Home » Unlabelled » As UN Ambassador, Samantha Power Represents Real Danger to US and Middle East
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
She has been widely criticized, however, for the solutions that she espouses, which have been called “answering a ‘problem from hell’ with a ‘solution from hell.’. She is also widely believed to support an anti-Israel agenda as part of her overall view of a globalized integration of American law and values. This is a view demonstrated by a largely consistent body of statements over more than a decade.
Power makes no bones about her mission. “I got into journalism not to be a journalist but to try to change American foreign policy,” she said in an article in Salon in 2008.
Should her nomination be confirmed, a clue to her likely approach in her new role at the UN can be found in the following quote from an article called “Full Force”, which appeared in the March 2003 issue of the New Republic. In the article, Power wrote:
“Foreign policy is an explicitly amoral enterprise. . . . Embedding U.S. power in an international system and demonstrating humility would be painful, unnatural steps for any empire, never mind the most potent empire in the history of mankind. But more pain now will mean far less pain later”.
Her view of the US as an “empire” is in itself disturbing and offensive. Her opinion that foreign policy is “amoral” and that “humility” is an appropriate quality for a world leader to project, shows her comprehensive ignorance of the dynamics of international diplomacy, and ignores the cultural differences between people that define effective cross cultural communication. Her lack of sensitivity to these issues alone makes her a poor candidate for the position.
The term “humanitarian interventionism”, as applied by Power, reveals a deep naiveté about the way the world really works. Embedded in the concept is a strong tendency to oversimplify the complexities involved in halting historically ingrained ethnic and religious conflicts. Included among the most serious of these issues is the apparent willingness to minimize or completely overlook the challenges of ending the conflict, and the unique requirements of post-conflict reconstruction in each inherently different situation. It disregards the real and perceived roadblocks imposed by international politics, public opinion, and local culture.
While it is difficult to argue against someone who has devoted much of her life fighting genocide, it is the ideology that she embraces in order to implement her mission that makes Samantha Power’s appointment as US Ambassador to the United Nations so troubling. Both her stated philosophy and her public comments on specific issues raise disturbing questions that need to be examined and, hopefully, satisfactorily answered before any confirmation.
Power’s Role in the Obama Administration
Intervention in Libya and Syria When President Obama led the United States into a coalition of forces against Libya, the person behind that decision was understood to be Samantha Power. The decision was strongly influenced by her doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) that purported to guide the American government on how to prevent genocide. The concept is being promoted to create a new international model based on ‘moral’ criteria, that can be employed in situations where the safety of civilians is at risk.
Yet, on the very first night of the coalition’s enforcement of a “no-fly zone” over Libya, US forces rained 1,100 missiles down on Tripoli. It brought death and destruction to an unprecedented level for a “humanitarian” effort, in a nation in which the US had no strategic interest.
According to John Podhoretz’s account of the “contentious” meeting at which the President decided to “move on Libya”, it was Power’s concept of R2P and not any concern for our national security, that influenced the decision. In other words, it was an experiment in “humanitarian interventionism” and not national concerns for America’s welfare.
It should be noted that this intervention was in response to Libyan leader Muammar Ghadaffi’s threat of revenge against dissidents. Although there was certainly fighting on the ground in Benghazi and other places, there was no wholesale genocide taking place in Libya at the time the decision to engage was taken.
In stark contrast, the Administration refused, for over two years, to act openly in Syria, even after tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the rapidly escalating conflict. The President even ignored his own “red line”, drawn on national television when he said that Syria’s use of chemical weapons would be a “game changer”. Even after we had all known for several months that chemical weapons were now at play in Syria, US policy was to remain publicly uninvolved. Perhaps the concept of “humanitarian intervention” only applies where it is politically expedient and safe. It was only after the war appeared to be turning in favor of Bashar Assad that the President finally agreed to openly involve the US by announcing that he would be sending arms to the opposition.
