13 Dec

A quick note on Ambassador Susan Rice

It is a positive outcome that Susan Rice should not have been in contention for Secretary of State. 

To keep it simple, there are three points:

  1. Her proven expertise is in Africa and in the UN, and neither of those are defining, hot-button, front burner issues for the US today, nor are likely to be in the future. 
  2. The rise of new Asian powers and the US’s “Asia pivot” appears to be the defining hot-button, front burner foreign policy issue for the Obama Administration, but for which Ambassador Rice doesn’t have proven expertise in the region.
  3. There is no stated strategy or explicit worldview being offered by the Administration that explains the relative importance of the policies in #2 relative to the policies in #1.

In other words, without #3, a reasonable interpretation of Rice’s nomination by President Obama would be that the defining foreign policy initiative of his second term should be represented, if not led, by someone who doesn’t possess any expertise on that initiative.

That reflects a disconnect. The Asia pivot reflects an historic, fundamental change from the Euro-centrism of the past two centuries of US foreign policy. Africa and the UN are important, but simply do not compare in terms of the importance of 1.3B Chinese and 1.2B Indians to the future of US foreign policy. 

Yet, given available information, one could interpret from the choice of Susan Rice that the President weighs Africa, Asia, and the UN as equal cornerstones of the President’s worldview. But it’s unclear why the President believes they merit equal weight.

So without #3, the disconnect above can be perceived as a reasonable insight into the President’s thinking on foreign policy. And, this reasonable insight provides strangely unreasonable, if not messy, implications. The messiest implication is that Africa, Asia, and the UN are of primary, if not equal, importance to the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.

And that’s a strange, if not indecisive, worldview to be offering Americans and American allies at a time when Asia appears to be most important issue to Obama’s foreign policy.

So whoever the nominee is should help to answer the types of questions raised by Susan Rice’s nomination. It is important to note that the nomination of John Kerry wouldn’t answer these questions, either.

Ideally, we’ll see a different nominee for Secretary of State. And if we do, he or she should reflect the Asia pivot first and foremost.

Perhaps we could see the President nominate former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman?