In defense of Susan Rice

December 10, 2012

The accusations against Susan Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations and potential nominee for secretary of state, continue. They took a new turn on Monday as an Eritrean-American, Salem Solomon, wrote for the New York Times op-ed page about Rice’s supposed affections for a new generation of strongmen of Africa.

This article comes at an inopportune time, since Rice is now being hammered for all sorts of reasons — many of them specious. It feels more like piling on than fair-minded criticism. It is particularly unfortunate because partisanship is complicating efforts to determine whether Rice would be a strong choice as secretary of state.

I have written before about Rice, who is a friend and former colleague. I’m an admirer of her work, though this is not to suggest that she would necessarily be a better choice for secretary of state than Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) or someone else. But she is a capable public servant and a serious candidate for the job. The recent criticisms — including the New York Times commentary — are often unfair.

Solomon asserts that Rice has been too close to autocratic rulers in six countries:  Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana and South Africa. He uses this contention to conclude that she should not be secretary of state.

But leave aside the nuance in Rice’s various positions toward these countries over the years, as well as her tough stances toward the leadership of Sudan. Leave aside as well the fact that in many African countries, with their weak political systems, there are no great choices to support. Solomon’s argument, however, fails even before getting into such complexities.

Of the countries he mentions, for example, five have done well in recent years. They are five of the 17 African states now making major headway, as Steve Radelet of the Center for Global Development explains in his important 2010 book, “Emerging Africa.” Their economies are doing better, they are generally at peace internally and their governments, while flawed, are generally much improved compared with their own pasts or those of their neighbors.

It is true that other methods of assessing the performance of African states could lead to somewhat different conclusions. But Solomon makes no mention of these or any other methods. The slightest whiff of authoritarian behavior by one of these leaders is, for him, enough to condemn not only the governments in question but, by association, Rice. This is not serious.

Ironically, Solomon finishes his piece by arguing that if anything, Rice and the United States government in general have been too tough on his own government of Eritrea. Yet of the six he considered, that is the only country not listed as an emerging success by Radelet or other authors.

There is no doubt that we need some new approaches to specific African problems and challenges. Congo is a case in point, and it is true that Rwanda’s recent role there has been problematic.

So let the debate continue — on policy specifics. I know Rice well enough to be confident she will be listening for good ideas. If Solomon has any, he should offer them up.

But we have had enough of the ad hominem attacks.

PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice at a press conference after a global town hall at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco February 10, 2011. REUTERS/Stephen Lam  

 

15 comments

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Michael O’Hanlan (a personal friend of Susan Rice) is director of research and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, which of course is where Susan Rice’s mother works as an education policy scholar. So his take is rather biased several times over.

This article is nothing but pathetic boot licking. What of the millions of dollars that Rice has invested in Canadian oil stocks and pipelines? Or investments in Iranian oil? Where is the mention of these issues that truly make Susan Rice unfit to sit as secretary of state. Unmitigated and shameless puff piece.

Posted by stambo2001 | Report as abusive

Susan’s affection and love to the late dictator of Ethiopia has forced her decisions against Eritrea to be based on personal animosity or love instead of based on reasonable approach and principles. When the very friend of her has OPENLY told the world that he no longer respects UN’s decision to demarcate the border, which he signed to abide by, Susan has not voiced a single word to indicate that Melles should abide by the international rules. Instead, she kept hammering Eritrea based on her friend’s advice and false information. Her attitude at the UN has been overly clear that she abuses the system to achieve her personal vendetta against Eritrea. If she was reasonable, she would have been saying few words that supports the UN international verdict. She is never on record stating anything against her dictator friend. This makes her absolutely unfit to the new position as the world should not be run by “friendship” but by principles.

Posted by ertra | Report as abusive

To say that Rwanda’s recent role in the Congo “has been problematic” is an epic understatement.

Clearly, O’Hanlon hasn’t read the most recent UN reports critical of Rwanda. If he did, he might be wondering like many other observers why Ambassador Rice continues to delay the release of these reports while refusing to issue a statement critical of Rwanda.

Sadly, the American “foreign policy” toward the massive violence and millions of deaths in the Congo over the past 15 years or so seems to involve looking the other way, while Rwandan back militias continue to kill and rape. Yea, there are a lot of other violent militias in the Congo, and the lousy DRC army, which for some strange reason incorporates former militia members. But the question many are asking about Ambassador Rice that is apparently lost on O’Hanlon is why we don’t hold Rwanda accountable for their very large share in the violence.

Posted by TAustin | Report as abusive

I have seen the criticism flying at Susan Rice from all directions. I have to admit that a lot of it is very troubling to me — but “specious”, “explainable”, and “piling on” have certainly come to mind. Are there any reputable journalists left in the world to set the record straight before the historians figure it out for us ?
Consider also — if a very capable, likable black female like Susan Rice ever decided to run for office in an election — she might be unbeatable given today’s demographics. I can see why her opponents might want to bring her down in any way they can.

