Wednesday, November 28, 2012


The current American ambassador to the UN is under consideration for nominee as Secretary of State.  Coming after Hillary Clinton this will be a monumental act to follow.  Furthermore, after the Benghazi tragedy, which was bungled by the administration, Ambassador Susan Rice has become unwillingly identified with a clumsy, confused narrative which was not of her doing.  In all fairness, one should indeed recognize that the ambassador became the victim of an "anonymous" script, which continues to haunt the President's record. The Republicans smell blood and will not let go even when they cannot stop if the President decides to go ahead.

A Secretary of State should have the qualities of a diplomat and the trust of constituencies in the land and worldwide. Mrs. Clinton is adept both in charm and professional soundness, while always ready to castigate when required. Her efforts were often successful but remain at the same time incomplete.  She had to navigate treacherous waters, not least in Washington, where her relationship with the President still remains shrouded in ambiguity.  Susan Rice would give Obama the free ride which Mrs. Clinton was apt to reign in.

The achievements are fragile.  The building blocks of international affairs are in a permanent flux. The former granite worldview has been replaced by a myriad of unstable, ephemeral events and regrouping which often happen to be stillborn. The personal chemistry of yesterday with friend and (often) with foe alike is almost totally gone. The Obama/Clinton "team" was nevertheless able to partially heal bruised egos and dysfunctional relations. This required a lot of patience, creativity and a capacity to listen and to "seduce."

It would be redundant to sum up here situations such as the Middle East or the global financial mess which need continuous mending and adaptation.  No doubt Ms. Rice has the intellectual cloud to deal with this chaotic landscape.  Besides, she has the ear of the President. Other personal qualifications are more dubious. It is not a good omen if one who is called upon to mediate world affairs is not even able to come forward with coherent arguments to placate critics at home.  Her savoir faire became  questionable, even before her possible nomination and hearings in Congress. This might be unfair but this job is not for the weak at heart, nor is it for individuals who might have to deal with a confidence deficit abroad.

Under the circumstances it might be advisable to look for an alternative candidate who could cash in a consensual added value at home to become more efficient abroad. We are in need of principles without becoming abrasive. We have to deal with third   parties, even when we might disagree on certain matters of policy (as will be the case in the UN regarding Palestine.) The Asian agenda must not de-prioritize the Atlantic, BRICS, and other issues which lead to too more meetings than decisions.  America remains indeed the "indispensable" partner and is in need of an unblemished foreign policy machinery. The United States cannot afford a Colin Powell repeat.  Loyalty is admirable as long as it does not obscure the facts.

The debate regarding the future Secretary of State should not degenerate into a frontal attack against the President by proxy.  Neither should the integrity of Ms. Rice be questionable. The heart of the matter is to examine who would serve American interests best.  Faites vos jeux.

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