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article imageOp-Ed: Will appointment of Rice and Power speed US Syria intervention?

By Ken Hanly     Jun 6, 2013 in Politics
Washington - Susan Rice and Samantha Power, the two most recent choices of Barack Obama to be added to his administration, are both "liberal hawks". Since both support humanitarian intervention, some analysts think that Obama may now intervene more directly in Syria.
So far President Obama has refused to intervene in any direct military way in Syria. Both Chuck Hagel and John Kerry are realists rather than hawks on the issue of intervention. However, the choice of Rice and Power will bring a new emphasis upon intervention in the mix.
Rice's appointment shows that on some issues such as standing by his loyalists and promoting them he will not give an inch to critics. As his national security adviser, Rice may have more power than does John Kerry as Secretary of State, a position that she wanted but lost after strong opposition to her appointment. Samantha Power will follow in a tradition of moralistic ambassadors to the UN including Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Madeline Albright who staunchly defend America and "American values" against global critics.
Even if his two new liberal hawks do think that direct US intervention in Syria is a good idea Obama may not be convinced to go along. On Libya, both Power and Rice were supporters of US intervention. However, Libya has not turned out that well, with Gaddafi's arms turning up in adjacent countries often in the hands of Islamist rebels. Internally, the weak government seems at the mercy of militia groups who push their own political agenda.
Another result of the Libyan intervention is that countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and even South Africa felt betrayed when they discovered that the "no-fly zone" was not so much about protecting civilians as regime change. Russia and China are not about to allow any resolution through the UN Security Council that would repeat this game.
An article in the American Conservative points out that Rice may not be all that anxious to intervene in Syria. The Obama administration is aware of the problem of creating a terrorist haven in Syria that could be a threat to the US and might even require direct intervention to quash. Rice is apparently skeptical as well about the effect of trying to impose a no-fly zone. She is no doubt aware of the situation in Libya since she has been accused of helping to hide the terrorist involvement in the Benghazi attack. She may be hesitant to have the US again in a situation where US policy has encouraged the growth of militancy.
While Rice is depicted as a staunch supporter for intervention in countries on humanitarian grounds against dictators and those attacking their own people, she is selective in her dislikes of dictators. As Black Agenda reports: “Over the past decade and half Rice has turned a blind eye, deaf ears and muted lips to extrajudicial killings, suppression of the press, decimation of opposition parties and imprisonment of large numbers of dissidents in Africa and aided and abetted Africa’s dictatorial trio.” The dictatorial trio are Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and the late Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia.
Bob Dreyfuss suggests that the appointment of Power and Rice might complicate U.S. relations with Russia, China, and Iran as there could be a new emphasis upon human rights by the Obama administration. The former national security adviser Tom Donilon had tried to improve relations with Russia.
Max Fisher, noted that Obama has already overruled senior officials advocating that he intervene in Syria, and hence the addition of Power and Rice will not change his mind even should they advocate intervention. Washington Post columnist, Richard Cohen said that he did not see the appointments as game-changers but only as personnel changes. What seems clear is that the views of Power and Rice will be just part of a larger mix of opinions that Obama will listen to, but in the end he will be the one to make the final decision.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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