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 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.