Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Mark N. Katz’

I’ve been waiting for years now for one of Condoleezza Rice’s biographers to interview me about her, but so far none of them has.  Well, I’m not going to wait any longer.  I’m going to reveal everything I know.

I must admit, though, that I don’t actually have all that much to reveal.  Those hoping for salacious gossip, then, can stop reading this right now.  I’ll just relate what little I do know about her.

We met in the summer of 1977 at the State Department in Washington, D.C.  She and I—along with two other graduate students—had been selected for summer internships in the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  I can’t remember the names of the other two interns—both male—but I do remember that one had just finished his first year at Cornell Law School while the other had just completed his first year at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

I had just finished my first year at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).  Condi, by contrast, had already earned an M.A. and had spent two years in the Ph.D. program at the University of Denver’s Graduate School of International Studies.  Thus, although we were all about the same age (indeed, Condi and I were born just three days apart), she was definitely senior to us.

We four interns spent quite a lot of time together that summer.  I remember that we regularly met for lunch in the State Department cafeteria (which was not nearly as nice then as it is now) where we would earnestly discuss the issues of the day among ourselves, other interns, and (if we were lucky) career State Department employees from the various offices we worked in.  Sometimes we would go to the official State Department press briefing (which, we soon learned, was a lot less exciting to see live than as snippets on the nightly news).

We also spent a lot of time together because the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs arranged briefings for us with each of its many component offices.  In addition, there were lots of other seminars outside our Bureau that we attended.  These attracted a much larger audience of State Department employees and interns.  (There were many other interns at State besides us that summer, but we four felt special because our Bureau was one of the very few that actually paid its interns.)

The four of us would sometimes meet on evenings and weekends too—again, for more earnest conversation about foreign policy issues.  I forget all the places we went to together.  Once, though, Condi and the other two interns came to a party I threw for my SAIS friends at the Georgetown townhouse where I was housesitting.

But all this, I hear you saying impatiently, is not what you want to know.  “What was she like?” is the question you are interested in.  Well, I recall her as being intelligent, serious, conservative, and religious, but also as being funny and just a little quirky.  She once declared that she had adopted the city of Cincinnati, and sang its praises to us.  I was surprised that she knew so much about football (whereas I think she was surprised that I knew so little about it).  She was especially enthusiastic about the music of Stevie Wonder.

There are two episodes about her from that summer that stand out in my memory.  The first came relatively soon after we four interns started at State.  Two of us (including me) were assigned to Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (which we soon learned to refer to by its State Department organizational code:  CU) offices in the Main State Department building.  Another was assigned to the CU Legal Affairs office in a State Annex building across the Potomac in Rosslyn, VA.  Condi was assigned to CU/Arts, which was located in a State Annex building a couple of blocks north of Main State.

I remember going over there once to see her.  She was not happy.  Where she sat was dark and stuffy (due, perhaps, to this building’s managers being more zealous than those at Main State about enforcing the newly arrived Carter Administration’s insistence on saving money through minimizing the use of air conditioning and electricity).  She was also much less interested in the subject matter of this office than in Soviet and East European affairs (we figured that they had put her in CU/Arts for no better reason than that she played the piano).  And she wanted to be where the action was in Main State, and not this awful little Annex.

A few days later, a triumphant Condi announced to her fellow CU interns that she had arranged to be transferred from CU/Arts to CU/EE (Eastern Europe) in Main State, just across the hall from me in CU/EA (East Asia).  We were amazed.  It never even occurred to me that any of us could ask for a transfer and actually receive one.  I realized from this episode that not only was she ambitious, but that she also had the ability to achieve her ambitions—a sign of things to come!

The second episode occurred later on that summer.  The four of us—along with what appeared to be hundreds of others—attended an in-house address by the Deputy Secretary of State, Warren Christopher.  I recall that Condi and I were sitting next to each other toward the back of the room.  During the question-and-answer session after his talk, Condi and I were among the dozens of people who raised their hands over and over again in what seemed to be the increasingly forlorn hope that the Deputy Secretary would call on one of us to pose a question.  Finally—and I believe it was for the last question of the session—he called upon her (and not me).

I cannot recall anything about what she asked or what he answered.  But years later, it occurred to me that their exchange had been a conversation between two future Secretaries of State (Christopher would serve in this capacity for President Clinton).

And I couldn’t help but wonder:  If he had called upon me instead of her, would history have been different?

Read Full Post »

I spent almost two years from the latter part of 1979 to the latter part of 1981 writing my Ph.D. dissertation on Soviet military thinking about conflict in the Third World during the Brezhnev era. A revised version of the dissertation was published in 1982 as a book (my first!): The Third World in Soviet Military Thought.

