Thursday, November 29, 2012

Warning Signs: The Susan Rice Troubles Beyond Benghazi

Yeah, come to think of it, the ambassador's Benghazi lies are just the start of our worries.

From Anne Bayefsky and Michael Mukasey, at WSJ, "The Trouble With Susan Rice":
Several Republican senators continue to oppose the possible nomination of Susan Rice, currently the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to be secretary of state in President Obama's second term. Their opposition stems largely from Ms. Rice's repeated insistence, five days after terrorists murdered four Americans at a U.S. facility in Libya, that the slaughter stemmed from spontaneous Muslim rage over an amateur video. Sen. John McCain at one point called Ms. Rice "unfit" for the job.

To assess fitness, one might look at those who served previously as secretary of state. More than one has said or done foolish things, or served without notable distinction.

In 1929, Henry Stimson dismantled the nation's only cryptographic facility, located in the State Department, with the airy observation that gentlemen don't read one another's mail. (He sobered up by World War II, when as secretary of war he oversaw a robust code-breaking effort.) More recently, Clinton administration Secretary of State Warren Christopher diminished the office by making several futile pilgrimages to Syria, where he once waited on his airplane for over half an hour in Damascus before being told that Syrian dictator Hafez Assad was too busy to see him. Assad calculated correctly that the slap would be cost-free.

By this modest standard, some might find that Susan Rice is fit. But moral fitness is also relevant, and it is in that category that the Benghazi episode is relevant.

The president has said that Ms. Rice should not be criticized because she "had nothing to do with Benghazi" and so couldn't have known better when she gave her false account. According to Mr. Obama (and to her), she simply repeated talking points provided by an amorphous and anonymous "intelligence community."

But Ms. Rice did know at least a couple of things. She knew that she had nothing to do with Benghazi. She knew that after the attack the president insisted that U.S. leaders not "shoot first and aim later" but rather "make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts." She knew that the video story line was questionable, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and administration officials had already suggested publicly that the attack was al Qaeda-related. And she knew that the president had a political interest in asserting that al Qaeda wasn't successfully attacking senior American officials but was instead "on the run," as he maintained on the campaign trail.

Senators might therefore ask Ms. Rice why she was put forward to speak about Benghazi, and what part her personal ambition might have played in her willingness to assume the role known during the Cold War as "useful idiot."

Ms. Rice might also be asked what she knew about al Qaeda's operations in Libya. As a member of the U.N. Security Council and its "Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee," she is privy, for example, to information about the al Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which is under sanctions and, according to the council, "maintain[s] a presence in eastern Libya."

Senators might also explore Ms. Rice's broader record at the U.N. Why, for example, did she think it was appropriate to absent herself from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's September speech to the General Assembly, the purpose of which was to offer the global community a painstaking explanation of why Iran must be stopped before it can weaponize its growing stock of enriched uranium.

Then there is the matter of U.S. participation for the past three years in the U.N. Human Rights Council, alongside such paragons as China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia (soon to be replaced by Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Ivory Coast and Venezuela)...
Still more at that top link.