Thursday, December 17, 2020

Susan Rice: Tough Love

Originally the thinking was she might be a vice president candidate or a cabinet minster, but with the tight Congress she would be a lot of grief getting approved.  While writing she is being offered a position not requiring Senate confirmation.  BUT she is a worthy subject for what she has done and how.  Her book gives some very interesting insights and after reading I believe she has been unfairly besmirched and  offers herself as a worthy American advocate.

Coming from a tight knit family she relates the background of not only great and grand parents, but also aunts and uncles.  There is a bit of multi relation and some of her relatives are lighter in color than others and there is some discrimination within them.  One common feature is a respect for education that was pushed with lots of sacrifices.  Susan is tough on herself with personality and physical flaws that are more than self-deprecation.

She and her brother lived through their parent's tempestuous marriage that ended in divorce.  Although they loved both parents they had to resist a legal manoeuvre to force a decision with the help of some legal responses of their own.  

Grew up in Washington, DC and attended Stanford where she met her husband, Ian Cameron  and later studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.  After graduation she accepted a job with McKinsey and Company a management consulting with a branch in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Her  boyfriend Ian just returning from the London School of Economics lined up a job with C.B.C. Television producing a nightly news program.  Ian proposed to her and she accepted, but then developed cold feet and called it off.   While Ian was in South Africa dealing with apartheid she heard on the CBC that Ian's boss, Barbara Frum, Ian's boss had died.  It created a moment of clarity for her and she phoned Ian to break the bad news, but also to say she now was willing to marry him.   Barbara had been one that had encouraged their engagement.  Barbara Frum was someone I used to regularly listen to on her radio program and later on her newscasts. and now I enjoy listening to her conservative son, David Frum.  

Her first government position was with Richard Clarke.  As Clinton began his presidency he ran into a problem with Black Hawk Down which scared off Congress inhibiting many future options.  Then the Rwanda genocide which Clinton thought of as his biggest regret.  Africa had been her Oxford thesis and she found herself involved with the continent that Obama had given more priority to.

Later Susan was given a promotion for Africa working as an assistant to for the State Department.  Sudan being linked to terrorist activities she wanted a trade boycott, but was stymied by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey who wanted to protect imports of gum arabic, an essential ingredient in pharmaceuticals that were manufactured in New Jersey.   South Sudan was created with American encouragement but shortly displayed corruption and mismanagement.

Eight years out of government, but helped with campaigns and a variety of concerns.  Being a wife and mother took a higher priority until Barack Obama ran for president.  She had had some contact with him, particularly with foreign affairs advice and decided to support him instead of Hilary Clinton.  She spoke on his behalf as a surrogate and gave foreign affairs advice.

With the Obama  administration she first was given the post of Ambasssador to the United Nations and later National Security Advisor and in both roles ran into numerous international issues.

To her Afghanistan seemed ungrateful for American deaths.  She dealt with Hamid Karzai and reached a similar evaluation as from Sarah Chayes.  Chayes had much to say about the role of corruption that seem very relevant;

The so called "Benghazi scandal" was manufactured and I suspect, not only to hurt the Obama administration, but specifically to hurt Susan Rice who was seen as a formidable adversary.  Ordinarily Hilary Clinton would have been called to make the attack announcement, but Susan merely read off the C.I.A. approved information with a careful caution that it was only preliminary.

On the Cuban project Susan  worked with Ben Rhodes to open up relations behind media and Congressional view.   It has been for decades a very delicate issue as Florida has many bitter exiles that have demonstrated they can help tip an election.  My view is that Cuba had a Revolution to get rid of the Mafia and the 1% holding power.  It turned out the Communists were a viable tool in that regard. My thoughts on Cuba

Another major project was the nuclear agreement with Iran, that was more recently broken by Trump.   Susan helped in the negotiations and recognized the goal was nuclear disarmament which could form the basis for dealing further irritants.  My thoughts:

Daily she dealt with a variety of assaults on the American Government, but her book does more than cover many of the global crises, it also comments on the procedures to deal with the problems. 

Rice was responsible for setting up and chairing Principals Committee that included Obama and cabinet ministers.  It was intended to identify priorities and how best to tackle them.  Each participant was on a tight schedule and very likely had already set up their next appointment or travel plan for right after meeting.  Sometimes they would get riled up and need to be calmed down or steered to a more productive tack.

Trump's presidency has been a blow to her, but she has boosted Democratic efforts and played a small role in advising on foreign affairs.

She and her husband are open minded enough that their son, Jake has been president of the Republican Club at Stanford.  Their daughter Maris is of a more progressive bent, but they all love one another. 

I am looking forward to reading Barrack Obama's book knowing that Santa has been searching to get me a copy.   I would also recommend Susan's book to better understand the many power struggles in the world.

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