Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to U.N., takes center stage in debate over Syria violence

Colum Lynch
The Washington Post

UNITED NATIONS — Over Thanksgiving last year, Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations , traveled with her husband and two children to Rwanda. It was part vacation — a chance to see the magnificent bird and gorilla population. But it was also a somber opportunity to visit the memorial honoring more than 800,000 people who died in the largest mass killing in modern times as the world looked on passively.

Rwanda’s 1994 genocide was a watershed for Rice. At the time, she was a 30-year-old National Security Council official in the Clinton administration, which stymied international efforts at the United Nations to respond militarily to the slaughter. Rice took the failure to heart.

But the lessons of Rwanda have offered an imperfect guidebook as Rice weighs the use of U.S. diplomatic and military power. She helped rally support for action in Libya, where the United States helped topple a regime that had threatened to commit large-scale killings. But she has gone the other direction on Syria, with President Obama resisting calls for intervention there as thousands die in the fight against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

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