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Online income income Transcript: Susan Rice on “Intelligence Matters”


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Online income income Transcript: Susan Rice on “Intelligence Matters”

In this episode of Intelligence Matters, host Michael Morell speaks with Susan Rice, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and national security adviser to President Obama. Rice discusses her career trajectory and some of the major foreign policy decisions she helped inform while serving in the Obama administration. Morell and Rice discuss the value…

Online income  income Transcript: Susan Rice on “Intelligence Matters”

Online income income

In this episode of Intelligence Matters, host Michael Morell speaks with Susan Rice, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and national security adviser to President Obama. Rice discusses her career trajectory and some of the major foreign policy decisions she helped inform while serving in the Obama administration. Morell and Rice discuss the value of alliance networks and America’s global leadership role. Rice also shares anecdotes from her new memoir, Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For. 

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Online income income Highlights

On America’s role in the world: “I’m a strong believer that the United States has to have the greatest military in the world, the greatest intelligence community in the world, the greatest diplomats in the world, the greatest development workers in the world, the freest press, the best universities. We have the capacity to be and remain all of that, if we don’t squander it. And I worry that we’re at risk of squandering it.”

On the value of alliances: “This is not a world where we can bomb a disease or even a terrorist cell into submission. We don’t have the capacity acting alone, even when we’re at our strongest, to thwart these kinds of threats unilaterally. So we need others to want to join with us. The only way to make others want to join with us is to be a player, where they understand that there’s mutual benefit to our cooperation, and that there’s merit in wanting to be seen to work with the United States.”

[…]”What I would list as the fundamental deficiency [of the Trump administration] is the denigration of our alliance networks and the elevation and burnishing of our adversaries. Everything is upside-down. For reasons that we still don’t fully understand, we have a president who seems far more interested in coddling and supporting and validating adversaries who happen to be dictators, whether it’s Putin or Xi or Kim Jong-un, than he does in supporting and embracing our traditional treaty allies or even our friends. And that weakens our capacity to bring countries to our side.

On Russian election interference: “The Russians every day are, through social media, through all of their disinformation and information campaigns, are trying to weaken us from within and exacerbate these divisions and cause us to hate each other and fear each other and turn on each other, whether through violence or just through completely discrediting our national cohesion and integrity, and doubting the viability of our institutions. And so when the president talks about fake news and denigrates the intelligence community and law enforcement and diplomats and now uniformed military officials, and embraces the conspiracy theories of Vladimir Putin, we’re in a tough spot.”

On damaging effects of the “politics of personal destruction”: “I want people to understand that this politics of personal destruction that we’ve become so accustomed to Washington, doesn’t just target the individual who opponents are trying to take down.It affects everybody who loves them, everybody who works with them, people who didn’t sign up for this– kids, elderly people. And it has a cost, a human cost.”


INTELLIGENCE MATTERS – SUSAN RICE

CORRESPONDENT MICHAEL MORELL

PRODUCER: OLIVIA GAZIS, JAMIE BENSON

MICHAEL MORELL:

Susan, welcome to this show. It’s certainly good to have you on. And it’s great to see you.

SUSAN RICE:

It’s good to be with you, Michael.

MICHAEL MORELL:

We’ve been through a few things together. So, yes, we’ll talk about that later. You recently published a book. It’s called Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For. Let me say first, congratulations.

SUSAN RICE:

Thank you. I appreciate it.

MICHAEL MORELL:

I know how tough it is to write a book. And you just published a New York Times bestseller, so that’s fantastic.

SUSAN RICE:

As you did.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Let me also–

SUSAN RICE:

So I’m just trying to keep up with you, Michael.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Let me also say to my listeners that it’s a terrific read. They should go to the bookstore. They should go online, wherever they buy their books, and they should get themselves a copy. Because when I finished reading it– and I’m being very, very honest here– you will not find, I think, a more honest memoir by a national security official.

I don’t think you’ll find a more insightful account of the issues that you went through in– during your career. And I don’t think you’ll find a book that offers better insight into what it’s really like to be a senior national security official and the impact that that has on your life, both the good, the bad and the ugly.

SUSAN RICE:

Thank you.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So–

SUSAN RICE:

I appreciate that very much from you.

MICHAEL MORELL:

–to my listeners, “Go buy it.” So we chatted in the green room of Face the Nation a few Sundays ago. And we talked about interviews for books. And one of the things we talked about was, when you do an interview, you very rarely get to talk about the book. They’re asking you about the issues of–

SUSAN RICE:

Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

–the day. They’re asking you about impeachment. They’re asking you about all sorts of things, right?

SUSAN RICE:

Right. So–

MICHAEL MORELL:

Because we want that quote, right, from a former national security advisor. We’re not going to do that.

SUSAN RICE:

Oh, great! Yay!

MICHAEL MORELL:

Well, maybe a couple of questions at the end, okay? But I really want to talk about the book. So maybe the place to start is the title. Can you explain that to the listeners? What does Tough Love mean?

SUSAN RICE:

Tough Love means loving fiercely but not uncritically. And it’s how my parents raised me and my younger brother. It’s also how I’ve tried to raise our kids. And in many ways, also, Michael, it’s how I’ve tried to lead my teams in government and serve our country.

