No Higher Honor, A Memoir of My Years in Washington, Condoleezza Rice, Crown Publishers, NY, 2011

Condoleezza Rice - Nation of Turks

The book opens with a two-page map of the Middle East extending to Pakistan on the east and Sudan in the south and an enlarged map of Israel in the corner. And yet the book is by the Secretary of State of the United States, Condoleezza Rica, from Birmingham, Alabama, who now teaches at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.  She was the 66th U.S. Secretary of State of Bush administration from 2001 to 2008, following her services as the national security advisor, first woman to hold such a position. She is also the author of a book, “Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family.”

Checking the index and looking for entrees on Turkey out of habit, I saw there was a reference to Ataturk on page 331, but not to the leader himself, but to his photograph in the prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Office, which Rice portrays as rather a dark place with heavy red curtains and surrounded by photographs of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, also commenting, “I had a momentary sense that Turkey is indeed not quite European.” Rice also writes at the beginning of the chapter that “Recep Tayyip Erdogan was somewhat harder to read.”

Rice writes about Kemalism as a doctrine of secularism which has allowed Turkey to modernize but not to fully democratize. She also writes that the newly elected AKP (Justice and Development Party) allowed the Islamic leaders to take the reins, although insisting that they had no intention of turning Turkey into a theocracy but wanted to rebalance the society and give religious expression and religious people a place in the public square. Rice summarizes Turkish-American relations (p. 329-333), stating that Turkey was providing evidence that democracy and Islam could exist side by side.

As others have done, Rice also makes reference to Samuel Huntington, who she has gotten to know, and his book, “The Clash of Civilizations”, claiming that she read it twice. Rice writes about Huntington’s argument that “there was no such thing as universal values and that the Muslim world, among others, was an entity unto itself. That fact would eventually produce a clash, most likely violent, in which the Western principles of religious tolerance and secular politics would run headlong into political Islam. After 9/11 Sam Huntington sounded like a prophet.”

Condoleezza Rice has a lot in common with Henry A. Kissinger, whose advice she has sought, who has also written many books, including his memoires, “Years of Upheaval”. Now, like Kissinger, Rice has written a memoir drenched in details of the daily work of diplomacy, full of photographs with the world leaders, including one with Libyan leader Muammer Qaddafi, killed during the recent action against Libya, except none with a Turkish leader.

Condoleezza Rice served as the Secretary of State from 2001 to 2008. He was picked by President Bush, who has also written his memoirs, “The Decision Points.” Interestingly Bush memoirs open with the chapter on his drinking habits. Other cabinet members have also written their memoirs:  Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell, first serving as the Chairman of Joint Chiefs. Colin Powell’s book, “My American Journey” opens with several pages of photographs, starting with his modest beginnings in Jamaica. This is the team that launched the war against Iraq and Afghanistan and witnessed the 9/11 attack that changed the course of history and the view of Islam in the West, as Rice writes in her memoirs.

A very interesting book to read, all 766 pages, which includes a partial list of sources for the book.

Yuksel Oktay, 10 January 2011