In her past life as an advocate against mass atrocities, Samantha Power wrote about the problem from hell. Now, thrust into the middle of high-stakes negotiations on Syria as the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations, she’s living it.
As the United States and Russia discuss a possible diplomatic route for Syria to give up its chemical weapons, the matter ultimately may land at the U.N. Security Council. Consensus may be difficult for a Council that has been deeply divided over the Syrian conflict.
Can Barack Obama ever trust the United Nations Security Council again? And will the Security Council, and the U.N. more broadly, trust the U.S. president? Last week, Obama vented his frustration with diplomacy over Syria at a press conference during the G-20 summit in Russia. Asked why he had called for military action in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s resort to the use of chemical weapons, Obama claimed the alternatives “would be some resolutions that were being proffered in the United Nations and the usual hocus-pocus.”
President Obama’s stated willingness to go it alone on Syria surprises those who followed him during the previous administration, when, as a senator, he derided George W. Bush’s commitment to multilateralism and questioned his “coalition of the willing” in Iraq.
It is time to set Lakhdar Brahimi free. After a year's service as envoy for the United Nations and Arab League to Syria, the veteran Algerian mediator faces the final breakdown of his efforts to end the war. Disillusioned with both the Syrian government and its opponents, he came close to resigning in May. Since then he has hung on, mainly because his departure would look like an admission that a peace deal is impossible. His demeanor suggests that he is painfully conscious of the hopelessness of his situation.