a simple and clear assessment of a successful tale of diplomatic manipulation

Chicago Journal of Foreign Policy

by Ezra Max

“The sharpness of the tongue defeats the sharpness of the warriors. Language is better than weapons.”

—Rwandan proverb[1]


In 1995 Susan Rice (then the National Security Council’s director for international organizations and peacekeeping), acknowledging the tepid nature of America’s response to the atrocities of the Rwandan Genocide the previous year, “swore to [herself] that if [she] ever faced such a crisis again, [she] would come down on the side of dramatic action.”[2] Three years later, and now the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Rice found herself faced with exactly such a crisis. This time, Rwanda and Uganda had jointly invaded Zaire and begun massacring Hutu refugees. Her dramatic action? To “look the other way.”[3]

Rice’s progression over those three years did not constitute deliberate hypocrisy, or even a recognition that global realities sometimes impede best intentions. Instead, this shift from guilt…

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