Leaving her post at the United Nations, Susan Rice labeled the failure to halt the massacre in Syria “a moral and strategic disgrace that history will judge harshly.” However, the object of her ire was the U.N. Security Council. But wait — isn’t it also a disgrace for the president and the administration she continues to serve?
There is no basis for sparing the president the judgment of history. The administration could have acted two years ago. It could have ceased calling Bashar al-Assad a reformer. It could have supplied aid and assistance to the rebels. It could have set up a no-fly zone. It could have acted in concert with NATO or Arab allies in the region who fear the rise of the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis. The president chose not to.
President Obama’s desire to be the un-Bush president won’t spare him the judgment of history. Ironically, Rice was at the center of the last Democratic administration’s decision to permit genocide. President Bill Clinton has recognized his gross error in sitting idly by while the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans unfolded. But Rice apparently learned nothing from that episode, or does not have the influence or will to challenge the president.
Rice will have the distinction of being a bystander in two mass atrocities under two presidents. Certainly, she has been complicit in “a moral and strategic disgrace that history will judge harshly.”
But her defenders say she really wanted to do something about it, honest. In the face of a president who presides over a “moral and strategic disgrace that history will judge harshly” what should she have done? Resign. That is the honorable thing to do, and the appropriate action when an administration has lost its moral and strategic bearings and behaves in a manner so disgraceful that history will vilify its obtuseness.
Rice, more than anyone, should have done whatever possible to avoid another genocide unfold. Only Kofi Anan has, through inaction and willful blindness, more mass murders during his watch.