Is Ambassador Susan Rice the best choice for Secretary of State?

When it comes to Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., the GOP is behaving like the inveterate cheating spouse.  In the hope that their cheating ways are never given light, they point fingers and make accusations on a minor faux pas in the hope that Ambassador Rice’s missteps will somehow equal theirs in the end.

While the American public is often crippled with the ability to hear only what they wish, the responsibility for the four serving Americans killed in Libya on September 11th of this year lies solely with their killers.  Not Ambassador Rice or the administration.  Using such logic, wouldn’t Americans ask if the previous president, George Bush, were responsible for the attacks here at home in 2001?

In 2001, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved General Colin Powell as Secretary of State.  By early 2003, Secretary of State Powell was tasked by President Bush to speak to the U.N. General Assembly in the hope of selling the U.S. invasion of Iraq to the world.  In hoping to create a ‘coalition of the willing’, Powell told the Assembly that Saddam Hussein’s regime had biological weapons as well as components to produce nuclear weapons.  With other Bush administration officials spreading the lie that Saddam Hussein’s regime was complicit in the attacks of September 11th, 2001, the U.S. invaded Iraq in March, 2003.

Powell did President’s Bush’s selling on the Iraq War, although he regretted it later after figuring out he had been used.

By September of the next year, 2004, with Iraqi society in civil war after the invasion, Powell testified in a Senate committee hearing that it was doubtful that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction after all.  The basic logic used to win support for the Iraqi War had been refuted by the very individual tasked to sell it.

Since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, 4,487 Americans have been killed there.  In all, though the numbers are in dispute, 120,000 Iraqi civilians and 25,000 combatants have also been killed since the U.S. led ‘coalition’ overthrew Saddam Hussein’s regime.  Talk about your public missteps let alone potential war crimes?

GOP leaders continue to state that some sort of administration cover up exists over the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.   Should they open committee hearings on this issue, they will soon come face to face with their own mistakes, shortcomings and the daily reality that those serving our consulates overseas face.  Attacks on consulates from 2002 to 2008 in Karachi, Jeddah, Damascus and San’a killed at least 31 security people and civilians.

To assume the attacks of U.S. Embassies on Sept. 11th of this year were all planned and definitely not a result of a YouTube video is disingenuous.  In Cairo, San’a and Benghazi, they were both.  That Ambassador Rice was not privy to a fuller picture before she spoke to reporters only five days after the Benghazi attack is no surprise.  The reader is reminded that our nation is still living with the decisions by Secretary Powell and the Bush administration in 2003, made a mere eighteen months after the attacks of Sept. 11th, 2001.

Having said all this in defense of Ambassador Rice, is she the best choice for Secretary of State?  Perhaps.

In the year of his death, 1965, Adlai Stevenson, who was then U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., said of his job:

“I am accustomed to making policy.  I’ve sometimes been a little restless of executing and articulating the policies of others.”

Remember how Ambassador Stevenson handled the Cuba Missile Crisis.  His approach was different than Kennedy. Stevenson was tough in the United Nations’ “schoolyard” and so is Rice.

It was October, 1962, and the Kennedy administration had photographic proof of the Soviet build up of missiles in Cuba.  The U.S. Naval quarantine, hurriedly set up in the Atlantic to divert more missiles from reaching Cuba, was of no use with the issue of missiles already deployed on that island.  Fearing war with the Soviets, time was running out for an administration that knew a bombing of Cuba would surely get an equal bombing response on perhaps Berlin.

Ambassador Stevenson’s approach to the Missile Crisis differed from President Kennedy’s.  Most in the president’s cabinet didn’t trust Stevenson, who was seen as too appeasing of their Cold War foe.  Still, he was given the chore of bringing to the U.N. and the world, proof of the Soviet build up in Cuba.

This he did.

By catching Soviet Ambassador Zorin off guard, he asked him, if in fact the missiles did exist?  Though the ever eloquent Stevenson would afterward present photographs of the build up to the Assembly, his response to the Ambassador’s obfuscations still echo today:

“I am prepared to wait for my answer until Hell freezes over”, he declared to the assembly.

The United Nations is a sort of schoolyard, where issues are debated in sometimes wild fashion.  An ambassador to the U.N. needs to be clever, well informed, confident and ready to apply overt pressure where needed.  Ambassador Rice is all these things and more.  Despite the more sexist statements about Susan Rice being ‘abrasive’ (coded language), the problem for her is that she is very good in the schoolyard.  Rice is also extremely adept at doing her bosses bidding.  So was Jeanne Kirkpatrick.

Can Rice be the next George Marshall, whom Winston Churchill credited him with organizing the “victory” for  the Allied victory in World War II, Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 for the Marshall Plan. (Wikipedia Commons)

The other possible choice to replace Secretary Clinton is John Kerry, senator from Massachusetts.  His time in the Senate has given him years of seasoning for the job.  My fear about Senator Kerry is that he may behave as he did during the 2004 presidential campaign, when he refused to truly defend himself against those who questioned his military service.  The 2004 election was his to win-and he lost.  Still, if given the job, he may prove his detractors wrong as Stevenson did.

Susan Rice has not yet been nominated to replace Secretary Clinton at the State Department.  Should she be nominated, she has enormous shoes to fill.  At the same time, she has to continue the work of her predecessor.  Clinton had plenty to learn when she replaced Daniel Moynihan as senator from New York.  She did learn.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has restored sanity, brevity and the U.S. brand to the nations of the world.  In opposite to the previous administration, her tenure has been less polemic and more a common dialogue about making the world a safer place.  Her infusion of wit, respect and forcefulness have sent a great reckoning to those who use our nation as the big bully to gather forces against.  In future, she will be venerated worldwide in the same way Secretary of State George Marshall was viewed by a previous  generation of the human race.

Susan Rice may be well suited for the job or she may have to learn on the go.  Like her predecessor Ambassador Kirkpatrick, she has made the United States I viable force in the U.N. once again.  Whether she wishes to exchange that responsibility for one that requires a different set of tools is really up to her.