I’m a student of history, so perhaps I have a little more patience with enormous change in the international system. It’s a big shifting of tectonic plates, and I don’t expect it to happen in a few days or even in a year. ~Condoleeza Rice
Via Fred Kaplan
Mr. Kaplan has been on a tear lately, giving Dobleve and Condi a considerable amount of grief over their bungled response to Lebanon. He has a great collection of Condi’s History Moments, where she literally begins each thought with, “I’m a student of history…” To someone who actually studies history, people who say, “I’m a student of history” come off sounding as ignorant as people who say, “But some of my best friends are…” sound, well…you get the picture. It’s like the manager from The Office assuring everyone that he has a plan to get them out of working weekends, when he’s just saying that to seem managerial. Condi says, “I’m a student of history” so she can seem intellectually respectable (and reassure a jittery crowd that at least somebody in that confounded administration has bothered to pay a little attention to history–not that it has made a bit of difference).
It is part of the administration’s style. Mr. Bush’s favourite riposte is usually the uninformative, “I just strongly disagree.” No reason, no explanation–he just disagrees, and that’s all you need to know, thanks very much. Rumsfeld will respond to every incisive, biting question by appearing flabbergasted that he has to put up with these whippersnapper reporters at his age and begins every sentence with a sigh and says, “Goodness, what sort of a question is that?” Classic stuff. Will we miss them when they’re gone? Well, no.
Kaplan digs in even deeper:
The point is, we see a pattern emerging, in which Condoleezza Rice (Ph.D., Graduate School of International Studies, University of Denver) invokes her academic credentials to evade responsibility for decisions that she’s made or for policies that she’s helped devise.
Was her administration’s strategy in Iraq disastrous? Well, she says, it may seem so now, but History may deem otherwise, may even regard the strategy as brilliant. Did her administration err in letting Osama escape at Tora Bora? Oh, it’s a waste of time to pass judgment now; History will render a verdict after I’ve retired or died. Was it smart to let Israel escalate the war on Hezbollah? Patience, please; tectonic plates take weeks, months, years, decades, eons to settle.
It’s really a pity Fukuyama has jumped off the neoconservative ship, because he could really have fun with this crowd. Condi could say, “I’m a student of history…” and Fukuyama could chime in, with a girlish giggle, “Really? So am I! What direction do you think History is going? I think it’s going up.” Then they could debate–dialectically, of course–the merits of teleologically overdetermined theories of history and retire to the parlour for drinks while Lebanon burns. Let History be the judge of that.