Meanwhile, Samantha Power was appointed head of the do-nothing Atrocities Prevention Board, set up by the President in 2012, presumably to keep her close at hand in a function that was related to her area of expertise. But while the growing list of atrocities being committed against Syrian civilians continued to bring the death toll ever higher, the APB did nothing. It is difficult to understand how Power’s commitment to R2D did not make Syria her most urgent priority. To date, more than 93,000 men, women, and children have died in Syria, according to the latest UN estimates. Yet even today, this “budget neutral” board still has no office, no web site, no phone, no public record of actions it has taken, nor has it issued a single public statement relating to the increasingly desperate plight of Syrian civilians, who themselves are facing genocide at the hands of both the Assad government and the terrorist elements within the opposition.
Questionable Metrics The perspective with which we see the administration’s foreign policy, and Power’s role in shaping it, is enlarged when viewed through the eyes of those whom it most affects. It raises the question as to whether this policy is a reflection of the old expression, “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
A 2010 commentary in the Asian Tribune analyzed an official visit by Power to Sri Lanka, and expressed the fear that the Obama administration was “attempting to tie Sri Lanka to war crimes/war atrocities/crimes against humanity/genocide” with regard to their treatment of the Tamil Tigers. The article expressed extreme frustration that the US was pushing the humanitarian agenda on behalf of the Tamil Tigers, even as the Sri Lankan government was struggling to contain them. This was the same group that Time Magazine called “undoubtedly one of the most organized, effective and brutal terrorist groups in the world.”
Samantha Power on Israel This brings us to Power’s well-documented, anti-Israel positions and their potential impact on America’s unique relationship with with the Jewish state. Is Power applying the same metric to Israel that she was accused of applying to Sri Lanka? Does she assume that because Israel has been accused by itts detractors and enemies, it is de facto guilty, and may, in fact, be exercising the precursor activities of genocide? That is singularly unscholarly and unfair, two personal characteristics on which she openly prides herself.
In 2001, Power attended Durban 1, ironically named the United Nations’ World Conference Against Racism, which was held in Durban, South Africa. Contrary to its title, the event turned into an anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic hate-fest. Yet Power seemed indifferent to the implications of the tone that the conference had taken, and even after the US had withdrawn most of its diplomatic participation in protest, she remained at the conference. She even participated in the planning of Durban 2, although the United States did not, in the end, attend that conference out of concern that it would replicate Durban 1. Her apparent lack of concern for the blatant anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and anti-US sentiments that pervaded the conference in 2001 should have been ringing alarm bells long before now.
Samantha Power and the Middle East ‘Peace Process’ A year later, in a now notorious interview which Power gave in April 2002, she suggested that “external intervention” may be necessary to foster Middle Eastern peace (reminiscent of the oxymoron “fighting for peace”), and considered the possibility as credible that either side to the conflict might initiate a genocide.
Power made her remarks after being asked a hypothetical question by interviewer Harry Kreisler:
“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?”
The question itself was loaded and outrageous, based as it was on several false assumptions. But it was Power’s response that is still remembered and cited eleven years later as she faces Advice and Consent in the Senate. Following is her full response:
“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 [in Israel]), 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.’
“I do think in that sense, both political leaders have been dreadfully irresponsible. And, unfortunately, it does require external intervention.”
In short, Power said that her advice to the President would be to “alienate” the American Jewish community, and indeed all Americans who support the state of Israel, such as evangelical Christians, because Israeli leaders are fully capable of “destroying the lives of their own people.” She would also advise the President to pour billions of dollars of American taxpayers’ money into “the new state of Palestine” and to stage what would amount to an American invasion of Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The implications of her off-the-cuff remarks suggest that she believes 1) that either side was capable of genocide, 2) that there was a clear moral equivalence between the two leaders, 3) that US support for a Palestinian state should include massive US funding for a defense force, at the expense of funds now going to Israel for its own defense, and 4) that Israel was incapable of handling its own affairs vis à vis the Palestinians, and that the only solution, therefore, was international intervention in the affairs of a sovereign state.