When you love somebody fiercely, you want to be willing to tell them the truth, whether it’s what they want to hear or what they don’t want to hear but they need to hear. And from the time that I can remember, my wonderful parents were insistent on trying to help me be a better person by telling me the unvarnished truth.

And from that experience, from having the benefit of some tough love feedback from colleagues along the way, and mentors, all throughout, I think it’s made me wiser and better. And I’ve tried to do the same as I’ve become a leader myself. And when it comes to country, as you know, as wonderful and unbelievable a country this is that you and are both so deeply committed to, we are not perfect.

And we’ve made mistakes. And we will make mistakes. And for us to perfect our Union, we’ve got to be willing to acknowledge those and improve on them. So, I think it was a good summation of many aspects of my personal and professional experience.

The subtitle, My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For, really relates to the subthemes of the book. And in my estimation, family, education, equality are critical things worth fighting for. And in the present context, as I argue at the end of the book, so are our national unity and the strength of our democracy, which I think in both instances is under real strain.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Director Panetta and — I don’t know if you remember this– we were on the end of the tough love once.

SUSAN RICE:

Only once?

MICHAEL MORELL:

Once. Once. Once. We had an operational issue when you were U.N. ambassador. And it’s something we wanted to do and you didn’t want us to do it. And we met on a Friday here in Washington. It’s where you spent your Fridays, if you remember.

SUSAN RICE:

Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And we met. And we didn’t have the whole story. Our team did not tell us the whole story. You had the whole story. And when you asked us about the part of the story that we didn’t know about, we knew with that, that that moment, that we had lost the argument. And you said something, like, “I love you guys, but you should have known this.” And I thought that was a great example, I think, of the tough love.

SUSAN RICE:

Oh my goodness.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So do you think it applies to international relations as well?

SUSAN RICE:

I do, interestingly. I mean, obviously, international relations is first and foremost about interests and how interests converge or collide. But we do have friends. We have allies. We have partners. And for those relationships to endure, I think it does require at times for countries to speak difficult truths to each other.

And when we fail to do that, I think we see the consequences. A great example is our relationship now with the Saudis. The Saudis have many, many imperfections. And historically, we have, to a large extent, chosen to overlook them, whether on human rights, women’s rights, some of their behavior domestically as well as in the region.

But in the most recent years, we’ve seen egregious examples, not least the murder of Khashoggi. And the United States’ response has been to sweep it under the carpet. And that relationship is now frayed in many important respects, from the private sector to government, with Congress on a bipartisan basis trying to change the nature of that relationship, and the Executive Branch resisting. And the strains that that is imposing, I think, are only to be revealed in the future. I think they’re–

MICHAEL MORELL:

And also–

SUSAN RICE:

–quite significant.

MICHAEL MORELL:

–also sends a signal to other countries that–

SUSAN RICE:

Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

–you can get away with that kind of thing, right?

SUSAN RICE:

Yes. So, what do you think? Do you think there’s a space for tough love in–

MICHAEL MORELL:

Absolutely.

SUSAN RICE:

–international relations?

MICHAEL MORELL:

I think you have to be earnest with other countries, right, and not sweep things under the rug and not not talk about them. I think it’s really important. Here’s something I kept on thinking about as I read the book. This is a memoir. But, “she’s not done yet.” I kept on thinking that as I was reading it.

SUSAN RICE:

We’ll see.

MICHAEL MORELL:

“She’s not done serving her country, so how can this be a memoir?” Did you think about that as you wrote the book?

SUSAN RICE:

Yes. But I may think I’m more done than you do. One thing I will say about the book is I– in some ways it’s really not your typical Washington memoir. It’s pretty raw. And it’s pretty personal, including going back to my parents and grandparents, my childhood, my parents’ divorce and some of the struggles I’ve had as a mother and a daughter and a wife in the public spotlight.

And I really didn’t write this as a book that was intended to support or promote a future endeavor. It’s a little bit too raw for that. But it was important for me to tell my story as faithfully and truthfully as I could. And to the extent that it doesn’t reflect well on me or people I love, I was fully aware of why I wanted to do that, and I think tried to do it pretty unflinchingly.

So, it’s true, I’m– I just turned 55, so I’m not that old. And honestly, as we might discuss, had it not been for Benghazi, and the fact that in the context of Benghazi and every year subsequently, I continue to be characterized and mischaracterized on the Right and the Left, depending what cable channel you watch.

I’m a villain, I’m a victim, I’m a whatever– none of which bore any relationship to who I am and where I came from and what makes me tick. And so I think I felt a sense of urgency once I left government and was able to speak in my own voice, rather than on behalf of the U.S. government or the president of the United States, to tell that story and hopefully impart some experiences and lessons that would be valuable to others.

So, I realize that it’s a little early. I could’ve waited till I was 75. Hopefully, I’ll get there. But I also, frankly, didn’t want somebody else to write my story for me before I could. And it gets back to a lesson my father taught me which is, “Don’t let others define you for you.” And while I was serving, as you know, I didn’t have a choice.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. Not much you can do about that.

SUSAN RICE:

It’s a privilege, a huge privilege to serve. And I wouldn’t trade it. But that was a cost.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So let’s talk a little bit about your family. Your background, I think, is absolutely fascinating. Yourself was descended from slaves in South Carolina, I think.

