March 08, 2008

Justin’s defense of Samantha Power demands a reply, and I”€™d like to demur from lamenting the departure of the Harvard prof and anti-genocide crusader fom the political scene.

Yes, she was a critic of Israel, but then professors who wail on and on about human rights abuses in the occupied territory area are a dime a dozen among the tenured faculty at any university. Nothing special here. Critics of Israel are much more unusual in politics, and undoubtedly Obama was feeling the heat for keeping her on as a unpaid adviser. I suspect his other advisers were looking for an opportunity to throw poor Samantha overboard”€”which her “€œoff the record,”€ not-so-outrageous comments provided.

Whatever she has to say about Israel/Palestine, we shouldn”€™t forget that Power is hardly a “€œrealist.”€ It’s more accurate to label her a pinkish, “€œsoft power”€ neocon—she’s Paul Wolfowitz’s doppelgänger in many ways. Power has made a career out of scolding the U.S. for not intervening around the world enough. A National Security Adviser Power would probably advise that we give Tel-Aviv a few wrist slaps, pull our troops out Iraq”€”and then install them all in Kenya, Darfur, Burma, the Balkans, or whatever other site of unrest is the latest cause de célèbre at George Clooney’s dinner parties. 

N.B.: upon leaving, Power hinted that Obama’s plans to pull out of Iraq aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be…

Just to give a taste of Power’s political philosophy, in her magnum opus, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, she laments the fact that Washington didn”€™t intervene against the Ottoman Empire to stop the Turkish brutalities against the Armenians during the Great War”€”oblivious to possible ramifications of all this or, more practically, how exactly the dough boys would stop violence that was localized and scattered across the Turkish country side. You can guess where the book goes from there, exhorting Americans to drop their “€œisolationist”€ tendencies and embrace their duty to intervene everywhere, nation-build, and generally “€œend evil”€ (translated into Frumese.)

“It is daunting to acknowledge, but this country’s consistent policy of nonintervention in the face of genocide offers sad testimony not to a broken American political system but to one that is ruthlessly effective.  The system, as it stands now, is working.  No U.S. president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence.  It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on.”

Justin, I think the main reasons that you defend Power is that all the people on the Power Line blog, the “€œproud friends of Israel,”€ really, really hate her are now gloating. But then there are severe limits to “€œenemy of my enemy”€ calculations, especially when, outside the Israel/Palestine question, Samantha Power and the neocons have a great deal in common. 

I would direct you to postings by some of the more sensitive souls over on the Commentary blog that have recognized, quite correctly, that Power is their soul-mate. On the comments board, “€œDellis,”€ who describes himself as a “€œnational Republican,”€ admits that he has a “€œsoft spot”€ for Power: “€œIf Power were working in the Obama administration, we might see more effective U.S. leadership on stopping or preventing future genocides that murder millions.”€ Au contraire says “€œHev”€: “€œPeople like [Power] are the reason we can do nothing about Darfur”€“that conflict is part of the global jihad, the Arab and Muslim supremacist government.”€ That is, it’s great that she wants to save the world, but she lacks the proper vocabulary of the GWOT.  

While I was a grad student at Duke, I TA-ed a class in which A Problem from Hell was the textbook and Power was revered as a great historian. At a Duke Conservative Union meeting, an undergrad friend of mine, who had once done a internship in the offices of The Weekly Standard, saw a A Problem from Hell under my arm and remarked, “€œAh yes, Samantha Power”€”everyone at the Standard was passing that book around when I was there.”€ I”€™m sure they were. 

Sadly, NSA Power or no, our next present will be as interventionist as our last one. 


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