Samantha Power, President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations, has gotten a key Establishment constituency on her side. Neoconservatives support her, because she has pushed intervention in Syria.
The other night Bob Dreyfuss of the Nation was on public television arguing against Syrian intervention because “the US has a history of bumbl[ing] into a country that it really doesn’t understand the dynamics of, and unleash[ing] a force that it doesn’t control.”
Dreyfuss was opposed by a fellow from the neoconservative Hudson Institute, who dropped an impressive name: Samantha Power.
MICHAEL PILLSBURY: But you also have to focus on the humanitarian side. If you read Samantha Power’s book, you see, standing aside, to do what Bob Dreyfuss recommends, we stand aside and do nothing, we are not going to have a peaceful cease-fire.
A million people are going to die. That is the reason for the intervention. I support what President Obama has decided. And I think Bob Dreyfuss and others had better get on board. That debate is over. We are involved now. The question is, how to be effective, how to win.
This shrewd positioning of Samantha Power was also reflected in a long piece in the New York Times two weeks ago, characterizing Power as a frustrated hawk on Syria. The friend who sent it along says the piece achieved two ends: it gave “a luster to Syria intervention” and by demonstrating Power’s “apparent (though until now private?) support for the intervention, it will help her chances as mainstream ultra-legitimate nominee.” From Mark Landler’s Times report:
Friends of Ms. Power’s say that as a senior director on the National Security Council, she argued for a more robust response to Syria — an argument that finally gained traction, months after she left, with Mr. Obama’s recent decision to begin supplying small arms and ammunition to the rebels.
The piece tracked Power’s “signature project, the Atrocities Prevention Board, a high-level White House task force that Ms. Power urged President Obama to create in 2012 and then served as chairwoman of for its first year.”
Meeting monthly in the White House Situation Room or the Old Executive Office Building, Ms. Power’s board has wrestled with how to stop a wave of anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar, politically motivated clashes in Kenya and the terrorism campaign of Joseph Kony, the guerrilla leader in Central Africa accused of enslaving children.
The board has prodded Mr. Obama to raise the issue of the treatment of Muslims with the president of Myanmar, Thein Sein. It pushed for war-crimes legislation that enabled the United States to offer a reward of up to $5 million for tips leading to the capture of Mr. [Joseph] Kony [accused of enslaving children in Central Africa]. And it took part in a decision to send civilian experts to Kenya before elections last March to help quell violence.
What it did not do is change Mr. Obama’s response to the biggest atrocity of the day, the Syrian civil war. He has steadfastly resisted deeper involvement, even as the death toll has surpassed 90,000. That has made the board an easy target for conservatives, as well as some genocide scholars, who condemn it as toothless..
Current and former administration officials said it was naïve to think that an interagency board could shift American policy on Syria, given the enormity and strategic sensitivity of the crisis and that it was already raging when the board was formed.
“It is unrealistic for a new entity that has no real authority to galvanize the government on Syria,” said Lanny A. Breuer, a former assistant attorney general who represented the Justice Department on the board until earlier this year. “But what it can do is to raise awareness.”
Ms. Power, Mr. Breuer said, brought a “boldness and level of commitment that was impressive.” She handpicked the board’s members from 11 agencies including the Treasury Department and the C.I.A., and she led meetings that were unusually well attended, another member said, thanks to her intensity.