President Obama’s decision to nominate Samantha Power as the United States representative to the United Nations is right on. Power is perfectly suited to stand up to the United Nations’ notorious double standard and inversion of human rights. She is not a diplomat by nature, and that is precisely what the United Nations needs. Having been born in Ireland, Power knows how to speak to Europeans who often demand more of the United States than they do of themselves. She will be a breath of fresh air at the General Assembly and the Security Council, where circumlocution is preferred to straight talk. Power talks straight.
I have known Samantha since she was my student at HLS, occasionally cutting classes to travel around the world while writing her Pulitzer Prize winning book A Problem From Hell. In that book, she laid out the difficult choices western democracies face when confronted with internal genocides committed abroad. If only Samantha had written her book in the 1930s, perhaps the world would not have stood idly by the rise of Nazism and the genocides against Jews, gypsies, gays and others.
Yes, she is an interventionist when it comes to preventing genocide. But she also cautions prudence in intervening for reasons other than the protection of endangered civilians.
To be sure, Samantha has said some things she now regrets—about Hillary Clinton, about Israel and about other controversial matters. She says what she thinks when she thinks it. As the United States representative to the United Nations, she will articulate the policy of the Obama Administration. She will have to be more diplomatic than she was while in private life. I am confident that she will make our country proud.
I have discussed the Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Samantha on many occasions. As a strong supporter of Israel’s security, I have a high level of confidence that she will do and say the right things. Indeed, because of her sometimes critical attitude toward certain Israeli policies—some of which I agree with, others of which I do not—she will bring added credibility to her positions at the most anti-Israel location in the world other than perhaps, Tehran. No one should expect to agree with everything an outspoken person like Samantha has said over the past decades. But nor should anyone judge her on isolated statements instead of on her distinguished total record.
While serving in the Obama Administration, she has supported Israel’s security and defensive actions against terrorism. She stands squarely behind President Obama’s pledge never to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, even if preventive military action is required. She played a pivotal role in persuading the United States and some of our European allies to boycott the notorious Durban II conference, sponsored by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, which invited Ahmadinejad to be its keynote speaker.
Samantha Power is a strong, independent and persuasive voice for human rights. She understands the principle of “the worst first”—meaning that people who truly care about human rights must prioritize and focus first and foremost on the most serious human rights abuses, such as genocide, rape as a weapon of warfare, and other fundamental deprivations of human dignity. She also understands that priority must be given to victims of human rights abuses who have no voice because of censorship and other forms of government control. She has written one of the most important books outlining the difficult choices faced by democracies in preventing the most serious violations of human rights.
Power will be respected for her intelligence, scholarship and independence. I am confident that she will represent us effectively, persuasively and morally at a time and place that requires her particular talents.
The President has made a good choice. The Senate should quickly confirm Samantha Power for this important job.