Susan Rice and the illusion of change

Eric Draitser
Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City and the founder of StopImperialism.com. He is a regular contributor to RT, Counterpunch, New Eastern Outlook, Press TV, and many other news outlets. Visit StopImperialism.com for all his work.
Susan Rice and the illusion of change
The appointment of Susan Rice as national security adviser to Obama is instructive in the context of domestic partisan politics. But the true global significance of her appointment will be reflected in US policy in Syria, Africa, and around the world.

Rice, Obama and the Republicans

Undoubtedly the center of this story as presented in the mainstream US media will be the continued conflict between Obama and congressional Republicans who have used the attacks in Benghazi, and Rice’s attempt to cover up the true nature of the terrorist act, as ammunition in their political assault on the administration.  Conversely, Obama’s appointment will be seen as a stern response to the Republican bid for “character assassination” of Rice, as Obama no longer worries about a reelection campaign.

As Mark Landler wrote in the New York Times, “[The appointment of Susan Rice] is also a defiant gesture to Republicans who harshly criticized Ms. Rice for presenting an erroneous account of the deadly attacks on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya … For Ms. Rice, the appointment amounts to redemption.”  From the perspective of the Obama administration, there are two core political motivations in tapping Rice for the position. 

First and foremost, it allows the President to present himself as oppositional to Republicans, as a Democrat willing to stand his ground and defend one of his own against political and personal attacks.  This point is not to be underestimated as President Obama continues to be accused by principled progressives of collusion and collaboration with Republicans on deficit reduction, cuts to vital social programs and other austerity-related policies.  Essentially, Obama is able to use Rice as a shield, deflecting attention away from his destructive economic and political policies in favor of the much more manageable “controversy” about Susan Rice.

U.S. President Barack Obama kisses Susan Rice after his announcement of Rice's appointment as his National Security Advisor and Samantha Power (L) as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, during a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, June 5, 2013 (Reuters / Joshua Roberts)

Additionally, by keeping Rice within the top leadership of the administration, Obama also is able to create the false dichotomy between African-American woman Susan Rice, and the almost entirely white male Republican Party.  In so doing, Obama insulates himself and his administration further by adding the socio-cultural element into the equation; Obama forces white male Republicans to attack Rice and consequently, left liberals to defend her.  This kabuki theater politics has typified the clever tactics of the current administration: playing to its strengths by using the Republicans as a foil.

Of course, what should not be lost on readers is the fact that not one of the “harshest” attacks on Susan Rice has ever questioned the fundamental thinking that underlies her entire world-view: that the United States must use military force, hegemony, and coercion to maintain and expand its imperial posture and protect the interests of Wall Street, London, and the multinational corporations.  Obama’s appointment of Rice is far more than a “defiant gesture,” it is a validation and ringing endorsement of the “humanitarian war” and “Responsibility to Protect (R2P)” doctrine espoused by Rice since the Clinton administration.  It is an unequivocal affirmation of the “righteousness” of US-NATO’s savage war on Libya and continued destabilization and subversion of Syria.  It is the proclamation of a continued and sustained neo-colonial presence in Africa.  It is here that we can clearly identify the true significance of this appointment. 

Syria, Africa and Beyond

As national security adviser, Susan Rice will be in perhaps the most important foreign policy position, helping to craft US policy rather than being merely the public face of US diplomacy, as would have been her job as Secretary of State. Perhaps the most pressing issue that Rice will address is the continued conflict in Syria.  As UN Ambassador, Rice has a long track record of abrasive and inflammatory remarks disguised as diplomacy but used to perpetuate and expand the conflict.  As Rice stated publicly in February of 2012 after Russia and China vetoed a one-sided, US-backed resolution which would have laid the groundwork for intervention in Syria:

First of all, we all felt that it was outrageous in any instance for Russia and China to veto a   resolution that was really a political expression of support for the Arab League initiative and for   the people of Syria and a condemnation of violence…but it was even more outrageous that they   would do so at a time when Assad was stepping up the killing in such a horrific way.