ZOA President Morton Klein clearly articulated the argument against the patently false assumption of moral equivalence that both Kreisler’s question and Power’s response embraced:
“As her own words show, Ms Power indulges in astonishing false equivalence between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). She clearly has difficulty in appreciating the distinction between a law-based, free society and democracy like Israel that is defending itself from those who seek its elimination, and a terror-sponsoring, terrorist-glorifying, violence-inculcating PA that has neither signed peace with Israel nor recognized Israel as a Jewish state.”
Altogether, Power’s statement was rambling, incoherent, and ignorant. That she should compare Israel’s well-ordered democratic state to the tribal chaos that existed in Rwanda during the time of the massacre is shocking. It demonstrated either a total lack of knowledge about Israel, or a total disregard for the truth, driven by an interventionist agenda that is willing to sacrifice truth for a perceived principle. (In either case, it should give the Senate serious pause as they consider her appointment.)
Retraction . . . Sort Of Six years later Power reversed herself in a half-hearted retraction given in an interview with Shmuel Rosner of MIFTAH, a pro-Palestinian organization that supports the creation of a Palestinian state. In a summary of her response, Rosner wrote:
“Power herself recognizes that the statement is problematic. “Even I don’t understand it,” she says. And also: “This makes no sense to me.” And furthermore: “The quote seems so weird.” She thinks that she made this statement in the context of discussing the deployment of international peacekeepers. But this was a very long time ago, circumstances were different, and it’s hard for her to reconstruct exactly what she meant.
Anyway, what she said five years ago is less important that what she wants to say now: She absolutely does not believe in “imposing a settlement.” Israelis and Arabs “will negotiate their own peace.”
But her lame attempt to walk back her earlier remarks and create a new position statement were less than convincing. Power’s retraction did little to ease the anxiety of those who see her as a close Presidential advisor with strong anti-Israel sentiments. These were not, after all, her only statements regarding her position on Israel, and the consistency of her record seems pretty clear.
Power on the Battle of Jenin In 2002, Israel faced a wave of terrorist attacks against its civilians that could not go unanswered. In the first three months of that year, 196 Israelis were murdered in 68 separate terrorist attacks, and more than 949 were injured and maimed. For Israel, with a total population of under eight million, this was a per capita loss of life equivalent to America’s 9/11.
Israel’s response was strong. The government called up 40,000 reserves to provide support for its active troops, and responded to the attacks with force.
One of the centers of action was in a ‘refugee camp’ that had been set up in the town of Jenin by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The camp encompassed 104 acres, and housed 13,055 people, according to UNRWA records.
The fighting in Jenin was fierce. Early on, the BBC reported that an estimated 150 Palestinians had died in the fighting, while Palestinians were saying the number was far higher. Palestinian Information Minister Yassir Abed Rabbo accused Israel of killing 900 Palestinians in the camp and burying them in mass graves. Human rights organizations and some media rushed in to charge Israel with war crimes. Amnesty International reported that there was “clear evidence” that the IDF had committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians, including unlawful killings and torture. In an interview which this writer had with an Israeli soldier just back from the fighting, it became patently clear that if any ‘war crimes’ had been committed, they had been perpetrated by the Arab fighters who had booby trapped the entire camp, endangering not only the Israelis, but their own civilians as well.
On July 31, the UN issued a report in which the investigators concluded that the total death toll was limited to 23 Israeli soldiers and 52 Palestinians, at least half of whom were “combatants”. The report refuted the charges of a massacre at the hands of the Israelis, and no ‘crimes against humanity’ were cited.
Power’s Comments on Jenin Nevertheless, in the 2003 volume Ethnic Violence and Justice, published after all the facts were in, Power criticized the New York Times for its article about a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on Jenin.
