As one of those “Copperhead isolationists” she presumably loathes, I can’t say that I have a lot of sympathy for Samantha Power’s view of things. Of course people at Commentary are misrepresenting her position and, by extension, Obama’s–misrepresenting actual views and insinuating hateful views are what they do over there. But once you get past the silliness of the criticisms of Power, there is a different problem with things that Power says. For one of Obama’s top foreign policy advisors, she seems surprisingly ill-equipped to engage in foreign policy debate. Consider this passage from Rosen’s Haaretz article:
With regard to Iran: “Reasonable people can agree or disagree on the issue of meeting with Ahmadinejad,” but here’s what she thinks: The chance of persuading Ahmadinejad may not be great, but it is worth examining, and a meeting “will increase the chance for mobilizing international sanctions, because the world will be reminded that Ahmadinejad is the problem,” not America as many now believe.
That is the logic of Obama’s Iran policy? This is worrisome to me, since it implies that one of Obama’s top people appears to have no idea how relatively unimportant Ahmadinejad is to the Iranian state’s formulation of foreign and security policies. Persuading him is not only implausible, but it is irrelevant, because he will be gone in the near future and the real institutional authorities in Iran will still be there. Reminding the world that “Ahmadinejad is the problem” is also useless, because Ahmadinejad isn’t the problem, even to the extent that you insist that there is a problem with Iran. Not only did Iran’s nuclear program predate Ahmadinejad’s ascendance, but he has no control over the actual rulers of Iran and the state security apparatus, and indeed his election came in the teeth of the clerics’ opposition to him. It is almost as if someone defined our Japan policy in terms of cultivating a relationship with Emperor Akihito, rather than with the current LDP government. More troubling is the way that it continues the same failed habit of identifying regimes with this or that person, which lends itself to misrepresenting the structure of the state and the domestic political scene (and which usually leads to referring to the person, sometimes inaccurately, as a “dictator” of the country).
It also can hardly be encouraging, when pressed on a statement she had made about Israel and Palestine, that she turns to this excuse: “In any case, she stresses, this is not exactly her field.” Fair enough, she specialises on genocide, but if one of Obama’s top foreign policy advisors begs off on thorny questions because “this is not exactly her field” then that hardly brings the kind of heft to a foreign policy agenda that is both extremely ambitious and potentially very controversial.