Obama Adviser Wants Terrorists Treated like Regular Criminals


By: Warner Todd Huston

Back on July 29th, the New York Times published an article that was ostensibly supposed to be a book review even as the first half of the long piece was an anti-Bush, ant-war-on-terror political rant. The byline was credited to Samantha Powers, who, as the Times somewhat benignly defined her, is a “professor of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.” But, Power is far from a mere lefty Harvard professor because in the past she was a duly paid member of Senator Obama’s staff and is still a key foreign policy adviser to this day for his campaign for president. In fact, when Obama’s shallow foreign policy experience was attacked in the press recently, she was the one who wrote a long apologia that was sent to media outlets to staunch the bleeding of the Obama campaign. Why the Times did not fully identify her as an interested party in a political campaign and instead painted her as just a “professor” is hard to understand. It’s doubtful they’d ever give such cover to a Republican operative.

Regardless of Power’s link to the Obama campaign, her essay and other foreign policy writings are perfect examples of the inefficacy of the kind of foreign policy ideas endemic to the weak-on-defense left.

At the beginning of her Times “book review” piece, Power recalls the absurd and dangerous Clinton policy idea that terrorists should be treated like U.S. citizens and remanded to U.S. civil courts for their “crimes.” She mentions that the Bush Administration changed the Clinton policy toward terrorists and decided that terrorists would no longer be treated like common criminals and she makes the claim that terrorists are considered as dwelling among the “ranks of the criminal” in all countries, the later being a clear untruth. Just ask Iran, Syria, Lebanon and many other terror exporting nations if they view terrorists as criminals while they are funding and recruiting them?

Moreover, by branding the cause a war and calling the enemy terror, the administration has lumped like with unlike foes and elevated hostile elements from the ranks of the criminal (stigmatized in all societies) to the ranks of soldiers of war (a status that carries connotations of sacrifice and courage). Although anybody taking aim at the American superpower would have seemed an underdog, the White House’s approach enhanced the terrorists’ cachet, accentuating the image of self-sacrificing Davids taking up slingshots against a rich, flaccid, hypocritical Goliath. In rejecting the war-on-terror frame recently, Hilary Benn, the British secretary of state for international development, argued: “What these groups want is to force their individual and narrow values on others, without dialogue, without debate, through violence. And by letting them feel part of something bigger, we give them strength.”

Naturally, as with every leftist, Power believes that it is the actions of the U.S. itself that legitimizes and empowers terrorists. The actions of the terrorists don’t seem to figure into the type of arguments made by Power and her ilk. In the Left’s world view, whether terrorism succeeds or fails, whether terrorists have a “right” to their point of view or not, and whether they are justified or not in their actions, it’s always the fault of the U.S.A. In this way Power and like-minded commentators absolve the enemy of their actions and place blame forever on the shoulders of America.

But, even if folks like Power didn’t think the U.S. was at fault for everything the terrorists did, their policy suggestions are dangerous to the safety and health of the country. In her “review” she explained why she thinks we need to change our policies pertaining to terrorism.

If the United States is to reduce the terrorist threat (diminishing both the probability of attack and the likely scale of harm), the next president must do a far better job of improving the security of civilians abroad, discerning and exploiting fissures among our enemies, persuading our allies to share the burdens of tackling terrorism and strengthening our capacity to withstand attacks at home.

Power seems more interested in taking less of a hit from terrorists — reducing the “likely scale of harm” in her words — and “strengthening our capacity to withstand attacks at home,” instead of preventing terror attacks. For her and those like her there is never any talk of preventing attacks in the first place.

But even here Power is perfectly in keeping with the dogma of the left. If you’ll recall, in 1997, president Bill Clinton changed our nuclear response policy from one of retaliation at an enemy’s launch of nuclear weapons at us to one of “absorbing” the first strike before we would respond.

After a December 7th Washington Post story about the policy change, during a December 23rd 1997 interview Clinton representative Robert Bell discussed the changed policy.

Bell pointed out that while the United States has always had the “technical capability” to implement a policy of launch on warning, it has chosen not to do so. “Our policy is to confirm that we are under nuclear attack with actual detonations before retaliating,” he said.

As you can see, the Left has, for a long time, been keen to hamstring American power and ability to safeguard the country.

Her dangerous and self-flagellating policy ideas aside, though, it is interesting that the New York Times published her “book review,” filled with what amounts to policy prescriptions, without once identifying her as a foreign policy adviser of a high profile Democrat Party candidate for president.

So, why did the New York Times publish the work of a key adviser to a Democratic presidential candidate’s foreign policy team without telling the reading public that this “professor” was a partisan operative and not just an uninterested, unbiased reviewer of books? Even Amitai Etzioni, a blogger for the left leaning Huffington Post, wondered why.

Therefore it was particularly surprising to find that the Sunday Book Review identified Samantha Power, author of the essay in question, only as a Harvard professor. … between 2005 and 2006 she took a year-long leave to work with Senator Obama. Although she has since returned to Harvard, she continues to serve as a key foreign policy adviser in his campaign… The readers of her New York Times essay would not only have benefited from knowing where she is coming from, but would also be keen to learn whether in this case she was speaking for herself or, again, for Barack Obama.

I think Etzioni is correct. The public would have benefited from knowing that this kind of advice is the kind being taken seriously by the Obama campaign and the kind we’d likely see from a president Obama. It would be a policy weak on defense.

Of course, one wonders if the Times would have published such a policy laden “book review” without precise identification if it were by a Karl Rove or some such Republican adviser?

So much for truth in labeling!

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