As most as you have seen by now, President Obama has appointed retired Air Force General Scott Gration as the U.S. envoy for Sudan. A couple thoughts. First and foremost, I don’t think this appointment would have been made as quickly as it was without the significant activist pressure we have seen from all quarters calling for a special envoy. This is why activism has never been more important.
What to make of the pick? There are some clear positives. Gration is a friend and confidant of Obama’s. As a former Air Force general he should carry real weight with the Pentagon in the interagency process, and he certainly is well positioned if a no-fly zone becomes a larger part of the U.S. strategy. Gration also grew up in Congo and traveled with then-Senator Obama to Africa in 2006.
There are also some questions. Will Gration carry the same diplomatic heft as the other new special envoys on the block: Richard Holbrooke; George Mitchell; and Dennis Ross? Does Gration have the right diplomatic skills to forge a multilateral strategy for a comprehensive approach to peace in Sudan? How will Gration work with the State Department?
General, we wish you the very best and want you to succeed.