September 7th, 2013

Samantha Power’s obtuseness about Iran is no surprise

Our highly-credentialed UN Ambassador Samantha Power either believed, or pretended to believe, that Iran and/or Russia would be cowed by the international community’s revelations about and reaction to Syria, and would be convinced to turn on Assad as a result:

“We worked with the UN to create a group of inspectors and then worked for more than six months to get them access to the country on the logic that perhaps the presence of an investigative team in the country might deter future attacks,” Power said at the Center for American Progress as she made the case for intervening in Syria.

“Or, if not, at a minimum, we thought perhaps a shared evidentiary base could convince Russia or Iran — itself a victim of Saddam Hussein’s monstrous chemical weapons attacks in 1987-1988 — to cast loose a regime that was gassing it’s people,” she said.

This is—well, I’m not sure I can come up with an adjective, or even a string of adjectives, that describes it. Stupid? Delusional? Naive? And yet, completely unsurprising, if you know much about Samantha Power.

One of the worst things about the Obama administration is not just Obama and his own beliefs and policies, but the kindred spirits and/or mediocrities he has appointed to high places. I’m not talking about just one or two or three people, either; it’s pretty much a clean sweep. One subgroup of simpatico appointees is composed of people who tend to be (like him) academics with lofty notions about how the world works and their own power to persuade. Perhaps there’s something about academic life that leads to this sort of thing, or perhaps a great many of those who choose that life in the first place are of that ilk. But Obama seems to have a special gift for selecting them.

Samantha Power is a classic example. As I noted three months ago:

Power has a long record of supporting [Obama's] foreign policy, is a fellow graduate of Harvard Law School, and is married to well-known leftist law professor Cass Sunstein. In an interesting twist, Power (like another close Obama adviser, Valerie Jarrett) was born outside the U.S. — in Power’s case, in Ireland to non-citizen parents who emigrated to the U.S. when Power was nine (Jarrett‘s parents were expat Americans in Iran during her early childhood)…

Power has what one might call a western European sensibility and attitude toward the U.S. That outlook is hardly limited to Europe, of course; it’s one that is also rampant among most of the American left. What’s more, it seems to be shared by Obama himself — although for political reasons he has rarely articulated it quite as fully and clearly as Power — the conviction that the U.S. has blood on its hands and that we, like the Germans after WWII, must go on bended knee in order to achieve a similar catharsis.

Power is in her early forties, and until the start of her affiliation with Barack Obama (beginning in 2005 and continuing till now with only a brief hiatus when she had to step down from his 2008 campaign for calling Hilary Clinton a “monster”) she had been an academic and author/journalist. Her specialty was genocide, and she spent a great deal of time and effort opining on what should be done about such killings, as well as similar but less comprehensive atrocities (the gassing of civilians in Syria would no doubt qualify).

Well, now she gets the chance to put her ideas into action. And if her assumptions about Iran and Russia are any indication, it appears that, in addition to her stellar academic career, she (and we) may be about to get some instruction from the school of hard knocks.

19 Responses to “Samantha Power’s obtuseness about Iran is no surprise”

  1. conrad Says:

    Unfortunately, these D.C. elites can usually be disasterously wrong about stuff and never really suffer personal consequences because of it. As long as the other elites continue to hold them in high regard, they’ll still continue to rotate through government posts, university professorships, and jobs in the media until people forget that they once started a war or caused an economic collapse or something.

  2. Gringo Says:

    Samantha Power has beliefs about Iran which have no basis in reality. Samantha Power has also spent a lot of time as an academic. As Pravda would have said in a different context, this is no accident.

    There is something about academic life which enables one to hold on to – and promulgate – beliefs which have little relationship to reality. The “something” is probably the ability to lecture and get published without having had those beliefs tested in the real world. A policy paper sounds fine until some real world politician or administrator tries to apply it to the real world.

    My reality check with academia occurred when I spent over four years in Latin America as a tourist and worker. Very little of the “progressive” catechism about Latin America that I learned as an undergraduate corresponded to the reality of what I saw at the ground level in Latin America. After working in Latin America, I went to graduate school. My browsing the library stacks showed me that the “progressive” catechism not only didn’t correspond to the reality I saw on the ground in Latin America , the “progressive” catechism didn’t correspond to the facts I dug out of the library stacks.

    For example, the “progressive” catechism about “democratically elected” Salvador Allende, victim of the CIA etc., ignored the fact that three weeks before the coup the also “democratically elected” Chamber of Deputies passed by a strong 63% majority a Resolution which accused Allende of systematically violating the Constitution. The Resolution was also an invitation to a coup, as Allende correctly pointed out. But the “progressives” repeatedly ignored this in their chants about “democratically elected” Allende- elected with 36.3% of the vote. :)

    As long as academics have enough peer support for their views, no matter how estranged from reality those views might be, they will continue to propagate those views.

  3. Steve Says:

    Powers comes across as glib but not intelligent. And no doubt she has a very high opinion of herself. That seems to be true of most of the women that Obama picks for leadership positions. Maybe he picks them because he thinks political correctness makes them somewhat immune to criticism–like himself.

