What Dr Rice Didn’t Know, and When She Didn’t Know It

Do you remember, gentle reader, who the Secretary of State was, who joined the War Chorus in 2003?

We had at the time an incompetent President; it would not be all that counter-intuitive that he should have appointed an incompetent foreign secretary. — which, of course, he did; she favored knee-high black high-heeled boots, you may remember.


Not that Your Intrepid Reporter finds objectionable in any way nubile females choosing to wear articles of clothing that excite the heterosexual males: far from it. It’s just that she had a PhD. from the Joseph Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

Here is a review of Condoleeza Rice’s book that was published from her PhD. thesis. The reviewer wrote in the most prestigious, which is to say oldest, scholarly journal of historical research in the United States, the so-called American Historical Review, published by the American Historical Association.

The reviewer, apparently the publisher as well, was of the persuasion that Ms Rice was male. The review states that the work is worthless as a historical study. The author, that is our future secretary of State, did not know the first thing about her subject.

The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army, 1948-1983: Uncertain Allegiance. 
Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1984. 
Pp. xiv, 303. $37.50

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 [sic] 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. It does not add to his credibility when he uses a source written by Josef Hodic; Rice fails to notice that this “former military scientist” (p. 99) was a communist agent who returned to Czechoslovakia several years ago. Rice based his discussion of the “Sejna affair” (pp. 111, 116, 144) largely on communist propaganda sources and did not consult writings and statements by former General Jan Sejna who had access to Warsaw Pact documents and is the highest military officer from the Soviet bloc to defect to the West since World War II.

Rice’s generalizations reflect his lack of knowledge about history and the nationality problem in Czechoslovakia. For example, in 1955 Czechoslovakia was not yet “the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic” (pp 83, 84). In May 1938 Ludvik Svoboda was serving in the Czech army, not organizing a Czech military unit in Poland. In the fall of 1939 he was captured by the Soviet invading forces in eastern Poland; he did not “[escape] to the USSR” (p. 43). Rice’s discussion of the “Czechoslovak Legion” that was “born during the chaotic period preceding the fall of the Russian empire” (pp. 44-46) is ridiculous. (It was “born” on September 28, 1914.) He is clearly ignorant of the history of the military unit as well as of the geography of the area on which it fought.

Rice claims that “Czechoslovaks are supposedly passive and consider resistance to invading forces unnecessary and dangerous, preferring instead political solution” (p. 4). First, there are Czechs and Slovaks but not Czechoslovaks. Second, history shows that Czechs resisted the invading Prussians in 1866, Russia, France and Italy. In 1919 Czechs and Slovaks fought the invading armies of Bela Kun in Slovakia. In 1939 and 1948, “the Czechoslovak president, Edward Benes, ordered his troops to the barracks,” writes Rice. “[Alexander] Dubcek and Svoboda were, then just following precedent. Czechoslovak passivity meant that the decision of 1968 was preordained” (pp. 4-6). Nothing, indeed, is preordained in history. Moreover, Benes in 1939 was no longer president but was teaching at the University of Chicago.

In comparing Poland in 1981 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, Rice does not mention the obvious: whereas Soviet troops have been garrisoned in Poland since the end of World War II and, therefore, an invasion of Poland was unnecessary, the main objective of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia was to force Dubcek’s regime to accept the stationing of Soviet troops in the country.

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).

Joseph Kalvoda teaches at Saint Joseph College West Hartford, Connecticut.

Now, how does one recover from that review of your first book? The biographer of said eventual Secretary of State provides the interested with an answer. Jacqueline Edmondson, writing in Condoleeza Rice, A Biography, on pp. 35-36, explains how:

. . that year she was given Stanford’s highest award for teaching — the Walter E. Gores Award. This award is given to three faulty members each year: one tenured faculty with at least 10 years of service, one junior faculty member, and one teaching assistant. Rice won the award as a junior faculty member, providing wonderful affirmation of her successful work with students in the classroom.

One might wonder what a person who has no conception of useful historical research is rather teaching in that classroom; but never mind. Continuons.

In addition to that teaching award, in 1984 Rice published her first book, The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army 1948-1983:Uncertain Allegiance. The book, based on her PhD. dissertation, is about the ways in which the Soviet Union controlled satellite countries in Eastern Europe by interacting with military elites in various countries. . . .

