Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Stanley Kurtz: The Real "Power" Behind Obama's Libyan Adventure
Read the rest here: Samantha Power's Power
Knowing what Samantha Power wants reveals a great deal about Barack Obama’s own ideological commitments. It’s not just a question of whether he shares Power’s long-term internationalist goals, although it’s highly likely that he does. Power’s thinking also represents a bridge of sorts between Obama’s domestic- and foreign-policy aspirations. Beyond that, Power embodies a style of pragmatic radicalism that Obama shares. Both Obama and Power are skilled at placing their ultimate ideological goals just out of sight, behind a screen of practical problem-solving...
Obama may not have been completely frank about the broader ideological goals behind this intervention, and yet the president’s address to the nation, as far as it went, was largely accurate. Fundamentally, our Libyan operation is a humanitarian action, with no clear or inevitable military-strategic purpose beyond that. There is enormous risk here, and no endgame. We might take strategic advantage of our restricted humanitarian action. But we might not, and, in any case, we are under no obligation to do so. For all we know, many of those we’re defending with American aircraft and missiles could be our dedicated terrorist enemies. From the standpoint of traditional calculations of national interest, this war is something akin to madness. Yet without fully articulating it (and that reticence is intentional), Obama and Power are attempting to accustom us to a whole new way of thinking about war, and about America’s place in the world...
Samantha Power has a lot to teach us about Barack Obama. She herself draws analogies between the need to redistribute wealth via health-care coverage and the need to divide military and diplomatic power (and, implicitly, wealth) more evenly through the international system. Power regularly invokes arguments for international law derived from America’s Founders and the West’s great liberal thinkers, as if her goal were the founding of a government of the world. In truth, that is what Power is up to, even if she sees her project as a long-term collective effort necessarily extending beyond her own lifetime.
The novel doctrine of “responsibility to protect,” which Power means the Libyan action to enshrine in international law, could someday be used to justify military intervention to impose a “two-state solution” on Israel (apparently this is one of Power’s longstanding goals, although she now disavows it). The International Criminal Court, which Power has long defended, may someday enable the leftist Europeans who run it to place American soldiers and politicians on trial for supposed war crimes. The Obama administration’s troubling acquiescence in the development of sweeping international prohibitions on “aggression” may one day make virtually any use of force not pre-approved by the United Nations subject to international sanctions. These are the long-term goals of Power’s policies, although they are seldom confessed or discussed.