Condoleezza Rice new Book No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Pleasure to be with you.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I am so struck by the tone of this book. And there’s a lot of pride there. But, you know, the more I think about it, the word I keep coming back to is sadness. Right at the start, you say you never get over the feeling you could have done better. What is that about?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well I think anyone who’s been in a position like this thinks back and thinks ‘well, there are many of things I would’ve liked to have done,’ but I wouldn’t describe it as sadness. I was thrilled to be there in Washington for the eight years. And the reason I call the book, No Higher Honor, is because there really is no higher honor than serving your country. But of course, we served in turbulent times. And there was a lot of work that was left undone, although I feel very good about the work that we did and the foundation that we laid for getting that work done in the future.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What was the single hardest challenge you faced?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well the single hardest challenge was that after 9/11 we had to think about a different kind of Middle East. And when you think about it, just about most of the really difficult times come in the context of the Middle East. Whether it’s the war in Iraq, or Lebanon, or the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, the beginnings of stirrings of democracy in the Middle East which we championed. But I very much had the sense of being at the beginning of a big historical epic. I was lucky enough to have been the White House’s Soviet specialist at the end of the Cold War. So I got to be there at the end of the big historical epic. It’s a lot easier. And– these– these were– challenging times.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That was easier?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Sure.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Because the hard work for the end of the Cold War had really the foundation of that had been laid in ’46, and ’47, and ’48 by Truman and Marshall. And we got to realize and harvest the benefits of what they had done in founding NATO and standing up to the Soviet Union, and standing vigil in Berlin, and we got to harvest that with the collapse of the Soviet Union and into the division of Germany, unification of Germany. This time around we were laying that groundwork after the horrible attacks of 9/11, and trying to make sense of what the future of American security policy was going to look like.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, that leads to a point I hadn’t thought of before, but do you think that President Obama is building on your foundation or repudiating it?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: I think in the final analysis there has been a good deal of continuity. Maybe we wouldn’t have thought that at the beginning. And look, every administration comes to power talking about what they’re going to do differently. But when you look at the foundation for the capture of or– or the kill of Osama bin Laden when you look at the Iranian policy and the effort to build now an international coalition around financial sanctions for Iran. When you look at the continuation of the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, I think it’s pretty clear that a lot of the foundation was laid years before.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I take all those points, but when you look at what happened with bin Laden, when you look at the killing of al-Awlaki in September, now the death of Moammar Gadhafi, aren’t we seeing a different model now? A more multilateral model? And the truth is you’re seeing these dictators fall without any American lives being lost.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well I don’t think there is a case to be made that Saddam Hussein would have gone down like Moammar Gadhafi, and– maybe–