The Leaderboard: Susan Rice

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific.

Who is she?

Susan Rice is the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Rice was a leading candidate to serve as Secretary of State for President Obama’s second term. She withdrew her name from consideration however after widespread criticism, particularly from Congressional Republicans, of her handling of the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans.

Previously Ambassador Rice served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council under former president Bill Clinton. She was arguably the closest and most trusted foreign policy advisor to Barack Obama when he was running for president. Campaign insiders report that she chaired and convened his foreign policy team while Obama ran for office.

Ambassador Susan Rice. Source: Wikimedia commons, used under U.S. Government Work.

Ambassador Susan Rice. Source: Wikimedia commons, used as U.S. Government Work.

Why is she in the news?

The White House announced on June 4 that Susan Rice will assume the position of National Security Advisor. She will replace current National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, who will resign his position in early July. Congressional approval is not required for the national security advisor position.

What can we expect?

This move is the capstone of a White House effort to ensure its trusted team control key foreign policy roles in President Obama’s final term. The center of gravity for U.S. foreign policy for the next three years has likely moved from Foggy Bottom to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Some Asia hands are concerned, however, because Ambassador Rice does not have a substantial track record or experience on Asia policy. With Secretary Kerry spending most of his first 100 days in the Middle East and Europe, Asian allies and friends are wondering where the leadership will come on Asia policy. Ideally, the answer is Barack Obama himself.


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