• U.S.

10 Questions for Susan Rice

4 minute read
Belinda Luscombe

Do Americans have an accurate impression of the way they are viewed in the world?

I think most Americans understand that we went through a period in which American leadership was judged quite critically internationally. And I think most Americans are aware that by almost any objective measure, the U.S. is viewed more favorably today than it was three, four years ago.

You’ve said your greatest regret was not pushing hard enough for the U.S. to intercede in Rwanda in 1994. Is that influencing your current thinking on Syria?

I was a junior staffer on the National Security Council. At that staff level, there wasn’t a great deal I personally could have done, although I felt horrible when I was able to visit Rwanda and see the extraordinary devastation and walk through a churchyard that was littered with bodies. It had a profound impact on me. But I’m a policymaker and a pragmatist. I understand that not every situation is identical.

Are there any circumstances under which the U.S. would act in Syria without the U.N.?

Our aim is to not intensify the violence but to reduce it. What we have done is to ratchet up the economic pressure on the [Bashar] Assad regime such that the economy is quite fragile now. Arming the opposition or implementing a no-fly zone–the kinds of solutions that have been mooted–are not only not readily available but not suited to our objectives, which is why we have supported Kofi Annan’s peace plan.

You recently advised students never to want something so badly that they do something they don’t believe in to get it. Does it seem to you that the U.S. has broken that rule with some of its foreign policy?

I don’t agree with [torture]. That’s why I’ve supported a policy and an Administration that have said we’re not going to torture or use extreme interrogation tactics.

Even for issues of imminent national security?

All of those who do this business believe that you get corrupted information on the basis of torture. You do not advance our national-security interests in the short term or in the long term.

Speaking of torture: celebrities who get involved in international affairs. Helpful or annoying?

Usually helpful. But it depends on the celebrity, and it depends on the issue.

You have to worry on a day-to-day basis about genocide, poverty, Libya, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. What do you do with the worries that ordinary people have, like, Are my kids doing their homework? Is my portfolio balanced?

The kids are Job One. So, to be quite candid, if they need me, I do my utmost to make sure I’m there. This has been a challenge that we all have as we balance work and career. My kids have been incredibly supportive of the work that I do. They understand why it matters.

You are a Rhodes scholar. What was your sport?

Basketball and tennis.

Basketball? I’m taller than you.

Obviously you don’t know the game. I played point guard in high school and graduate school.

Have you shot hoops with the President?

He has the wisdom to play with people who are far more skilled than I.

You have been mentioned as a possible Secretary of State after Hillary Clinton leaves. Is it something you’d like to do?

I want to do whatever I can do to help President Obama and our country. So I’m–I’ve loved what I’ve been doing here at the United Nations, and I’ll do whatever I can to be most helpful.

Come on! People say you’ve wanted this since you were 5 years old.

Then they don’t know me very well.

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