President Barack Obama, in a January New Republic interview, was asked bluntly if the United States should actively intervene in Syria’s civil war. He thoughtfully explained his reservations. Several concerned Syria, but the last one pointed to larger ethical issues. “And how do I weigh,” Obama asked, “tens of thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?”
With this comment, Obama cut to the heart of an age-old dilemma about humanitarian military intervention — whether it is worth addressing some conflicts when you know that others continue to simmer, or boil over, at the same time?
As Hillary Rodham Clinton finished her last few weeks on the job, after a month of convalescence, how can we assess the secretary of state’s contributions?
The question is worth asking simply because of the job’s importance and its significance for U.S. national security. It is also relevant given Clinton’s unprecedented role in our national life over the last two decades.
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.