Saturday, May 24, 2014

On "Dr." Rice's scholarship, or Why is she invited to address commencement ceremonies at major universities for money that could be better spent?

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The Doctor's Scholarship
In 1981, Rice received her Ph.D. Her dissertation was published in 1984 by Princeton University Press under the title, Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army, 1948-1963. While the book saw the light of day thanks to a prestigious institution of higher learning, it is rather striking for the current irrelevance of its subject matter. (Neither the Soviet Union nor Czechoslovak army exists today, although nothing in Rice's study anticipated that this would be the case.) It is also full of hollow "poli-sci" prose, as illustrated by this passage from its conclusion:
Examination of the impact of power asymmetries on the development of the nature of domestic institutions may ultimately help us to understand the concepts of power and influence themselves.
The examination of Czechoslovak party-military relations along both dimensions shows quite clearly why models developed in the study of other communist states are inadequate to explain this case. The Czechoslovak party-military apparatus, which closely resembles that of the Soviet Union, does not produce the same pattern of interaction.
The study did receive some favorable reviews from specialized journals. In the American Political Science Review, Dale R. Herspring called it a "first-rate book," noting however that it "could have been improved by a more critical use of certain concepts." But the American Historical Review -- the premier publication of the US historical profession -- panned the volume in a now well-known piece by Joseph Kalvoda, a teacher at Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, Connecticut. Kaldova mistook the author for a man, suggesting that Rice was largely unknown in the academic world (doubtless because she had published so little). Kaldova's harsh review states,
To write a scholarly study on the relationship of the Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak army without access to relevant Czechoslovak and Soviet documents is difficult. Therefore, much of this book by Condoleezza Rice is based on secondary works. His thesis is that the Soviets directly influence military elites in the satellite countries, in addition to the Soviet Communist party interacting with the domestic party. Rice selects Czechoslovakia as a case study and attempts to show the role of the military as instrument of both national defense and the Soviet-controlled military alliance.
Rice's selection of sources raises questions, since he frequently does not sift facts from propaganda and valid information from disinformation or misinformation. He passes judgments and expresses opinions without adequate knowledge of facts. ...
Rice's generalizations reflect his lack of knowledge about history and the nationality problem in Czechoslovakia. ...
The writing abounds with meaningless phrases, such as is its "last word": "Thirty-five years after its creation, the Czechoslovak People's Army stands suspended between the Czechoslovak nation and the socialist world order" (p. 245).
Rice complained to the American Historical Review in 1985 about Kalvoda's merciless critique, adding, "I apologize for the imprecise language in reporting some of the details of Czechoslovak history." In his response, Kalvoda did not surrender to Rice's sloppy scholarship:
How can one take seriously opinions and/or interpretations of someone who does not have the facts straight? In scholarly works on the Soviet bloc countries contemporary sources can be used effectively if one knows the relevant historical facts, is familiar with the political theory and practice of the Marxist-Leninists, and is able to separate facts from allegations, propaganda and outright falsehoods. Political analyses, interpretations and opinions have to be based on facts and not on misinformation.
Rice's second book, The Gorbachev Era, was coauthored with the respected scholar Alexander Dallin. It appeared in 1986, when she had already been teaching at Stanford University for several years. This 184-page collection of short essays was published by "The Portable Stanford," "a series publication of the Stanford Alumni Association. ... The PS series is designed to bring the widest possible sampling of Stanford's intellectual resources into the homes of alumni." Rice's own contribution to this slim volume without footnotes was a 12-page piece titled, "The Soviet Alliance System." Written just a few years before the fall of the Berlin wall, it stated,
In spite of all its problems, the Soviet-East European alliance has been remarkably resilient. It has survived three interventions, a Polish military takeover, and countless other less traumatic problems. The alliance is well institutionalized through CMEA [Council of Mutual Economic Assistance], which seeks, with limited success, to coordinate the economies of Eastern Europe and the Warsaw pact -- which has enjoyed greater success in mobilizing the armed forces of the region. ...
Eastern Europe, and to a lesser degree Cuba, will likely remain the center of Moscow's alliance structure for many years to come.
The article that supposedly helped Rice get tenure at Stanford, titled "The Party, the Military, and Decision Authority in the Soviet Union," was published in World Politics in 1987. Mabry quotes this assessment of the article from Lieutenant General William E. Odom, a widely admired expert on the former Soviet Union who has criticized Bush's Iraq policies:
I couldn't even figure out what she meant. [As a scholar] she just wasn't significant. It would be very hard for me to figure out why Stanford gave her tenure on [the basis of] her publication.
The abstract of Rice's article, written in academic gobbledygook, leaves little doubt -- even to a non-expert -- as to the study's lack of intellectual depth and precision:
Soviet military decision making is characterized by a division of labor between the party, which issues broad policy guidance, and the professional military, which oversees the development of the armed forces based on that guidance. There is to date no civilian institution whose functions parallel those of the General Staff. The party is now, and has historically been, dependent on the professional military for the formation of options on strategy, organization, and force composition. The Soviets have never equated civilian control and authority with civilian management. Absolute party authority over defense policy has been maintained through control of personnel and resource allocation.

