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Will George

What to Ask the Nominee

By George F. Will
Wednesday, November 17, 2004; Page A27

Condoleezza Rice, a sports buff, knows that, as a professional basketball player has said, "It's not going to be peaches and gravy all the time." Herewith some hard questions senators might ask in her confirmation hearings:

Did you see the television coverage of Yasser Arafat's funeral -- riot as mourning, gunfire as liturgy? Is it reasonable to expect that in the Jan. 9 elections to choose Arafat's successor, the Palestinian polity will select what the president called (June 24, 2002) a necessary condition for progress -- leadership "not compromised by terror"?

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The president says it is "cultural condescension" to question "whether this country, or that people, or this group, are 'ready' for democracy." Condescending, perhaps, but is it realistic? Tony Blair says it is a "myth" that "our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture." Are there cultural prerequisites for free polities? Does Iraq have them? Do the Palestinian people, after a decade of saturation propaganda inciting terrorism and anti-Semitism? Does the United States know how to transplant those prerequisites?

Should the Sunnis, Iraq's tyrants for decades, be allowed, by boycott or insurgency, to delay the Jan. 31 elections?

If, knowing what we now know about Iraq's weapons programs, you still think preemptive war was justified, what other nations might, by the same criteria, merit preemptive action?

Is the Constitution's war power clause (Article I, Section 8: "The Congress shall have power to . . . declare war") an anachronism? If so, why? If not, to what sort of situation might it pertain? In January 1991 the Senate voted 52 to 47 to authorize President George H.W. Bush to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Would a formal declaration of war have been appropriate? If the Senate had defeated the authorizing resolution, and Bush had gone to war anyway, would that have been a legitimate exercise of an inherent power of the presidency? If so, return to the first question (re: anachronism).

If you had been secretary in 1991, would you have advocated regime change -- driving on to Baghdad?

In 1991 the secretary of defense, explaining the lack of wisdom of regime change, said: "Once you've got Baghdad, it's not clear what you do with it. It's not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that's currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it's set up by the United States military when it's there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?" Was Dick Cheney right?

In 2000, before becoming George W. Bush's national security adviser, you questioned the use of U.S. military forces in peacekeeping operations: "Carrying out civil administration and police functions is simply going to degrade the American capability to do the things America has to do. We don't need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten." Are current noncombat operations in Iraq degrading U.S. military capabilities?

You have said that it would be "unacceptable" for Iran or North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons. What, if anything, does that commit the United States to do if negotiations continue to be unavailing? Or if, as some intelligence reports suggest, North Korea already has several such weapons?

Does the Genocide Convention require a more forceful response to the ongoing genocide in Darfur or is it, like the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, which outlawed war many wars ago, a waste of paper?

Should the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China) be changed? Should France (population 60 million) be included rather than India (1 billion -- soon to be the world's most populous nation), Indonesia (238 million, the world's largest Islamic nation), Brazil (184 million, the most populous nation in Latin America) or Japan (127 million, and the world's second-largest economy)?

The European Union, the product of "pooled" national sovereignties, will soon have its own foreign policy, foreign minister, embassies, ambassadors and diplomatic service. Why not replace France with a single E.U. representative?

When, during the Second World War, Winston Churchill criticized Charles de Gaulle's intransigence, de Gaulle replied, "I am too weak to be conciliatory." Does this partially explain some European attitudes toward U.S. policies?

Such questions are difficult, but there will also be peaches and gravy.

georgewill@washpost.com


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