As UN ambassador Susan Rice prepares to succeed Tom Donilon as U.S. President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, much of the initial press analysis has been misdirected. Commenters have zeroed in on her confrontation last year with congressional Republicans over the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, which effectively sidelined her as a candidate to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. The implication is that that debacle will severely undermine her capacity to get things done in Washington. Rice will doubtless take steps to mend fences with her critics on Capitol Hill. But what determines her effectiveness in the end will not be her dealings with senators -- the national security adviser does not require confirmation and seldom appears before congressional committees. Rather, it will be how she manages relationships within the executive branch.

Rice will join an operation that has been running quite well.

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  • I.M. DESTLER is Saul I. Stern Professor at the Maryland School of Public Policy and co-author, with Ivo H. Daalder, of In the Shadow of the Oval Office: Profiles of the National Security Advisers and the Presidents They Served.
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