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Cannonball Read IV: No Higher Honor by Condoleezza Rice

By lyndamk | Book Reviews | July 13, 2012 | Comments ()


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I left my Political Science Ph.D. program on 9/12/2001. I'll always be able to remember the day for an obvious reason, and for a host of reasons I was ready to start on a new path in life. I have to admit after so many years of living and breathing political science I was ready to bury my head in the sand for a bit (well, relatively speaking). So, Rice's book is about the first truly political book I've read in a long while. She covers her beginnings in the administration as the National Security Advisor and moves through her time as Secretary of State. It is a long path in a very tragic and troubling decade, but despite a few slow moments it is quite well-written and engaging.

It would have been difficult to be alive during the Bush administration and NOT be aware of most of her narrative. Her book goes in-depth on the obvious issues-War on Terrorism, war in Iraq, war in Afghanistan-even if we learn nothing much new. I was surprised she included a discussion of the antagonism between the Defense Department/Vice-President's camp on one side and pretty much all the people I could possibly respect in the administration on the other side (Colin Powell mainly and sometimes Rice). Of course this is Condi's story and she gets to spin it however she pleases. I'm half inclined to read the Rumsfeld book just to see what his excuse was, especially for not having a post-invasion reconstruction plan, but I'm not sure I want to give it my time.

Beyond the most obvious events, Rice details some aspects of the administration's foreign policy that were lost in the noise of the wars on everything. The Bush policy in Africa and Latin America while definitely having an ideological slant was for the most part positive. I can't imagine a single one of the current crop of Republican hopefuls having the same level of engagement on HIV and other issues in the developing world (even if the Bush level of engagement was hardly adequate).

Another aspect of the book that makes it worth the read is that Condi is a political scientist and has the ability to rise above the ideology of the time to talk intelligently about the events. For example, if you agree with the Freedom Agenda or not, it is interesting to read about her understanding of it as a redefinition of realism that could incorporate elements of the democratic peace. I've even thought about maybe using parts of the book in my international relations class. Students could see the theories as more than just Political Science, but as a tradition that has emerged out of foreign policy and history and that is still interwoven in the actions of our leaders. Her use of theory is simplified but it is also engaging. And honestly, that is more than you can say for most textbooks.

Overall I would recommend to anyone looking for a narrative of the complex political events of the past decade.

For more of lyndamk's reviews, check out her blog, lyndamk.com.

This review is part of Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Kim

    I would so be on board if he put her on the ticket with him! I hadnt planned on voting for him but I will for sure if he has Condi as his VP. Condi was great and did great work for this country. She has never been recognized for it because she worked for Bush Jr who everyone hated. She would make a fantastic VP. Better than Biden thats for sure.

  • John G.

    one of these days, I'm going to figure out what a 'cannonball read' is.

  • mswas

    John, it's a charitable event to honor a Pajiban who passed away from cancer in 2008. Read about it here:
    http://cannonballread4.wordpre...

  • ,

    She always seemed too classy for politics.

    Seriously, I question the mental makeup of people who want to run for office higher than, say, county commission. Read the Esquire piece about Obama and predator drones and targeted assassinations. Not to pick on Obama; EVERY president, deep in the recesses of his or her mind, has to be willing to make the call at any time to murder one person or vaporize a city of 100,000, and I just can't imagine a normal person with a normal conscience being able to do that.

    From there, it's a trickle down. There are doubtless many senators, representatives, Secretaries of State, governors and whathaveyou who daydream about being president. Every one of them has to be willing to push the button and drop the bombs.

    In other words, there has to be something very wrong with you. I think most candidates of both parties have to have a certain degree of psychopathy or sociopathy to run for high office.

    (And that's not even talking about the fact you have to be able to smile at people and take their money and then turn around and fuck them seven ways to Sunday if it gets you elected or advances your agenda.)

    I know that seems harsh, but think about it.

  • special snowflake

    I like that 'Think Piece', and have often wondered the same thing myself: seems like there has to be some raging ego DNA somewhere amongst that infinite strand, more pronounced in some than others, to apparently believe your own self to be the most suited to taking the responsibility for the best interests of an entire nation.

  • ,

    "raging ego DNA"

    Something more than that, I'd think. The Esquire piece I mention somewhat centers on the fact that one of the Predator missiles took out a teenage American citizen. It also says that Obama has never mentioned the young man's name in public, but he did mention Predators in a context with American teenagers. He jokingly warned the Jonas Brothers to steer clear of his daughters because "two words: Predator drones."

    We get caught up from time to time in the appropriateness of rape jokes, but think about THAT joke for awhile. That's some cold motherfucker there.

    And yet he's just the latest in a long line of presidents who either opted to attack, wage war, continue to wage war, and/or bomb the shit out of some other country, often sending American sons and daughters into the meat grinder. Bush I (Iraq), Bush 2 (Iraq), Clinton (Sudan, IIRC), Reagan (Grenada), Carter (Blackhawk Down), Nixon (Vietnam), Johnson (Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.), Kennedy (Vietnam, Bay of Pigs), Truman (Japan, Korea), FDR (WWII) ...

    So no one can say a president shouldn't be expected to have to expect being responsible for killing (or, perhaps, murdering) hundreds or thousands of fellow human beings.

  • Maguita NYC

    I am trying to abide by @mswas' rule #3 of always commenting on a Cannonball Read... But I have nothing worth of note here. I mean, Candoleezza Rice...

    I'd rather read about Lucifer's latest shenanigans, i.e. Karl Rove and The Road to Mormonism. Sorry mswas!

  • lyndamk

    As the volunteer cannonballer who wrote this I'm just happy anyone read it! :)

  • Maguita NYC

    In all honesty, now that I understand what Cannonball Read stands for, I would be paying more attention to the volunteers' work. So I sincerely apologize for criticizing your book choice @3122f490437b6bc52332746effccef43:disqus .

    I'm glad you read the book for me, for in this pre-election nail-biting season, I find no patience for reading what bullshit anyone from the Pretzel-Choking administration had to say... Or find excuses for their horrendous decisions and behavior.

  • mswas

    I appreciate your taking the time to read it, Maguita! The volunteer Cannonballers are doing a lot of hard work.

  • Maguita NYC

    Volunteer Cannonballers??
    Please define what that is...

  • mswas

    Check out our link here, Maguita:
    http://cannonballread4.wordpre...

  • Maguita NYC

    Thank you mswas. That is very special and kind of the Pajiba team.

    If I understand this, on next January 2013, I could submit my name for a whole (52) Cannonball Read. Correct? Too late to participate right now...

  • mswas

    You bet, Maguita. We'd be glad to have you! If you really wanted to try it for this year, hit me up on the CBR blog contact form.

  • Will

    and perhaps she can tell you something about not reading Memos entitled Bin Laden to strike in America.

  • krame

    oh yeah im sure they sent out a memo because the Taliban is known for sending memos when they are going to bomb something. Educate yourself

  • Will

    It was a CIA report, dummy.

  • seanfast

    How ironic that this got posted the same time condie rice is leaked as a possible frontrunner for VP pick. I don't know if this was chosen to be posted cuz of that news or not, but very fitting nonetheless!

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