Third, intervention advocates almost never help prosecute the wars they advocate. Promiscuous crusaders like former vice president Richard Cheney always seem to have “other priorities” as they plot when and where everyone else should fight and die. Moral satisfaction comes easily while treating military personnel like gambit pawns in a global chess game.
Indeed, self‐professed humanitarians seem to demonstrate surprisingly little concern for those stuck doing the dirty work. As Christopher Orlet noted in The American Spectator: “What distinguishes such statesmen is their ability to care. [But not] about the Missouri and Tennessee and Alabama sons and daughters who will lose limbs or lives in some Arabian desert for the sake of a people who hate us.”
Nevertheless, Rice’s views appear genuine. And the Rwanda genocide helped form her philosophy. She worked on Africa for the Clinton administration and was accused of ignoring the mass killing. Afterwards Rice declared to journalist Power that in the future she would “come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.” (Ironically, she became friends with Rwanda’s postgenocide president, Paul Kagame, and helped protect his brutish authoritarian regime from international sanction.)
After leaving government Rice suggested sending “2,000 or so U.S. forces, in formed units, with some peace‐enforcement or fighting capability, if necessary” to Liberia. Later she advocated “bombing Sudanese targets—air fields, air assets, command and control installations.” She added: “We could also contemplate other military options if those don’t succeed, even those as robust as considering blockading Port Sudan, through which Sudan’s oil assets flow.” Her objective was to insert UN peacekeepers, supported by NATO, into Darfur “to prevent the government of Sudan from continuing its second wave of genocide and killing massive numbers of civilians.” And in her view, UN approval would have been useful but not necessary.
Most recently Rice pushed for intervention in Libya, a conflict in which the United States had no discernible stake. She told reporters: “We are interested in a broad range of actions that will effectively protect civilians and increase the pressure on the Qaddafi regime to halt the killing.” (The National Interest’s Jacob Heilbrunn pointed to Samantha Power’s important role as well.) Of course, the conflict did not turn out particularly well for America or Rice, given the chaotic aftermath in Libya, including the Benghazi attack, and the precedent of ousting Qaddafi after he negotiated away his nuclear program.
Although Rice said little on Syria, the chatter is that both she and Secretary Kerry pushed for a more active stance, leading to the decision to arm the insurgents. And if this policy fails to end the conflict—as seems almost certain—it would not surprise if she pushed for more vigorous involvement, including possibly military action. Toss in Samantha Power and the president may be facing his own Greek Chorus demanding war.
For good reason the Washington Post headlined an article about the choice of Rice and Power: “Obama Signals New Approach on National Security.” One of the chief ivory‐tower interventionists, columnist Michael Gerson, explained: “apart from Syria, it is likely to make a large difference,” since “Even a modest push on humanitarian issues can put bureaucracies and coalitions into motion.” As for Syria, argued Gerson: “it is absurd to think that personnel is irrelevant to policy. Large, immediate shifts are not likely. But moving forward, each incremental choice will be influenced by a team of advisers—including Rice, Power and Secretary of State John Kerry.”
This is bad news, since Syria is a textbook example of a war America should avoid: U.S. security is not at risk, other nations have more at stake, many “good” guys in fact are bad, Washington would own the bloody aftermath, and there would be no easy exit.
And there will be many more possible wars to fight in the future. Whereas American officials once sought to avoid unnecessary military conflicts, today Washington is filled with pundits, legislators, diplomats and presidential aides demanding to loose the dogs of war.
Still, nothing is certain. Presidential press secretary Jay Carney insisted “ultimately it is the president of the United States who … makes the decision.”
True. And when he does he should reflect on his predecessor, whose administration is remembered primarily for its disastrous and unnecessary war. With Americans staunchly opposed to another Mideast military misadventure, turning his foreign policy over to Susan Rice and like‐minded allies could wreck the Obama presidency.