The new US Ambassador to the UN wants America to intervene in the world’s humanitarian tragedies. Has she converted the President to her cause?by Paula Broadwell / July 17, 2013 / Leave a comment
President Barack Obama has described the Irish-born Samantha Power as “one of our foremost thinkers on foreign policy” © Reuters
On 5th June, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Samantha Power stood next to President Barack Obama as he named her as his choice for the next US Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, one of the top American diplomatic posts—and in the past, one of the most controversial. “One of our foremost thinkers on foreign policy, she showed us that the international community has a moral responsibility and a profound interest in resolving conflicts and defending human dignity,” said Obama, introducing what to many has seemed a surprising choice. A striking figure, tall and lean, Power was dressed in a dark sea-green dress that complemented her long red hair, an image that newspapers and television cameras were quick to seize.
For her, this was the culmination of a long journey, from her upbringing in Ireland to her arrival in the US and a career that led through journalism to academia and finally politics. To her supporters, she represents a chance to suffuse American foreign policy with a moral idealism. Her reputation as a tough-minded and passionate defender of human rights captures the image the Obama administration seeks to project. To her critics, and Obama’s, the President has appointed a “bleeding heart” who will urge America back into humanitarian missions around the world that it might not be able to afford. Although Power is widely expected to be confirmed in her role by the Senate, she will probably face a grilling from Republicans during this summer’s confirmation hearings.
Power rose to prominence in the 1990s and early 2000s as a war correspondent reporting from the Balkans and Africa for the Economist and Boston Globe, and for her academic work on genocide. Troubled by America’s failure to prevent crimes against humanity, she developed her own strong view of the role it should have in the world. “US foreign policy should inject first-order concern for human rights into every policy decision,” she wrote in a much-discussed 2003 article for The New Republic. “American decision makers must understand how damaging a foreign policy that privileges order and profit over justice really is in the long term.” Power charged American politicians to submit every decision to “full cost accounting in…