When I mentioned the other day that I wouldn’t want to see McCain choose Condoleeza Rice as as his running mate, it was because she says the kind of thing she’s been saying a lot since the Russians invaded Georgia. My initial reaction to all the the Secretary of State’s “Russia must withdraw from Georgia” pronouncements was that the Russians would respond, “You gonna make us? You and what army?” That’s why countries have big armies. The Romans knew that in the early days of their empire. So did the British and Americans in the early days of theirs and ours, respectively. All too many Americans, Dr. Rice among them, have forgotten this basic fact of political life. The Russians have not, as several scathing pieces about Rice in Pravda this week show. An August 18 Pravda article called “Is Condoleeza Rice stupid?” asks rhetorically,
Has the US Secretary of State got her cassette stuck? For a week now she has been reiterating the same phrase “Russian forces must leave Georgia now” and for a week now the world has been informed of Georgian war crimes against Russians in Ossetia. The war crimes happened, the Russians call the shots now, Ms. Rice. Like it or lump it.
This isn’t the first time Pravda has insulted Secretary Rice. A 2006 article in called “Condoleezza Rice’s anti-Russian stance based on sexual problems” quotes Vladimir Zhirinovsky as saying that Rice made anti-Russian statements
“because she is a single woman who has no children. She loses her reason because of her late single status.”
While I certainly do not agree with Zhirinovsky’s sexist and simplistic psychoanalysis of her, I have to say that there is one way in which having children might have helped Rice to understand the Russians better, and to realize that some people — like Russians and two-year-olds — see right through empty threats that aren’t backed up by swift and serious consequences. After we saw Will Farrell’s “Good Copy, Baby Cop” You Tube video, my husband and I started calling our daughter Tessie “The Lieutenant.” That kid was is a tough cookie. Some children are docile and agreeable. I was, according to my parents and all my relatives. My children aren’t. I have three (still too early to tell about the fourth) very strong-willed children. I suspect that Teddy “Speak softly and carry a big stick” Roosevelt may have had his political philosophy honed in the hard-knocks school of parenthood. TR is said to have said about his strong-willed daughter Alice, “I can be president of the United States or I can attend to Alice. I cannot possibly do both.”
Condoleeza Rice may not have had an Alice Roosevelt or a Theresa Russell to teach her that empty threats get you nowhere, but she could have learned the same lesson by reading Machiavelli or Sun Tzu. Either way, our nation’s highest diplomat ought to know better than to keep threatening loudly when all her sticks are busy in Iraq and Afghanistan.