Monday, March 3, 2008


Speaking truth to Power (SandBox)

Samantha Power is the author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on genocide, and she has a professorship at Harvard (in something called "Global Leadership and Public Policy"). She is also a senior foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama. This isn't an honorific: she has worked for Obama in Washington, she has campaigned for him around the country, and she doesn't hesitate to speak for him. This morning, the Washington Post has a piece on Obama's foreign policy team, identifying her (and retired Maj. Gen. Scott Garion) as "closest to Obama, part of a group-within-the-group that he regularly turns to for advice." Power and Garion "retain unlimited access to Obama." This morning's New York Times announces that Power has an "irresistable profile" and "she could very well end up in [Obama's] cabinet."  

She also has a problem: a corpus of critical statements about Israel. These have been parsed by Noah Pollak at
Commentary's blog Contentions, by Ed Lasky and Richard Baehr at American Thinker, and by Paul Mirengoff at Power Line.
Power made her most problematic statement in 2002, in an interview she gave at Berkeley. The interviewer asked her this question:
Let me give you a thought experiment here, and it is the following: without addressing the Palestine-Israel problem, let’s say you were an advisor to the President of the United States, how would you respond to current events there? Would you advise him to put a structure in place to monitor that situation, at least if one party or another [starts] looking like they might be moving toward genocide?
Power gave an astonishing answer:
What we don’t need is some kind of early warning mechanism there, what we need is a willingness to put something on the line in helping the situation. Putting something on the line might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import; it may more crucially mean sacrificing—or investing, I think, more than sacrificing—billions of dollars, not in servicing Israel’s military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine, in investing the billions of dollars it would probably take, also, to support what will have to be a mammoth protection force, not of the old Rwanda kind, but a meaningful military presence. Because it seems to me at this stage (and this is true of actual genocides as well, and not just major human rights abuses, which were seen there), you have to go in as if you’re serious, you have to put something on the line. 

Unfortunately, imposition of a solution on unwilling parties is dreadful. It’s a terrible thing to do, it’s fundamentally undemocratic. But, sadly, we don’t just have a democracy here either, we have a liberal democracy. There are certain sets of principles that guide our policy, or that are meant to, anyway. It’s essential that some set of principles becomes the benchmark, rather than a deference to [leaders] who are fundamentally politically destined to destroy the lives of their own people. And by that I mean what Tom Friedman has called “Sharafat” [Sharon-Arafat]. I do think in that sense, both political leaders have been dreadfully irresponsible. And, unfortunately, it does require external intervention.... Any intervention is going to come under fierce criticism. But we have to think about lesser evils, especially when the human stakes are becoming ever more pronounced.
It isn't too difficult to see all the red flags in this answer. Having placed Israel's leader on par with Yasser Arafat, she called for massive military intervention on behalf of the Palestinians, to impose a solution in defiance of Israel and its American supporters. Billions of dollars would be shifted from Israel's security to the upkeep of a "mammoth protection force" and a Palestinian state—all in the name of our "principles." 

No comments: