Obama Promotes ‘Liberal Hawks’ as Pundits Ponder Impact on Syria, Russia

WASHINGTON, June 5 (RIA Novosti) – US President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced the appointment of two top foreign policy officials known to favor strong US action in humanitarian crises, sparking speculation on whether this could tip the balance toward intervention in Syria, a option strongly opposed by Russia.

But reacting to Obama’s appointment of UN Ambassador Susan Rice as his new national security adviser and Samantha Power, a former White House aide, to the post of UN ambassador, pundits voiced widely varying views on whether the two so-called “liberal hawks” would take US policy on Syria or Russia in new directions.

“The new Rice-Power axis will likely mean a much greater emphasis on human rights in foreign policy – which could vastly complicate US relations with Russia, China and Iran,” Bob Dreyfuss, a Washington-based journalist and author, wrote at the website of the US magazine The Nation.

He contrasted “interventionist hawks” Rice and Power to the outgoing national security adviser, Tom Donilon, noting that among the latter’s recent important efforts were his travels to Russia, “where he tried to rebuild ties with Moscow,” and that he backs Obama’s rejection of military action in Syria.

Like many commentators, Dreyfuss noted that both Rice and Power were strong advocates of the US-led military intervention in Libya two years ago – a foreign action also strongly opposed by Moscow – which he said “ushered in chaos and a militia-dominated, semi-failed-state.”

The foreign policy-focused website the National Interest struck a similar note, contrasting Obama’s recent appointments of two well-connected Washington insiders, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, to head the US State Department and the Pentagon, respectively, with Wednesday’s appointments of more “activist” officials.

“Now his administration is embarking on a different course – or at least balancing his foreign policy team with two advisers more inclined than not to engage in interventions abroad,” The National Interest editor Jacob Heilbrunn wrote.

“The irony is that Rice may exercise more power as national security adviser than does Kerry as secretary of state,” Heilbrunn said, adding that Power “brings a moralistic penchant to the UN” but will have little direct influence on US foreign policy.

“The question is whether Obama has learned a lesson from the Libyan venture, where he lost the trust … of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, who felt ‘betrayed’ by the insistence on regime change” there, The National Interest said.

The Washington Post and other political news outlets meanwhile downplayed the effect the Rice-Power appointments would have on US policy on Syria and relations with Russia or any other country.

“There is good reason to believe that Power and Rice are not about to change US policy in Syria,” wrote Max Fisher, the Post’s foreign affairs blogger, who listed four reasons for this assertion – one of them being that Obama has already overruled more senior officials advocating intervention in Syria.

Speaking on a television news program, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen also dismissed suggestions that Rice and Power would seek to push Obama in the direction of intervening militarily in Syria or making other major changes to his foreign policy priorities.

“I don’t see what they bring to the table that hasn’t already been brought to the table,” Cohen, once a vocal advocate of US military intervention in the Syrian conflict, said of Rice and Power.

“I don’t see these appointments as game-changers. I think they’re just personnel changes,” he said.

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