(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/04/samantha-power1.gif)Last August, president Obama created an Atrocities Prevention Board. “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America,” stated a presidential directive. He appointed Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, as chair. Ms. Power won a Pulitzer Prize for her book, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.” That’s the good news. The bad news? Ms. Power is a leftist dedicated to moral equivalence with respect to the Middle East peace process: in 2002, she called for U.S. invasion of Israel and an American-imposed two state solution to the ongoing impasse between Israel and the Palestinians.
Harry Kreisler, director of the Institute for International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley asked Ms. Power to respond to a “thought experiment” about what she would do with respect to the Palestine-Israel problem, if one party appeared to be moving “toward genocide.” Power’s answer was extremely troubling:
What we need is an actual willingness to put something on the line in service of helping the situation. And 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, literally billions of dollars not in servicing Israel’s military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine. In investing billions of dollars, it would probably take also to support what I think will have to be a mammoth protection force, not of the old Sebrenica kind or Rwanda kind, but a meaningful military presence, because it seems to me…you have to go in as if you’re serious, you have to put something on the line and, unfortunately imposition of a solution on unwilling parties is dreadful, I mean it’s a terrible thing to do, it’s fundamentally undemocratic. But…it’s essential that some set of principles becomes the benchmark, rather than a deference to people who are fundamentally, politically destined to destroy the lives of their own people.
Ms. Power has subsequently denied she has any animus for Israel, claiming she had “erred significantly in offering hypothetical comments that did not reflect how she felt.” She further claimed that opponents of the president had taken her comments out of context in order to promote her as anti-Israel. Yet she avoids the most damnable aspect of the above quote, which is the pernicious notion that both Arabs and Jews are “fundamentally destined” to be self-destructive to the point of national suicide.
In other words, aggression and self-defense become interchangeable terms. Those who strap on explosive vests and detonate them among innocent civilians are the same as those who are trying to stop such slaughter. Those who destroy missile launchers aimed at civilian centers are no better than those who launch the missiles themselves. Those who would willingly annihilate the Jewish State are no different than those who would prevent it from happening.
In fairness, if such reasoning were an isolated case, one might be tempted to buy into Ms. Power’s assertion the above interview does not reflect her true sentiments. But it is not. In a 2004 review of a book by radical leftist Noam Chomsky, Power put Israel in the same category as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, Russia, and Uzbekistan when she referred to the “sins of our allies in the war on terror.” A book published in 2003, “Ethnic Violence and Justice,” contains a quote by Power directed at New York Times reporter David Rohde, who covered the second intifada. “I have a question for David about working for the New York Times,” said Power. “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 Report Finds Massacre Did Not Occur in Jenin.’ The second paragraph said, ‘Oh, but lots of war crimes did.’ Why wouldn’t they make the war crimes the headline and the non-massacre the second paragraph?”
The so-called Jenin massacre, quickly revealed to be nothing more than a Palestinian propaganda hoax, was an abject lesson regarding the reflexive anti-Semitism practiced by the “blame Israel first” crowd, including substantial numbers of mainstream journalists. Ms. Power’s framing of the question is curious. Her concern with “war crimes” seems to indicate an assumption that even though Israel was innocent of massacre, it was _Israel, _not the Palestinians who were guilty of war crimes. It is difficult to imagine another scenario in which the order of the headlines would be so important to her.
In 2007, Ms. Power, who was Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, gave an interview concerning the Iraq War during which she criticized Israel yet again, claiming America’s relationship with the Jewish State “has often led foreign policy decision-makers to defer reflexively to Israeli security assessments, and to replicate Israeli tactics[.]” If that sounds familiar, it’s because it echoes the popular anti-Semitic notion that the U.S. is utterly beholden to Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
The appointment of Ms. Power to the Atrocities Prevention Board represents another big step in the political comeback of the woman who was forced to resign from Mr. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign when she referred to Hillary Clinton as a “monster” capable of “stooping to anything” in an interview with the Scottsman. In 2009, she was appointed to her current director position, and her influence apparently grew when she became the president’s chief advisor with respect to Libya.
One can argue about the pros and cons regarding regime change in Libya, but the initial rationale behind it was exactly the kind of “humanitarian intervention” embraced by Ms. Power. Unfortunately, like much of this administration’s foreign policy, naivete became a viable substitute for reality. We did not so much “prevent genocide,” as precipitate the very same kind of regime change that has enabled the rise of Islamist hard-liners throughout the region, none of which accrues to the national security interests of the United States.
Furthermore, the rationale near and dear to Ms. Power’s heart, aka “responsibility to protect,” given teeth by United Nations Resolution 1973, passed on March 17, 2011, grants the international community the responsibility to “help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.” In an essay supporting the creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board, Ms. power notes that Mr. Obama was the “first president to establish a position at the White House responsible for policy on war crimes and mass atrocity.” The administration would like Americans to believe that yet another czar – one whose understanding of “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity” may be colored by the kind of moral equivalence Ms. Power has expressed – is a good thing.
“Any intervention is going to come under fierce criticism,” Power concluded in 2002. “But we have to think about lesser evils, especially when the human stakes are just becoming ever more pronounced.”
Lesser evils? As defined by whom? It behooves Americans in general, and Jewish Americans in particular, to find out – before the 2012 election.
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