The largely partisan debate over what really happened in Benghazi has centered around the public pronouncements of UN Ambassador Susan Rice, whose comments on the Sunday talk show circuit attributed the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others to a riot precipitated by the “Innocence of Muslims” video. With indications the administration may be considering Rice to replace Hillary Clinton at the State Department, Sen. John McCain has gone on the warpath, declaring her unfit to hold office and vowing to block her nomination: the Fox News media machine echoes his ranting (or perhaps I should say McCain is echoing their ravings). And so the stage is set for another one of those Red Team-Blue Team showdowns that underscore the evolution of politics into pure entertainment, and have nothing whatsoever to do with whatever policy differences the two sides may have.
McCain’s grandstanding is unfortunate, not least of all because it obscures the real reason the Senate should reject the Rice nomination, if and when it is announced: she’s one of the most militant [pdf] of the New Interventionists who infest the Obama administration’s foreign policy shop. With Rice at the helm, the State Department would become an increasingly belligerent mouthpiece for the militant regime-changers who increasingly dominate our foreign policy councils.
Rice was in the vanguard of the Libya operation, and is credited with pressuring a reluctant President to get involved in an adventure he was sure to regret. As the idiotic left-neocon John Avlon enthused in Newsweek/The Daily Beast:
“The Libyan airstrikes mark the first time in U.S. history that a female-dominated diplomatic team has urged military action.
“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and the influential Office of Multilateral and Human Rights Director Samantha Power to argue for airstrikes against Libya. Their advice triggered an abrupt shift in U.S. policy, overturning more cautious administrations’ counselors.”
Leave it to the Beasties to frame this in terms of identity politics, but that is precisely the political calculation the Obama administration will be making if Rice is indeed the President’s nominee for State: not only is Rice one of the Three Harpies of War who — in the Madeleine Albright tradition — agitated for the disastrous Libyan intervention, she’s also African-American, a major plus in an administration where identity politics trumps real world qualifications.
As Undersecretary of State for African Affairs during the Clinton administration, Rice traces her induction into the Humanitarian Interventionist Brigade to the alleged genocide in Rwanda that occurred under Clinton’s watch, and credits the administration’s failure to act as her come-to-Jesus moment: “”I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.” That it was the US consulate in Benghazi that went down in flames due to the blowback from her policy stance and influence is just one of those little ironies of history no one in Washington wants to talk about.
Mentored by Albright — whose reputation as an interventionist of the “humanitarian” school was secured by her infamous remark that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis due to sanctions was “worth it” — Rice apparently absorbed the Albrightian mindset.
She is an especially fervent advocate of stepping up US intervention in Africa. The dark continent, she avers, is in the midst of its “first world war,” and she knows what side she’s on. As Ethiopia’s late dictator Meles Zenawi slashed and burned his way through Somalia, in 2007, Rice’s was the loudest voice in his cheering section. Zenawi, a Marxist revolutionary who seized power in 1991, was a ruthless tyrant who suppressed the opposition, staged phony elections, and became a compliant instrument of Washington. Washington utilized Zenawi when they took up against the Al-Shabab “terrorist” group in Somalia, where Ethiopian troops launched a full-scale invasion which predictably ended in failure. As US military aid poured in, Zenawi launched a campaign of brutal repression against the Oromo and Anuak minorities, decimating their communities, murdering thousands and jailing as many as 25,000.
In spite of Zenawi’s record, his death elicited loud cries of mourning from his Western patrons, especially from Rice, who delivered an embarrassingly effusive paean at his funeral: the departed dictator was “wise,” she said, as well as a loving family man, and she lauded him as a “friend,” calling him by his first name throughout. A more sickening display of obsequious fawning by a US official over a monster in human form has rarely been recorded.
