from The Internationalist and International Institutions and Global Governance Program

Nation. Meet Susan Rice.

August 17, 2011

Blog Post

Nation. Meet Susan Rice.

On Monday night, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations was on the Colbert Report. She used typical  UN sovereignty-stealing trickery—like logic and nuance—to “explain” why the U.S. has different policies for Libya and Syria, even though, as Stephen Colbert told her, they’re basically the same country. She tried to convince us black helicopters and blue-helmeted paratroopers aren’t poised to invade and conquer the UN’s most powerful member. (That would be us).  Then she even told Mr. Colbert that she wasn’t related to Condoleezza Rice, even though everyone knows they have the same last name. Nation, don’t be fooled by these weasel words.

In all seriousness, though, hats off to Ambassador Rice, who acquitted herself impressively. (Full disclosure: The Internationalist and Susan have been buddies since middle school, and collaborated frequently when she was at the Brookings Institution). Some of her main points:

  • Every September, Ms. Rice conceded, some “of the most colorful dictators of the world” are given an opportunity to speak at the General Assembly. “Sometimes, it feels a little bit like the Star Wars bar scene,” she quipped.  “But most of the year, it’s actually a pretty serious place where we get a lot of work done for the American people.”
  • “Many of the threats we face—terrorism, proliferation, genocide, climate change— are not the kind of things that one country, even one as powerful as our own, can solve, by itself. So we need cooperation. We need countries working together. And the UN is the one place on earth, despite its many flaws, where we can marshal the support and share the cost of doing what’s necessary to protect the United States.” CFR produces an in-depth interactive on global cooperation on issue areas from climate change to armed conflict, which details these extensive efforts.
  • “The UN Security Council can’t even issue a press statement without the United States’ agreement. They don’t tax us. They don’t take away our guns…We get to decide what we do, when we do it. All of this stuff about sovereignty is one big myth.” Ambassador Rice is right to counter the conspiracy theorists. Furthermore, while there is tension between global governance and U.S. sovereignty, the underlying issue is an erosion of American exceptionalism, as I argued in my July 4th blog.
  • “The NATO operation in Libya has been highly successful. In the first instance, it saved tens of thousands of lives that would have been lost had Qaddafi been able to carry out his plans to attack his people like rats, as he called them….What’s happening in Syria is absolutely outrageous and appalling…Why no bombs? We have an ambassador in Syria, a man named Robert Ford, who has been very brave and out on the streets with the protestors and talking to regular Syrians, and what he hears every day--what they want from the United States is moral leadership, political pressure, and sanctions--but very clearly, no military intervention. Libya was different. In Libya, the people were asking for intervention. The Arab League came to the Security Council and asked for humanitarian intervention.” Dr. Rice is right: We need to take each such crisis on its own terms, not impose a one-size-fits-all response.
  • Apparently, Madam Rice doesn’t have diplomatic plates and can’t park wherever she wants. Still, we’re guessing she has a nice ride.

Video Credit: The Colbert Report. To view this video on Hulu, click here.