Susan Rice Would Be a Mistake for Secretary of State, and Here is Why

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that Susan Rice, “appears to have a clearer path to succeeding retiring Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton” now that John McCain and Lindsey Graham have softened their opposition to her candidacy. “If she is nominated for the position,” the AP’s Steven Hurst predicted, ”it may signal greater U.S. willingness to intervene in world crises during Obama’s second term.”

Bill Kristol believes that it would, which is why he supports Rice over other qualified candidates, including especially John Kerry (D-MA). Asked on FoxNews Sunday why he prefers Rice over Kerry, Kristol said:

“Because I think Susan Rice has been a little more interventionist than John Kerry ... John Kerry has been against our intervening in every war that we intervened.”

That isn’t true, of course: Kerry infamously was for the second Iraq war before he was against it. But as Ben Friedman writes at U.S. News and World Report, within the generally interventionist foreign-policy community, Susan Rice is more interventionist than most.

In that context, I understand why the Senate’s small (and shrinking) Interventionist Caucus prefers Susan Rice. I understand why Kristol and the neoconservatives do. But I don’t understand why other people support her so strongly. Although the political class favors costly crusades abroad, most everyone outside of that tiny circle believes in leading by example. Most favor, Obama’s words, more “nation building here at home.” In short, Americans generally favor global engagement, but they reject the neoconservative variety.

The recent election was not a referendum on foreign policy. The issue barely registered. Although those who cared most about foreign policy favored Obama over Romney by a 56 to 33 margin, those voters represented just 5% of the electorate according to a Fox News exit poll. What’s more, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney agreed on most foreign policy issues. Romney favored more belligerent rhetoric, and huge increases for the Pentagon’s budget, but his prescriptions for the future boiled down to "what Obama did, just more of it." More meddling in distant civil wars, more nation building, a heavy U.S. military footprint wherever possible, and more drone strikes with less oversight where ground troops can’t go.

That seems to neatly summarize Susan Rice’s views, also. If Barack Obama nominates Rice to be the next Secretary of State, he will effectively be saying that he doesn’t care what the public wants, and that Mitt Romney was right.

This article originally appeared on the Cato Institute's Cato@Liberty blog.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Christopher Preble

Christopher A. Preble is the vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. He is the author of three books including The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous and Less Free (Cornell University Press, 2009), which documents the enormous costs of America's military power, and proposes a new grand strategy to advance U.S. security; and John F. Kennedy and the Missile Gap (Northern Illinois University Press, 2004), which explores the political economy of military spending during the 1950s and early 1960s. Preble is also the lead author of Exiting Iraq: How the U.S. Must End the Occupation and Renew the War against Al Qaeda (Cato Institute, 2004); and he co-edited, with Jim Harper and Benjamin Friedman, Terrorizing Ourselves: Why U.S. Counterterrorism Policy Is Failing and How to Fix It (Cato Institute, 2010). In addition to his books, Preble has published over 150 articles in major publications including USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times, National Review, The National Interest, the Harvard International Review, and Foreign Policy. He is a frequent guest on television and radio. Before joining Cato in February 2003, he taught history at St. Cloud State University and Temple University. Preble was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, and served onboard USS Ticonderoga (CG-47) from 1990 to 1993. Preble holds a Ph.D. in history from Temple University.

MORE FROM

‘Hot Mic’ podcast: GOP healthcare lives, Trump is angry with Sessions, Manafort subpoenaed

What you need to know for Wednesday, July 26.

UK bans all new diesel and gasoline cars starting in 2040

Britain is pushing for a move to cleaner, more efficient vehicles.

Thousands evacuated in French Riviera as wildfires break out along the coast

Fires are threatening the popular vacation destination.

Warrant suggests Justine Damond may have slapped police cruiser before she was fatally shot

The officers involved in the shooting remain on paid administrative leave.

House passes new sanctions against Russia by an enormous margin

The bill also places limits on Trump’s power to ease or end penalties against Russia.

Paul Manafort is meeting with Senate investigators. Here’s what we know about his Russia ties.

Paul Manafort has Russia links dating back more than 10 years.

‘Hot Mic’ podcast: GOP healthcare lives, Trump is angry with Sessions, Manafort subpoenaed

What you need to know for Wednesday, July 26.

UK bans all new diesel and gasoline cars starting in 2040

Britain is pushing for a move to cleaner, more efficient vehicles.

Thousands evacuated in French Riviera as wildfires break out along the coast

Fires are threatening the popular vacation destination.

Warrant suggests Justine Damond may have slapped police cruiser before she was fatally shot

The officers involved in the shooting remain on paid administrative leave.

House passes new sanctions against Russia by an enormous margin

The bill also places limits on Trump’s power to ease or end penalties against Russia.

Paul Manafort is meeting with Senate investigators. Here’s what we know about his Russia ties.

Paul Manafort has Russia links dating back more than 10 years.