Accessibility links

Breaking News

Analysts: Rice Nomination Represents Foreign Policy Continuity

President Bush has nominated National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to be the next Secretary of State, replacing Colin Powell.

Condoleezza Rice is President Bush's most trusted advisor on foreign policy and it comes as no surprise to analysts that she has been nominated to be the top U.S. diplomat.

Ms. Rice's association with the Bush family goes back a long way. Under the first President Bush, she served as a Soviet expert on the National Security Council. During the 2000 presidential campaign, she tutored George W. Bush in foreign policy and following his election, she was named to head the National Security Council. Since then she has become even closer to the president and a frequent visitor to the presidential retreat at Camp David.

David Rothkopf is the author of a forthcoming history of the National Security Council. He says the naming of Condoleezza Rice to replace Colin Powell is an effort by the Bush administration to show a unified foreign policy front.

"What they saw in the last couple of years was fractiousness, fighting, particularly between the State Department and the Defense Department, and the appearance of disunity," he said. "President Bush places an enormously high premium on loyalty and if there is anybody who is loyal to him in the administration, it is Condoleezza Rice, who has become a kind of alter ego for him. And so he has made a move to create a seamless, like-thinking team of people atop the foreign policy decision-making pyramid."

Robert Hunter is a former State Department official and former ambassador to NATO. He says having someone of Condoleezza Rice's stature at the head of the State Department has its advantages.

"Clearly, Condoleezza Rice is close to the president, has his trust and confidence. And in senior leaders in foreign policy, that can be of extraordinary importance. Signals she gives to foreign governments, they will know with confidence that she speaks for the president," said Mr. Hunter. "Another thing, of course, is that she will clearly be a stronger personality in influencing him than was Colin Powell, who was never really part of the central Bush team."

But Mr. Rothkopf says by naming someone as close to the president to such a prominent position, one runs the risk of silencing dissenting views.

"Over the history of national security systems, not just the council, but the inter-action between all the agencies of the U.S. government, they work best when the president of the United States is presented with a choice. They work less well when the president of the United States is presented with a consensus and a foregone conclusion. He needs to be able to know what his options are and if everybody is on the same page, you are less likely to get options and he's less likely to have choices," he explained.

Mr. Rothkopf says it will be interesting to see if in the months ahead, Ms. Rice develops her own foreign policy voice.

Analysts say it is difficult to ascertain where Ms. Rice stands on various international issues.

"She has been very careful during her four years as National Security Advisor not to signal where she stood on issues and indeed that is the role of the National Security Advisor, to try to be an honest broker in the government and not to publicly take sides on issues," said Karl Inderfurth, a former State Department official (in the Clinton administration) and a former member of the National Security Council (under President Carter). "As secretary of state, though, I think it will be much clearer where she is on some of those difficult issues, including the use of force, the preemption doctrine, including whether or not the United Nations is an institution to which we should be looking or we should just disregard it, as some in the administration have suggested," he added.

Analysts say she will have to deal with the same issues Colin Powell had to face such as the ongoing war in Iraq, the search for peace in the Middle East, nuclear non-proliferation and repairing the transatlantic alliance.

Former State Department official Daniel Hamilton says Ms. Rice faces another challenge.

"The internal diplomatic challenge she has is to come into the State Department after Colin Powell has left. Colin Powell's legacy, he will mostly be known for his internal diplomacy: that is, he brought new resources to the State Department. He gave the professional foreign service a feeling that he believed in them and was supporting their efforts. She does not come with that background," said Mr. Hamilton. "Colin Powell is a man of institutions: he commanded people, he knows how to shape government institutions whether Defense or State. She comes more as a lone individual and has a loyal tie to the President. She has not had that background in government bureaucracies. So her internal diplomatic challenge will be to get the State Department, the career service behind her."

Ms. Rice addressed that issue Monday when she accepted President Bush's nomination to be secretary of state. She said one of her highest priorities would be to ensure that the State Department personnel have all the tools necessary to carry American diplomacy forward in the 21st century.

Ms. Rice still faces confirmation by the Senate. Analysts say that is a foregone conclusion, since President Bush's Republican Party has a comfortable majority in Congress's upper house.