Dr. Condoleezza Rice Delivers Carfagno Lecture on Hawk Hill

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Nearly 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and on the 18th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice spoke to the Saint Joseph’s community and guests about the importance of a shared narrative and global partnerships.

“If America is not a confident America, then it isn’t going to be prepared to reenage in an international system,” said Rice, who had served as President George W. Bush’s national security advisor at the time of the 9/11 attacks before becoming the 66th U.S. Secretary of State from 2005 to 2009. Speaking about the current political divide that puts our current democracy at risk and erodes our confidence as a global power, she noted, “When I’m asked about what keeps me up at night, it’s not Iranians, it’s not the North Koreans. It’s us.”

Rice and co-author, Dr. Philip Zelikow of the University of Virginia, shared professional reflections and discussed their new book, To Build A Better World: Choices To End The Cold War And Create A Global Commonwealth with moderator Craig Snyder, president of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, as part of the Evelyn S. and Anthony M. ’60 Carfagno Endowed Lecture Series at Saint Joseph’s University. The series is designed to promote civic engagement and thought leadership by providing informative, engaging discussion, directed by experts in the field. 

At the event, University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., welcomed 1,500 guests and led a moment of silence for the victims who had lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, including three alumni. 

“Tonight’s discussion explores topics as relevant today as they were 30 years ago with the fall of the Berlin Wall … global tensions, societal and cultural shifts and diplomacy among world leaders,” Reed said. “We are so fortunate to have Former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice and esteemed Professor of History Philip Zelikow discuss with us their fascinating book and the intricate details they have uncovered and analyzed about a defining time in contemporary world history.” 

Rice and Zelikow examined some of the decisions world leaders faced during the former Soviet Union’s decline, how those decisions reshaped foreign policy and current U.S. relations abroad.

Snyder began the evening’s conversation by asking Rice and Zelikow why the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unification of Germany and the dissolution of the Soviet Union happened peacefully and did not result in  war.

“It was a close call, and we wrote the book to remind people that it was a close call,” Zelikow said. “It was peaceful because a number of leaders all shared some common principles. They all looked at the dangers of war and each stage they were making very  consistent choices. They chose against the violent option because they thought maybe there was a better way.”

Rice and Zelikow also reflected on the actions of American leaders who provided support to their allies during and after the Cold War.

“We also have to remember it was the patience of the United States for 45 years to stick by Europe until 1990,” Rice said. 

The conversation also centered on whether, in a post 9/11 world, the United States has focused far too much on the threat of terrorism and far too little on the reemergence of pre-WWI style great power rivalry  — with challenges, even threats, from China, Russia, Iran, and the unending risk of war between India and Pakistan.

“[Secretary Rice] experienced this in a way that is very difficult for anyone else to understand. I was close enough to see it, but I wasn’t where she was sitting,” Zelikow said. “Here is the point that I make: Our college students don’t have a living experience of 9/11 the way we do. You didn’t have a choice after 9/11 about whether you were going to concentrate on that problem and anyone here that was old enough to remember what America felt like after 9/11 knows that there was no choice. America was at war. It was a real war and it had come home. Any president was going to have to worry about how to make America safe.”

In the days following 9/11 the top priority was to protect the county, remembered Rice. 

“It’s not that the administration didn’t try to do other things. We did have an agenda with China that we thought was bringing China closer into the international system, working with the Chinese on the North Korean issue. We signed with the Russians a major strategic agreement called the Moscow Treaty … We launched and tried to carry out Israeli and Palestinian peace. Ultimately, we were unable to get there, but we tried to do that,” Rice said. “China was going to rise for a lot of reasons … but not because the president was focused on terrorism.”

Rice said the most interesting competition is the “technological decoupling” currently happening between the United States and China.

Zelikow said they wrote the book because they saw “America drifting into another time of grave, systematic crisis and war.”

“If you read the book, this is a story in which things worked out really well for America because it’s full of partnerships [with other nations],” he said. “If you want to change the world, if you want to build a better world, you have to do it through partnerships.”


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