  4. Eric Says:

    “We worked with the UN to create a group of inspectors and then worked for more than six months to get them access to the country on the logic that perhaps the presence of an investigative team in the country might deter future attacks,” Power said at the Center for American Progress as she made the case for intervening in Syria.”

    Interesting. This is basically what Hans Blix had proposed in 2003 for Iraq after UNMOVIC had found Iraq remained in material breach and Blix tried to extend the inspections indefinitely in a different form than the original compliance test.

    The difference is Blix understood that UNMOVIC’s only real leverage to induce Iraqi cooperation was the credible military threat. Power seems to have lacked even that basic understanding of leverage and incentives for Syria.

  5. chuck Says:

    She also spent time at the Kennedy School of Government. IMHO, that should automatically disqualify anyone from serving in government.

  6. Ann Says:

    I’m leaning toward Power just pretending to believe Russia and Iran would see the light, largely because of the piece she wrote in 2001 about Clinton’s lack of action and political calculations with regard to Rwanda — Bystanders to Genocide.

    She was clear-eyed and not easy on him or his administration. It’s worth a read.

  7. Paul in Boston Says:

    Powers is delusional about the Iranians being upset about chemical warfare. During the Iran Iraq war the ayatollahs rounded up adolescent boys, gave them gold colored plastic “keys to heaven” and then marched them through mine fields to clear the way for troops. They’re a very sensitive and caring bunch of guys, nearly metrosexual.

    I blame Bush. After 9/11 he had a golden opportunity to take out Iran’s nuclear facility and likely foment an uprising. Instead he wasted it on unfinished business with Iraq that could have easily waited.

  8. Eric Says:

    Ann,

    The quote’s just a snippet from a larger unseen body of gamesmanship? That’s plausible.

    The Rwanda comparison is interesting for Power another way. Rwanda didn’t involve a chemical attack yet Power advocated for a forceful intervention there. Syria is a humanitarian disaster that’s still grinding away. Why hasn’t Power advocated for a forceful intervention in Syria?

  9. Eric Says:

    Paul in Boston: “After 9/11 he had a golden opportunity to take out Iran’s nuclear facility and likely foment an uprising.”

    9/11 didn’t just give the US a free whack at everyone on our poop list, AKA the ‘Axis of Evil’.

    We could go into Afghanistan and Iraq because we had a full and mature case to do so against both.

  10. FOAF Says:

    Has anyone else noticed that Power looks like a tranny?

  11. Sgt. Mom Says:

    I’d dearly, dearly love to see Samantha’s smug, airy academic and elite administration assurance all smashed up by a collision with brutal reality. I’d love to see her go crawling back to the ivory tower, chastened and humbled, but as it is, I’m afraid there will be ordinary Americans injured and dead in the crash. I can’t say how much I despise the mediocrities which Obama has gathered to himself.

    General Dempsey, Chairman JCS, must have nearly bitten his tongue all the way through by now.

  12. Ann Says:

    Eric, in line with it being part of a “larger unseen body of gamesmanship”, here’s the text in Power’s speech that follows Neo’s excerpt:

    Russia, often backed by China, has blocked every relevant action in the Security Council, even mild condemnations of the use of chemical weapons that did ascribe blame to any particular party. In Assad’s cost-benefit calculus, he must have weighed the military benefits of using this hideous weapon against the recognition that he could get away with it because Russia would have Syria’s back in the Security Council.

    And on August 21, he staged the largest chemical weapons attack in a quarter-century while U.N. inspectors were sitting on the other side of town.

    It is only after the United States pursued these nonmilitary options without achieving the desired results of deterring chemical weapons use that the president concluded that a limited military strike is the only way to prevent Assad from employing chemical weapons as if they are a conventional weapon of war.

    I am here today because I believe — and President Obama believes — that those of us who are arguing for the limited use of force must justify our position, accepting responsibility for the risks and potential consequences of action. When one considers pursuing nonmilitary measures, we must similarly address the risks inherent in those approaches.

    At this stage, the diplomatic process is stalled because one side has just been gassed on a massive scale and the other side so far feels it has gotten away with it. What would words in the form of belated diplomatic condemnation achieve? What could the International Criminal Court really do, even if Russia or China were to allow a referral? Would a drawn-out legal process really affect the immediate calculus of Assad and those who ordered chemical weapons attacks?

    Much more in that vein in her remarks — the full text is here.

  13. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Samantha Power per Ann’s comment:
    “It is only after the United States pursued these nonmilitary options without achieving the desired results of deterring chemical weapons use that the president concluded that a limited military strike is the only way to prevent Assad from employing chemical weapons as if they are a conventional weapon of war.”

    It is my opinion that limited military action will not prevent Assad from doing anything. What would prevent him from using his chemical weapons would be to take down his military infrastructure, and send in enough U.S. troops to find and destroy all his chemical weapons. Is there any overriding national security interest in doing that?

    Any strike that fails to significantly cripple the regime will not change our enemies’ view of American credibility. But crippling Assad could lead to regime change. I don’t see a regime change from Assad to “al Qaeda, Inc” as in the strategic interest of the U.S.

