Suzanne Nossel

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Suzanne Nossel in 2013

Suzanne Nossel is the executive director of PEN American Center.[1]

She served as Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, from January 2, 2012 to January 11, 2013.[2]

Prior to her tenure at Amnesty International, she served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs in 2009. She is a former Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Human Rights Watch. She worked as Vice President of Strategy and Operations for the Wall Street Journal from 2005–07. After leaving the United Nations, she worked as vice-president of U.S. Business Development for Bertelsmann (2001–05). She has served as a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, the Center for American Progress and the Council on Foreign Relations.[3]


Suzanne Nossel has written on international human rights for a number of publications. In Foreign Policy magazine she has written on the Obama administration's record on human rights, and the future of activism in the internet age.

In 2012, she posed a question on CNN to presidential candidates Obama and Romney regarding improved protections for women in Afghanistan, including better access to education and institutional power. She is the co-author of Presumed Equal, which addressed gender equality in the private sector. She has been credited with coining the term "Smart Power", the title of a 2004 Foreign Affairs article in which she proposed a policy of Liberal Internationalism, outlining the concept of the U.S. using military power as well as other forms of “soft power”, an approach which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made a defining feature of U.S. foreign policy.[4][5]

This claim is disputed by Joseph Nye, author of books on smart power strategy, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense under the Clinton Administration and former Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, who said he coined the term in 2003.[6]

"To advance from a nuanced dissent to a compelling vision, progressive policymakers should turn to the great mainstay of twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy: liberal internationalism, which posits that a global system of stable liberal democracies would be less prone to war. Washington, the theory goes, should thus offer assertive leadership -- diplomatic, economic, and not least, military -- to advance a broad array of goals: self-determination, human rights, free trade, the rule of law, economic development, and the quarantine and elimination of dictators and weapons of mass destruction (WMD)."[7]


Citing her stated positions on the use of military force in what they view as illegal and unjust US aggression, and her position on the government's treatment of US dissidents, protests from prominent peace activists[8] have followed Nossel since her appointment and tenure at Amnesty International and upon her selection to head PEN.[9] Organizers from the feminist peace group Code Pink formed a campaign asking Amnesty's board for Nossel's resignation due to Nossel's support of the war in Afghanistan.[10]

Journalist and peace activist Chris Hedges resigned from PEN in protest of Nossel's appointment. Hedges claimed in his resignation letter to PEN that "Nossel's relentless championing of preemptive war—which under international law is illegal—as a State Department official along with her callous disregard for Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians and her refusal as a government official to denounce the use of torture and use of extra-judicial killings, makes her utterly unfit to lead any human rights organization, especially one that has global concerns."[11]

Personal life[edit]

Nossel is married, and lives with her husband and children in Manhattan.



This article incorporates material from the Citizendium article "Suzanne Nossel", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL.