“Samantha Power: learning to play the diplomat’s game” Washpost


"During a 2012 White House debate, James Thurman — the four-star general who commanded U.S. troops in South Korea — sternly rebuffed her, saying he needed the mines because “I wake up every morning with 1 million North Korean troops right across the border.” Power argued for high-tech alternatives, but the general dismissed those options as impractical and too expensive, Thurman recalled in an interview. “We gotta tell them what the costs are. What you’re getting into,” Thurman said. “A lot of these folks don’t realize that. They hadn’t thought about it. … There’s lots of great ideals, but the world is not a nice place.” Here was the education of Samantha Power, one step in an ongoing process of tough lessons. She’d made a persuasive argument about the substance of the land mine issue. But to change policy, the timing and the sequence of the arguments had to be perfect. And this wasn’t the right moment, her adversaries insisted, to do anything that could alter the delicate balance on the Korean peninsula."  Washpost


Power, Kerry, Rice (both), H. Clinton, the list is long of people meddling in the real world in ways that reflect their other worldliness in a universe filled with hard facts, facts that annoyingly continue to exist however much they are rejected.  What Thurman was trying to tell Power was that he could not hold the line of the DMZ in Korea if the million mines now implanted were removed and the North Koreans attacked in force.  That meant nothing to her because she knows nothing of actual warfare.  For her, as for so many others in the Washington/NY City thinkopoly concerned with foreign affairs, all of life consists in reading and publishing boring group think laden papers to others of like mind  in an atmosphere in which cleverness is much more important than actual knowledge and experience.

Self-referential moment: This reminds of the occasion in which I testified before the HPSCI along with the NIO for the ME and the equivalent State INR official.  The NIO of the day had zero military experience.  I do not remember the subject of the hearing.  When it ended the NIO (a woman with no prior government or intelligence experience at all) rebuked me for referencing my on the ground experience in war and in the particular war situation under discussion.  She said that I should not do that because it was not "fair" since no one else had that kind of experience.  I asked if she saw this kind of thing as a game played for "points" and assured her that there would be many other unfair occasions.  She now is head of a major think tankum in DC.

Power is sleep walking through a dream world in which the rest of us are forced to share her dream.  Obama shares her dream willingly.  pl      


This entry was posted in government. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to “Samantha Power: learning to play the diplomat’s game” Washpost

  1. Tyler says:

    Good grief that photo pictorial. Was anyone reminded of the “Masters of the Universe” cover lauding the Wall Street idiots who crashed the global economy in 2008?

  2. kao_hsien_chih says:

    There are two kinds of people in (social science) academic universe: one kind believes that the world is what it is regardless of our opinions and we should be studying it as it is; the other kind believes that our opinions are right, will offer all manner of reasons that our opinions should be right, and how the world must be reshaped to fit our opinions. Oddly enough, the latter are the ones thought to be “practical” and “relevant” and have come to epitomize what people think social sciences are about while hardly anyone realizes that the former exists and, even those who know of them dismiss them as “impractical” and rarely seek their counsel.
    Of course, it goes without saying that the latter make as much sense as creationists in biology: facts are facts. That they don’t like them and that they can eloquently talk about why does not make them untrue.
    Interesting how academic and policy making unvierses interact, each reinforcing the bad in the other.

  3. Tyler says:

    And I just read the article in question. Good grief what a glowing handjob with zero substance in it.
    The road to Hell is indeed paved with good intentions.

  4. turcopolier says:

    I think the article was quite disapproving of her. pl

  5. walrus says:

    Col. Lang:
    “She said that I should not do that because it was not “fair” since no one else had that kind of experience.”
    The natural response of these people when their lack of practical experience is exposed is to remove the source of this annoyance.
    I believe it is now just a matter of time before Obama makes a fatal foreign policy mistake, if he has not done so already by poking the Russian Bear.
    The pressure to “act” and demonstrate the awesomeness of American military might must be incredible and the clock is ticking for Obama, Rice, Powers, etc., to leave some legacy to mark their passing.

  6. ikonoklast says:

    The DC bubble, down the academic rabbit hole. I still remember this reported exchange. It not only remains applicable, but its noxious philosophy has spread over the years:
    “The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’
    “I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore.’
    “He continued ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”
    Too bad for us that the rest of the world – the real world – won’t buy into it.
    How do we get rid of these people?

