U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice talks to Time Magazine about international conflicts, America's role in the world, and her experience of being a woman and a mother while representing the country.
Susan Rice is the US ambassador to the UN. An average day for her is preventing genocide, solving transnational complex, trying to do something about global poverty. She is a mother of two and is married, poor thing, to a journalist. She's invited us over here to talk to her and we are honored to be here. Ambassador, I thank you.
Thanks for having me.
So every day you interact with people who are not American and think that America does not necessarily have the world's interests at heart. Do Americans have an accurate impression of the way they’re viewed in the world?
I think most Americans do understand that, that we went through a period some years back in which American leadership was judged quite critically by many internationally. That has changed to a substantial extent, and I think most Americans are aware that by almost any objective measure, the United States is viewed more favorably today than it was some 3, 4 years ago.
You’ve said your greatest regret when you were in the Clinton administration was not pushing hard enough to intercede in Rwanda in 1994. Is that influencing your current thinking on Syria?
I was as staffer, a junior staffer on the National Security Council, then responsible for United Nations affairs and, you know, at that staff level there wasn't a great deal I personally could have done, although I felt horrible when I was able then six months after the genocide, to visit Rwanda and see the extraordinary devastation, and then had to walk through a church yard that was literally littered with bodies. But I'm a policy maker and a pragmatist and I understand that not every situation is identical. Not every situation either necessitates or facilitates the same sort of solution. And we face these dilemmas every day.
Are there any circumstances in which you would see the US acting in Syria in the way they did in the Balkans without UN approval?
I think we would be wise in this and in every circumstance not to, to rule out any options, but the fact of the matter is that our aim is to not in intensify the violence but to reduce it, and the best way to accomplish that is through political pressure, economic pressure and diplomacy.
How would you answer those people who suggested that America has seeded a lot of it the investment in Africa to China?
China is… you need to dig a little deeper. Yes they have a significant presence on the African continent. A lot of it is extractive. They are in Africa to garner the natural resources that they feel they need for their own development. They often go in to a country and bring in, you know, thousands of workers from China to do jobs it could be done with training by the local population. And so the nature of their presence is not necessarily in every instance or even in most instances beneficial from a developmental point of view for many the countries in which it’s in.
Recently, at a commencement speech, you said that I want your rules for life was that you should never won something so badly that you do something you don't believe in to get it. Sometimes it seems like America has broken that rule. In CIA black side, and the use of water boarding, using techniques that were perhaps less than the American character.
I think it's wrong.
Even when it's issues of national security?
The fact is that all those who, who know this business and do this business believe that you get corrupted information on the basis of torture, and then you’re doing something that's fundamentally inconsistent with our values, which is why president Obama has been so clear in rejecting torture.
Speaking of torture, celebrities who get involved in international affairs, helpful or annoying?
It’s usually helpful, but it depends on the celebrity and it depends on the issue. Take George Clooney. He's been tremendously effective. I think Angelina Jolie, for example, is also done a great deal to raise awareness about refugees. So I think there are many examples of celebrities who have done really important things that have made a positive contribution.
You have to worry, as I said, on a day-to-day basis about genocide and, and Libya, Syria and Sudan, Yemen. I presume that's what keeps you up at night, so what do you do with the worries that ordinary people have that you must still have, like do they just get shunted out completely?
Never the kids, the kids are job one. So to be quite candid if they need me, or others in my family need me, I do my utmost to, to make sure I'm there.
I remember when you were first appointed by the Clinton administration, a journalist wrote that it may be splendidly progressive of Clinton to place his Africa policy in the care of relatively young women. On the other hand, he's utterly ignorant of a cultural reality. Was he wrong?
When you represent the United States in America, your interlocutors, whether they're in Africa or Europe or Asia, or, or any other part of the world, take you seriously. And if you do your job responsibly and effectively, there's no challenge whether it’s your young, as I was back then, or, or female or African-American or anything else.
You have been mentioned as a possible Secretary of State. Is it something you'd like to, to do?
Frankly, that’s a decision that other people make and I will be happy doing whatever I can do to, to serve my country and serve this president.
Well spoken, like a true diplomat. Seems like you gonna be fine if you get the job. Ambassador Rice, thank you so much.
Thank you very much.