Journalistic account of Condoleezza Rice’s tenure as Secretary of State from a veteran reporter who covered it for the Washington Post.
Although Rice is the focal point, this is really a history of the last three years in international affairs. Kessler delivers fly-on-the-wall coverage as the most powerful woman in the world travels the earth attempting to cool off global hotspots. His chatty chapter titles (“Rebirth in Paris,” “Passage to New Delhi,” Blowup Over Beirut”) belie a deeply reported analysis. Kessler paints Rice as a smart, sophisticated diplomat stuck between a bellicose administration and an increasingly restless global community. After 9/11, this scholar of Soviet Russia trained in the realist school of foreign policy suddenly adopted her president’s messianic worldview, favoring the promotion of democracy at the expense of all else. Her handlers try to position Rice for an eventual White House run, but Kessler argues that her tenure as Secretary has left the country in a far worse position than she found it. She failed, he argues, to articulate a serious vision for the future and is undercut by elements in the administration, such as Cheney and Rumsfeld, who favor a more isolationist approach. The book doesn’t cover very much new ground, instead providing an in-depth look at how decisions of world-historical importance get made. Those looking for gossipy speculation about what motivates the unmarried Rice, a child of Southern segregation turned Stanford provost, will be disappointed. Readers curious about what really happens when she sits across from her counterparts in Riyadh, Khartoum and Baghdad will find this up-the-minute account revealing.
Good for newcomers seeking insight into contemporary foreign policy.