“I was struck by a headline that accompanied a news story on the publication of the Human Rights Watch report. The headline was, I believe: ‘Human Rights Reports Finds Massacre Did Not Occur in Jenin.’ The second paragraph said, ‘Oh, but lots of war crimes did.’ Why wouldn’t they make the [Israeli] war crimes the headline and the non-massacre the second paragraph?”
In fact, no human rights organization was able to find evidence of a “massacre” in Jenin, nor was Israel guilty of war crimes, either in Jenin or elsewhere. On the contrary, Israel was cited for remarkable restraint in Jenin, putting its own soldiers at risk in order to minimize casualties among civilians. The so-called massacre of Jenin residents was the product of Arab propaganda. Why was Power so ready and willing to believe it?
The ‘Jewish Lobby’ In 2004, in a review of a book by Noam Chomsky, Power referred to the “sins of our allies in the war on terror”, putting Israel in a list of complicit countries that included Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, Russia, and Uzbekistan.
Later, in March 2007, Power gave an interview to Molly Lanzarotta at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in which she suggested that the US national interest is actually harmed by its support for Israel. She said that one “long-standing foreign policy flaw is the degree to which special interests dictate the way in which the ‘national interest’ as a whole is defined and pursued.” She continued, “America’s important historic relationship with Israel has often led foreign policy decision-makers to defer reflexively to Israeli security assessments, and to replicate Israeli tactics, which, as the war in Lebanon last summer demonstrated, can turn out to be counter-productive.”
She rebranded the old lies about the so-called “Jewish lobby” and its negative impact on US relations with Arab, and now particularly, Muslim states. Her use of five dollar words to express five cent sentiments did not disguise an underlying agenda of anti-Israel sentiment and, in her potential impact of policy implementation in her new role, how it might be used to influence US policy in the UN.
Response of Jewish Community Despite this history of anti-Israel statements, many Jewish organizations have supported Power’s appointment, or ignored the issue altogether. Only one has come out firmly against the nomination. Most notably, the ZOA (Zionist Organization of America) has made its position very clear. ZOA President Morton Klein said:
“The overwhelming evidence of her entire record causes us great fear and concern as to her appropriateness for this post.” In opposing her nomination and lack of diplomatic tact, he cited Power’s documented record of outspoken anti-Israel statements , and urged the Senate to vote down her nomination when it comes to the floor.
On the other hand, RJC (Republican Jewish Coalition) Executive Director Matt Brooks said only, “Samantha Power has a record of statements that are very troubling to Americans who support Israel,” but he did not oppose her nomination.
The Anti-Defamation League, a major pro-Israel group, was among the first to actually endorse Power’s appointment, offering similar praise for her efforts in opposing the demonization of Israel in international bodies.
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a self-proclaimed and left-leaning advocate for Israel, has also praised Power as a human rights expert “perfectly suited to stand up to the United Nations’ notorious double standard and inversion of human rights.”
ADL Director Abe Foxman said, “As someone who appreciates, to the core of her being, the meaning of international human rights mechanisms, Samantha is clear eyed and understands the injustice of their abuse to target Israel’s legitimacy.”
Even Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren has weighed in, saying in an interview that Power had a deep understanding of Israel’s security issues and sympathy for its concerns. He added that while Israel “will welcome whomever the president nominates and the Senate confirms as ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power and I have worked closely over the last four years on issues vital to Israel’s security. She thoroughly understands those issues and cares deeply about them.” Later he refused to repeat his comment but said he stood by his earlier remarks.
So can so many organizations and Jewish community leaders (with only one exception) get it wrong?: I think they can.
Power Apologizes Two years ago, taking her own advice on humility, Power made her own “apology tour” to the Jewish community. Her first visit was to Orthodox Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, a well-known television personality and regular contributor to the Huffington Post from New Jersey.
In a June 2013 article entitled “Defending Samantha Power on Israel”, Boteach wrote that Power approached him to say she wanted “to go on the record about her comments on Israel and how they had been misunderstood.” According to the article, he then convened a “closed-door meeting of about 40 American Jewish leaders who represented a wide spectrum of our community’s most important organizations.”
