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Le Devoir, Canada

The Post-Hillary Enigma

By Louis Balthazar

Translated By Malina McLennan

22 November 2012

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard

Canada - Le Devoir - Original Article (French)

It seems like Hillary Clinton’s trip accompanying President Obama to Asia and its brief stopover in Israel will have been her last duty as the American Secretary of State. Who will replace her? The president has yet to officially announce the name of the person who will be subjected to the ratification of the Senate. According to most commentators, Susan Rice, currently the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will be named. She appears to be Obama’s favorite. They go back a long time; she helped him during his 2008 campaign.

She is presently dealing with accusations coming from Republicans, like Arizona’s John McCain (presidential candidate in 2008) and Lindsey Graham from South Carolina. The media is curious. People seem to revel in asking questions, addressing her potential responsibilities in a crisis.

This is all a result of the terrorist attack on September 11 in Benghazi, in which Chris Stevens did not survive. A fateful date! Mitt Romney tactlessly attempted to use the incident for partisan reasons during his presidential campaign. It didn’t go over well. The president outmaneuvered him by invoking the gravity of the situation, announcing that this needed to be kept out of political games.

But some questions remain — particularly regarding Susan Rice’s role the day after the tragedy occurred. She had been given the responsibility of assigning a series of interviews to several television networks. She allegedly deliberately associated the attack with the Muslim population’s negative reactions to a horrible and blasphemous video, “The Innocence of Muslims,” produced by an American; she made no reference to al-Qaida, who we now know were the only ones responsible. Her actions demonstrated a lack of responsibility and incompetence. Her misinforming the general public does not make her seem deserving of managing foreign affairs.

What Do These Accusations Mean?

Whatever the legitimacy of these accusations, which are now subject to an investigation by a special commission of the Senate, they indicate a fundamental concern among the accusers: an approach to foreign policy that they want to pit against that of Obama.

What Susan Rice is truly being accused of is not of having failed to immediately detect the absolute evil that is plotting against the United States, the enemy that constantly needs to be demonized in order to have a clear conscience. By denouncing these malicious terrorists, the American people are exempted from their own responsibilities, of recognizing their own mistakes, of advocating a more nuanced and discrete approach to politics and of renouncing American exceptionalism, which has no place in today’s world (not that it ever had one). The Republicans were hoping the prolong the Manichaean dichotomy that served the United States well both during the Cold War and more recently in George W. Bush’s “global war against terrorism.”

While continuing the fight against terrorism in a more discrete manner, Obama attempted to put in place, at least partially, a new political framework during his first term, a system based on multipolarity and interdependence. In this instance, a woman like Susan Rice, a member of the school of Liberal Internationalism, would be well-suited for the position of Secretary of State in upcoming years.

Behind the case of Susan Rice lies the discreet leadership, instrumental in the intervention in Libya, that is currently being questioned. Republicans claim that the Obama administration is negligent with regards to security in the still fragile state. Obama also does not tend to present the United States as an infallible superpower, nor does he shy away from admitting the United States has a lot to learn from other democracies that are increasing in numbers in this new world of intricate interdependence.
According to a recent publication by the Council on Foreign Relations, “Adjusting to multipolarity does not mean abandoning U.S. leadership. Coalitional leadership means that the United States will lead by collaboration and reciprocal agreement rather than rely on preponderance, threats and coercion” (Daniel Deudney and John Inkenberry, An American Grand Strategy for a Post-exceptionalist Era). This could be a program that could be put in place during Obama’s second term.

This program lies behind the opposition to Susan Rice. It could very well be the essence of Obama’s foreign policy.



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