Obama Picks Interventionists Rice and Power For Top Security and UN Gigs


Credit:U.S. State Dept./wikimedia

Susan Rice is set to replace Tom Donilon as President Obama's National Security Advisor. Rice, the current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is perhaps best known for the comments she made following the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi in September 2012, which many believed were misleading and an indication that the Obama administration was not being forthcoming about what was known about who perpetrated the attack.

Samantha Power, a former White House adviser who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on American responses to genocides, is to be nominated as Rice's successor and will face a Senate confirmation.

The move suggests that Obama is not only willing to stand by Rice amid the controversy of the Benghazi consulate attack but also that he is also happy having advocates of humanitarian intervention being in influential roles.

Rice is known in part for her advocacy for interventionism, as Foreign Policy has highlighted:

Rice swallowed her private desires for a quick U.S. intervention into Libya and followed White House orders to publicly press the brakes on the international march toward a no-fly zone throughout the second week of March 2011. She all the while made her preference toward intervention known inside the White House, and was eventually instrumental in pushing through a March 17 U.N. Security Council vote of 10-0 to take "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians. "The Libya resolution was a major achievement for Rice," wrote Traub.

Her foreign-policy outlook is said to be shaped by the nightmare of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which transformed her from a "haunted realist" to an "impassioned interventionist," according to aprofile of her by Julia Ioffe in the New Republic. At the time, she served as director for international organizations and peacekeeping at the National Security Council during Bill Clinton's first term.

During the Rwandan genocide Rice was serving on the National Security Council and told Samantha Power when her expected successor was an aide to Obama, "I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required."

Power was one of the main architects of the intervention in Libya and was a reporter in Bosnia during the early 90s, an experience that no doubt influenced her thinking on humanitarian intervention.

That the next National Security Advisor and the next (barring a botched Senate confirmation hearing) U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. are both interventionists is of special importance given the ongoing situation in Syria, especially considering that according to the French and British governments Obama's self imposed "red line" has been crossed.