Adler: Samantha Power a superb choice for U.N. ambassador

July 6, 2013 

David Adler

Dear Senator Risch: It's not often that you will have an opportunity in your capacity as a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to vote on a nominee for the post of ambassador to the United Nations who has provided Idaho with human rights leadership and assistance, but you do now.

When your committee convenes hearings next week on President Obama's nomination of Samantha Power to be our next U.N. ambassador, you will be in the position to vote on behalf of a human rights champion who brought her wisdom, insights, skills and energy to the Gem State on a half dozen occasions to promote human dignity and human rights in the face of neo-Nazi activities.

Few people in the United States have done as much good for Idaho in the arena of human rights, as Samantha Power. At the invitation of the Association of Idaho Cities and Counties, Power brought her skill set to Idaho to help organize, in partnership with 300 mayors, Idaho's five-year campaign from 2000 to 2005, to promote human rights. Her commitment to this magisterial cause is reflected in speeches from Coeur d'Alene to Burley, occasionally in the company of Sen. Mike Crapo.

Widely admired for her devotion to human rights, a bipartisan issue if ever there was one, and exalted for the leadership and assistance she rendered to Idaho at a time when our reputation on matters of tolerance was taking a national beating, Power has become an adopted daughter of Idaho.

Power is a superb choice for the United Nations. Throughout her career as an academic and a member of the Obama administration, she has shined an international spotlight on the moral and human consequences of governmental decision making on mass killings.

Power is a rare example of a leader who brings a real-world appreciation for both the potential uses and limits of power. Her academic credentials, including a law degree from Harvard, are impressive.

A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her internationally acclaimed book, "A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide," and the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, Power has a brought a laser-like, pragmatic intelligence to the problem of protecting the innocent in the world from violence.

Power's long, studied approach to the soul-searing problem of genocide - first as a journalist, and then as an academic, and finally as a practitioner and presidential adviser - won high praise within diplomatic circles, at home and abroad. "A Problem From Hell" argued convincingly for military intervention to prevent genocide in the Rwanda and the Balkans.

On occasion, Power has been miscast by opponents as simply "another humanitarian interventionist." It is certainly true that she is an advocate of international cooperation, multilateralism and humanitarian intervention, but it is unfair to characterize her as a narrow-minded advocate of military intervention.

Indeed, she argues in her prize-winning book for the employment of various tools to prevent mass killings. The foreign policy "toolbox" includes economic sanctions, bans on travel, freezes on assets, public denunciations of human rights violations and referrals to the International Criminal Court. A passionate, sincere and candid champion of human rights, endowed with an indomitable Irish spirit, Power rightly declares that in the face of genocide, "There is always something you can do."

For more than 15 years, Power has been one of the foremost experts in the world on the issue of genocide and human rights. If confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations, she will fight to stop human trafficking and she will push for humanitarian programs. She cannot fix the United Nations, but she will bring the sort of wisdom, experience and courage that America requires in its chief ambassador.

Adler is the director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, where he holds appointment as the Cecil D. Andrus Professor of Public Affairs. He has lectured nationally and internationally on the Constitution, the presidency and the Bill of Rights. He is also an adjunct professor of law at the University of Idaho, where he teaches courses on the Constitution and the Supreme Court.

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