Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What's Wrong With The Rice Nomination

A longish response to this article by Taylor Marsh concerning the Susan Rice debacle:

The sad truth is that in the U.S. career foreign policy establishment there are no diplomatic candidates that an elite politician as president could appoint that wouldn’t fall in line with more wars over more diplomacy.

John Kerry is a Better Choice for State Than Susan Rice

Well, yes, other than the thousands of former Foreign Service officers and thousands of former military officers whose careers included a lot of work with foreign militaries and the like. Surely, there are at least a few politically-savvy people among them.

Way back in 2008 I could already see the rough outlines of what Obama’s foreign policy was likely to be, thanks to who he listened to on the issues. Continuation of the “War on Terrorism” and rampant interventionism were likely goals, and most folks with a few functioning brain cells to call their own figured that out when they looked. Susan Rice was one of the reasons.

Leaders don’t appoint advisers who are likely to disagree with them. They don’t want to waste time listening to pitches and having discussions about things they’ve already decided. People who are likely to oppose a leader’s decisions are better off being part of the opposition. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in itself. When a smart leader realizes he’s been setting the wrong agenda, he can change, and find different advisers.

What makes that tendency a bad thing these days in America is that DC is full of people who are always willing to praise the leaders of their party no matter what. People dissenting on matters of fact or principle are rarely part of the conversation, and even when they are can be dismissed as either cranks or partisans. After all, how can you not be either a crank or a partisan and not recognize the wonder that is [Bush|Obama]? What amazes me about both George W. Bush and Barack Obama is how often and blatantly they disregarded the values of their base, and yet were praised to the heavens by many of the people who said they believed in those things. In an environment like this, I have to believe that leaders are even less likely to recognize their own failures and make adjustments.

To me, that’s the most basic problem that Susan Rice represents, even more basic than the particular problem of the nonsensical foreign policy priorities she represents. I don’t like her conflicts of interest, but just about anyone who is chosen from the inner circle of DC is likely to have at least a couple. It would be just lovely if people were chosen for cabinet positions based on their knowledge of the subject matter and willingness to speak out when they think the President is wrong, but that ain’t happening.

But, like one of those excuses for why the economy isn’t jumping up and succeeding, it’s not because there aren’t qualified people out there. It’s because DC doesn’t want to pay for them. In this case, that price isn't in wages, but in the bad publicity and "confusion" open disagreement among government leaders supposedly causes the public.

That's the sad truth of Susan Rice. Personally, I don't think John Kerry would be a better Secretary of State. For one thing, I don't think he has the ability to charm people that Hillary Clinton clearly had. But, more importantly, there's little reason to believe that he'd either speak out or resign on principle if President Obama tried to involve us in another costly and ultimately fruitless foreign adventure. He wouldn't even stand on principle when he was thinking about being our country's leader. How likely is he to fall on his sword now?

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