SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - Former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice appeared before a full auditorium here today, where she thanked veterans for their service.
Air Force Gen. William M. Fraser III, commander, U.S. Transportation Command, welcomed her with thanks for taking time to speak to his command and others.
"It's an honor to have Secretary Rice here. Thank you for taking time to come to USTRANSCOM and thank veterans for their service... we really appreciate it,” said Fraser, who was a liaison officer between the Joint Staff and the Secretary of State, working with Rice.
Rice, who spoke extemporaneously for more than 10 minutes, expressed the reality of the post-9/11 world in which today’s military operates, noting the sacrifices of multiple and frequent deployments, not only on servicemembers, but on families as well.
"Thank you on this Veterans Day to every man and woman who has served this country. I know the sacrifice it has brought," said Rice.
She then spent another 50 minutes answering questions from more than 200 military and civilian personnel, as well as representatives from local and regional media.
Rice also talked about the need for continuing to maintain strong relations in Iraq, even after U.S. military is withdrawn. Under current plans, Operation New Dawn will be complete by Dec. 31. After that, the Department of State will assume the lead role for the U.S. government in support of the Iraqi government.
Rice underscored the importance of continuing to balance Iran, noting their continuing activity in the region and adversarial posture toward democratic nations in general, and U.S. interests specifically.
Rice suggested a balanced approach of engagement toward China, including continuing trade and increasing military-to-military relations, emphasizing that an engaged China is far more desirable than an isolated China. She said that the internet is clearly a challenge to the Chinese government, allowing increasingly free-flowing information from outside the country’s borders, and a developing dialogue from within.
Rice cautioned that even though the United States is withdrawing from current boots-on-the-ground engagements in Iraq, and a surge reduction already underway in Afghanistan, that the country must maintain an appropriate military capability into the future. She specifically cited technology and experience as items that could not be allowed to deteriorate in coming years.
Rice responded that orchestrating the “whole of government” approach was what kept her up at night more than anything else over her eight years of service from 2001 through 2009. She said developing coordinated solutions among multiple large and complex federal departments was a daunting task.
About recent developments in Libya, Rice suggested that the largest challenge will be for the interim government to establish lasting architecture for follow-on stability throughout a society unfamiliar with freedom.
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Baker is the USTRANSCOM liaison officer serving a six month deployment to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.