Like Albright, Rice is an abrasive personality: her rhetorical style, suffused with the smug self-righteousness that characterizes the Clinton State Department, was on full display when she went after Russian UN envoy Vitaly Churkin for calling for an investigation into civilian deaths suffered by the Libyans at the hands of their NATO liberators: “Oh, the bombast and bogus claims,” she shrieked. “Welcome to December. Is everybody sufficiently distracted from Syria now and the killing that is happening before our very eyes?” She characterized the Russian veto of measures to isolate the Syrian regime as “disgusting.”
Churkin was quick to reply, chiding this American Valkyrie for the cold war-ish tone of her remarks:
“We hear that the Obama administration wants to establish a dialogue with the international community in the United Nations, and in the Security Council. If that is to be the case, really this Stanford dictionary of expletives must be replaced by something more Victorian, because certainly this is not the language in which we intend to discuss matters with our partners in the Security Council.”
Rice is a Stanford University alumnus, where she graduated, in 1986, with a B. A. in history. She was the recipient of a Truman Scholarship, i.e. a government subsidy, awarded by a federally-supported “foundation” to favored applicants in the field of international studies. Chairperson of the board: Madeleine Albright, who describes the program as “identifying future change agents.”
The “change” she will bring — and has already brought — to the course of US foreign policy means a qualitative ramping up of the “regime change” campaign begun by the Bush administration and escalated by Obama. The theory of the “responsibility to protect” will rationalize the stepped up tempo of US intervention in the Middle East and Africa , at least to the satisfaction of the liberal elites who will cheer her appointment and revel in her rudeness (especially when it comes to insulting the Russians). And it won’t just be Ambassador Churkin who will cringe at her histrionics once she’s ensconced in Foggy Bottom.
While more cautious when it comes to Syria, she’ll no doubt be in the forefront of the administration’s efforts to shape a Syrian opposition group less upfront in its fealty to al-Qaeda. More ominously, she’ll be aggressive when it comes to confronting Iran.
Rice has been the White House’s point-person in its efforts to sound tough on Tehran, and she is firmly in the back pocket of the Israel lobby — a “no daylighter” to the max.
President Obama has been backed into a corner by McCain, and if he doesn’t choose Rice it will be counted as a scalp on Mad John’s belt. Add to this the domestic political advantages of elevating a photogenic African-American female with ties to the Clinton faction of the Democratic party, and you have all the elements of a politically savvy and quite obvious choice. As us libertarian realists like to say: foreign policy is all about domestic politics, and the Rice nomination will mobilize the disparate elements of the Obamaite coalition in a high profile high stakes fight.
Liberals who consider themselves peaceniks will rally around her not least due to the Benghazi bungle and McCain’s vendetta, while conservatives will hate her for entirely the wrong reasons. This is at it should be — in Bizarro World.
Bemoaning McCain’s hegemony in the Republican foreign policy field, and mocking his refusal to consider any appointment unless his (rather vague) demands are met, Rachel Maddow launched into one of her fascinating foreign policy speeches the other night. She showed a hilarious video montage of McCain calling for arming various “rebel” groups, from Bosnia to Syria, and asked: can’t the GOP do better than the Arizona militarist when it comes to finding a foreign policy spokesman?
Susan Rice is bad news for opponents of our global meddling, bad news for the peace movement, and bad news for the country. Too bad we have to depend on McCain to torpedo her nomination: this means she will almost certainly be confirmed, as Mad John is widely seen as pursuing a personal feud and is increasingly isolated on the Hill. Even the always dependable Joe Lieberman — who is retiring — has abandoned him on this matter. That leaves Lindsey Graham as the sole remaining member of the Three Amigos of the War Party. The joke is that McCain and Rice disagree on nothing of substance.
If and when Rice is
confirmed, it will mark the beginning of a new era of “humanitarian”
intervention-on-steroids. Enlisted service members can look forward
to frequent deployments to the jungles of Africa, while the
“liberal” punditocracy on the home front can anticipate silencing critics with bombastic and bogus claims of “racism.”
Matthews will have a ball.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
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