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How Susan Rice Bungled Sudan

June 6, 2013 Topic: Human RightsGlobal Governance Region: Sudan

How Susan Rice Bungled Sudan

The new national-security adviser has a long history of poor judgment in east Africa.

The referendum went through, and South Sudan became independent. Serious tension remains between north and south due to issues the peace rushed past, but peace was taken seriously enough in Khartoum to create massive strains in the regime. Had Rice and her old allies prevailed in creating a linkage between incentives for southern independence and Sudanese behavior in places other than the south, would all this have been possible? Trying to have it all in Sudan might have left the region with nothing; those with more practical goals at least got something.

A Risky Choice

During both the Clinton and Obama administrations, Susan Rice displayed a remarkable ability to cast the confusion in Sudan in black and white, and to push the United States away from hard choices and toward simple, moralistic policies. If she continues this approach to decision making as Obama's national-security adviser, Washington could find itself in trouble abroad. The relationship with another difficult and dangerous regime, that of the Islamic Republic of Iran, follows alarming patterns that were sometimes seen with Sudan. Yet the stakes are higher. In the next few years, a major crisis between Tehran and Washington is likely, and a war is possible. Creativity and a subtle vision will be vital. But in her significant work on Sudan, Rice showed neither of these essential qualities.

John Allen Gay is an assistant managing editor at The National Interest. He is the co-author (with Geoffrey Kemp) of War with Iran: Political, Military, and Economic Consequences. He tweets @JohnAllenGay.