Secretary Rice made a surprise visit to Iraq, stopping first in the north for a meeting with the Kurdish leadership and then traveling on to Baghdad.
Her primary goal, it would appear, is to support the legitimacy of the current elected government while encouraging the Kurds and Shiites to be as inclusive as possible with the Sunnis. Her visit serves two other purposes as well: to remove the spotlight from the recent bombings and refocus world attention on building a democratic Iraq, thereby reducing the media influence of the militants, and to buttress work being done on an acceptable constitution.
The recent anti-US protests in the Islamic world, especially over the faulty Newsweek reporting of Gitmo religious abuses (See Bill Roggio's excellent piece today on how this plays right into al-Qaeda field manuals of detention) only makes the Secretary's visit more timely and important.
Before an audience of American and Iraqis working in Baghdad's green zone, she said:
"People don’t want to be suicide bombers, people don’t want to be suicide hijackers, but somehow the ideologies of hatred in this region have become so great that human beings have been willing to do that to other human beings. The answer to that, as the President has said, is to give people a chance at freedom and liberty. And for many many years, the United States, along with the rest of the free world, believed somehow that people in this region didn’t care about freedom. We cared about stability, and what we got was neither freedom nor stability. We got a malignancy that was growing, that came to haunt us on that fine September day.
Now as we work with the people of Iraq to develop a strong and vibrant and vital democracy here in the heart of the Middle East, we can do so assured that these values are universal. There is no point on the Earth where people do not want to be able to say what they think, where people do not want to be able to worship as they please, where people do not want to educate their children, boys and girls, and where people do not want to be free of the knock of the secret police at night.
Those are universal values, and America has always been at its best when it is securing, and providing for, and bringing those values to the rest of the world. Because you know something, when freedom is on the march, America is more secure, and when freedom is in retreat, America is more vulnerable."
While many in the press may see her words as platitudes and the usual diplomatic verbiage, there is a great deal of wisdom in these words. She takes Cold War American and Western foreign policy to task for promoting stability over a moral expansion of liberty for all, not just the former Communist regimes. She rightly claims we received neither stability nor greater security. America is at its best "when it is securing, and providing for" freedom throughout the world.
In answering questions from Al Iraqiyah, Dr. Rice restated America's intent to see the job through:
"The President has always said that we do not have an exit strategy; we have a success strategy. And the success strategy is when Iraqi forces are strong enough to defend this young democracy. The Iraqi Government has said -- first the interim government and now this government -- that it needs the help of the international community at this point, it needs international forces to fight off the terrorists and to help defend Iraq.
But we want to stay only as long as we are needed. I can assure you that it is the goal of the United States and of other coalition forces to train Iraqi security forces so that Iraq can take care of its own security."
US credibility is strengthened when America promotes, defends and stands by its principles and founding ideals. The Bush Administration is putting action behind its diplomacy, and Secretary Rice is doing an excellent job conveying this important vision around the globe.