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Samantha Power’s Essay a Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide

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In Samantha Power’s essay “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide” (2002) the distinct focus of her argument is about potentially stopping genocide. She listed certain precautionary actions that countries in the UN could have taken to help Rwanda. Power’s is not only a prized author but also the current United States Ambassador of the United Nations. She worked for Obama’s State Department; she focused on United Nations reform, social equality, religious equality, refugees, human trafficking, and democracy. Samantha was a key figure in persuading President Obama to intervene with military action in Libya. She questioned the U.S. officials about how they “were able to define the decision not to stop genocide as ethical and moral” (Gunner, 155). Samantha Power’s essay touches on the crucial question of why the countries of the United Nations didn’t assist the country of Rwanda when the citizens needed support the most.

At the start of the essay Samantha Power begins with her educated and experienced statements about the possible executions that the U.S. could have taken, not only help Force Commander Dallaire but also the citizens of Rwanda. “Instead of leaving it to midlevel officials to communicate with the Rwandan leadership behind the scenes, senior officials in the administration could have taken control of the process. They could have publicly and frequently denounced the slaughter” (Gunner, 154). This quote portrays Power’s ideas of potential actions that the U.S. or even the UN could have engaged in with the genocide. During this highly hostile time in Rwanda, the countless actions that the UN, and more specifically the U.S., could have done to help ease the tension would have only proved beneficial to saving a nation. Power’s uses the structure of her essay to clearly support her ideas for preventing the genocide by comparing them to what the UN officials actually did. The United Nations did not act to a national crisis, which was eventually labeled “the hundred days of slaughter”. For a hundred days the nation of Rwandan was witnessing a massacre and there wasn’t anything they could do about it. Questions should have arisen about the establishment of peace across the world, why was there no intervention, and why did the U.S. draw soldiers out of Rwanda rather than reinforce the troops in the country . The UN was just producing responses to get out of the situation, the fact was that they didn’t know how to initiate genocide prevention and they weren’t willing to lose any troops. The only response from the UN was “Many internalized the belief that the UN had more to lose by sending reinforcements and failing than by allowing the killings to proceed” (Gunner, 155). Commander Dallaire was one of the few military assets in Rwandan at the time of the massacre and he was actually looking to kill himself to find a release from the guilt. The disappointment from the lack of action in the UN only points to the head officials and their ethical framework for inaction.

Power’s has an informative tone through her essay. Her use of inductive reasoning to begin the first five body paragraphs not only provides her background in context, but also shows multiple well-informed actions that the UN could have proceeded with. She had nine to ten capable precautious actions listed as ways to begin the protection of a nation but also had rebuttals to potential actions that were in counter argument to her own. Being an advocate of humanitarian intervention and a confirmed UN ambassador, Power’s statements for action contradicted the UN’s inaction. She concludes the initial section with a primary source, a U.S. Official journal kept during the crisis. This journal entire explained the economic interested base to foreign policy meaning that if there is a potential cost then the profit would need to be much higher to submit to acting. The second section titled “Guilt” foreshadows the end of the essay. “I was trying to get myself destroyed and looking to get released from the guilt” (Gunner, 156). Romeo Dallaire, the Force Commander of UNAMIR, was quoted because of his position to the argument. Dallaire was stranded in Rwanda at the time of Genocide, and was radically changed by this experience. Dallaire was frequently quoted through an aggressive apathetic tone to close the essay with an informative letter of action. Samantha Power’s particular structure: arguing respected actions, providing the UN’s inaction, an insightful journal



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