Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Susan Rice to UN?

Susan Rice, former assistant secretary of state for Africa under Bill Clinton, may be in line to become the next US ambassador to the United Nations.

Rice and former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake were early supporters of Obama, and had been mentioned for more senior positions in Obama's administration. They are known as "hawks" on Sudan and Darfur, having proposed last year that the US be prepared to bomb Sudan if it failed to accept UN peacekeepers.

Because of Obama's own parentage, and because some of his early, senior advisors were Rice, Lake, and Scott Gration, a Swahili-speaking air force general who grew up in the Congo, there was some hope that Obama's foreign policy might place a higher priority on Africa than it's enjoyed in the past. (Samantha Power, another early supporter, would also have pressed Obama to focus on the genocide in Sudan and mass killings in Congo.) But with Hillary Clinton's likely appointment to State and Robert Gates likely to retain his position at Defense, that possibility is dimming. These are both traditional, centrist foreign policy thinkers with at best moderate tendencies toward international humanitarianism.

Another possibility much discussed during the campaign was that Obama might raise foreign aid to a cabinet-level position. (It was integrated into the State Department during Bush's tenure.) That also looks less likely today than in the past, as there have been zero leaks suggesting it's in the works, and Susan Rice would have been a natural choice to occupy that position.

The bottom line: there will probably be fewer major changes in US policy toward Africa than we might have hoped. However, reading these tea leaves is always a bit iffy. Bill Clinton devoted much more attention to Africa after his presidency than he did during it, so it's possible that some of that concern may have rubbed off on Hillary.

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