Obama to Appoint Rice Security Advisor, Reinstate Power

The two women are seen as favoring a more activist foreign policy than the president himself.

President Barack Obama confers with Samantha Power, senior director for multilateral affairs, and Susan Rice, permanent representative to the United Nations, before they attend a memorial service at the United Nations in New York, September 23, 2009
President Barack Obama confers with Samantha Power, senior director for multilateral affairs, and Susan Rice, permanent representative to the United Nations, before they attend a memorial service at the United Nations in New York, September 23, 2009 (White House/Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday that he plans to appoint his former foreign-policy advisor Samantha Power as the United States’ permanent representative to the United Nations. She would replace Susan Rice who is to become his national security advisor. Both women are seen as favoring a more activist foreign policy than the president himself.

Rice was considered as a candidate to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state late last year but withdrew her nomination after opposition Republicans had criticized remarks she made in the wake of a terrorist attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, an incident she repeatedly claimed had been triggered by an anti-Islam video that also stirred demonstrations outside the United States embassy in the Egyptian capital Cairo. The attacked turned out to be premeditated.

Unlike a cabinet position, Rice’s appointment as the president’s top security advisor does not require lawmakers’ approval. She will replace Tom Donilon who resigns next month after serving in the president’s National Security Council for four years.

The seat Rice vacates in the United Nations would be filled by Power, pending the Senate’s confirmation. Formerly an Obama campaign advisor and human rights advocate, she was seen, with Rice, as one of the administration’s staunchest proponents for America’s participation in the multilateral intervention in Libya in 2011 when the military was reluctant to engage in a mission that Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, admitted didn’t serve any national interests.

The two women supported intervention, after Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi had threatened to level an entire city where opposition against his regime was rife, on the grounds of “responsibility to protect,” a doctrine that holds American military power can be deployed for humanitarian reasons. They also both supported the war in Iraq, initiated by Obama’s Republican predecessor George W. Bush, for similar reasons.

Other recently appointed members of Obama’s national-security team have distanced themselves from the Iraq war, now widely considered a debacle because it triggered years of insurgency against the Western occupation and exacerbated conflict between the country’s Muslim sects, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a Republican, and Secretary of State John Kerry, a Democrat. They are both seen as favoring a more cautious foreign policy that reflects the United States’ reduced ability and prestige.

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