Also during Rice's time at the State Department, what became known as "Africa's first world war" erupted on Congolese soil, involving at least 11 neighboring countries. Rice again helped drive a diplomatic process that led eventually to a ceasefire between the various governments, a phased withdrawal of their armies from the Congo, and the deployment of a major U.N. peacekeeping force to oversee that withdrawal. As Ambassador to the United Nations, Rice has remained engaged in supporting a peaceful settlement to the continuing conflict in eastern Congo.
Finally, in the mid-1990s, prior to her appointment as assistant secretary, Rice helped cobble together an international coalition in response to the massive human rights abuses perpetrated by Sudan during the north-south civil war and the country's involvement in terrorist activities. She drove the effort to sanction Khartoum in the U.N. Security Council and helped to craft the comprehensive unilateral U.S. sanctions on Sudan that stand to this day. Once back in office as ambassador to the United Nations, she worked assiduously to support African-led negotiations that ended the north-south war and ensured that the referendum for South Sudan's independence occurred peacefully and as scheduled. The newest state in the world owes its existence, in part, to Rice's sustained effort over nearly two decades.
Rice's tenure at the United Nations, especially her success in persuading the Security Council to impose the toughest-ever sanctions against Iran and rallying support for the resolution to intervene in Libya, which passed 10-0, with China and Russia abstaining, should be seen against the backdrop of her dedicated diplomacy as assistant secretary in some of the world's most difficult conflicts. As secretary of state, Rice would remain focused on crisis diplomacy, but she would also continue to promote trade and investment, democracy, and economic progress as she did as assistant secretary of state.
One criticism of Rice that has been repeated often in recent weeks is that her candor and blunt style would be a liability as secretary of state. My experience working closely with her for nearly four years suggests the opposite.
As assistant secretary, Rice attracted highly respected and competent individuals to the Bureau of African affairs. The group she assembled, composed of professionals with divergent views and experiences, evolved into a loyal and dedicated team that worked effectively across agencies to create a dynamic policy to Africa. Rice also worked closely with the White House to ensure that nearly every U.S. government agency had an active and innovative Africa program.
In short, Rice was a consensus-builder and a problem-solver -- hardly the divisive and obstreperous character that is portrayed on television by her critics.
Rice's record as assistant secretary and ambassador to the United Nations suggest that she would be an effective and successful secretary of state. In my experience, she is unrivaled in her ability to advance U.S. interests under what are invariably challenging circumstances.