Susan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to the media during a U.N. Security Council consultation on the latest development in North Korea April 5, 2009 at United Nations headquarters in New York City (Daniel Barry / Getty Images / AFP)

Not only does this statement demonstrate clearly the belligerent and undiplomatic rhetoric that has been the hallmark of Susan Rice’s tenure as UN ambassador, but it also lays bare the inescapable fact that Rice is the embodiment of “liberal” imperialism.  While admonishing Russia and China for “shielding a craven tyrant,” implicit in her remarks is that human rights is merely the cover for intervention and the expansion of US hegemony.  In essence, Rice attacks Russia and China for preventing the Libya scenario – complete with UN quasi-authorization – being applied to Syria.  She blasted Moscow and Beijing for “obstruction” in the UN, illustrating in the most transparent way possible that she, like her predecessors and the Western ruling class, view the UN and all international institutions as being subservient to the agenda of Washington.

Rice, in fact, admitted this publicly when she stated that Washington would “intensify efforts outside the Security Council.”  She and the administration cannot publicly acknowledge their military and material support for the “rebels” in Syria despite the fact that even the NY Times acknowledged in June of 2012 that, “A small number of CIA officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters will receive arms.”  However, as recently as last week, Susan Rice was publicly posturing as if she and the administration are being cautious in not arming the rebels.  The duplicity and hypocrisy, like her abrasive tone and outright lies, have been the hallmark of Rice’s tenure at the UN and will now simply shift to the White House.

Her appointment as national security adviser, just a week after the European Union chose to end the arms embargo on Syria, paints a dangerous picture for the immediate future in Syria.  Not only will she be the principal individual crafting policy, but she brings with her a cadre of advisors, mentors, and confidantes – including Madeline Albright, Gayle Smith, and Tony Lake – who have advocated for genocide in Iraq and military interventions in the Balkans, Africa, and elsewhere.  This is the imperialist milieu from which Rice emerges, and the world-view she brings with her to the national security adviser position.

US President Barack Obama (2nd R) walks away with newly appointed National Security Advisor Susan Rice (2nd L), outgoing National Security Advisor Tom Donilon (R) and Obama's nominee for US Ambassador to the United Nations former aide Samantha Power (L) after an event in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC, June 5, 2013 (AFP Photo / Jim Watson)

Like Syria, Africa figures prominently in Obama and Rice’s geostrategic agenda.  In the last five years, Rice and Obama have overseen a brutal war against the peaceful nation of Libya, the expansion of terror networks and destabilization throughout much of West Africa, the successful partition of Sudan into two countries, and the continued expansion of US military penetration of the continent in the form of AFRICOM, drone bases, and much more.  As Glen Ford wrote for Black Agenda Report in 2008:

  Her [Rice’s] sole concern is projection of US power by any means – or pretext – that is   available…Rice’s behavior in Africa has been morally inconsistent…after her promotion to   Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, she failed to publicly advocate action against US allies   Uganda and by then Tutsi-ruled Rwanda – the main perpetrators in an ongoing war that has   killed millions…Rice embraces a policy that causes mass death and starvation in Somalia and   ongoing genocide in Congo.

These sorts of ideological and political positions indicate that Rice means more of the same for US imperialism and neo-colonialism in Africa.  However, given the accelerating nature of aggressive US policy on the continent, it is safe to assume that Rice will be one of the principle architects of an updated “security” strategy in Africa, one that will utilize the vast military and political infrastructure created by the US and its imperial partners.  From drone bases in Niger, Djibouti and elsewhere, and using regional groupings and the African Union itself as proxies, Rice will direct Obama to project military power on the continent in ways that have yet to be seen in an attempt to solidify Washington’s grip on the economic and political development of the continent.

The appointment of Susan Rice as national security adviser is not exactly a tremendous departure from current policy.  There will be no fundamental reevaluation of US policy.  Rather, Rice will go from international mouthpiece with a hand in policy, to the primary voice shaping it and whispering in Obama’s ear.  Naturally, the absurd theater of US politics will take center stage as Susan Rice makes it even easier for Republicans to attack Obama on foreign policy and national security issues.  Of course, this is no concern for Rice, Obama and the administration.  If anything, it is precisely what they want.



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