Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hard Power, Soft Power And Samantha Power

An excerpt from an email from DG:
1) NYT *hearts* Samantha Power

The New York Times runs an absolutely glowing profile of Mrs. Cass Sunstein, otherwise known as Samantha Power.
“She would argue that the failure of the Clinton administration to engage in airstrikes against the Serbs, and to take military action to stop the genocide was immoral,” said Peter W. Galbraith, ambassador to Croatia at the time.

He recently turned the tables on Ms. Power, sending her an e-mail in which he warned her not to let Libya become “Obama’s Rwanda,” a reference to former President Bill Clinton, who has expressed deep regret over failing to intervene to prevent atrocities there. Mr. Galbraith said Ms. Power, having learned the lesson that “when you’re inside government, you live with constraints,” did not reply.

Ms. Power is sensitive to any notion that she has outsize influence with the president; the White House took pains on Tuesday to say that her speech echoed the president’s, not the other way around.
Early on in the profile the reporter dismissively quotes a critique of Samantha Power by Ed Lasky.

In that interview, Power said:
I think that most of us, in a knee-jerk way, tend to conflate power with 'hard power' - with economic and military power. At the Kennedy School, Joe Nye gave us the concept of 'soft power' as another component of power. Building on Nye's concept, we would be wise in the 21st century to measure our power by our influence. Influence is best measured not only by military hardware and GDP, but also by other people's perceptions that we, the United States, are using our power legitimately. That belief - that we are acting in the interests of the global commons and in accordance with the rule of law - is what the military would call a 'force multiplier.' It enhances the U.S. ability to get what it wants from other countries and other players.

The third component of influence - along with traditional hard power and legitimacy - is people's perception that we know what we are doing, that we are competent. Here, one cannot overstate the devastating one-two punch of Iraq and Katrina in undermining the global public's and the American people's faith that the U.S. is a competent prosecutor of its own objectives.
We want to make sure that governments are not attacking their own citizens. We believe in core, fundamental human rights, like freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. We want governments that are responsive to their people. And so we'll use all our tools to try to accomplish that.

But Libya was a unique situation where a limited military intervention that had a strong international mandate and strong international participation could make the difference -- life or death difference -- for a lot of people. And in that situation, it made sense. That does not mean that somehow we are going to go around trying to use military force to impose or apply certain forms of government.
It would appear that President Obama believes in Power's view of "soft power." His application of it may be more limited than hers. Of course, the limitation of soft power is that doing the right thing depends on having a majority of the world agreeing that it's the "right thing."

(In the interview cited above, Samantha Power refers to Israel's war against Hezbollah in 2006 as "counterproductive." In 2000, Israel marshaled an international consensus to certify its withdrawal from Lebanon as complete. Months later Hezbollah attacked across the UN certified international border kidnapping and killing three Israeli soldiers. This elicited no condemnation from the UN. In fact the UN covered up its own force's complicity in the attack. Further Hezbollah strengthened itself and launched attacks across the border for the next six years.

In fact the 2006 war - while imperfectly waged and ending less than satisfactorily - eroded Hezbollah's strength.

It was trusting those international institutions in which Power has such faith that was counterproductive, allowing a threat to metastasize on Israel's northern border.)

Martin Kramer speaks truth to Power: when Samantha Power recommended hard power, and military action--against Israel.
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