Of course, being reliably bellicose is no sin among either party’s foreign policy elite—in Washington today, extramarital affairs get you bounced from top foreign policy jobs, and unconstitutional wars get you nominated for them. Congressional Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, oppose Rice’s possible nomination because of her televised comments on the Benghazi attack in September, which killed four Americans, including Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya. They say she was either lying or incompetent in arguing that the attacks were not premeditated terrorism but a spontaneous outgrowth of a protest against a silly anti‐Islam video.
The problem with Republican complaints about Rice isn’t that they’re partisan; it’s that they’re trivial. We could have used more complaint and scrutiny, partisan or not, about the invasion of Iraq, the surge in Afghanistan, and the bombing of Libya—actions which Rice quietly endorsed, supported, and championed, respectively. Instead, she gets attacked for a relatively minor issue where her main role was public relations.
There is nothing wrong with asking why security at the U.S. consulate and the CIA facility in Benghazi was lacking or why the White House rushed out its U.N. ambassador to discuss still‐murky events. Maybe something more damning will emerge from the upcoming hearings. But so far, opposition to Rice’s nomination mostly seems intended to publicize a controversy ginned‐up to hype the fading al Qaeda threat and damage the White House. Those suggesting that there’s a cover‐up have not explained how hiding terrorism would have benefited the White House, given that terrorism typically helps incumbent presidents, especially ones that benefit from talking about dead terrorists rather than unemployed Americans. Nor is it clear what damage the temporary confusion and Rice’s contribution to it did—surely nothing approaching what the last Rice on the road to being secretary of state contributed to by misleading the country about the relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq.
Susan Rice, as her backers note, is well‐qualified to be secretary of state. But she isn’t applying for an internship. Cabinet nominee’s policy positions matter more than their resumes. The right knock on Rice is that as someone who supported a batch of needless wars, she is likely to support the next one.
By Rice’s account, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, which occurred while she served on President Clinton’s National Security Council, was crucial to her views. Though it is questionable whether U.S. military intervention could have occurred in time to stop that slaughter, Rice says regret about U.S. inaction there convinced her to support dramatic action, including war, to prevent the recurrence of humanitarian atrocities. She seems to apply that lesson in quite disparate circumstances.
Since she left the Clinton administration, Rice has not publicly opposed any U.S. military intervention, unless you count her support for ending the war in Iraq while campaigning for Obama or her recent statements explaining the administration’s reluctance to use force Syria. Otherwise, she has vocally supported some proposed interventions and been quiet about others. (It’s possible my review missed an anti‐war statement somewhere, but if so, it was not something she much repeated).
During the Bush administration, Rice, then at the Brookings Institution, was a leading advocate for intervening in Sudan’s civil war to protect civilians in the rebellious Darfur region. She suggested bombing various targets, an international peace‐keeping force, and a naval blockade. She cited the bombing of Kosovo as an example of how U.S. and allied forces could intervene even without U.N. Security authorization, in contravention of international law.
Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Rice said little about the merits of war there, but in December 2002, she offered support for the Bush’s administration’s handling of the situation, arguing that: