Previously we shared the inside story on the inside discussions that led us to War with Libya. The “Key” player in this decision, the one who pushed Obama, and ultimately the United States, to war was Samantha Power. So let’s get to know this radical member of the Obama team a little better. President Obama’s actions involving Libya have been baffling at best. He did nothing for days. He talked about waiting to build a coalition for multilateral action. He downplayed the concept of regime change, yet one of the main objectives for engaging has been to get rid of Colonel Qaddafi. It’s been a strange couple of weeks for Obama in terms of his foreign policy, and there still hasn’t been a clear explanation for what we’re doing in Libya and why we’re doing it.
Much of the motivation behind Obama’s Libya policy stems from the ideology of Samantha Power, the Irish-American, hard-Left humanitarian activist who has been the president’s Director for Multilateral Affairs at the National Security Council since 2009 (and, incidentally, the wife of Obama’s “Regulatory Czar” Cass Sunstein). Power is the woman behind the curtain in terms of Obama’s policy on Libya, but a look at what she advocates reveals a troubling agenda.
Power has advocated a foreign policy that can easily be described as what Stanley Kurtz calls “humanitarian interventionist.” Power and other activists like her seek to build American foreign policy around merely stepping into situations in the name of preventing genocide and other humanitarian aims. This type of foreign policy relies heavily on international law and multilateralism. It is also the reason behind Obama’s actions in Libya and the timing of them. As Kurtz states:
Most of the commentary on Libya has focused on the tension between Obama’s apparent desire to displace Qaddafi and his reluctance to admit to it. But the chief reason for this intervention is the one that’s staring us in the face. Obama dithered when it was simply a matter of replacing Qaddafi, yet quickly acted when slaughter in Benghazi became the issue. What Samantha Power and her supporters want is to solidify the principle of “responsibility to protect” in international law. That requires a “pure” case of intervention on humanitarian grounds. Power’s agenda would explain why Obama acted when he acted, and why the public rationale for action has not included regime change.
Yet Obama has so far been reluctant to fully explain any of this to either Congress or the American public, perhaps because he realizes that the ideological basis of his actions would not be popular if openly admitted. If Obama were a different sort of president, we would have all heard about “responsibility to protect” long ago. The country would have thoroughly debated Power’s ideas, and the public would have quickly recognized the core motives of the president’s actions in Libya;
While this type of foreign policy agenda might in some small way make sense to some people in a situation like the one in Libya, it is absolutely dangerous as the basis for an entire foreign policy. You see, Samantha Power and her supporters have Israel in their sights as a target for American military intervention on humanitarian grounds. Witness this exchange in an interview Power gave with Harry Kreisler, director of the Institute for International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 2002:
In another interview five years later, Power stated that we in the United States brought terrorist attacks on ourselves because of our relationship with Israel, and she noted that that relationship:
…has often led foreign policy decision-makers to defer reflexively to Israeli security assessments, and to replicate Israeli tactics…
In the eyes of activists like Power, we are chained to a genocidal power by aligning with Israel. So, how do large chunks of Obama’s foreign policy fall into the hands of dangerous Leftists like Samantha Power? Stanley Kurtz explains the Obama-Power history well:
It seems reasonable to conclude from his long-term relationship with Power that Obama shares her interest in making humanitarian military interventions more common. Yet the president has said little about this, and the obvious policy implications of his ties with Power are rarely drawn. In his biography of Obama, David Remnick describes the beginnings of the Power-Obama relationship thus: “Obama did not strike Power as a liberal interventionist or a Kissingerian realist or any other kind of ideological ‘ist’ except maybe a ‘consequentialist.’ In foreign policy, Obama said, he was for what worked.”
Here we have the classic protective presentation of Obama. The future president reads a book by a passionately ideological humanitarian interventionist and quickly hires her as his key foreign policy advisor. Yet the obvious ideological implications of this are left entirely unexplored. Instead we are quickly reassured that Obama is nothing but a pragmatist.
There is a germ of truth to the pragmatism claim. Obama doesn’t seem to have a single overarching strategic perspective. Instead he “pragmatically” juggles competing sensibilities on foreign policy, ranging from multiculturalist non-interventionism, to postcolonial exhortation, to humanitarian interventionism, to a political desire to keep foreign-policy problems sufficiently in check to allow a focus on domestic transformation.
That’s right, Barack Obama is willing to sub-contract his foreign policy to fellow leftists like Power in order to concentrate on his stealth socialist domestic agenda. In his brilliant book, Radical-In-Chief, Kurtz illuminates the way Obama’s foreign policy takes a back seat to a transformational, radical domestic agenda:
Obama’s stance toward foreign policy and cultural issues combines quick and easy progressive changes with a still stronger desire to hold political conflict at bay. The point is to keep side issues stable enough to permit Obama to focus on structural changes to the economy.
For Obama, slow-motion economic transformation (in a socialist direction) is the key to every other change.
Rather than disproving the claim that Obama is a socialist, these [issues] reveal a president clever enough to preserve his political capital for the structural changes that matter most.
The long and the short of it is that Obama saw Samantha Power as enough of a fellow traveler, as it were, to give her a plum position on his foreign policy team. Then he allowed her to shape a major piece of urgent foreign policy while he focuses more intensely on domestic economic transformation.
Major foreign policy decisions in the hands of people like Samantha Power not only make for strange actions like those surrounding Libya, but they could also create hazardous situations involving other nations — namely Israel.