SUSAN RICE:

Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

MICHAEL MORELL:

Your mother, from immigrants. I’m wondering what the conversations were like around your dining room table.

SUSAN RICE:

Well, as I write in the book, at a certain stage around the age of seven or so, they got pretty heated between my parents, who were going through a pretty difficult divorce, pretty ugly divorce. But interestingly, my mother’s family, as you mentioned, were originally from Jamaica.

And they came to Portland, Maine in 1912. And my grandfather on my mother’s side was a janitor. And my grandmother was a maid. They had no formal education. And yet they, like so many immigrants, came to this country to try to forge a better life for what would be their children. And they had five of them and saved and scraped and sent all five of their kids to college. Two of my mother’s brothers became doctors. One became an optometrist, the fourth, a university president. And my mom–

MICHAEL MORELL:

All underachievers.

SUSAN RICE:

All underachievers. And my mom, a successful champion of access for higher education for low-income people. She was known as the mother of the Pell Grant Program, and then also later in her life a corporate executive. My father’s side of the family, as you said, descendants of slaves.

My great-grandfather was a slave, Walter Rice. And he fought in the Union Army in South Carolina. And after the war, through the good offices of one of his commanding officers, he was able to get an education, and ultimately a college degree at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and then went on to found a school in New Jersey that, for 70-some years, from the late 1880s to the 1950s, educated generations of African Americans.

So, I come from a family where education was hugely important, upward mobility, what I call in the book “a compulsion to rise,” and an expectation that we all had some significant blessings, even as we may, in some instances, have begun poor, to give back.

And so the debates at my dinner table, we fought, we argued, we talked about the issues of the day– Watergate, Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, race, politics. I grew up here in Washington, D.C. and my parents were determined that my brother and I really face the world in which we are living.

So, in 1968, I’m four years old, my brother’s barely two, and Washington, the 14th Street Corridor has burned down after Dr. King was assassinated. And my parents took us down and– me walking and my brother in a stroller– to see the destruction and to visit the Poor People’s Campaign and to understand that this was a complicated world. And so we really did grow up discussing and debating the issues of the day, and were raised with the responsibility to engage those issues, not to be simply a bystander.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So, Susan, you’ve been very successful at everything that you’ve done.

SUSAN RICE:

I’m not sure that’s–

MICHAEL MORELL:

Oh, no, you have. You have–you have. You rose rapidly in your chosen profession. And you’re a black woman. And you’re young–

SUSAN RICE:

Last I checked. Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

–and you’re young. And I know your parents–

SUSAN RICE:

I was young. Not anymore.

MICHAEL MORELL:

–and I know your parents had to deal with racism and discrimination. I’m wondering if you ever felt the hands of discrimination holding you back, either because of race, gender or age.

SUSAN RICE:

Absolutely. And I don’t know anybody who looks like me who can say, if they’re being honest, that they haven’t experienced that. But I’d qualify it by saying I’ve felt like there have been efforts to hold me back. I think because 

of the gift my parents gave me and my brother, of teaching us to believe in ourselves and to fight for ourselves and to, as my dad often said, “don’t take crap off of anybody.” I– as conscious as I was of people who might resist or resent me, I didn’t– and this was quite difficult– I didn’t let it inform my own sense of who I am. And so yes, there were times when particularly in the earlier stages of my career, when I was a young assistant secretary of State, 32 years old, responsible for the African continent and all of our embassies, and I was working with people 20 to 30 years my senior who were career officers, who were quite skeptical of my youth and perhaps of my worthiness to be in that role. I faced more than my share of resistance. It’s hard to know, Michael, whether to ascribe it more to race or to gender or to youth. And frankly, in that context, I think I’d prioritize youth. But also, I was a brand new mother of– and I was breastfeeding my three-month-old son in the State Department. There were all kinds of ways in which–

MICHAEL MORELL:

All kinds of issues.

SUSAN RICE:

I was not the typical assistant secretary. And yet, my parents taught me that you either persevere and do your best and don’t accept other’s definitions of you, or you let the bigots win. And so to me it really wasn’t a choice. And the other thing, I would say, is that I had far fewer obstacles than I had supporters and mentors, who really supported and lifted me up, and from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to former National Security Advisors Tony Lake and Sandy Berger. My first immediate boss in government, Richard Clarke, the famous or infamous counterterrorism czar–

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yes, I know him well.

SUSAN RICE:

–these are all people who didn’t need to take an interest in me, but did and helped me to grow and to learn, even at a very young age.

MICHAEL MORELL:

This is not a question I wrote down here, but it just jumped into my head. So when I did my book tour, I was struck at the questions that I got about President Obama. And they were tinged with racism, there’s no doubt in my mind. I remember calling Dennis when I got back from one of my book tours and telling him that. Did you sense or do you sense that some of the struggles that President Obama had were because of race?

SUSAN RICE:

As president?

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yes.

SUSAN RICE:

I think so. I don’t think you can pretend that there wasn’t that element to it. I don’t think it would be fair to say that was the predominant source of his– the resistance he faced. I think it was primarily political, partisan politics and the effort to minimize the success of a president of the opposing party.