  7. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I want to remind you that Obama is not in this alone; US allies from Canada, Australia, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden are not voicing any dissenting views publicly.
    Only Germany’s Merkel seems to have had some privately productive conversations with Putin.

  8. EGrise says:

    I’m currently reading “Marie Antoinette: The Journey” by Antonia Fraser (which is excellent, BTW) so it may be coloring my perception, but I read articles like this and I can’t help drawing parallels:
    * A young and intelligent but ultimately weak leader wholly reliant on his ministers
    * Courtiers interested only in their own advancement (including “point scoring”) being given important posts as officials despite having no relevant experience
    * Very expensive foreign wars leaving the nation heavily indebted
    * Unprecedented disapproval and even vitriol aimed at the ruling class
    * A bad economy and a government administration that seems unable to govern effectively, or even at all, aside from pursuing enemies of the crown, er, state
    Of course I think we’re much more than a bad grain harvest away from tumbrels rolling, but tell me Colonel: do you ever get the sinking feeling that this is all a movie we’ve seen before?

  9. Fred says:

    From the Wapo article:
    “They don’t understand it, and ‘experts’ like Samantha Power will decide when we should move militarily.” We really don’t need another war started by the “thank you for your service” R2P crowd, most of whom have not even done a perfunctory tour on active duty.
    The article further quotes Ambassador Power:
    “Much of it is beyond your control …. because it’s the world and whether the world cooperates,” “If you’re scripting what we should do as a country, there are other people on the other side of that script.”
    So one question – what did Samantha Power know about false flag operations involving killing the innocent with chemical weapons in Syria, so that experts like Ms. Power could decide it was time to move militarily, and when did she know it? I’m sure some countries will be asking, regardless of whether they have degrees from Harvard or prizes from the Nobel committee. This is the best of the new generation? OJT is not something one should be obtaining – as UN Ambassador or as a senior member of the NSC. We will be far better served by leadership, and a media, less concerned with the lavish trappings of office than they are in the performance of the hard work that comes along with the real responsibilities of power.

  10. Tyler says:

    I took it as yet another “Best of intentions, but everyone else is the problem” sort of piece. The paragraphs upon paragraphs about her bracelet made me shake my head.

  11. joe brand says:

    “On her right wrist, Power wears a simple twisted-cloth bracelet that bears a small metal bar etched with a single word: ‘Fearlessness.’ It neatly symbolizes her public persona as the passionate humanitarian advocate.”
    Campus behavior. Like her husband, a person in a self-constructed bubble.

  12. Hank Foresman says:

    Pat I read the article, I agree it was not flattering, but the incident you reference left me the feeling that it was then she realized idealism was not always easy to implement in the real world. General Thurman was a blunt spoken Oklahoman who was one of our finest real leaders. He is now retired living in Texas.

  13. turcopolier says:

    I think she has learned little. Ideologues operating on an emotional response to reality seldom do. The neocons have learned nothing. In spite of defeat everywhere they continue to pursue their vision of neo-Trotskyite Jacobin revolution. IMO you would would not be defending her if she was someone from the Bush crowd. pl

  14. Tyler says:

    Ropes, torches, pitchforks.

  15. rjj says:

    those bits about the bracelet made it a crypto-hit piece.

  16. confusedponderer says:

    The dislike of mines is understandable. People like Powers look at places like Cambodia and think of undocumented, arbitrarily placed mines, that, sadly, kill and maim, civilians, or were laid with the specific intent to terrorise civilians (iirc a war crime).
    Third world rabble does not document where they place mines. The Taleban or Al Qaeda in Iraq probably also don’t document their roadside bombs (really big improvied mines).
    Mines as handled by NATO armies are much differently emplaced, and most importantly, documented and usually, marked.
    Mines alter the geography in favour of the defender. In principle, they are a virtual moat. They slow down attackers, and allow the defender to bring fires to bear on him. They thus can make an otherwise indefensible position defensible, or harden a position that is defensible already.
    That is why the General in Korea probably could not hold the line of the DMZ in Korea if the million mines now implanted were removed and the North Koreans attacked in force.
    A ‘dang fence’ is but a speed bump for a military force.