Because this was a topic of great importance at the time, my book received a fair amount of attention when it first came out. After Gorbachev began the Soviet withdrawal from the Third World, however, the subject of this book became less important. And with the collapse of the Soviet Union as well as the Yeltsin-era retreat from engagement in the Third World, the book became largely irrelevant for understanding ongoing international relations.

Putin, of course, has pursued a more active foreign policy toward what used to be known as the Third World, but not really a more active military one. To my amazement, though, a paperback version of The Third World in Soviet Military Thought was published in June 2013. However, with a list price of $44.95, I don’t anticipate that there will be many who will buy and read it.

But I did. It seemed like a journey back to a distant time. The book focuses on subjects that were of importance to Soviet military thinkers then. Many of these—such as the categorization of wars in ideological terms (including wars between imperialism and socialism, civil wars between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, wars between bourgeois states, national liberation wars)—now appear quaint and irrelevant for understanding today’s (and perhaps even yesterday’s) world.

There was, however, one theme discussed back then by Soviet military thinkers that impressed me as being highly relevant for understanding certain conflicts now—especially the one in Syria. Some of the Brezhnev era Soviet military thinkers were making a genuine effort to accurately understand the new types of conflict that were then occurring. One of these they termed: wars between the people and a regime of extreme reaction. What they understood about these conflicts between a dictatorial regime and its opponents was that they were not conflicts between two parties, but among three. Here’s what I wrote in my book’s conclusion about the implications of their envisioning these conflicts in this way:

“In wars between the people and a regime of extreme reaction…[b]oth communists and non-communists united to fight the dictatorship, with each group hoping later to establish its preferred form of government (dictatorship of the proletariat or republican democracy). The communists in such a civil war may well initially be a relatively small and weak group compared to the non-communists fighting the dictatorship. However…the communists stand a good chance of eventually coming to power despite their initially weak position. For while the United States is supporting the dictatorship, the Soviet Union will support the communists, making them stronger compared to the non-communist opposition….When the dictatorship eventually falls, the communists are often in a position to take power since they have received outside support from the USSR and its allies while the non-communists have received nothing…. Either of these could come to power, and so Soviet support of the communists increases the communists’ chances of actually doing so. The Americans, of course, also have the opportunity of supporting the non-communist opposition, but because of the rigidity of American thinking, the U.S. does not do this. This is an error that the Soviets can take advantage of.” (pp. 129-30)

While re-reading what I had written over thirty years ago, it struck me that the same logic—with updated terms—could be used for understanding the current conflict in Syria: In wars between the people and a regime of extreme reaction, both radicals and moderates unite to fight the dictatorship, with each group hoping later to establish its preferred form of government (radical Islamist rule or some form of democracy). The radicals in such a civil war may well initially be a relatively small and weak group compared to the moderates fighting the dictatorship. However, the radicals stand a good chance of eventually coming to power despite their initially weak position. For while some external forces are supporting the dictatorship, others will support the radicals, making them stronger compared to the moderate opposition. When the dictatorship eventually falls, the radicals are often in a position to take power since they have received outside support from their allies while the moderates have received nothing. Either of these could come to power, and so external support of the radicals increases their chances of actually doing so. The Americans, of course, also have the opportunity of supporting the moderate opposition, but because of the rigidity of American thinking, the U.S. does not do this. This is an error that the radicals can take advantage of.

There are, of course, some important differences between the conflicts that Soviet military thinkers were describing back in the 1970s and Syria now. Back then, it was the U.S. supporting regimes of extreme reaction whereas now it is Russia and Iran who are doing so. Also back then, it was the Soviets and their allies who were supporting the radical opposition whereas now it is Sunnis outside Syria that are doing so. But both then and now, the U.S. did or is doing little or nothing to support the moderate opposition.

There are other similarities between then and now: the U.S. was and is reticent to support the moderates for fear that they may actually be radicals. External radical forces, by contrast, always seem able to distinguish between their allies and rivals within the internal opposition fighting against the dictatorship.

Studying what Brezhnev era Soviet military thinkers had to say about conflicts between the people and a regime of extreme actions has lessons that both Washington and Moscow would do well to heed.

For Washington: If external support goes to the radical opposition but not to the moderate opposition, then the radical opposition will be in a stronger position to take power after the dictatorship falls.

For Moscow: Supporting regimes of extreme reaction is a losing proposition since (as Brezhnev era Soviet military thinkers clearly understood) they are “doomed to failure.”

And for both: Moscow’s support for a regime doomed to failure and America’s unwillingness to support the moderate opposition in Syria only increases the likelihood that it is the radical opposition that will eventually prevail there.

Finally, I cannot help but note: since at least part of this 1982 book of mine does seem to be useful for understanding the present, surely it was prescient of my publisher to bring it out in paperback now!

Read Full Post »