President Barack Obama, second from left, former aide Samantha Power, right, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, second from right, and incumbent National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, left, return to the Oval Office after a personnel announcement at the Rose Garden of the White House June 5, 2013 in Washington. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
There are three big losers from President Obama’s cynical appointment of Susan Rice as his new national security adviser: Secretary of State John Kerry, Congress and the American people.
As for the nomination of left-wing activist Samantha Power to replace Rice as UN ambassador, the losers are our foreign policy, our allies and the lefties bellowing for the closure of Gitmo. (It ain’t shutting down soon; this nomination’s a consolation prize to O’s base.)
These personnel choices are brilliant hardball politics — but, once again, the Obama White House has elevated politics above serious strategy.
Media pundits promptly opined that Rice’s appointment will alienate Republicans. But our president’s written off Republicans as dead meat. Bringing Rice into the Executive Branch’s innermost circle rewards her for being a good soldier in taking the fall on Benghazi, and it makes it virtually impossible for Congress to subpoena her for a grilling, thanks to our government’s separation of powers. Sharp move, Mr. President.
Pity poor John Kerry, though: He really, really wanted to be a noteworthy secretary of state. Already held at arms-length, now he’ll be relegated to visiting countries that never make the headlines and handing out retirement awards (plus working on the Middle East “peace process,” the ultimate diplomatic booby prize).
Rice has the weakest credentials of any national security adviser in the history of the office, but she has the president’s ear as his old pal. And she’ll work in the White House: Proximity to POTUS is trumps in DC. Kerry’s desk in Foggy Bottom might as well be a hundred miles from the Oval Office.
However incompetent, Rice may become the most influential national security adviser since Henry Kissinger eclipsed the entire State Department. Which means that Obama’s foreign policy, already disastrous, is now going to get worse.
As for the earnest Ms. Power, she has zero qualifications to serve as our UN ambassador. She’s a left–wing militant who has yet to show the least interest in defending America, rather than merely using our might as her tool. Her cause is human rights abroad, and that’s her only cause. And while respect for human rights should be a major factor in our foreign policy, it can’t be the only factor.
Both Power and Rice consistently advocate using our military to protect the human rights of often-hostile foreign populations. Of course there are, indeed, times when measured intervention is strategically wise and morally imperative — but our military’s fundamental purpose is national defense, not mercy missions to those who spit in our faces.
(By the way, I know of no instance when Power has vigorously defended Jews or Christians murdered or driven from their homes by the Arabs she wants to “save”; guess human rights aren’t universal, after all.)
As leftists cheer both choices, one can’t help recalling the cries of “Chicken hawk!” directed at the neocons in the Bush years. Much was made of the neocons’ enthusiasm for sending in our troops, although none of the movement’s leaders had served in our military. Now we have leftist kill-for-peace activists who never served in uniform. That’s different, of course.
On a purely practical level, Power is a terrible choice to be our UN rep. It’s a job for a veteran, polished ambassador who understands the arcane ways of diplomacy and the UN’s exasperating rules and procedures — which the Russian and Chinese ambassadors employed to humiliate Rice. It’s not a job for a zealot on a hobby horse.
Obama knows that, of course. But the Power nomination’s a win for him, even if she’s not confirmed. He just covered his left flank on the cheap. It’s not about Power, just about power.
Ralph Peters’ new book is “Hell or Richmond,” a Civil War novel.