“And in the presence of the leaders of our community, [Power] suddenly became deeply emotional and struggled to complete her presentation as she expressed how deeply such accusations had affected her. Tears streamed down her cheeks and I think it fair to say that there was no one in the room who wasn’t deeply moved by this incredible display of pain and emotion.”
(What could be more moving than a weeping woman who has come to apologize to a roomful of very important people! And it apparently worked.)
Boteach continued, “More than a few of the leaders in the room came over to me afterward and said that, based on her comments and her unabashed display of emotional attachment to the security of the Jewish people … they would never again question her commitment to Israel’s security.”
By and large, the Jewish community has forgiven Power for her history of less-than-diplomatic comments about Israel because, as ADL’s Foxman said,“Her views came out of the political and cultural environment she was in at the time”.So the Jewish community is divided on the issue of Samantha Power vis a vis her positions on Israel and the sensitive relationship between the US and Israel.
Advice and Consent Now Power faces the Advice and Consent process in which the Senate is called upon to confirm or deny her appointment as the 28th Ambassador to the United Nations. Their decision will affect not only the United States in its conduct with the international organization, it is likely to impact events in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa in ways that will have long term consequences inimical to America’s long term interests.
In the face of the current scandals rocking the Administration, which include senior members of the Obama team lying under oath when testifying at Congressional hearings, it is important to know where this candidate really stands on issues that she will have to deal with as Ambassador. Administration credibility is at an all-time low and there may be no more critical appointee than the one that will represent us in the United Nations – particularly if her philosophy is one that challenges the basic pillars of constitutional America.
If Power’s appointment is confirmed, she is likely to have significant influence in two major areas of immediate and critical concern to Americans. The two questions that should concern the Senators most are these:
1. Will International Intervention Be Applied to American Law? In support of the President’s efforts to make key elements of the US legal system subservient to international law, and in line with her own philosophy of subordinating American sovereignty to an international legal system, Power’s activities in the UN may put American Constitutional protections at risk, with the full support of the President.
A prime example of this is the United Nations Small Arms Trade Treaty, already under consideration, which Secretary of State John Kerry has vowed the United States will sign, despite the written objections of 130 members of Congress who urged him not to sign it.
The treaty gives the UN unprecedented authority that directly challenges the US Constitution and the Second Amendment, not to mention American sovereignty over its own citizens and the laws under which they are governed.
Likewise, other efforts to place international controls over American sovereignty fit well within Power’s stated philosophy. The possibility of her having the power to apply that philosophy in the UN on behalf of the United States does not bode well for American sovereignty or its continued control over the rights guaranteed to every American by the US Constitution.
This issue is so serious that it should be the first questions to be asked of Power when she appears at her confirmation hearings. The future of America as we know it hangs in the balance.
2. How will US-Israel Relations be affected by her confirmation? When Power said that our special relationship with Israel “has often led foreign policy decision-makers to defer reflexively to Israeli security assessments, and to replicate Israeli tactics….”, she implied that by aligning ourselves with Israel, we thereby bring terrorism upon ourselves.
The Senate needs to be clear on the real issues. Anti-Israel rhetoric does not define the problem, it only highlights it. The dangers that lurk in the possibility of America abandoning Israel lie in the likely consequences, because Israel sits in the eye of a global storm. It is the only stable democratic nation in the region, surrounded by hostile and volatile neighbors with nuclear aspirations.
Where Israel has a population of fewer than eight million people and a land area of 10,400 square miles (roughly the size of New Hampshire), the 22 Muslim nations that surround it have a population of 314 million people and a land area of 650 million square miles. The stark reality is that the nearly universal hatred that targets Israel from most of the Muslim world, also poses a significant threat to the rest of the international community. If Israel is targeted for war, it will be a war that will extend far beyond Israel’s borders.
The question is this: should we be placing our foreign policy in the hands of one who has shown every evidence of both ignorance on the subject of the Middle East and prejudice against the Jewish state.
