March 08, 2008
Elsewhere, I have taken exception to Samantha Power’s views on foreign policy in the context of what they might imply for an Obama administration in which she could play some advisory role, and now that she is at least temporarily out of the Obama campaign (for the wrong reasons) it may be worth reviewing what we have been spared. One of the things that has driven her neoconservative critics to distraction is her statement in a May 2007 interview about Israel, which they managed to misread badly as an indictment of Israeli influence on U.S. Near East policy. She said:
“Another longstanding 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. Look at the degree to which Halliburton and several of the private security and contracting firms invested in the 2004 political campaigns and received very lucrative contracts in the aftermath of the U.S. takeover of Iraq. Also, America’s important historic relationship with Israel [bold mine-DL] 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.”
In the fevered imaginations of her critics at Commentary and Powerline, this juxtaposition of talking about “special interests” and deference to Israel seemed like the thesis of The Israel Lobby, even though it seems clear from Power’s statement that she is describing what she sees as two distinct and separate problems with U.S. foreign policy. Each time one of her pro-war critics cites this passage they de-contextualize it to make it seem as if she is making some claim about “special interests” in connection with Israel, when she isn’t. Why would she mention tactics in Lebanon if she were talking about tactics in Iraq? For the most part, the two conflicts are not very comparable with respect to tactics, so it is very difficult to read this passage in that way. No, this is a case where war supporters are eager to attribute views to a then-Obama advisor that she does not have. Those who want to defend Power against these people mistake their heated opposition to her as proof of her less “pro-Israel” views, just as they take Obama’s remarks about distinguishing between “pro-Israel” and “pro-Likud” views as evidence that he offers a meaningfully different approach to U.S. policy in the region. Her reference to Lebanon is helpful here, since it reminds us that the candidate she has been advising was foursquare behind the genuinely counterproductive campaign in Lebanon. The flaw of deferring reflexively to Israeli security assessments is one that her preferred candidate has.
Granting that this is an area in which she professes to have no expertise, we can see that Power makes no dramatic departures from the “mainstream” consensus, except that she hinted once almost six years ago that some international force could be deployed in Israel and Palestine. Naturally, this bothers people for whom international law is a fig leaf for U.S. and Israeli interventions but is otherwise a fiction, but it should also bother everyone who recognizes the systematic weakening of state sovereignty as one of the main areas of agreement between globalists in both parties. Regardless, she has since backed away from this idea, returning to the tried and true boilerplate that there will be no “imposed settlement” (which by now we all understand means that the status quo will continue indefinitely) and confirming that “pro-Israel” forces have nothing to fear from her. It seems as if the only person who should expect Samantha Power’s hostility is Hillary Clinton, since declaring her to be a “monster” has been the most forthright and bold thing she has had to say about anything since she joined the Obama campaign. At least she ended on a high note.