But I’d be interested for you to elaborate on what you heard. But I think there remains a segment of society that believes that black people are inferior and that they don’t deserve to hold positions of responsibility. And I think it’s also fair to say that in some, hopefully relatively narrow segment of our populace, the fact that not only he was twice elected but served with distinction and without scandal and was a paragon of a happy family man, responsible and committed to his wife and children, it was hard for some people to stomach.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Without scandal for eight years, by the way.

SUSAN RICE:

Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

That’s saying something in today’s world.

SUSAN RICE:

So tell me more about what you heard on– as you were going around and what–

MICHAEL MORELL:

It was questions about, “Please tell us that he’s not trying to weaken the country through his foreign policies.” That was a not infrequent question. And they wanted the answer to be, “Yes, he is weakening the country.” It was never a question I got about George Bush, the other president I worked very closely with. So there was this contrast between the questions and the way they were asked.

SUSAN RICE:

And you ascribe that to race because the implication was that somehow he had questionable loyalty?

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yes.

SUSAN RICE:

Okay. I wonder what you’d be hearing now —

MICHAEL MORELL:

— No, I know. It’d be kind of fun. So your interest in international affairs, where did that come from?

SUSAN RICE:

It’s interesting. I didn’t expect, until really my mid to late-20s, that this might be my field. I also knew, growing up here in Washington, that I cared deeply about public policy. And I was very lucky even in high school to be able to work during my summers on Capitol Hill.

I was a page. I was an intern. But my focus had been on domestic issues, things like employment opportunities, education, things that contributed to a quest for greater equality. And when I was in college at Stanford, I was a history major. And my expectation was that I’d go to law school after graduation and eventually practice some form of public interest law and maybe run for a political office with a domestic focus.

And then I, in my senior year, was fortunate to receive a Rhodes scholarship that allowed me to study for at least two years in the U.K., at Oxford University. And then my expectation was, “I’ll do two years and then I’ll continue on to law school.”

And in those two years, I thought, “Well, let me study something that I haven’t really focused on that much. Let me study international relations.” Because my thought was if I eventually wanted to serve an elective office, I shouldn’t be a complete ignoramus about the world at large, even though that seems to be a radical thought these days. And I was going to be living overseas. And that’d be a great opportunity to do so.

And so I did. I did my Master’s Degree in International Relations for two years. And I fell in love with the subject and decided to stay and do my Ph.D., which required almost another two years. And so I left Oxford with a Ph.D. in International Relations and decided along the way that I really didn’t want to go to law school, which I never did.

And I had a series of career forks in the road. My first job after graduate school was in management consulting. And then I had the opportunity to work in the brand new Clinton White House and was offered a choice, “Do you want to work on the National Security Council staff or do you want to work on the National Economic Council Staff?”

I was extraordinarily lucky to have that choice. And I wrestled with it, but chose national security, strangely calculating in my own ignorance that because I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to land, if I wanted to make the transition from national security to domestic policy, that would somehow be easier–

MICHAEL MORELL:

Easier than going–

SUSAN RICE:

–than the other way.

MICHAEL MORELL:

–the other way. Yes, interesting.

SUSAN RICE:

And that was the basis on which I did it. And one thing led to another, and I liked it and found it really interesting and challenging. And next thing you know, it was my career.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Well, a lot of the kids I deal with today in various guises, whether in classes or mentoring them, they want to have a plan, right? Everything’s planned out. And–

SUSAN RICE:

Exactly.

MICHAEL MORELL:

–sounds like you didn’t have a plan.

SUSAN RICE:

Well, I didn’t have a set plan that I was unprepared to deviate from. Yes, I have a kid in college now and one on her way, eventually. And I see that same thing. People are very uncomfortable with not knowing exactly where they’re trying to get to.

And I always try to underscore to the students I work with at American University or up at Harvard that, “You’ve got time. And what you don’t want to do is be so set in a track that you can’t seize opportunities that you hadn’t anticipated.” My whole story is about opportunities I hadn’t anticipated, that I chose to test.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yes. My daughter’s going to kill me for saying this, but when she was in college, she updated her life plan every Friday.

SUSAN RICE:

And has she stuck to it?

MICHAEL MORELL:

I think she’s deviated from it, but she continues to plan but not as often. Susan, how would you describe your world view, particularly with regard to the U.S. role in the world?

SUSAN RICE:

I’m a strong believer in the critical importance of American leadership and our unique and, I would even use the world that some like and some hate, indispensable ability to move other countries in partnership with us to accomplish important objectives.

Now, we’re in a moment which I hope is only a moment, where that capacity is in question and has been deliberately undermined by the president himself. But I believe in a strong principled engaged American global leadership. I think we’re safer and richer and better as a country when we are active on the world stage, when we are actively promoting our interests and values.

I’m a pragmatist, but I hope a principled pragmatist. And I’m a strong believer that the United States has to have the greatest military in the world, the greatest intelligence community in the world, the greatest diplomats in the world, the greatest development workers in the world, the freest press, the best universities. We have the capacity to be and remain all of that, if we don’t squander it. And I worry that we’re at risk of squandering it.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So I agree with you 100%. But that view is being challenged, right?

SUSAN RICE:

Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So how do you make the case? You’re traveling around the country on your book tour. How do you make the case to people that they’re better off, right? If they’re in Akron, Ohio, which is where I’m from, or they’re in Detroit, or they’re in St. Louis, how do you make the case that it’s in their interest for the U.S. to be engaged in the world the way you’re talking?

