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Just What Does Samantha Power Believe, and Why Do Some Conservatives Support Her Appointment?

So why, as an article by John Hudson in Foreign Policy puts it, is Power “also getting support from a key Republican constituency: neoconservatives”? In his article, Hudson argues that her “staunch advocacy of U.S. intervention on moral grounds has long appealed to neoconservatives who share her view that the principle of sovereign national borders is not absolute.”

This makes little sense, especially since most conservatives, neo and otherwise, view America’s alliance with Israel as fundamental for the stability and well-being of the Middle East, and essential to U.S. national security as well. (I am excluding paleoconservatives and some libertarians here.)

Yet surprisingly, Hudson quotes Max Boot as telling him that “Power is a good pick because she is a very capable and principled advocate of humanitarian intervention.” Boot is “dismayed” at the Obama administration’s failure to intervene in Syria, and hence he sees nothing but good in the Power appointment.

Others supporting the Power appointment include John McCain, former Senator Joe Lieberman, and, most surprisingly, Alan Dershowitz. (Of course, Hudson uses the term "neocon" without much nuance. Of those he quotes, only Max Boot could be rightfully called that.) Dershowitz told Hudson that Power “has real credibility to expose the U.N.’s double standard on human rights. She also understands the principle of 'the worst first' -- you go after the worst human rights abusers first.” Moreover, Dershowitz told Hudson that he is not at all concerned with Power’s many anti-Israel statements, unlike Martin Kramer and most commentators. He simply says: “I think she made a mistake about Israel,” and he takes her word when she told him “she regrets making that statement.”

In other words, it was a simple mistake. We know, however, thanks to Martin Kramer, that her interview was not a mistake but was the view she sincerely held at the time; and she is now busy thinking up apologias so others can excuse it. And for Dershowitz to say that he has been with her at many affairs in which Israel has been discussed “and ha[s] never heard her express any views that could be characterized as anti-Israel” is simply bizarre. Dershowitz has only to look for the views she is on record as having expressed to find the many examples of what she once believed.

Dershowitz, turning to the analogy with World War II, states that had she been around then arguing on behalf of humanitarian intervention, she would have been a force calling for military action against Hitler when others were not. But if he reads her many statements on Israel, it is clear that the only kind of intervention she favors in the Middle East is on behalf of the Palestinian cause and against Israel.

Indeed, in 2003 she asked the following of New York Times reporter David Rohde, who covered the intifada:

Samantha Power: I have a question for David about working for the New York Times. I was struck by a headline that accompanied a news story on the publication of the Human Rights Watch report. The headline was, I believe: “Human Rights Report Finds Massacre Did Not Occur in Jenin.” The second paragraph said, “Oh, but lots of war crimes did.” Why wouldn’t they make the war crimes the headline and the non-massacre the second paragraph?

On this, Noah Pollak made this salient point in Contentions:

Here we have another window into the thinking of Power: Israel is accused in sensational press reports of a massacre in Jenin, and is subjected to severe international condemnation; HRW finally gets out a report and says there was no massacre; the NYT reports this as its headline; and Power thinks the headline still should have been: Israel guilty of war crimes!

So, let me return to my opening paragraph. As it turns out, only Max Boot sees the Power appointment favorably. He does so because he hopes she will push for intervention in Syria “to stop the slaughter,” an admirable hope. As for John McCain and Joe Lieberman, it is obviously their hope that if she pushes for intervention, it will move Obama in what they see as a more desirable direction.

As I see it, this is nothing but wishful thinking without much substance. Any intervention in Syria at this time is too little, and far too late. Moreover, at this point the forces opposed to Assad are more than likely led by radical Islamists. As Seth Mandel writes today, her views are both “astoundingly ignorant and malicious.”

Remember, we’re talking about a woman who was booted from the Obama campaign in 2008 for calling Hillary Clinton a “monster.” I’m sure she managed to explain that one, too.

I hate to contradict Joe Lieberman and John McCain, for whom I have great respect. I don’t think military action in Syria is likely at this point to be to our advantage, and in fact it might embolden some of our worst enemies. Were we able to truly find a moderate third force that would be able to push Assad out and at the same time oppose the Islamists, that of course would be something else. But at present, the hope of the administration for a peace conference with Russia as the way to stop the bloodshed is also a chimera. At the United Nations, Samantha Power will find herself merely trying to explain and justify whatever course the president finally decides upon. I do not envy her. She would have been wise to stay at the Carr Center and comment from the outside.