Rice Faults U.S.’ Mideast Focus

Daily News Article   —   Posted on December 16, 2008

(by Betsy Pisik, WashingtonTimes.com) UNITED NATIONS – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered a subtle mea culpa at the United Nations on Monday – saying the U.S. may have contributed to a “freedom deficit” in the Middle East by not pushing harder for democratic reforms.

“We are more secure when democracy is on the march, and more vulnerable when it is not,” Miss Rice told reporters.

She said that U.S. partners usually shared American-style values, but “not in the Middle East, where we focused on stability at the expense of values.”

“We didn’t talk much about democracy in the Middle East. As a result, we probably contributed to what the Arab Human Development Report called a ‘freedom deficit’ in the Middle East.”

She was referring to a 2002 report by the U.N. Development Program, which compiled statistics on literacy, democracy, women’s rights, knowledge sharing, poverty abatement and other virtues.

It found that by most indicators, the Arab world lagged behind Europe, Latin America and much of Asia.

Miss Rice’s news conference Monday followed a meeting of the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators.

Quartet members – the U.S., Russia, European Union and the United Nations – said in a statement that a peace effort begun in November at a conference in Annapolis should continue.

“These negotiations should be intensified in order to put an end to the conflict and to establish as soon as possible the state of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel,” the group said in a statement.

It condemned “indiscriminate attacks” on Israel and urged Palestinians to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism.

It also urged Israel to freeze all settlement activities.

Miss Rice began her stint as secretary of state in 2005 with a trip to Egypt, in which she vowed to reverse U.S. policy in the region dating to World War II.

“For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither,” Miss Rice said in a speech at the American University in Cairo at the time.

“Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people,” she said. At the time, Egypt was preparing for elections and the U.S. was pressing for the introduction of multiparty democracy.

Nearly four years later, Miss Rice is making what is most likely her final visit to the United Nations as America’s top diplomat.

Her agenda includes the Middle East, a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe and piracy off the coast of Somalia.

On Monday, she joined U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and foreign ministers from Russia and the European Union to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We have been working closely to accelerate the peace process,” Mr. Ban said afterward.

“With our Arab partners, I’m sure we will continue to promote the acceleration of the Arab peace initiative even after the transitions of governments in the United States and Israel and Palestine.”

Mr. Ban was referring to a Saudi Arabian proposal in which Arab nations would establish former ties with Israel if Israel returns to its pre-1967 borders.

The Quartet members also met with representatives of the Arab League, composed of Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The Security Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a U.S.-sponsored resolution supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as the administration of President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take over.

Elections in Israel and the Palestinian territories are slated early next year.

Copyright 2008 News World Communications, Inc.  Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times.  This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization.  Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com.


Questions

1.  a) Define mea culpa.
b)  During a news conference at the United Nations, for what reasons did Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice say that the U.S. may be partly to blame for a “freedom deficit” in the Middle East?

2.  What is the Arab Human Development Report?

3.  What conclusions were made in the Arab Report?

4.  At the U.N., Secretary Rice also met with the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators, made up of representatives from the U.S., Russia, European Union and the U.N.  The Quartet stated that the latest peace effort between Israel and the Palestinians begun in November should continue.  Their statement also said that “These negotiations should be intensified in order to put an end to the conflict and to establish as soon as possible the state of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel.”  Do you think this proposal is a possibility, or mere diplomatic talk?  Explain your answer.

5.  The goal of the Arab League is to “draw closer the relations between member States and co-ordinate collaboration between them, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries.” The Arab League currently has 22 members.  List the member states mentioned in the article.

6.  Do you agree with Secretary Rice that the U.S. could be blamed for a “freedom deficit” in the Middle East?  Explain your answer.  Discuss this question with a parent.


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Background

The Executive Branch and the Congress have constitutional responsibilities for U.S. foreign policy. Within the Executive Branch, the Department of State is the lead U.S. foreign affairs agency, and the Secretary of State is the President’s principal foreign policy adviser. The Department advances U.S. objectives and interests in shaping a freer, more secure, and more prosperous world through its primary role in developing and implementing the President’s foreign policy. The Department also supports the foreign affairs activities of other U.S. Government entities including the Department of Commerce and the Agency for International Development (USAID). It also provides an array of important services to U.S. citizens and to foreigners seeking to visit or immigrate to the U.S.

Resources

Read more about the U.S. State Department and its head – the Secretary of State, at state.gov.

Read about Condoleezza Rice and her policies as Secretary of State at state.gov/secretary.

Read about the Quartet at wikipedia.org.