SUSAN RICE:

Well, first of all, let me just say as a matter of data, such as there is data, you know and I know that the Chicago Council on Global Affairs does an annual survey of attitudes, American attitudes towards the world and our leadership in the world. And theirs is, because it’s an annual survey and with high-quality methodology, it’s a pretty interesting barometer of how those views change. And despite what you might think, the vast majority of Americans understand and are committed to strong American leadership, a strong alliance network, even free trade.

So, the public attitudes aren’t as isolationist as we might suspect in the moment. But having said that, and what I argue is, look at the nature of the world we’re living in today. This is not the 17th century or the 19th century. We are absolutely wholly integrated economically and from a security point of view, with the rest of the world.

There’s nothing that happens even in the most remote corners of the world that doesn’t have the potential to affect Americans here at home, whether it’s the rise of a terrorist organization, the proliferation of dangerous weapons, a pandemic flu or other disease, the consequences of climate change. All of these things that we need to worry about– cyber threats, you name it– are almost inherently now transnational in their origins and in their implications.

So what happens in, you know, Burkina Faso, believe it or not, can ultimately have ramifications for people in Akron. And the only way know can effectively combat those kinds of threats or even traditional state threats like that rising from China or Russia, is with the active and willing cooperation, and effective cooperation, of other countries and partners.

This is not a world where we can bomb a disease or even a terrorist cell into submission. We don’t have the capacity acting alone, even when we’re at our strongest, to thwart these kinds of threats unilaterally. So we need others to want to join with us. The only way to make others want to join with us is to be a player, where they understand that there’s mutual benefit to our cooperation, and that there’s merit in wanting to be seen to work with the United States.

And that requires active principled leadership, based on our interests and based on our values. And it means bringing others to join us in tackling these challenges, whether it’s a revanchist aggressive Russia or it’s a biosecurity threat.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Would you list this as the biggest deficiency of this administration, what you just talked about?

SUSAN RICE:

What I would list as the fundamental deficiency is the denigration of our alliance networks and the elevation and burnishing of our adversaries. Everything is upside-down. For reasons that we still don’t fully understand, we have a president who seems far more interested in coddling and supporting and validating adversaries who happen to be dictators, whether it’s Putin or Xi–

MICHAEL MORELL:

Kim Jong-un.

SUSAN RICE:

–or Kim Jong-un, than he does in supporting and embracing our traditional treaty allies or even our friends. And that weakens our capacity to bring countries to our side. We work together through issues of all sorts– counterterrorism, the Ebola epidemic, dealing with the Iran nuclear threat. Not one of those issues could be addressed effectively without our allies.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Susan, let me ask you about some of the issues that you were involved in during your career, get you to talk a bit about how they were handled then and what you think you learned from them in retrospect. And maybe the place to start is Somalia in the aftermath of Blackhawk Down.

SUSAN RICE:

Well, this is 1993. I’m a 28-year-old staffer on the NSC, National Security Council. My portfolio, my job was to be the junior staffer responsible for the United Nations and peacekeeping. And so I had a sort of front row seat, though not a real decision-making role, when it came to Somalia and subsequently Rwanda, Bosnia, Haiti, all these challenges of that era.

And what was so striking to me in the moment, but also in retrospect on Somalia– and I’d be interested if you have a perspective on this from your time– we had over 20,000 or approximately 20,000 U.S. servicemen and women, I presume, deployed in Somalia, in what had become a hot combat situation, having morphed from a humanitarian intervention.

And the National Security principals, the Cabinet-level officials who, as you and I know are supposed to sit around that table in the situation room and wrestle with the most important issues, weren’t really engaged on Somalia. The deputies were. But until we lost our 18 servicemen on October 3rd, 1993, the principals really weren’t grasping that issue as theirs.

And once the tragedy hit, the president, then Clinton, was under enormous pressure from a Democratically-controlled Congress, to withdraw are forces precipitously from Somalia, cut and run, at great detriment both to the mission and to our standing and to our counterterrorism interests. And we just were playing catch-up.

So one of the key lessons I learned from that experience was the importance of the senior-most officials remaining hands-on and engaged when we have U.S. military personnel deployed in hot combat situations or those that have the potential to become that, and not wait for a crisis, for that kind of care and attention.

The other thing I learned is how counterproductive, on occasion, Congress’s intervention can be in national security. Now we’ve seen it work in positive ways on other occasions. But Congress really pulled the rug out from under a new president and compelled us to withdraw the military from Somalia, I think, prematurely. And so seeing how Congress can parachute in with very little knowledge and a lot of impact and force decisions that may not be in the national interest, was another key lesson.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So I was working on Asia at the time. And one of the things that struck me was the lesson that the Chinese took from our withdrawal. Because the Chinese said to themselves, “The United States of America is not willing to spill blood. They are weak.” Now that turned out to be a wrong assessment, right, given what we did in the aftermath of 9/11. But sometimes we don’t think about the impact that what we do has outside of the narrow issue that we’re looking at, right?

SUSAN RICE:

And it also sent a message to terrorists like Mohamed Hadid who was the clan leader who was responsible for shooting down those helicopters, that the way to get America out of your territory, if you don’t want them there, is to spill some blood.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Spill some blood. Yes. The genocide in Rwanda.

