My estimation is that things are even worse at State now. Maybe I'm saying that because I had unrealistic expectations of Condoleezza Rice. If you recall, during 2003 I brushed aside your cautions about her.
I knew she was a Cold War warrior. I knew Robert Blackwill (and Madeline Albright's father) had been her mentor, which gave me a bad turn. But she stayed on point during a very bad period for the Bush administration.
I didn't expect miracles from Rice's first year at State; anyone appointed to the job by any president has to work around the mandarins dug in there. Yet I really believed it was a new day for American foreign policy when she arrived at State.
Then, within weeks of taking the helm at State, Rice's fawning and cowardly response to China's pressure -- and Red Queen response to reporters who questioned her ditching human rights demands -- and her bullying, irrational and poorly informed response to Russia set off my alarms. The double standard was painfully obvious.
Then came John Batchelor's remark one night on his show, "Condi only wants one war at a time." That clued me that as with all good Cold War warriors of the Albright school, she was looking at Iraq as distinct from the war on terror. That, despite all she had said in defense of the Iraq invasion.
Since coming to State, Rice put a loyalist in charge of dealing with North Korea/6 party talks; his expertise is Eastern Europe. He has made one mistake after another, in my book.
Rice's unreasonable, completely uninformed and dangerous expectations about India threaten the fragile 'new beginning' of diplomatic relations between India and US, which Bush pushed hard for.
Pressure on Japan has made things more difficult for the Japanese vis-a-vis China -- an already difficult situation.
Ditto for Ukraine -- Rice (as did Powell) completely ignored the strategic situation as she's done for all the FSU that have close historical ties with Russia.
Ditto for Latin America. She has consistently misread the situation there, and particularly with regard to Venezuela.
In his recent speech Zoellick (who is Rice's mouthpiece) very precisely laid out State's 'mature' Cold War policy, which was to "expand" China and "contract" the Soviet Union. The policy remained in effect even after the Soviet Union dissolved.
Although Putin was hysterical in his language after Beslan, his observation that Britain and the US had adopted the '"Carthage solution" in the post-Soviet era with regard to Russia was not too far off the mark. To the victor goes the spoils of war; with the Cold War won, State became obsessed with trying to ensure that the Soviet Union could never form again.
Yet by Clinton's era simple greed jostled geostrategy as the prime mover in State's actions. The Russian mobs and Western businesspeople who wanted to run Russia or rip off its people got their hooks into State, USAID and the World Bank via oligarchs who shaped State's views on the FSU in general and the situation in Russia.
State continued with the view formed during the 1990s: Russia could exist if it became a vassal of the United States. Then by a whisker Putin beat Khordokovsky at his own game. (Indeed, only K's arrogance caused him to lose that match.) K's drubbing enraged State.
That brought forth the Get Putin campaign and heavy-handed meddling in Ukraine's election; the latter only shifted power from one oligarch clan to another.
All that sent Bush's efforts down the drain. He'd managed to convince Putin that the US wasn't intent on reducing Russia to the size of a postage stamp. The US meddling and bullying talk played into the hand of Russia's hard right factions.
The upshot? Russia's military learned for certain they couldn't count on the US when China leaned on them. So Russia drew closer to China and dug in their heels about Syria and Iran. And the majority of Russians slipped back to Cold War paranoia about America's intentions.
As for the rest -- some of the best Cold War warriors have now left State, people still under the influence of the oligarchs remain dug in there, and Rice just doesn't get much about the concept of a truly 'American' policy, beyond keeping NATO together and reducing Russia to jelly.
So that's why I think things are worse now at State than in 2003. The mandarins treat the Bush doctrine as a blip and they got a Secretary of State who will hold the line until Bush leaves.
Rice's democracy speeches have been wonderful, but I suspect that comes from Bush breathing down her neck.
Maybe I am being too hard on her, maybe a leopard can change its spots. But I think we would have been better off, if Bush had sent Bolton to head State and sent Rice to the UN.
12:30 PM Update
For those horrified at the above suggestion, kindly reserve judgment until you've read Wake Up, which I published in response to a reader's observation that Bolton as Secretary of State would have unlocked "the seventh seal on the way to apocalypse."