Susan Rice, formerly the National Security Adviser under Barack Obama, criticized the Trump administration’s foreign policy Thursday, saying that the United States has become an “exporter of instability.”
“The world has long looked to the United States to lead with respect to our values, to lead with respect to our interests, to bring coalitions together—whether it’s to fight ISIS, or to put pressure on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, or to deal with the Ebola epidemic,” she said, speaking at the Women in the World summit in Manhattan on Thursday. “All of that has changed. Not only are we not leading, not only are we jettisoning our values, but we are actually modeling the opposite behavior.”
Instead of the U.S. being a reliable leader on the world stage, according to Rice, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has filled that role.
“Some have dubbed her the ‘leader of the free world’,” Rice said. “And I don’t think that’s a misplaced characterization.”
Leadership in the Trump administration, meanwhile, is lacking, according to Rice.
“Half the cabinet, it seems, is vacant or with acting individuals who don’t have the security position or the stature to be as effective as we need them to be,” said Rice. “There seems to be a deliberate disinterest in having human beings run the government.”
The national security team typically prepares hours of research to make recommendations to the president, who then is meant to study the options and come to a “thoughtful, rational decision,” explained Rice. In this administration, however, “the process is broken,” she argues. “It’s quite obvious that decisions are made not only by tweet on the fly, but beneath that there has not been a process to consider the ramifications of critical decisions.”
This leads the president to negate his own departments at times. Just last month, President Donald Trump revoked sanctions targeting North Korea via Twitter just a day after the Treasury Department had announced them, sparking confusion.
“Most of the challenges this administration has faced has been frankly challenges of its own creation,” said Rice. “But when and if—as is inevitable—a major crisis hits, I worry a great deal that the systems aren’t in place, the processes aren’t in place, the muscle memory is not in place for the kind of thoughtful decision making we need.”
Many Democratic leaders are hoping to win back the White House in 2020 and revoke many of the policies Trump has implemented, but Rice warned that his administration has already done significant damage to our alliances and our world reputation.
“We should not assume that it will be quick or easy to regain what’s been lost. It’s going to be really hard,” she said. “And I think it’ll be a while—even with the best effort and the best leadership—before the world can take a deep breath and have some degree of confidence that we’re not going to pull this trick on them again.”