Zelikow to the Rescue

Given the intellectual limitations of Rice's scholarly output, it is fair to ask what her exact role was in the drafting of the well-received volume of nearly 500 pages, Germany Unified and Europe Transformed (Harvard University Press, 1995), which she co-authored with Philip Zelikow, a lawyer, diplomat and historian. Germany Unified and Europe Transformed was a serious study that showed an in-depth analysis not found in Rice's previous two books. "A foreign affairs expert very close to Rice," Mabry notes, said that "[s]he's a conventional mind. Except for the book she did with Zelikow on Germany, the stuff she [wrote] by herself is mediocre."
The Rice-Zelikow relationship, if one is allowed to speculate, sheds light on the kind of "learned professor" Dr. Rice really is. Speaking at a Stanford symposium on the Soviet Union in May 1991, Rice herself (cited by Bumiller) said that Zelikow "has a deep knowledge of international affairs. More often than not, when something was written for him, he'd improve it, and you'd sit there thinking to yourself, 'I wish I'd thought of saying that.'"
This passage brings to mind the famous anecdote of the exchange between James McNeill Whistler and Oscar Wilde after Whistler had said something memorable. "I wish I had said that!" Wilde exclaimed, to which Whistler replied, "Don't worry, Oscar. You will, you will."
Which is what, in some ways, Dr. Rice's role in Germany Unified and Europe Transformed appears to be. Zelikow's name, despite its first letter being the last one of the alphabet, appears before Rice's on the title page of their book, making it clear that he was its main contributor. The preface of the 1995 edition notes:
This book originated in an internal historical study which a senior State Department official, Robert Zoellick, invited Zelikow to write as he was leaving the government to accept an appointment at Harvard University.
After noting that "the book is a joint effort," the preface goes on to say that "Zelikow drafted the original manuscript." Interestingly, these words (and the entire paragraph that contains them) do not appear in the "Preface to the 1995 Edition" that is included in the 1997 edition of the book. Did Rice, no doubt concerned about her lack of publications which are necessary for academic success, have something to do with this omission?
Wikipedia has this to say about the subsequent Zelikow-Rice relationship:
In Rise of the Vulcans (Viking, 2004), James Mann reports that when Richard Haass, a senior aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell and the director of policy planning at the State Department, drafted for the administration an overview of America's national security strategy following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Dr. Rice, the national security advisor, "ordered that the document be completely rewritten. She thought the Bush administration needed something bolder, something that would represent a more dramatic break with the ideas of the past. Rice turned the writing over to her old colleague, University of Virginia Professor Philip Zelikow." This document, issued on September 17, 2002, is generally recognized as a significant document in the War on Terrorism.

Don't Know Much about History

For Rice, history is not a guide, but essentially another propaganda tool in advancing immediate political interests. Her knowledge of actual historical events can be surprisingly spotty. In 2005, for example, she spoke to an audience at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris. In answer to a question from the audience, she said that in 1947, Greece and Turkey had endured civil wars. In fact, only Greece had. Guillaume Parmentier, director of the French Center on the United States, called Rice's response "a glaring mistake," adding "She's smart, yes, but I don't think she is as knowledgeable as one would expect with a career like hers."
More important than this fairly trivial error is Rice's lack of respect for historical details when the facts get in the way of her generalizations (if not fabrications) about the past. This tendency to rewrite reality was what drew the scathing Kalvoda review cited above. For another example, here are her remarks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in San Antonio, Texas, on Aug. 25, 2003:
There is an understandable tendency to look back on America's experience in postwar Germany and see only the successes. But as some of you here today surely remember, the road we traveled was very difficult. 1945 through 1947 was an especially challenging period. Germany was not immediately stable or prosperous. SS officers -- called 'werewolves' -- engaged in sabotage and attacked both coalition forces and those locals cooperating with them -- much like today's Baathist and Fedayeen remnants.
Rice made these comments in an attempt to draw parallels between postwar Germany and the chaos that surrounded the U.S. military occupation of Iraq. By comparison to Germany, she suggested, things weren't actually going all that badly in Iraq. This drew a sharp retort from Daniel Benjamin in an essay titled "Condi's Phony History: Sorry, Dr. Rice, postwar Germany was nothing like Iraq." Benjamin pointed out that Rice's "depiction of the Allied occupation of Germany is a farrago of fiction and a few meager factsWerwolf tales have been a favorite of schlock novels, but the reality bore no resemblance to Iraq today. ... In practice, Werwolf amounted to next to nothing."
Neil King reached similar conclusions in a January 19, 2007 Wall Street Journal article, titled "How Rice Uses History Lessons." He stated,
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice often calls herself "a student of history." And increasingly, she is using history -- or her chosen slice of it -- both to explain and justify the Bush administration's Middle East policy.
When Ms. Rice talks about the challenges the U.S. faces across the Mideast, she points, somewhat surprisingly, to Europe after World War II and to the West's decades-long face-off against the Soviet Union, which happens to be her area of expertise. It is a penchant that has scholars scratching their heads.

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