Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was not much of a traveler as head of the State Department. This was reportedly due to his desire not to be away from the policy decisions being made by President Bush and by insiders Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Whatever the able Secretary Powell's reasons may have been, Secretary Condoleeza Rice, as the former head of the National Security Council, has President Bush's ear and feels free to travel abroad, as she is now doing.
"Asked by reporters whether the presents [joke pocket atlases she gave to the pool reporters] were a portent of heavy travel schedules for the new top U.S. diplomat, Rice smiled and replied: 'You will see.'"
The anecdote aside, Secretary Rice is willing to take US diplomatic goals abroad in order to make the Administration's case.
First Stop - London
The first leg of her trip was to London to confer with Prime Minister Tony Blair, the US's staunchest ally and America's bridge to the rest of Western Europe. First on her order of business was to clarify and press home the Adminstration's stance on Iran's nuclear program. The UK, along with France and Germany, have been attempting to reach a diplomatic solution with Iran, though Iran has continued to press its nuclear program nonetheless. Let's look at some of her comments:
"Today, asked after a meeting with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain if the United States might go further and actually attack Iran, Ms. Rice declared: 'The question is simply not on the agenda at this point - we have diplomatic means to do this.'
She added: 'We believe, particularly in regard to the nuclear issue, that while no one ever asks the American president to take all his options, any of his options, off the table, that there are plenty of diplomatic means at our disposal to get the Iranians to finally live up to their international obligations.'
'It is the Iranians that are isolated on this issue - not the United States,' Ms. Rice said."
Several items are important in this message and her visit. She chose, as her first trip abroad, to meet with PM Tony Blair. This signifies the importance the US puts on its "Special Relationship" with the UK. With respect to Iran, I believe the US is signaling its interest to allow the European allies to continue working for a diplomatic solution, and the US has kept from pressing the issue to the UN Security Council. However, it is important to read what was also said about the US not removing the option to respond militarily, nor was there any mention of Israel's possible response.
Does Secretary Rice's "we have diplomatic means to do this" imply the US is moving towards supporting the Iranians to bring about their own regime change from within? This quote (also from the same New York Times article) could be seen in that light.
"'I don't think anybody thinks that the unelected mullahs who run that regime are a good thing for the Iranian people or for the region,' Ms. Rice said to reporters on her plane to London. 'I think our European allies agree that the Iranian regime's human rights behavior and its behavior toward its own population is something to be loathed.'"
This approach, of outwardly encouraging the Iranians to bring about democracy, especially since the Persians have clearly seen democracy in action now next door in Iraq, is possibly the best solution.
This would lead towards true Iranian democracy without a bloody and long-lasting occupation.
I am anxious to hear what Secretary Rice will say in her next stop, Berlin.