Waaaay back in 2009, when Barack Obama was first elected President, he appointed my old Division Commander, General James Jones, USMC (Ret.) to the post of National Security Adviser. Within a group perceived largely as ideological rather than practical thinkers, a group sorely lacking in foreign policy experience, Jones was considered “adult supervision”.
Jones lasted fewer than 24 months, and his dislike of the Obama team, Axelrod, Emanuel, and his Deputy NSA Tom Donilon was well known. Donilon was perceived almost universally by uniformed leadership as an amateur incompetent, a political animal in way over his head in matters of national security. Jones’ opinion of Donilon was similarly low, and the Administration’s dismissiveness of Jones’ views and embracing of Donilon’s led Jones to the door well short of the two years promised when he was appointed.
Indeed, US foreign policy during Donilon’s tenure has been a catastrophe. US reaction to the “Arab Spring”, to a resurgent Russia, the precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, the Benghazi fiasco, and DPRK sabre-rattling, can only be described as befuddled and reactive. Our “Pacific Pivot” has thus far been purely symbolic, as Chinese influence and power continues to grow while America’s recedes. The National Security Council has been adrift, knocked loose of its “smart power” and “reset button” ideological pinnings by a head-on collision with power politics by expert practitioners of the craft. To make matters worse, Donilon is strongly suspected of leaking classified information, the very kind which endangers US servicemen and women and diplomatic personnel, for the Administration’s political gain.
So now, after thirty months, Donilon is out as National Security Adviser. His replacement is UN Ambassador Susan Rice. Rice’s resumė includes time on the periphery of national security affairs, but little by way of actual decision-making and meaningful policy formulation. And where she has, as Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, her decisions have been highly questionable. Such was the case with the Sudan during the Clinton Administration, when the US had an opportunity to glean intelligence on Osama bin Laden, but Rice declined to do so.
Rice’s visible dislike of the late Richard Holbrooke, the veteran diplomat whose foreign service began before Rice was born, typifies the arrogance and hubris so often found in those in key posts of the Obama Administration. For Holbrooke’s part, his opinion of Susan Rice was that she was incompetent lightweight who refused counsel from an experienced hand. Rice was considered for the National Security Adviser position in 2009, but that went to Jones. Rice was made Ambassador to the United Nations. She was mentioned again recently to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, but John Kerry was selected instead.
Now, Rice is to be NSA after all. Her less than impressive track record before 2012 has now been immeasurably darkened by her demonstrated lack of integrity. Quite simply, Susan Rice knowingly lied to the American people regarding the self-inflicted diplomatic calamity that was the Benghazi incident and the murder of a US Ambassador and three other Americans. Rice went before the television cameras many days after learning the truth about the nature and target of the terrorist attack against the US Benghazi Consulate, and perpetuated the falsehood that the attack was the result of a spontaneous demonstration against a youtube video turned violent. Susan Rice lacks both integrity and judgment. Not at all a combination to inspire confidence. The most that can be said for her replacing Donilon as National Security Adviser is that the move may be a step sideways for a scandal-ridden Administration whose foreign policy team has shown itself naive, inexperienced, and amateurish in the extreme.
The round of musical chairs being played by the Obama Administration offers little real promise to improve the effectiveness of US foreign affairs since 2009. Recycling the same tainted and ill-qualified ideologues who not only do not understand power politics, but seemingly refuse to recognize that such a concept even exists, will further erode America’s ability to defend its interests and influence both our enemies and our allies. This is not a student union protest. This Administration needs to grow up. It takes an adult to deal with the Putins of the world. Susan Rice, as National Security Adviser, hardly qualifies.