President Barack Obama’s stunning endorsement of a peace process embracing Israel’s pre-1967 borders – a situation that Israeli leaders declare would leave the Jewish State “defenseless” – is prompting closer scrutiny of a small coterie of left-leaning advisers long antagonistic of America’s close ally.
One of them, former journalist and professor Samantha Power, once declared that the United States might one day invade Israel to disarm it and support a Palestinian state along the very controversial lines Obama now embraces.
Power, who many recent reports credit with pushing Obama’s increasingly ineffective military strategy toward Libya, is no stranger to controversy. As the Obama campaign’s chief foreign policy adviser in 2008, she was fired after calling rival candidate Hillary Clinton a “monster” during the contentious Democratic primary campaign.
Over a long career this reporter, Harvard scholar and Pulitzer Prize winner has also criticized the Bush administration’s “War on Terrorism” – a phrase the Obama administration has since abandoned – and praised the views of anti-American zealots like Noam Chomsky, whose works often describe the United States as a ruthless totalitarian power crushing liberation movements around the world.
She is also closely linked to liberal billionaire George Soros and his various causes, most notably an organization and doctrine called the "Responsibility to Protect." Crafted largely by Power, the doctrine basically outlines the conditions under which the international community can intervene in a conflict to prevent genocide. The U.S. intervention in Libya, as many commentators noted, is Power's doctrine in action. Soros has worked with Power in various organizations.
The scrutiny of Power has largely been contained to pro-Israel blogs and conservative foreign policy sites. But Obama’s left turn toward the Palestinians has drawn more light on Power’s controversial statements about the Jewish State over the years.
“That this woman — who has called Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a “monster” — has since become Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and runs the Office of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights as Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs on the Staff of the National Security Council (whew!) is beyond imagination,” Bernie Quigley wrote on The Hill’s Pundits blog last week.
In 2008, Richard Baehr at the conservative American Thinker described Power’s “animus” toward Israel: “The problem for those who favor a strong US-Israel relationship is that Power seems obsessed with Israel, and in a negative way. Much like the authors of the Baker-Hamilton report, she believes resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central to solving other problems in the Middle East. And it is clear that her approach to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be for the US to behave in a more "even handed" fashion, which of course means withdrawing US support for Israel, and instead applying more pressure on Israel for concessions.”
In April, Stanley Kurtz at the National Review called Power “a patriot’s nightmare — a woman determined to subordinate America’s national sovereignty to an international order largely controlled by leftist bureaucrats. Superficially, Power’s chief concern is to put a stop to genocide and ‘crimes against humanity.’ More deeply, her goal is to use our shared horror at the worst that human beings can do in order to institute an ever-broadening regime of redistributive transnational governance."
But it was Power’s description of a future Israeli crisis in a 2002 interview that has alarmed Israel supporters over the years. In that interview at Berkeley, Power was asked this question:
“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?”
Power then gave what many Israeli experts describe as an astonishing reply:
“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 (sic) 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), 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” [Sharon-Arafat]. I do think in that sense, both political leaders have been dreadfully irresponsible. And, unfortunately, it does require external intervention.... Any intervention is going to come under fierce criticism. But we have to think about lesser evils, especially when the human stakes are becoming ever more pronounced.”
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As Mideast expert, author and blogger Martin Kramer has noted, “It isn't too difficult to see all the red flags in this answer. Having placed Israel's leader on par with Yasser Arafat, she called for massive military intervention on behalf of the Palestinians, to impose a solution in defiance of Israel and its American supporters. Billions of dollars would be shifted from Israel's security to the upkeep of a "mammoth protection force" and a Palestinian state—all in the name of our ‘principles.’”
Even as she has gone to great lengths to distance herself from that quote, Power continues to raise alarm among many Israel supporters for her various statements on the use of foreign power that seem to paint Israel as the villain in any narrative involving the Palestinians.
That said, Power is no foreign-policy novice. She is a seasoned foreign correspondent with front-line experience in the Balkan wars of the early 1990s and other conflicts. She’s also a Pulitzer Prize winner for what is considered a definitive work on genocide and foreign policy, “A Problem from Hell.”
And she does have her admirers on the political right. Among them is Max Boot, a conservative scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations who has written for the Weekly Standard. After Power was criticized on a blog at Commentary Magazine, Boot wrote, “I’ve known Power for six years and have never heard her say anything that I would construe as anti-Israel. In fact, at a December 2006 forum at Harvard’s Kennedy School at which we were both panelists, she rather forcefully dismissed a claim by a Jewish anti-Zionist in the audience who tried to equate Israeli policy with South African apartheid—a favorite trope of the hard left.”
He continued: “…. I’ve also found Power to be one of the more reasonable, sane, and centrist foreign policy thinkers on the Democratic side. Her award-winning book ‘A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide’ could have been written by a neocon.”
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