Reviews of Rice’s book tended to be positive. Mark Kramer from Balliol College at the University of Oxford considered Rice’s research to be comprehensive, systematic, and a “model of perspicacity, assiduous scholarship, and balanced judgement” (1985, p. 528).

If one accepted the propaganda-mouthed political judgement of the faculty member of Leland Stanford Junior University, PhD., then one would indeed find it to be “balanced,” even if in your favor. If one has consulted all well-known sources in the literature, one’s research is deemed ‘comprehensive’. The reviewer then can sweeten the language by awarding an ‘assiduous’ as well. The question is whether or not there’s any scholarship here, at all.

Walter Ullman of Syracuse University (1986, p. 245) noted that there was no denying the quality of the research, even if one did not agree with Rice’s conclusion that “the Czechoslovak People’s Army stands suspended between the Czechoslovak nation and the Socialist world order.”

Alas, by 1986 there had been in print for a year mas o menos a signed statement to the effect that:

[Dr Rice, whatever her sex/gender/femininity or lack of same] “frequently does not sift facts from propaganda and valid information from disinformation or misinformation. [The author of the work under review] passes judgments and expresses opinions without adequate knowledge of facts.”

It becomes unclear to Your Intrepid Reporter how Mister Ullman can note something that is factually false: there was a rather prominent assertion of the quality of said research being worthless. The biographer continues without pause

Christopher Jones from the University of Washington claimed the work was a definitive study on Czechoslovak civil-military relations

— that is to say, in English there’s no other work done on this question. Mr/Ms Rice’s thesis advisor at the University of Denver did his (or her) job — it’s a good topic for a thesis.

and that it would have a tremendous influence on other studies of civil-military relations in other Warsaw Pact nations.

You see, there’s a whole useless industry of puff-piece articles and books, demonizing the Russians. This first example of a recent Anglophone study of a Soviet satellite will tell other aspiring dim light bulbs how to finish the project and get it out the door: secondary sources, no critical examination, repetition of American Imperial rhetoric. And Mister Jones of the University of Washington clearly is a card-carrying member; what’s good for the Imperial claque is by definition scholarship. Next up — how the Biographer covers up the Subject’s non-existent scholarship.

While many found Rice’s research to be groundbreaking, there were critics, as well. Dr. Joseph Kaldova wrote a less than flattering appraisal of Rice’s work in the American Historical Review. Specifically, Kaldova criticized what he perceived to be Rice’s inability to sift facts from propaganda and accurate information from misinformation.

Jacqueline Edmonson, herself a competent journalist, accurately quotes the good Doctor Kaldova, of, be it noted, Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, Connecticut. Jacqueline Edmondson, PhD., as she lists herself on the website promoting her book-a-year career, chooses not to identify the tiny little educational institution employing the single truth-teller in Slavic Studies in the United States in the mid-1980s. She does not manage to spell his name correctly — it is Kalvoda; it is not Kaldova — but that’s beyond the common expectations of journalists in the last third of the twentieth century, anyway.

He felt that as part of her research Rice should have consulted General Jan Senja, who had access to Warsaw Pact documents and was the highest military official to defect from the former Soviet Bloc.

While true, Ms Edmondson’s citation is as you can see for yourself taken out of context. Kalvoda found reprehensible not talking to, or reading the papers of, Jan Sejna [Ms Edmondson fluffs another name] when writing about his trial. And his first charge, that the newly-minted Doctor Rice appeared not to know that her source Josef Hodic was a Communist Party agent, was to substantiate his charge that she knew not very much about her subject.

Kaldova felt Rice’s research, particularly her generalizations, reflected a lack of knowledge about history and nationality in Czechoslovakia. For one example, Rice referred to the people of Czechoslovakia as Czechoslovaks, while Kaldova pointed out that the people were either Czechs or Slovaks (Kaldova 2004).

Please note, gentle reader this is how it’s done. We cannot fault Ms Edmondson for lack of scholarly integrity, since she is one pinhead writing a biography of another pinhead. So please, no insincere display of outrage, please.

