Obama looks for new Director of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
After the resignation of Samantha Power, the top White House official on human rights, was announced on Feb. 4, President Barack Obama will now need to find a new Director of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, in addition to various other cabinet positions.
Power said she was stepping down from the president’s cabinet in order to spend more time with her family.
She served on the National Security Council since Obama took office in 2009. The former journalist has been a leading human rights advocate since her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” and an advisor to Obama since March 2008.
William Meyer, political science and international relations professor, said Power’s biggest contribution to human rights developments has been her book, which he said changed the way genocide is studied.
The Obama administration’s record on human rights was a principal concern for Power, Meyer said, and the human rights movement has benefitted from her attention to it, although some steps have been limited by Congress
“Her book had a major impact on the scholarship of genocide,” Meyer said. “It’s really remarkable that she started out as a journalist and ended up having such an impact on scholarly research.”
Meyer said some human rights advocates have pointed to the drone strike policy as the Obama administration’s downfall, but even with that, the administration’s actions have been positive.
Junior Adam Breiner said he does not think Power made the best decisions in her position, however. Although Powers received much attention for her insistence on military action in Libya, it is too early to tell whether the move was beneficial or not, he said.
“With the intervention, although it allowed the rebels to win, it’s pretty much lawless [in Libya] now,” Breiner said. “I’m still kind of divided on the situation. I think it depends on how Libya improves or declines from now.”
Breiner said the current problems in Mali have resulted from militant groups involved in the Libyan uprising. After the Libyan war ended, these groups traveled south to Mali and continued to fight there, he said.
He said he thought the United States could have more of an impact on rebellions that have resulted from the Arab Spring.
“In Egypt, when the uprising happened, we could have made a real difference by helping out earlier,” Breiner said. “We didn’t have to commit to military intervention, or anything like that. We can voice our support for the side that is clearly morally correct.”
Senior Tom Wilson said he believes fewer human rights advocates in the White House might be slightly beneficial to forming foreign policy.
“When the U.S. intervenes it causes further conflict,” Wilson said. “Eventually, that leads to us putting our own economic resources into resolving that economic conflict when we have our own economic crises to worry about.”
Vitor Teixeira Nascimento, a Brazilian exchange student, also said he thinks the Obama administration should be less involved in the affairs of other countries.
He said the United States is one of the top contributors when it comes to stopping human rights crises as they arise, but the country should not necessarily step in all the time.
“Sometimes, when there are two sides to the story, the United States picks the side they agree with, instead of the side that is right,” Nascimento said. “I don’t think that the United States should be intervening, I think it should be the United Nations.”
Nascimento also said if the United Nations was to solve a conflict, as opposed to the United States, it might reach a fairer agreement because it is not motivated by other special interests.
Power’s resignation does not necessarily signal an end to her contributions to the administration, however. Power is “likely to return,” although no decisions have been made regarding her future in the administration, according to the National Security Council’s official statement on Power’s departure.
Breiner said the administration and the military might benefit from the absence of Power.
“Her real foreign policy seems to be military intervention,” Breiner said. “So if that’s the policy that she continues to pursue, I think a return to the administration would have a negative effect.”