SUSAN RICE:

Six months after Blackhawk Down, one week after Congress had ordered the last Americans to leave Somalia, as you’ll recall– and we’re in early April 1994– the plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were shot down. The plane was shot down.

And the genocide ensued, a very carefully orchestrated planned genocide, that within 90 days or so resulted into– up to one million lives lost. Again, I had a front row seat, though not a decision-making role on that horrific tragedy.

And what struck me again was that we were so, I would guess– I’d say paralyzed by– and traumatized by the experience of Somalia that we did the normal things that you do in a crisis like that. You get your people out of harm’s way. You vote in the Security Council, etcetera.

But we never actually considered the question of whether the United States or the United States working with others or the United States enabling others, should intervene to try to stop the killing. Now I’m not necessarily here to argue that the answer should’ve been yes, although I think you could make a case for that.

But what I did learn is that the failure to even confront the question at any stage, the failure of the Congress to call the question, the failure of any editorial page in this country of any note to raise the issue of, “Should the United States do something to stop the killing,” before it was too late, never was– never arose.

And so the lesson I took from Rwanda– I took many lessons– but the critical lesson was that we have to call the question. And we have to force decision-makers to weigh the risks and the benefits of action or inaction, because they both have huge costs and consequences, as you and I know.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Do you think the question wasn’t called because it was in the middle of Africa?

SUSAN RICE:

I think the question wasn’t called because it was unthinkable, literally unthinkable. And therefore nobody thought about it. To consider putting U.S. forces back into an even more remote part of Africa that nobody had even heard of, after Somalia, literally seven days, as I said, after the last American forces were ignobly removed from Somalia. So I think that, yes, it was because it was Africa, but that it was more than that. We’d just gotten badly burnt, so nobody was thinking about putting their hands back in the fire.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And let’s jump forward then to the Obama Administration. Let me ask you about two issues. One is the intervention in Libya. How did you think about that then? And how do you think about it now?

SUSAN RICE:

So, I write, as you know, at some length in the book about Libya. And both the process we underwent in the situation room to make a judgment about whether or not the United States should act with allies to try to prevent Qaddafi from slaughtering tens of thousands, as he was about to do in Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya, in the middle of this Arab Spring uprising in Libya, and I was among those who are argued that we should intervene.

And by intervene in that case, what it meant was using our air power with other NATO countries and Arab countries, with the authorization of the United Nations which I worked to obtain as U.N. ambassador, to prevent Qaddafi from the air, from moving his military columns into Benghazi, and to protect civilians.

We got the authority from the Security Council to do it. We had the support of our allies. And I argued we should do it because I assessed that the risks to our interests were significant if Qaddafi were allowed to kill with impunity, and that the costs to the United States were relatively low.

It wasn’t going to involve a ground combat operation. It was a relatively finite endeavor. And it enabled us to save substantial numbers of lives, using a unique American capacity, which was our overwhelming air power. So, I supported it.

I think, as I write in the book, our failure came in the aftermath, after Qaddafi was removed. And the failure was, a lack of attention and investment of time and resources into the question of, “How do we help Libya build a stable post-Qaddafi society,” when it had no government institutions and no experience with anything other than one-man rule.

And it’s a failure that I think lies at the hands of the United States but also the European partners, the United Nations, the Africans and the Arabs who all had a stake in Libya’s future. And I think honestly– Mike, I’d be interested in your sense on this– I think because there were– we were divided as a government going into that decision, that President Obama had to make a tough call, “Do we do it or not do it?” Basically half of his team said, “Yes,” and the other half said–

MICHAEL MORELL:

I’ve never–

SUSAN RICE:

–“No.”

MICHAEL MORELL:

–seen the room more split than it was on that occasion.

SUSAN RICE:

I think the people who’d thought it was a bad idea weren’t interested in spending much time on the problem thereafter. That’s the polite way to put it. It’s not that they wanted to sabotage the outcome. I just think it was a question of, this was not something they were committed to, not something they wanted really to do.

“Okay, we did it, we’re done, bye.” And I think as we’ve learned the hard way in so many other contexts, including now Libya, you break it, you buy it, to some extent. And we weren’t buying the responsibility of building the Libyan nation, but we could have and I think should have, in those early months, been more hands-on.

And then Benghazi happens a year later. And Washington wants to have nothing to do with Libya at that point, and not just within the Administration. And it wasn’t really until the president’s second term, and arguably a new team– I came down as National Security advisor, we had Secretary Kerry, we had Hagel– it was a different team– didn’t have that sort of same hangover.

And the president had a sense of urgency about trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together if we could. And so we finally, belatedly, I think, devoted a level of effort and attention that was more commensurate with the challenge. But I think it was too late. And so we’ll never know, in my judgment, whether or not had we tried early enough with sufficient effort and energy, whether we could’ve made a difference. We’ll never know. I believe we know we didn’t try sufficiently.

MICHAEL MORELL:

I wrote about this in my book. I think there’s a intelligence community failure here, too, not to lay it all on the intelligence community. But we never wrote a piece for you guys, a memo, whatever you want to call it, we never put in front of you a piece of paper that said, “The aftermath is going to be extraordinarily difficult. Here’s why.” Right? “And here’s all the things, all the challenges that you’re going to face in the aftermath.” We didn’t do that.

