Commentary Magazine


Samantha Power Returns

According to reports, Samantha Power has made her triumphant – not to mention entirely predictable (h/t Ed Lasky) – return to the Obama fold. Indeed, almost nine months after she called then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a “monster” and had to resign her post as an Obama campaign foreign policy adviser, Power is now serving on Obama’s State Department transition team. This announcement will likely upset many in the blogosphere – including some of my Contentions colleagues – who previously exposed Power for her foolish statements and writings on Iran, Israel, and Iraq.

Back in March, I shared these concerns completely. But, since what’s done is done, perhaps it’s important to point to a silver lining in Samantha Power’s sudden reemergence: Power is an expert on genocide, and her writings on Rwanda – which drew from her personal travels in that country – powerfully critiqued the Clinton administration’s failure during the 1994 massacre of the Tutsis. In turn, as the international community has consistently failed to redress the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Power can serve as a key adviser in constructing a diplomatic strategy for providing relief.

Still, a major caveat is in order: much like any other foreign policy expert, Power will only be useful if she is put in charge of something that she knows – such as matters pertinent to genocide and humanitarian disasters – rather than something that she doesn’t know – namely, any other foreign affairs issue. Frankly, I’m not too optimistic that the Obama team will appoint Power so judiciously – the very appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State suggests that experience isn’t much of a premium to the incoming administration.

So, rather than assessing whether or not Power is a “friend of Israel” as some bloggers are already doing, we should be primarily focused on whether Power is qualified for whatever position she is given at Foggy Bottom. If she is given substantial authority within a limited purview, she can be extremely effective and play a deeply important role in the U.S.’s humanitarian efforts worldwide. But if she’s given any sort of position through which her flighty instant analyses might have an impact, she will be an embarrassment – both to herself and to us.

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