Condoleezza Rice’s Blind Ambition

Right now, the first line of Condoleezza Rice’s resume is that as national security adviser, she drank the neocon Kool-Aid and spouted bad intelligence leading to the Iraq war. Interviewed by PBS’s Frontline for the on-line documentation of its “Dark Side” documentary, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, tries to explain Rice’s failure:

We had a one-word description of the National Security Council… and that one word was “dysfunctional” ….

I asked myself many times: “How that could be? How could a woman as competent as Dr. Rice seemed to be—indeed, Secretary Powell had told me she was a sort of a protégé of his—[head up an organization that] could be so dysfunctional?” … I’d say simply she had her eye on the prize, and the prize was a Cabinet position—and a particular Cabinet position, secretary of state—and as national security adviser, one works one’s ambitions to achieve that position.

I’m not saying that in a pejorative sense. That’s the way people work, more by establishing an intimacy with the president than by bringing discipline and balance to a decision-making process, because when you bring discipline and balance to a decision-making process, you oftentimes have to make an enemy of people—of the vice president, for example; you have to make an enemy of the secretary of defense; and on occasion you may even have to speak truth to power with regard to the president of the United States….

If your main goal is building intimacy… when it comes time to discipline the process, when it comes time to make the process work, So when it comes time to tolerate dissent and allow balance into the discussions, you don’t always side for that discipline and that balance, but you get your job.