SUSAN RICE:

Before the decision or at any–

MICHAEL MORELL:

Before the decision.

SUSAN RICE:

–or at any point, really.

MICHAEL MORELL:

At any point, right. Because that just didn’t happen. Maybe the toughest of it all, Susan, toughest one of all–

SUSAN RICE:

Syria.

MICHAEL MORELL:

–Syria. So our limited intervention in Syria. And every single senior Obama Administration official I’ve had on this show has said, “I think about this a lot.”

SUSAN RICE:

I think we’ve all agonized over it. I deal with this at some length, as you know, in Tough Love. And I really think that we have to be disciplined about recognizing there are three aspects to the Syria challenge that we faced. The easiest one came later, which was after the rise of ISIS and the question or whether or not the United States and allies should intervene to try to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

President Obama saw that essentially as a no-brainer. The answer was, “Yes.” And we’ve been fighting that fight until recently. Second question, which was harder, that we wrestled with, was when Assad employed chemical weapons in 2013 and crossed the president’s so-called “redline,” should the president have struck as we– using military force in a limited fashion to punish Assad for using chemical weapons without Congressional authorization?

President Obama, as you’ll recall, was ready to do it, and decided close to the 11th hour that it would wise to seek Congressional approval first, in order to give us flexibility, which frankly, as you’ll recall, we didn’t really have in Libya, legal flexibility, in case that initial set of military strikes evolved into a more sustained commitment.

I, as you may remember, was the only principal, senior person at the table who argued that we should not wait for Congressional authorization; we shouldn’t bother to get it, because I didn’t think we could get it. Mine was not a policy judgment in that moment, more as a political judgment.

And, of course, as the National Security advisor I’m not supposed to be the political expert, especially when you have four sitting senators at the table, or former senators at the table. So, president made the decision to seek Congressional authorization. We didn’t get it.

We went on with the president’s leadership to negotiate with the Russians and the Syrians in the U.N., the removal and the destruction of 1,300 metric tons of chemical weapons, which we thought at the time was the bulk of the stockpile.

And then, of course, we saw in 2017 and 2018 that chemical weapons were used again. And Trump struck, using Obama’s target list, and had one night of military strikes, which I supported in that moment. But nothing changed. Whatever chemical weapons were there, still are there, and probably more.

So that resulted in zero being removed and destroyed. So, in my judgment, both were unsatisfactory outcomes. Because whatever was there is still there, and probably more. The third issue– and this was the hardest one, as you know– is to what extent should the United States get involved on the side of the Syrian opposition to topple Assad?

As you know as well as anybody, we wrestled with that ad nauseam for years. And this was another issue that divided us as principals. There were those who thought we ought to get more actively involved– no-fly zones, safe zones, striking Assad’s air force. And there were others who thought that the risks and costs outweighed the benefits.

But nobody believed that what was happening in Syria was acceptable, from any perspective– humanitarian, strategic or what have you. I actually was in the same place then and now as President Obama, taking the view that at the end of the day we should not get directly militarily involved against Assad.

Because I didn’t think that was going to be a limited engagement like Libya, but a long-term costly ground commitment, more like what we had to do to remove Saddam Hussein. And I didn’t think, given all that we had going on in Afghanistan, Iraq, elsewhere, that this was a wise commitment of our resources. But obviously came at a huge cost. And–

MICHAEL MORELL:

Largely borne by the Syrian people.

SUSAN RICE:

Largely borne by the Syrian people and also by Syria’s neighbors, and even arguably by Europe. And I don’t know anybody who worked intensively on that issue that feels good about the outcome.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Let me ask a few questions about Benghazi, which enveloped both of us. We could actually talk about it for hours, probably. But just three quick questions. In my mind, Susan, this was raw winner-take-all, ugly politics, in my view all designed to undermine the president and to weaken Secretary Clinton’s chances of being elected president, which I think at the end of the day, it turned out that it played a role in that. At the time, as I look back on it now, it sort of foreshadowed the ugly politics of today.

SUSAN RICE:

It sure did.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And I wonder if you kind of look at it from the perspective of this being the first data point in this new politics that we live in.

SUSAN RICE:

I don’t know if it’s the first, but it’s a big data point. And we weren’t able to see it as such in the moment. Benghazi looks like pattycake compared to what we’re dealing with now. And you and I both were, for a sustained period and arguably still are in the crosshairs over that.

And yet, you and I were senior officials– in my case, Senate-confirmed and political appointees, and therefore, arguably, knew what we were getting ourselves into. Today, this politics of personal destruction, which I think, sadly I experienced in my limited way, is being meted out by the president of the United States against almost unknown civil servants, career officials who never signed up for the public spotlight. And their character, their careers, their integrity is being maligned and impugned in the same way that ours was, certainly mine was. It’s exponentially worse.

MICHAEL MORELL:

I’m going to ask about family as well. You and I both know that false accusations have impacts on family. You write about it very honestly in the book, specifically the impact on your daughter. Was that a tough decision?

SUSAN RICE:

To write about it?

MICHAEL MORELL:

Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

SUSAN RICE:

No. I had to write about it. And I had to get, obviously, her permission. By the way, this is her 17th birthday today.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Oh, happy birthday.