  17. walrus says:

    Australia is part of the “five eyes” intelligence network and is bound hand and foot to America by defence links and the simple fact that America can collapse the Australian currency overnight via Wall Street, as has happened once before when a Prime Minister was “recalcitrant”.
    Furthermore, the Murdoch (Murdoch was Australian) media own the airwaves and they toe the Washington line, as dose the current Conservative Government.
    Furthermore, exactly who in the region do we ally ourselves with? India? China? We see our strategic interests aligned with Japan and the U.S.
    A certain Australian Prime Minister labelled us as Washingtons “Regional Sheriff” to the discomfort of all of us and our neighbours.
    To put that another way, our foreign policy on many issues is, sadly, what Washington says it is.

  18. Tyler says:

    I assume the worst because I don’t think WaPo had ever met an interventionist it didn’t like.

  19. Hank Foresman says:

    I am not defending her, I am merely relaying my impression of the Korea incident.
    I think the R2P and the Neo-cons are cut out of the same cloth, the cloth that Woodrow Wilson tried to impose on the world with horrendous results at the end of World War I.
    I yearn for the days of Kissinger et al who viewed the world through realistic lens and not the idealistic lens of what they would like.

  20. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The GDP of Australia is US $ 1 trillion.
    If Iran can say no to US and live, so can Australia.
    Again, if Iran can stand on her own tow feet with no allies, so can Australia.
    Japan as Australia ally is an impossible thing for Australia – I have surmised that there is a fear of the Oriental in Australia – first Japan and now Indonesia.
    I think Australia can say no to US.
    I think Australia can build nuclear weapons and protect herself from being over run by more populous states around her.

  21. oofda says:

    I remember that- it was during the Bush II administration prior to going into Iraq.

  22. Fred,
    ‘So one question – what did Samantha Power know about false flag operations involving killing the innocent with chemical weapons in Syria, so that experts like Ms. Power could decide it was time to move militarily, and when did she know it?’
    This would seem to be a question that needs to be asked about a rather large number of people.
    According to the Hersh article, much of the support for the assessment that this was a ‘false flag’ operation orchestrated by the Turkey ‘came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack.’
    It was precisely intercept evidence which was repeatedly presented as conclusively demonstrating the responsibility of the Syrian regime for the attack. From an e-mail I wrote on 2 September last year in response to a query from a friend about what I made of a peculiarly dubious story in the ‘Express’:
    ‘What does strike me is that we have now had three different version of supposedly clinching SIGINT evidence. The first was reported to be from Unit 8200 [the Israeli SIGINT unit], and referred to conversations between high ranking regime officials. The second was supposedly collected by U.S. intelligence, and referred to panicked phone calls between a Syrian Ministry of Defence official and the leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers. We now have the Troodos facility [the British SIGINT facility on Cyprus] supposedly recording a regional commander threatening the commander of an artillery battery with the firing squad, the clinching evidence supposedly divulged by a senior RAF officer.
    ‘…until I see some details of the phone calls, or a convincing explanation as to why it cannot be presented, they make me more sceptical not less. This looks to me like an incompetently managed infowars operation.’
    If Hersh is right, Israeli, U.S. and British SIGINT people – the Troodos facility, incidentally, is supposed to be rather good – might have been expected to intercept the Turkish messages to which he refers. As to the messages they claimed to have intercepted incriminating the regime, either they must have been gullibly accepting disinformation, or have been disseminating disinformation themselves.
    While this would not be a ‘smoking gun’, it would certainly suggest a strong prima facie case for the complicity of elements in Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. in the Turkish ‘false flag’ operation.

  23. YT says:

    RE: “there is a fear of the Oriental in Australia – first Japan”
    What do you expect…?

  24. Charles 1 says:

    Well, all the king’s horses and men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty, he of the words mean what I want them to mean fame, back together again. Reality and physics obtained even in Alice’s world.

  25. Charles 1 says:

    IMH experience, it takes direct application of existential force upon the emotional and intellectual makeup of such people, I amongst them, to even make us aware there is an actual reality “out there”. Unless its clear that this is required to save one’s life, or to maintain other fantsies deemed even more important to secure, its generally to be avoided at ALL costs.

  26. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I am not so sure if the opposition to land mines is necessarily “understandable.” It reminds me of various fanatics who blindly oppose certain technology or research because it runs afoul of their moral sense of how the world should be: creationists, free market fundamentalists, anti-GMO activists, various luddites, and so forth. Then again, land mines are a technology, I suppose.

Comments are closed.