- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2000

In early 1981, Condoleezza Rice, then a 26-year-old fellow at Stanford University, gave a talk on the Soviet military.
Having just received a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Denver, she was planning to leave Stanford at the end of the school year and find an entry-level teaching job at a mid-size college. Stanford's political science department had made it clear that it didn't need another Soviet specialist it already had three.
But soon after that talk, Miss Rice became the fourth. One of the country's leading academic institutions, Stanford was eager to diversify its faculty, and would go out of its way, if necessary, to create a slot for a woman or a minority in a nontraditional field. Miss Rice, a black woman, was both.
"I suspect, and I've had confirmation since, that they thought this was an opportunity to reach out," Miss Rice said in an interview earlier this year.
"But I was told that when I came up for reappointment in three years no one would care about diversity and if I hadn't made the grade, I'd be gone."
Since then, Miss Rice, 46, has been the first black woman in just about any job she's taken on: from director of Soviet and Eastern European affairs on President Bush's National Security Council when she was only 34, to Stanford's provost, managing a nearly $2 billion budget.
Yesterday, President-elect George W. Bush named her his national security adviser, the first woman to hold that position, and the second black after Colin Powell, who held the post briefly at the end of the Reagan presidency. Mr. Bush nominated Mr. Powell Saturday to be secretary of state.
A pro-choice, centrist Republican, Miss Rice, now a professor of political science and senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, belongs to the camp of realists and balance-of-power advocates in the Republican Party.
During Mr. Bush's campaign, she headed his team of foreign-policy advisers, nicknamed the Vulcans, which provided her with very close access to the candidate.
George Shultz, Mr. Reagan's secretary of state and a Bush adviser, said Miss Rice was a very good manager. "I think people don't know what a nice, decent, straightforward person she is," he said. "That makes her a pleasure to work with."
Miss Rice is also an engaging speaker and skilled communicator, able to deliver speeches based on quickly scribbled notes.
"Playing the piano helped her become a consummate performer," said Michael McFaul, a former student of Miss Rice, now himself a Stanford professor and Russia specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"I may disagree with what she says, but I never have a vociferous reaction to it. I always think about a point of view I may not have considered before," he said.
Although lacking the star power Mr. Powell commands, Miss Rice has attracted considerable attention over the past year by daring comments about America's role in the world.
She denounced the Clinton administration's approach to foreign policy for elevating humanitarian values to the level of national interests.
She has said that peacekeeping and humanitarian work are taking a toll on morale and readiness in the U.S. military, which make it difficult for the armed forces to prepare for major wars.
In October, she announced that Mr. Bush plans to tell NATO that the United States should no longer participate in peacekeeping in the Balkans, signaling a major new division of labor in the Western alliance.
"Carrying out civil administration and police functions is simply going to degrade the American capability to do the things America has to do," she told the New York Times.
"We don't need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten."
Critics countered that U.S. withdrawal from the Balkans would jeopardize NATO's future and would diminish Washington's role in European security.
"The allies would become even more reluctant to consider joint military operations with the United States beyond the continent," Robert Hunter, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, wrote in an op-ed article in October.
The U.S. peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Kosovo totals 11,400, according to the Pentagon, less than one-fifth of the 65,000 NATO troops deployed.
Washington allocated $3.5 billion this year for Balkan peacekeeping, slightly more than 1 percent of the Pentagon's annual $280 billion budget.
Miss Rice has also commented on other thorny issues. During a lecture on American foreign policy at Tel Aviv University in August, she said that Mr. Bush intends to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, although the transfer would not be immediate.
In July, she told London's Daily Telegraph that Britain would be welcomed into the North American Free Trade Agreement.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook dismissed the notion of Britain joining NAFTA a move currently banned by European Union regulations.
Even though realpolitik is one of her "favorite words," Miss Rice said the United States is not "a traditional realpolitik power, because we don't have any territorial claims."
But, she said, the United States "has been active in international affairs."
"I explain that with an idealistic view and our belief to promote peace, economic prosperity and democracy. The question is how you do that.
"You have to recognize that there is something called power in the international system, and just speaking of a good set of ideals won't get you there. You have to be able to exercise power smartly, and that means not always trying to use it."
As well as her active role in Mr. Bush's campaign, the recent interest in Miss Rice has been inspired by what many have labeled an "amazing" life story that began in the segregated Birmingham, Ala., of the 1950s.
Miss Rice, known as Condi, said she is used to her achievements being called "incredible" and calls it the "Condi in Wonderland" phenomenon.
"I have a friend whose words for it are: 'My goodness, the monkey can read. It's amazing,' " she said.
