The Edmund Hillary of foreign policy climbers falls short

Last month, I posed this question: Should the Secretary of State be a dupe? The answer turned out to be, not this dupe.

Rice is a special kind of dupe — the kind who is willing, indeed anxious, to be duped in the service of those who can advance her career.

Is this the unduly harsh assessment of a “right-winger”? Not really. Jacob Heilbrunn, from the other side of the political spectrum, condemns Rice along these lines more harshly than I have:

Until recently, Rice was smoothly on track to become the Edmund Hillary of foreign-policy strivers. But unlike the legendary climber, she only glimpsed but never quite reached the summit. Her entire career has been based less on solid accomplishment than on her networking skills. In that regard, she exquisitely represents her generation, which largely consists of unwise men and women.

Even a cursory look at Rice’s résumé should induce some queasiness. Essentially, she was molded in Washington, D.C. She punched all the right tickets—National Cathedral School, Stanford, Rhodes scholarship, Brookings Institution. She is a perfect creature of the Beltway. But the downside is that there is scant evidence that she ever flourished outside the cozy ecosystem of the foreign-policy establishment. . . .

Throughout [her career], Rice’s most distinguishing trait seems to be an eagerness to please her superiors, which is entirely consistent with how she rode the escalator to success. Want to avoid declaring that genocide is taking place in Rwanda? Go to Rice. Want to fudge the facts in Libya? Rice is there again. Obama had it right when he observed that she “had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received.” But why, as Maureen Dowd asked, didn’t she question it? The answer is simple: because she rarely, if ever, questions authority. Instead she has made a career out of catering to it.

Perhaps, then, it should not be altogether surprising that her record in Africa seems to have been one of catering to some of the most loathsome dictators in the region. . . .

Yesterday, I wrote that Rice’s demise is a defeat for Obama because it deprives him of a Secretary of State who would have been “a loyal operative ready to do her duty for the team.” For the rest of us, Rice’s demise is probably a good thing, even taking into account how poorly John Kerry likely will perform that job.

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