Posted by Esmereldo | Report as abusive

What a disgraceful piece of brown-nosing!!

Susan Rice is a vicious New World Order fascist, an insane warmongering madwoman. She makes even fascist hag Shillary Clinton appear moderate by comparison.

Her appointment hails a new U.S. era of atrocities, torture, secret prisons, wars, and fascism.

Posted by NeilMcGowan | Report as abusive

Rice-2 is like Rice-1, Hillary and Albright — Amazons All! These people (plus most of the Wilsonian demopublican establishment) has never seen an intervention they didn’t like.

These people will drag us in to more and longer GWOT without end. O’Hanlon is simply one of “them”.

The fiscal cliff will come — whether there is a Social Security shredding agreement or not. And when the money printing presses fail, so will Pax Americana imperialism and all the professional hangers-on will fall.

Posted by upstater | Report as abusive

Rice’s investments in oil companies that have ties to Iran are inconsequential. For example, many Americans have Shell Oil stock, and that shouldn’t disqualify them for being considered for a top government appointment. Big deal that Shell owes Iran some money that is in limbo since the sanctions were imposed. Rice’s other oil company investments are very small, and not at all unusual to a dispersed portforlio.

What is troubling is the false report she delivered about Benghazi. I remember that she not only reported false information, but she was rude and indignant in the process.

Posted by OutfieldDan | Report as abusive

In December 2011, Susan Rice led the charge to pass UN Security Council Resolution 2023 condemning Eritrea for violating the human rights of its expatriate citizens by taxing them while living abroad. The only other country in the world that practices citizenship-based taxation is the US. Somehow when Eritrea taxes its overseas citizens, it is a violation of their human rights. When the US does it, well, it’s okay. Susan Rice is a hypocrite, at best, for supporting Resolution 2023. She is unworthy to be the US Secretary of State.

Posted by CitizenAbroad | Report as abusive

Susan Rice might be your friend, but that in itself is not enough assuage the concerns that Africans have over Rice’s coziness with African despots.

In the case of Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia, you seem to be suggesting, albeit in a subtle way, that the dictators who lead these countries should only be assessed in terms of their economic growth. Perhaps the reason why you do not even remotely address the despicable human rights condition in the three countries–where opposition activists and journalists are either jailed or murdered.

Shouldn’t the US impose a higher standard on what entails development? Aren’t we different from China? Me thinks we are and ought to be.

Posted by JamalovesAfrica | Report as abusive

Ridiculously biased.

The fact that you stated that you are friends and admire Susan Rice doesn’t make you any less bias.

For everyone else, if you’re reading between the lines here, the message from Michael O’Hanlon is one that any neo-con would agree with:

The ends justify the means.

You can put ribbons and bows around it, dress it up nicer and attempt to sweeten the wording but his defense of Susan Rice comes down to this.

As another posted noted: “Congo is a case in point, and it is true that Rwanda’s recent role there has been problematic.”

‘Problematic’ :)

This whole love letter to Susan Rice is problematic.

Posted by TheUSofA | Report as abusive

But she is a capable public servant and a serious candidate for the job. The recent criticisms — including the New York Times commentary — are often unfair.

Really…you, Rice and this article make me sick but this is the new America we all voted for…enjoy…

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

China, China, China…

Posted by AGSIM | Report as abusive

While I agree with most comments that have been posted here, it gets even worse as far as Rice’s legacy goes. Her role during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 was enough to ban her from ever setting a foot in the State Department again.

http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/colum ns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/rices-f ailure-in-rwanda-precludes-her-from-beco ming-secretary-of-state/2012/12/10/

Posted by Globegrowth | Report as abusive

Let’s not forget that Susan also supported the rebel group RUF in Sierra Leone during their civil war. She also spearheaded the I initiative to ignore the genocide in Rwanda on behalf of the Clinton administration I’m sure Mikey boy is pals with her hubby Ian Cameron (former executive producer/VP at ABCNews). This would explain the fact that you have to scrape the barrel to find any articles or major news coverage on this. The payoff that Marc Rich gave her and the administration in return for his pardon swears them to silence on the rape murder and theft of a nation for its natural resources. Tell me Michael, how do you elites live with yourselves knowing full well that 6 million lives have been lost in the Congo half of them children under the age of 5.

Posted by tvk1983 | Report as abusive

Eritrea is a terrorist State shunned not only by US & EU, but by entire African Union members…Eritrea’s only supporters, Gaddafi & Mubarak are gone. Only the usual cadre of Eritrean bloggers, aka Salem Solomon, remain.

THANK YOU SUSAN RICE!

Posted by Ras-Mitat | Report as abusive

[…] O’Hanlon, in his Reuters Opinion piece, “In defense of Susan Rice” (Reuters, December 10, 2012), took issue with my New York Times op-ed article, “Susan Rice and […]