SUSAN RICE:

And she’s doing great. So that’s where I’ll begin this story. A happy, healthy successful high school student. But she was nine at the time. And she began, say, six weeks after I’d appeared on the Sunday shows to complain that she was seeing images of men coming at her out of walls.

She’d be in the classroom at school in third grade or at a sleepover at a friend’s house or even in their own bedroom. And she was, in effect, hallucinating. And obviously her dad and I were completely freaked out. And we took her to Children’s Hospital here in Washington. And for a couple of weeks they put her through a battery of tests.

They were trying to figure out is– the most likely explanations were brain tumor, some kind of psychosis or schizophrenia, perhaps a vision problem. And they eventually ruled out all those worst-case scenarios and we’re left sort of by process of elimination with the conclusion that she was in all likelihood having a stress reaction to what was happening to me.

This went on for months and months. And my husband and I realized that we had failed to understand that a television in the background, that we were able to tune out, was really hard to process for a kid at that age. And all she knew was that her mother was being attacked. And that was how she reacted.

It was infuriating. And of all the things that I want to share about that experience– and I talk about it, the effect on my mom, too, who was quite ill– I want people to understand that this politics of personal destruction that we’ve become so accustomed to Washington, doesn’t just target the individual who opponents are trying to take down.

It affects everybody who loves them, everybody who works with them, people who didn’t sign up for this– kids, elderly people. And it has a cost, a human cost. And so once my daughter agreed to let me include that, I was– I wanted to do so.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Susan, let me just ask you one more question. You’ve been amazing with your time here. So you say something in your book that I think is absolutely 100% on the mark, which is that the biggest threat we face is not from overseas. It’s our broken political system.

SUSAN RICE:

Our domestic political divisions.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yes. How concerned are you about that? Is our democracy at risk? How do you think about that?

SUSAN RICE:

I’m deeply concerned about it. And yes, I do think our democracy is at risk. But at the end of the day, as I also write, in the last chapter of the book called Bridging the Divide, where I sort of delve into this whole question of how our divisions are– constitute a threat, and the kinds of steps that we can take to address them, I end up at a point of optimism because I’m a student of history, in many respects.

And if you look back over the course of our existence as a nation, we’ve been through multiple periods of far more stark and violent divisions, from the Civil War to Reconstruction, the experience of two world wars followed by McCarthyism, the Vietnam Era where students were being shot on our campuses, the Civil Rights Era where people like me had dogs sicced on them and water hoses and our cities burnt down due to rioting? That’s not where we are today. And through each of those extraordinary periods of challenge, we emerged whole and arguably stronger.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Stronger.

SUSAN RICE:

And so I say, really the last lines of the book are, “Nobody’s ever won by betting against the United States of America’s long-term capacity to grow and change and renew itself. And they’d be foolish to start now.”

MICHAEL MORELL:

And nobody’s ever–

SUSAN RICE:

I believe that.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yes. Nobody’s ever won betting against human freedom at the end of the day.

SUSAN RICE:

At the end of the day. That’s exactly right. But we’ve got huge amounts of work to do. Our ability to beat this challenge depends on a will to do it and a sense of urgency, and recognition that these divisions are doing, above all, Russia’s job for them.

The Russians every day are, through social media, through all of their disinformation and information campaigns, are trying to weaken us from within and exacerbate these divisions and cause us to hate each other and fear each other and turn on each other, whether through violence or just through completely discrediting our national cohesion and integrity, and doubting the viability of our institutions.

And so when the president talks about fake news and denigrates the intelligence community and law enforcement and diplomats and now uniformed military officials, and embraces the conspiracy theories of Vladimir Putin, we’re in a tough spot.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And–

SUSAN RICE:

We’ve got to confront it. And I talk about in the book, a whole range of things we can do from the personal, individual level. I’ve experienced these personal– these political divisions in my own family. I have a very, very conservative–

MICHAEL MORELL:

You do.

SUSAN RICE:

–son.

MICHAEL MORELL:

You do.

SUSAN RICE:

And he’s an–

MICHAEL MORELL:

So do I, by the way.

SUSAN RICE:

–active political–

MICHAEL MORELL:

I don’t know how that happened.

SUSAN RICE:

I’ve got a very progressive daughter and I’ve got a husband who sits with me in the middle trying to keep food from flying at the table. But we’ve got things we can do individually and personally. We’ve got things we can do in terms of how we educate our children and teach civics and teach civil discourse.

There are things we can do to reform our political system that would eliminate the power of the extremes, or reduce the power of the extremes. And then I throw out some pretty provocative ideas, including mandatory national civilian service for everybody in this country, 18 to 22, to spend six to 12 months working with people from vastly different backgrounds, living with people from vastly different backgrounds, doing things that benefit all of us, whether it’s reforestation or laying broadband or what have you.

And I suggest that, as costly and dramatic a step as it might be, because I really believe that it’s very hard to hate somebody when you actually know them. And that’s the kind of step we need to be willing to contemplate if we’re going to beat this moment.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Susan, thank you for taking so much time to be with us. The author is Susan Rice. The book is Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For.

SUSAN RICE:

Thank you so much Michael. Appreciate it very much. * * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *

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