made, we have made in the name of advancing freedom, democracy, human rights, rule of law. It's who we are. So it will rise and fall in prominence, but it's always gonna be a piece of America and American and foreign policy.
Condoleezza Rice: And I would only add the following. And as long as there are authoritarians, we will have plenty of opportunities to fight for freedom. And that's another thing to remember is that authoritarians are the ones who make certain that people are going to have to fight for their freedom. We're seeing it in Ukraine today.
Peter Robinson: The book is "Hand-off". Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, thank you.
Stephen J. Hadley: Thank you.
Condoleezza Rice: Thank you.
Peter Robinson: For "Uncommon Knowledge" and the Hoover Institution, I'm Peter Robinson.