Susan Rice was instrumental in pushing the Obama administration to join the UN Human Rights Council, insisting that engagement would allow the U.S. to “shape” the council’s policies and membership. That proved to be a somewhat inflated assessment when Libya was soon afterward — and quite easily — elected to the notorious Israel-bashing body. Rice subsequently declined to criticize the ascension of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, instead complimenting the election.
So it’s entirely appropriate that the ambassador was unable to attend the emergency UN Security Council meeting on the violence sweeping Libya, on account of a global-sustainability conference in South Africa that had greater purchase on her attention:
At great personal risk to himself and his family, Libya’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, pushed the UN Security Council to take up the violence in his home country. … The dramatic event prompted the first UN meeting of the 15 member Security Council on the uprisings sweeping across the region since the beginning of Tunisia’s revolution. … The United States was represented by Foreign Service officer and Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo. … Rice, skipped the Libya meeting and instead flew to South Africa to attend a UN panel discussion on global sustainability.
It’s probably unfair to lay out the timeline this way, implying as it does that Rice’s absence was a Libya-specific thing. She misses lots of events that clash with her internationalist sensibilities and multilateral promises. The ambassador quite literally wasn’t in the room when Iran — a state that uses serial rape as a weapon against imprisoned dissidents — was elected to the Commission on the Status of Women committee. Presumably, someone didn’t like the optics of that debacle, coming as it did a few months after Rice insisted that the UN mission was spearheading Obama’s “change in the nature and tone of our relationships … [which] is yielding concrete and tangible benefits here at the United Nations.”
No one doubts that Ambassador Rice has a busy schedule. With the GOP looking to curtail UN funding, and with the UN’s own $43 million in-house PR shop not making much headway, she has recently taken to touring the country to give lectures on how “Main Street America Needs the United Nations.” But with the White House under fire for “voting present” on Libya — see Rick Richman’s brutal analysis of Obama’s speech — is it really a good idea to alter the narrative to “not even showing up to vote present”?
Despite all her responsibilities, the ambassador found time last week to work tirelessly in crafting an anti-Israel statement that would bridge the differences between the Arab Group and the United States. Although — again, in fairness — there might not have been any conferences sketching the promise of transnational cooperation for her to attend. We all know what rare beasts those are, the international community being famously circumspect in its self-regard.
UPDATE: A reader e-mails in a gentle correction. Apparently, the $43 million turned over to the UN Dept of Information is just the U.S.’s biennial contribution. The department’s total biennial budget is $182 million, all of which goes toward de facto propaganda. The UN, it goes without saying, does not criticize itself.