Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Susan Rice

David Seaton's News Links
Susan Rice
In diplomacy the core question is often this: What do I want to get and what do I have to give to get it? Certitudes and bluntness get you only so far. It is less a question of what you know than how curious you are about what you do not." Roger Cohen on Susan Rice - NYT
What I want to make clear from the start is that I think Susan Rice is a very talented high achiever, with total access to the President of the United States. For me it is also clear that her being a woman and an African-American are both pluses in representing the United States in a world where the majority of human beings are neither white nor male. And at least she is not contemplating running for president in 2016, with all the pandering that something like that entails (Cuba, Israel, etc).
My objection to Susan Rice as Secretary of State has nothing to do with the Benghazi incident, for example, and I think she may be well qualified for many things, but simply not qualified for diplomacy.
The problem for me is that she appears not to have the basic temperament needed for a diplomat, which is to be "diplomatic". For, whatever its color, American diplomacy's face should be a friendly face and Susan Rice's face is anything but friendly. "Diplomacy" is the old word for international "public relations" and this is not likely to be carried out efficiently by anybody whose primary facial expression appears to be that of a flamenco dancer with hemorrhoids.
One of the first qualities of a diplomat is apparent friendliness and charm, which, more often than not, may very well be a disguise for harsh realpolitik and cynical "truthiness", but charm is essential. The last thing the USA needs is to be seen as a "strict governess" and Susan Rice seems totally humorless, self-righteous and authoritarian in manner, which is always a bad sign in anyone charged with managing human foibles and convincing people to do things they might prefer not to do.
If she becomes Secretary of State, her presence will be provocative and counterproductive. In short, despite her many merits, she doesn't fit the job description, like a midget for a basketball team or a fat lady for synchronized swimming. DS

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