He Taught Condi Rice--And He's Appalled at Her Support for the Iraq War

Roundup: Historians' Take

Diane Carman, in the Denver Post (April 9, 2004):

Back when Condoleezza Rice was one of Arthur N. Gilbert's students, the University of Denver was a very different school. 'It was like 'Cheers,'' he said, 'a place where everybody knew your name.'

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's father, Josef Korbel, was the esteemed director of the international studies program and the reason Rice changed her major from music to political science.

So even 23 years after he reviewed her Ph.D. dissertation on military organizations in Eastern Europe, Gilbert, an associate professor in the DU Graduate School of International Studies, said he still has 'a very good sense of who she is.'

On Thursday morning, as he watched her testify before the 9/11 commission, Gilbert found himself 'sitting there smiling.'

'She always had such a sense of presentation. She was very well-prepared, well- dressed and made-up, not a hair out of place. Some things never change.'

But Gilbert is puzzled by what has become of this bright, diligent student.

It's not that she is national security adviser to the president that surprises him. Or even that she is a Republican.

It's that he believes she has failed to heed the lessons of the past. To a historian, this is unconscionable.

When the Bush administration exploited the nation's anxiety over 9/11 to justify invading Iraq, Gilbert said, 'it was the worst foreign policy decision made in living memory.

'It worries me that with all this focus on 9/11, it's taking the grave situation in Iraq off the front page,' he said, referring to the hearings. 'Iraq is a catastrophe beyond measure.'

The fact that Rice is capable of defending the decision to go to war is a 'terrible failure of education, of picking up what your education should have led you to.'

Whether Rice shared the neoconservatives' obsession with Iraq or was just being a 'good soldier,' Gilbert said, Iraq will be her disastrous legacy.

'It was such a horrendous mistake, knowing what she should have known. Unstable countries are far more dangerous than dictators,' he said.

'How could you have missed what happened in Iran in 1979? How could you not understand that if Iraq implodes like Iran did, you're not making peace, you're making war?'

Gilbert said that through its war with Iraq, the U.S. has achieved what was long considered impossible: We have managed to unite the Shiites and the Sunnis, who have hated each other for decades.

'They are united against a common enemy: us.

'This is idiocy.'

And Gilbert, who is a Democrat, called John Kerry's pronouncements about internationalizing the war 'eerie nothings.'

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