As in the past, Israel depends on the US to have its back should war come. But if the US does not stand beside Israel in time of attack, Israel will not sit idly by and allow itself to be destroyed. If attacked, Israel is both prepared and well-equipped to protect its population and its sovereignty. The results will be devastating for entire region and, quite likely, beyond.
As long as the United States stand firmly with Israel, and maintains a major presence in the world, a strong deterrent is in place to keep the region from devolving into a major regional war. Should the US follow the lead of Obama and Power, however, vacillating on urgent and critical policy, and to showing “humility” in the face of those sworn to destroy us, we will be perceived as weak and toothless. There will be no deterrent and war will be nearly inevitable.
The powerful events taking place today throughout the Middle East put the whole region at risk of a massive war from which the United States will be unable to disengage.
Some of the dynamics at play that could turn the region into an inferno are these:
1) The so-called “Arab Spring” has turned formerly friendly countries in the Middle East into Islamist states that share a generally deep-seated hatred towards the West and, specifically, towards Israel and the US.
2) Iran is dangerously close to completing its nuclear weapons program. Consistent with its religious beliefs, which anticipate chaos as a precursor to the coming of their Mahdi (equivalent to the Judeo-Christian concept of the Messiah), Iran is not likely to be deterred from using nuclear weapons against its perceived enemies.
3) The growing chaos in Syria is fueled by massive support from Iran (and its client Hezbollah) and Russia, while the ‘opposition’ includes a large contingent of al Qaeda-linked jihadi groups and undisciplined foreign mercenaries from other Middle East wars, in addition to defected Syrian soldiers who now form the Free Syrian Army. Beyond the unspeakable human suffering, the conflict provides the tinder for a major regional war into which the US will be inevitably drawn.
4) Jordan, the only country in the region that still has a viable peace treaty with Israel, is now under enormous pressure from the Muslim Brotherhood, and its monarchy may soon fall or be forced to capitulate to the demands of Islamist radicals.
5) The reach of the Islamist terrorist organizations now wreaking havoc in the Middle East goes far beyond the region, into our own backyards. Jihadi cells are already in place throughout Europe and the United States, and need only the instructions from their leaders in the Middle East to unleash their own war on our doorsteps.
The only stable player in this part of the world is Israel, which has maintained its democratic character, including freedom of speech, and the orderly transfer of power following elections, despite the unrelenting pressure of its national security challenges. Its free market has been producing an unbroken flow of life-changing technologies that power the world today, a testimony to its ability to stay strong even in the face of the enormous threats that it faces. But it faces the threat of annihilation and will not permit its own destruction.
In order to avoid being sucked into another war in the region, one that promises to be the most devastating of any in history, America’s commitment to Israel must remain strong and unquestioned. The ambivalence of a foreign policy that bows to pressure from the international arena on this issue is a recipe for failure on all fronts and an invitation to war.
This is the world that Samantha Power will walk into if she is confirmed by the Senate. Is she up to it? Will she uphold long embedded American values, or will she promote an ideology that will destroy them? Will she stand up to the almost universal animosity towards fellow UN member Israel, or will she capitulate with “humility”?
The Middle East is at the center of the storm, a spark in search of a gas leak that has the potential to blow the entire region into a hell from which no nation will come out whole. The “humble” demeanor and internationalizing of American law espoused by Samantha Power are not only ideological dreams disengaged from reality, they represent the most dangerous policy we could implement with people whose culture despises weakness.
This is not the time for diplomatic adventurism or experimentation. The philosophy of Samantha Power, unleashed in the United Nations, will debilitate America on the world stage, and force us to capitulate to an international agenda that threatens to destroy the Western values we stand for.
This is a time for America to be true to the fundamental values incorporated in its founding documents. Never has the need for these values been greater as we face the possibility of a nuclear war in the Middle East.
If Samantha Power is confirmed to serve as our Ambassador to the UN, the genocide that she fears and despises may well be the direct result of the policies that she espouses.