01/22/05 — Ms. Rice: Cool in the hot seat

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Ms. Rice: Cool in the hot seat

Condoleezza Rice’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee left the impression that American foreign policy will be in good hands while she is secretary of state.

Ms. Rice, responding under considerable pressure to senators who were not always at their warmest and fuzziest, described U.S. policy clearly, simply and articulately.

Among the messages in her testimony were these:

•The United States will continue to react aggressively against terrorism.

•We will not leave Iraq until that country is able to defend itself against terrorism. And by all means, we will not announce a departure time to the murderous fanatics who are killing innocent people in Iraq. That would be dumb because they could use that information to further their own goals.

•We see a new opportunity to reach out to the Palestinians — as President Bush has always done — but the Palestinian Liberation Organization must do all it can to get control of militants who are killing Israeli civilians.

•We will not mollycoddle North Korea and Iran, belligerent nations that are suspected of trying to manufacture nuclear weapons. She listed what she described as other “outposts of tyranny” — Cuba, Belarus, Zimbabwe and Myanmar, formerly Burma — and said they will get close attention.

•European nations like Germany that may now offer to help reconstruct Iraq are welcome to do so.

•America’s responses to 9/11, including the Afghan and Iraqi wars, have been difficult, but they have been “necessary and right.”

•The United States is reacting to the tsunami disaster in a way that will help show Muslims that we are not devils.

•We will seek to help stabilize democracies in South America and Central America to help stem the flow of drugs into the United States.

It is tempting to say that no one can argue with any of the goals that Ms. Rice laid out, but politics is politics and some people can argue with anything. One thing seems certain: If Ms. Rice can handle herself in foreign capitals as well as she did before the senators, her success is almost guaranteed.

Published in Editorials on January 22, 2005 11:08 PM