Condoleezza Rice: We’ve Waited ‘Very Late’ to Intervene in Syria

The former secretary of state, speaking at the Women in the World Summit, addresses reports that chemical weapons are being readied by the Syrian government.

12.05.12 12:20 AM ET

Condoleezza Rice addressed the mounting crisis in Syria at Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s Women in the World Summit in São Paulo, Brazil, on Tuesday, telling Tina Brown, “I think we have waited very late to intervene.” Rice did not recommend military action, but called on the Obmama administation to step up support for the opposition.

The comments from the former secretary of state came in response to a question from Brown on what the U.S. should do in response to intelligence reports that Syria may be readying chemical and biological weapons to use against the opposition.

“When a civil war goes on for a long time, it encompasses the worst elements,” Rice said. She pointed to the fallout from war for the country’s diverse population. “Remember that Syria is made up of many minorities. When Assad goes—and he will go because his regime is falling apart—minorities will be at risk. We have to help them get rid of Assad quickly, because the longer this goes on, the harder it will be to help these minorities.”

She continued, “Assad can’t continue to butcher his people this way. When there is talk that he is developing chemical weapons, then you know things have gone really bad.”

Rice also discussed women’s role in creating change during the Arab Spring, praising Egyptian human-rights activist Dalia Ziada, who runs a renowned nonprofit advocating for civil freedoms. Ziada was scheduled to speak at the summit, but was unable to attend due to a car accident.

“We can’t loose heart,” Rice said of the Arab Spring. “People have seized their freedom, but now we have to help funnel their freedom into democratic institutions. And it takes time.”

Rice also discussed the importance of education for women. “If you educate and empower women, they will not have 12 children, and have their first child at 13,” she said.

She added, “If you let someone treat you badly because you’re a woman, it’s your fault, not theirs. Be insistent that you will be heard. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control your response to your circumstances.”

Rice is currently a professor in global business and the economy at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, and a senior fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution. She has written several books, most recently No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington.