Samantha Power Is in the House
The Associated Press is reporting that Samantha Power will get a job on the National Security Council staff. (That’s via Laura Rozen and Matthew Yglesias.) It’s a shame that reporter Matthew Lee focuses on the inane “monster” pseudo-controversy from the primaries, because Power is perhaps the most innovative foreign policy scholar of her generation, and I’d write that even if she wasn’t a potential source. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning history of U.S. genocide policy, “A Problem From Hell,” was the catalyst for a renewed and invigorated debate about how the United States should deal with human-rights emergencies around the world. She followed it up with a thorough study of how the United Nations deals with human rights and weak-state crises, told through the story of a legendary diplomat. If you want someone who refuses to accept the facile boundaries of stale foreign policy debates, you hire Power.
Indeed, apropos of my post about democracy promotion, check out Power’s thoughts during the campaign about why the democracy-promotion-and-terrorism debate was miscast:
What’s typically neglected in these arguments is the simple insight that democracy does not fill stomachs, alleviate malaria, or protect neighborhoods from marauding bands of militiamen. Democracy, in other words, is valuable to people insofar as it allows them first to meet their basic needs. It is much harder to provide that sense of dignity than to hold an election in Baghdad or Gaza and declare oneself shocked when illiberal forces triumph. “Look at why the baddies win these elections,” Power says. “It’s because [populations are] living in climates of fear.” U.S. policy, she continues, should be “about meeting people where they’re at. Their fears of going hungry, or of the thug on the street. That’s the swamp that needs draining. If we’re to compete with extremism, we have to be able to provide these things that we’re not [providing].”
Her prospective arrival at the NSC isn’t a bad start in that regard.
Update: Mark Leon Goldberg has more.