Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she understands some of the questions Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) raised about the surge policy in Iraq, but she says today's conditions in the war zone would be only "wishful thinking" without it.In an interview Wednesday with Politico and Yahoo! News, Rice pointed out that the two presidential candidates’ positions on Iraq “seem to be narrowing somewhat.” And she said that is only possible because of the reduction in violence that has followed President Bush’s approval of a surge of new U.S. forces.
“If I had been sitting here a year ago telling you American forces, as Gen. [David] Petraeus has suggested, [will] be able to continue to come down, ... you would have said, ‘Oh, come now — that’s wishful thinking,’” she said.
In a lively half-hour of topics ranging from Pakistan to the Packers, Rice said she is headed back to California in January and does not plan to serve in the next administration — as vice president or anything else.
Asked about Obama, who opposed the surge, she acknowledged: “There were reasons to have questions about the surge. The president asked all of those tough questions himself. The advisers asked all of those tough questions.”
Critics of the administration’s Iraq policy, including Obama, have called for a much more rapid withdrawal of forces if conditions permit and have said a surge policy would have never been necessary if the Iraq invasion had been handled planned competently to begin with.
The secretary was asked if Obama would now benefit from the surge he once opposed, since the gains made from the increased troops are making withdrawals of U.S. forces more feasible, if not nearly as fast as most Democrats — and some Republicans — would like.
“Well, America has benefited from the surge,” she said. “Iraq has benefited from the surge. And the whole region has benefited from the surge.”
Rice, who has often been mentioned as a potential running mate for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), demurred when asked if she might serve as second in command to Obama.
“I don’t need another job in government with anybody,” she said. “Look, I’m a Republican, all right? Sen. McCain is a fine patriot, and ... he would be a great president. But there’s something to be said for fresh blood. And I know that there are a lot of very good people who could be his vice president.”
During the interview in a regal room at the State Department appointed with chandeliers, rich carpets and cases of porcelain, Rice was asked: “Would you feel safe with a President Obama?"