Vulnerable States a Key Concern of U.S. Policy, Rice Says

Secretary of state ties the problem to need for U.N. reform

Washington -- The downside of globalization and trans-nationalism is that weak regimes are more easily taken advantage of, including by terrorists, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says.

"[I]f sovereignty is breaking down or if the ability to control those aspects and those elements that we associate with sovereignty [are] breaking down, then you're very vulnerable," Rice said in a July 25 interview with The American Interest magazine.

Whether one discusses Liberia, Haiti, Sudan, Iraq or Afghanistan, Rice said, "the same issues keep coming up. These are states without reliable police forces, for instance. They are states without a reliable system of border and customs management. They are states that haven't quite yet figured out a number of the economic issues that they have to deal with. I mean, it's just capacity, capacity, capacity and it's the same issues time and time again. … And we haven't been organized to help them do it."

The State Department's Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization, started a year ago, represents a U.S. effort to build capacity in such countries, she said.

Becausethere are different stages that states go through, particularly in a post-conflict situation, some kind of international coordinating mechanism is needed, Rice said. States newly emerged from conflict need immediate help in some areas, medium-term help in others, and longer-term help as well, she said.

"And I'm really hopeful. It's one of the issues of this peace-building commission that the U.N. is talking about as a part of U.N. reform … how do you get that immediate help into the field. It's one of the reasons that we've pushed so hard that you've got to have broad U.N. reform, and not just U.N. Security Council reform," she said.

Asked to respond to criticism that the U.S. policy of promoting democracy worldwide could perhaps lead to elected authoritarian and extremist regimes, Rice said much more is meant by democratization than just elections. It also includes building the institutions of civil society, as well as creating a civic culture.

"But I also reject the notion that because democracy is hard and because there are risks associated with democratization" that it isn't worth making the effort, Rice said. Her rejoinder is to ask: What, then, is the alternative? "Is it continued authoritarianism? Well, that hasn't gotten us very far, particularly in the Middle East ….

"I would have two answers," Rice said: "first, it's certainly better than anything else that we can point to and secondly, what's the alternative?"

The secretary also answered questions concerning controversial U.S. foreign policy decisions, the legacy of supporting authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere over much of the 20th century, the end of the Cold War and the change in U.S.-Russian relations, and how to incorporate economic issues -- particularly energy -- into diplomacy.

The transcript of Rice's is available on the State Department Web site.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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