    I don’t see any way to promote stability in Syria short of occupation (boots on the ground) and an extended period (25 years) of supervision and training in the basics of democracy. Who, at this point, favors that?

    Yes, we could help the Free Syrian Army if they committed, in a concrete manner, to protect the rights of all religions, a representative form of government, and to support a non-Sharia based Constitution with a Bill of Rights. Based on our experience with “moderate Muslims” in Iraq and Afghanistan I don’t believe that is much of an option.

    Our true strategic interest in the area is to keep Iran from going nuclear, keep the Suez open, and keep the oil flowing. We have the tools to do that, if only we had a realistic foreign policy.

  14. Paul in Boston Says:

    Eric,

    You seem to forget that Iran under the Ayatollahs has been at war with “The Great Satan” since the hostage crisis under Jimmy Carter and the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut under Reagan. That, and their constant threats to use a nuclear weapon once they obtain one would be sufficient reason to destroy the installation.

    Note too that the successful Israeli attack on the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor was preceeded by an Iranian attack on the same facility http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Opera. They were both preventative strikes out of fear of Saddam Hussein. There was enough precedent for us to destroy the Iranian centrifuges after 9/11.

  15. Eric Says:

    JJ,

    If we do this, I think we’re going to find out what the latest in Iranian and Russian anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense looks like.

  16. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Eric: “If we do this, I think we’re going to find out what the latest in Iranian and Russian anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense looks like.”

    Back in the day (Vietnam) that was considered to be a big plus. That is, many in the Puzzle Palace on the Potomac wanted to know the true capabilities of Russian and Chinese radar, AA weapons, etc. Given what we encountered in Iraq, (mostly Russian technology) and looking at the Israeli’s takedown of the Syrian nuclear plant against mostly Russian technology, I would say there wouldn’t be too much to worry about.

    While operating over North Vietnam our mission was ECM. The equipment we had then was Stone Age compared to what we have now. Yet, we managed to thwart 90% of the radar guided AA we came up against. We now have aircraft that can fry air defense radars, send missiles into the antennas of fire control radars, and (this one is really cool) track movable missile launchers like Syria uses for their chemical weapons. (They can run but they can’t hide.) The Russkies have been frustrated that their air defense systems have been so ineffective against U.S. and Israeli forces. I believe that’s one reason we hear so much about Russian tech reps in Syria. They are probably sure (and not without good reason) that the Muslims don’t know how to use their gear.

    I was in Russia in 2006. One of the more interesting places I saw was the Baltic Fleet headquarters base on an island SW of St. Petersberg. At one time this was an important part of the USSR’s Naval Forces. In 2006, it was a rusting derelict of a facility. The Russians may have their better ships in the Black Sea, but everything Naval I saw in northern Russia indicated a distinct lack of money – a near Third World capability. I don’t want to underestimate them, but I think it is good to remember that we badly overestimated their capabilities all through the Cold War.

    All that said, a series of probing strikes to map their air defense MO preparatory to going after the Iranian nuke facilities might make some sense.

  17. Ymarsakar Says:

    It would be genocide, now wouldn’t it. Since the Leftist alliance needs a lot of that knowledge for the eventual cleanup in North America.

  18. Eric Says:

    Neo: “Well, now she gets the chance to put her ideas into action.”

    Bush already put Power’s ideas into action with the Counterinsurgency “surge” in Iraq. It worked.

    But instead of supporting Bush and working within the Obama administration to make peace operations (actually the technical term for our post-war mission in Iraq) a permanent US capability, Power played the partisan and joined in the denunciation of Bush, instead. And now she is toeing the party line that the humanitarian crisis in Syria is not our problem. Replacing her advocacy for intervening in Rwanda, Power supports the idea that we won’t do anything to confront the deadly forces grinding away at the Syrian people – yet we’ll commit a direct US military action on Syria that will have a direct impact on the Syrian conflict but, like in Libya, we will do little to nothing to mitigate the consequences of our actions. According to the White House’s own briefing on Syria, we haven’t stayed out of the Syrian conflict. We just haven’t acted in an any effective way, and certainly not in any way that helps solve the suffering of the Syrian people.

    As a liberal, the illiberal hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy of the Obama administration following the genuine ethical liberal leadership of Bush is stunning even for the cynical.

  19. Gary Says:

    Neo wrote:
    One of the worst things about the Obama administration is not just Obama and his own beliefs and policies, but the kindred spirits and/or mediocrities he has appointed to high places.

    Steve wrote: “And no doubt she has a very high opinion of herself.

    Sgt. Mom wrote of “Samantha’s smug, airy academic and elite administration assurance…
    ———————–

    I recall seeing Ms Power on CSPAN several years back, flogging her book, “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide, all puffed up with pride and conceited sanctimony over her stance on genocide (she’s against it!). And I thought with disgust what a shallow, facile moral universe these people inhabit, a place where the mere pose of fighting genocide entitles one to a serene, complacent, holier-than-thou self-regard.

    How many of you out there are in favor of genocide?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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