After “lack of knowledge about the history and nationality of Czechoslovakia,” Kalvoda — not Kaldova — asserts that Rice referred to the 1955 political unit as “the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic” when that was not its name — that is, that on even so basic a level as the official name of the State Rice is here discussing, her account is unreliable. He (or she) next points out that Rice mistakes the career of Ludvig Svoboda, surely one of her main subjects; then that she provides a risible account of the origin of the Czech Legion — again, we’re looking at the most basic elements of the historical narrative on offer: the most significant politician, the most politically significant military unit.

And then, at the point where Kalvoda does say that there are Czechs and Slovaks but no Czechoslovaks, he is talking about a historical claim by Rice: “Czechoslovaks are supposedly passive and consider resistance to invading forces unnecessary and dangerous, preferring instead political solution.”

Now the only way for Kalvoda to go about showing that the statement is false is to provide examples of invading forces within the territory of Czechoslovakia being resisted, by force. But as soon as you turn to historical examples, you run into the very caution — completely unnecessary to Kalvoda’s main point, that Rice is clueless — that the previous to 1921 history is that of Czechs or of Slovaks.

So he chose one, to start with the Czechs. Czech troops, in service of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, fought bravely the Prussian invasion of 1866, which ended with the defeat of the Austrian military at Königgratz.

Czech troops fought the French army when it invaded Bohemia and contested the Polish succession in 1740 and fought both on the Russian front and the Italian front in World War I. Those are four examples of counter-examples to Rice’s generalization, but they are only the Czech ones.

Next, Kalvoda moves to Czechs and Slovaks collaborating, which would only be after the end of World War One, and he gives as his instance their armed resistance to the invasion of Munkacs in 1919.

For one example, Rice referred to the people of Czechoslovakia as Czechoslovaks, while Kaldova pointed out that the people were either Czechs or Slovaks.

How picky can you get man? Far out.

Nevertheless, Rice’s successes at Stanford and in the political science community resulted in the continuation of her position as a tenure-trakc assistant professor at Stanford. While she was not awarded tenure just yet, being in a tenure-track position gave her more security within the institution. It typically takes a professor six years to earn tenure and promotion to the rank of associate professor, and Rice had only been at the university for three years.

There. You see? There was no trouble at all, no trouble at all: the Stanford University junior faculty member agreed to do administrative stuff, and to continue climbing the political-advisor ladder, and no one was the wiser.

Notice that Edmonson smoothly elides the main point of Kalvoda’s charge. It doesn’t matter, Gentle Reader, what you know. Here in this case is documented proof that C. Rice knew nothing worth publishing, at the most.

No, it’s whom you know in the United States of the last couple of decades of the twentieth century. Read the Wikipedia entry:

She attended St. Mary’s Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado, and graduated at age 16 in 1971. After studying piano at the Aspen Music Festival and School, Rice enrolled at the University of Denver, where her father was then serving as an assistant dean.

Rice’s initial college major was Piano, but after realizing she lacked the talent to play professionally, she began to consider an alternative major.[11][13] She attended an International Politics course taught by Josef Korbel, which sparked her interest in the Soviet Union and international relations. Rice later described Korbel (who is the father of Madeleine Albright, then a future U.S. Secretary of State), as a central figure in her life.[14]

In 1974, at age 19, Rice was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society, and was awarded a B.A., cum laude, in political science by the University of Denver. While at the University of Denver she was a member of Alpha Chi Omega, Gamma Delta chapter.[15] She obtained a master’s degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame in 1975. She first worked in the State Department in 1977, during the Carter administration, as an intern in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. She would also study Russian at Moscow State University in the summer of 1979, and intern with the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California.[16] In 1981, at age 26, she received her Ph.D. in political science from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Her dissertation centered on military policy and politics in what was then the communist state of Czechoslovakia.[17]

The father of one Secretary of State just happened to have a second one, the incompetent one, among his students, the um, dean’s daughter. Madeleine Albright as tragedy, Condaleeza Rice as farce. If you think it that’s a coincidence, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you.

About M. Meo

Worked as translator, museum technician, truck lumper, lecture demonstrator, teacher (of English as a Second Language, science, math). Married for 25 years, 2 boys aged 18 & 16 (both on the Grant cross-country team). A couple of scholarly publications in the history of science. Two years in federal penitentiary, 1970/71, for refusing the draft.
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