"I'm a package. I'm 5-foot-8, black and female. I can't go back and repackage myself. I can't do an experiment to figure out whether any of this would have happened to me had I been white and male, or white and female, or black and male. So I spend no time worrying about it."
Philip Zelikow, Miss Rice's former White House colleague with whom she co-authored a highly acclaimed book on German reunification, dismissed the notion that some of her jobs might have been the result of affirmative action.
"Those jobs were too big and important to be just given out," he said.
Born in 1954, Miss Rice wasn't even 10 when the town became the epicenter of the civil rights movement in 1963.
"It was a very tough and violent year, and there were a lot of days we didn't go to school," she said.
In spite of the turbulent times, "the community bound together to make certain that opportunities were given to the kids."
Education was always a top priority in her family. Her father was a college administrator, her mother a schoolteacher. Her aunt has a Ph.D. in Victorian literature. "So I should have turned out the way I did," she remarked proudly.
In 1968, the family moved to Denver. In her Roman Catholic high school, young Condi, who had never had a white classmate before, was one of only three black students. As for her religion, she says she is a deeply religious evangelical Presbyterian.
She started college at the University of Denver at 15, and went through English literature and American politics in search of a field in which to major. A class she took in international affairs solved her problem.
She adored her professor, Josef Korbel, a former Czechoslovak diplomat who had fled both Nazism and communism and moved to the United States in 1948. Mr. Korbel took a personal interest in her. "He was a very engaging person, a great storyteller," she said.
Having spent decades in his country's diplomatic service, he gave her a rare perspective on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Mr. Korbel's daughter, 17 years Miss Rice's senior, is Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, also a Soviet specialist. Although Mr. Korbel taught both women the same lessons, one became a Democrat, the other a Republican.
"I know and like Madeleine very much," Miss Rice said. "You can have the same intellectual father and different outcomes, but there are some powerful core values that we share. On issues of how you use power, we probably don't agree."
In an interview, Mrs. Albright declined to comment on Miss Rice's performance as Mr. Bush's adviser, but said, "I laughed about the fact that we have the same [intellectual] father."
The two "withering" years Miss Rice spent as part of President Bush's national security team were probably the most dramatic and significant for American foreign policy in decades. The Cold War ended, Germany unified, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the United States and its allies won a war in the Persian Gulf.
"It was an exciting time," she said. "You could go to bed one night and wake up with some country having changed its social system overnight, with a new democracy to deal with."
She first met then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev aboard a storm-tossed ship during his 1989 Mediterranean summit with Mr. Bush. "It was initially hard for the Russians to accept me," Miss Rice recalled. "I never figured out whether it was because I was female, or black, or young. But by and large, they've managed to deal with it."
Her love for Russia she speaks the language fluently dates back long before her trips to Moscow as a White House official.
"There is something about certain cultures that you just take to," she said. "It's like love you can't explain why you fall in love. Culture is something you can adopt, and I have a great affinity for Russia. It certainly has nothing to do with my ethnic heritage."
Miss Rice said the biggest mistake of the present U.S. policy toward Russia is that "we got so wrapped up in Russian domestic politics we had a script of how things were going, and it was actually very far from the reality. We called 'reformers' people who were robbing the country blind."
"Let's get out of Russian domestic politics. Let's recognize the good things that are happening in Russia free elections, more or less free press and let's get back to the state-to-state great-power relationship in which we deal with the issues."
Miss Rice said she's not bothered by Mr. Bush's lack of international experience.
Good leadership is about much more than citing the names of foreign leaders, she said, referring to a pop quiz Mr. Bush failed during a media interview last fall.
What's important is "being capable of getting to the essence of a problem, being able to home in on what you need to know to make a decision," she said.
"I've never wanted somebody to be president so much," she said of the president-elect. "And it has nothing to do with me and my role, but with what he can do for the country."
Although she said she's "always taken life one step at a time," all her career moves seemed to be leading to a prominent job. Her job as provost at Stanford is equal to being CEO of a large company, said Mr. McFaul.
"The job is essentially making the trains run on time," Miss Rice said. "I like this hands-on, day-to-day, strategic problem-solving. What I learned helped me understand what it is to be an executive, and, by way of that, how presidents need to operate."
She said her career hasn't hampered her personal life.
"I'm not married, but I never met anybody I wanted to live with," she said. "I think I've maintained balance in my life. I'm not a workaholic; I'm pretty relaxed about things. I went back to playing the piano seriously four years ago. I exercise a lot and go to sporting events." She is a big sports fan and once dated a professional football player.
She has spent much of her free time over the past several years with her father, who moved to California after her mother died of cancer in 1985. She still remembers her parents' words of encouragement in Alabama, when she was a girl.
"I lived in a place where you couldn't go have a hamburger at a restaurant," she said, "but my parents were telling me I could be president."

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