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Very Serious Samantha Power

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"Very Serious Samantha Power"

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I dunno if Kevin Drum’s just being grumpy here, but if you can’t see any daylight between Samantha Power’s views and those of the dread Very Serious People, I think you’re probably not looking very hard. I don’t think this (in The New Republic, no less; PDF) was the standard VSP view of things in March 2003:

The exceptionalist impulses behind Bush’s choices have been with us for a long time. What distinguished this round was that by 2002 the checks that could usually be counted on to rein in a president’s militant moralism had vanished. On Capitol Hill, the House International Relations Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had gone out of fashion; Banking and Appropriations were in, and the globetrotting internationalists of yore had been replaced by a younger, untraveled, uncurious lot. They wouldn’t challenge a wartime president’s worldview. Congress nodded or whimpered. It did not meaningfully dissent, a devastating abdication for the branch responsible for investigation, legislation, and financial control. The media withered as well, becoming the home for Bob Woodward-style stenography rather than Woodward and Bernstein-style scrutiny. And the American people remained relatively insulated from the vitriolic anti-Americanism bubbling abroad.[...]

In this assessment, intentions, because they are unknowable and untrustworthy, are irrelevant. Abroad, they judge what they can see: means and results; and our policy choices in other arenas have harsh ripple effects on perceptions of our Iraq policy. The multidimensional picture is less persuasive than the single-issue picture: The U.S. foreign policy has to be rethought. It needs not tweaking but overhauling. We need: a historical reckoning with crimes committed, sponsored, or permitted by the United
States.[...]

But, in using hard power, it is essential for the long struggle that the United States win international support and demonstrate its legitimacy. This requires giving before we demand. Doubling foreign aid is progress; proposing $15 billion for AIDS is extraordinary–but none of these gestures gets at the contradictions at the heart of U.S. foreign policy. [...]

Embedding U.S. power in an international system and demonstrating humility would be painful, unnatural steps for any empire, never mind the most potent empire in the history of mankind. But more pain now will mean far less pain later.

And, recall, again, this was before the Great Disillusionment with Bush and with the Iraq War. It’s true, as Kevin says, that Power’s not an isolationist or a pacifist and believes the United States should play a large role on the world stage. But it’s silly and counterproductive for those of us — people like me and people like Kevin — to agree with the VSPs that pacifism or withdrawal from the world are the only viable alternatives to knee-jerk militarism and foreign policy by clich©.

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