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Monday, August 26, 2013

Should we care that Samantha Power stayed on vacation?

By now, the news is out that our ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, last week missed the emergency UN Security Council meeting called to discuss the reported gassing of what has turned out to be hundreds of Syrians. Instead, she was at a film festival in Ireland. She has been portrayed as an expert on genocide and this is certainly the sort of issue at which we would want our UN ambassador to be present. They're now saying that she couldn't have been able to fly back in time for the meeting, but how hard would it have been to postpone the Security Council meeting in time for her to fly back?

Conservatives are ridiculing her for not having been there and for the State Department's lame efforts to try to hide the fact that she was on vacation.

But honestly, would it have made one bit of difference if she had been there. Would anything different have happened at the meeting if the ambassador, instead of a deputy, had been there? We couldn't even get Russia and China to approve a strong statement about the use of chemical weapons. Both Russia and China will undoubtedly block any UN-backed military response just as they're making comparisons to faulty intelligence before the invasion of Iraq. Germany is also not on board.

It's also quite clear that there is no push from the Obama administration to do more than launch missiles into Syria and he's already indicated that he doesn't want to attack without a UN mandate, a mandate that will never come with Russia and China's ability to veto it.

So, while it is always amusing to point out Power's presence at a film festival while the emergency meeting was going on, it doesn't really matter. The UN is a feckless and useless organization for such events. It will never be the organization that will step in to stop mass murders of civilians especially when Russia and China are supporting the government perpetrating those murders. They aren't going to support any real action to stop the civil war. They've earlier blocked a statement of "gave concern" about the conditions of civilians trapped by the fighting in Syria. Russia and China have voted five times to veto any effort to impose sanctions on Syria. There has been previous evidence that the Assad government had used chemical weapons before and the UN did nothing. And why should the use of chemical weapons that kill hundreds be more of a red line than a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands?

An organization that can't even agree to express "grave concern" is not an organization that is going to accomplish anything whether our ambassador is present or not. This whole episode has been a perfect distillation of why the United Nations is useless.

It would be nice if this event led UN supporters such as President Obama to admit that the UN is not of any use when it comes to such international crises, but you know he never will. There are always those who would prefer to pay deference to the ideal of what the UN stands for rather than the reality of what it is. And isn't that a liberal trait - to prefer the platitudes of high-minded goals rather than a realistic look at what is actually happening?

6 comments:

Rick Caird said...

I am not so forgiving as Betsy. When someone signs up for a high powered, very public job, they are expected to perform, not go on vacation. It seems this whole bunch have better things to do than their jobs. Obama deserted on Benghazi. Hillary deserted on Benghazi. Powers deserts on Syria. Does anyone else notice a pattern here?

mark said...

Not me. But I did notice a report that confirms that Reagan helped Hussein carry out chemical weapons attacks. I've criticized Obama and Clinton for their handling of Benghazi. How about some retroactive disgust for a former president assisting with atrocities? But at least the alliance w/ Hussein worked out well.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2402174/CIA-helped-Saddam-Hussein-carry-chemical-weapons-attack-Iran-1988-Ronald-Reagan.html

Pat Patterson said...

"Assisting with atrocties...?" Even the breathless prose of the article makes no such claim. The CIA provided satellite imagery noting where the Iranian lines were. When the US found the Iraqis had used gas on Iranian soldiers all aid ceased and the ambassador became persona non grata.

mark said...



http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/08/25/secret_cia_files_prove_america_helped_saddam_as_he_gassed_iran

In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq's war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein's military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq's favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration's long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. But they were also the last in a series of chemical strikes stretching back several years that the Reagan administration knew about and didn't disclose.

Last, First, MI said...

Mark,

So you somehow seem to know that without the alleged assistance of the United States, Iraq would not utilize its chemical weapons against Iran. I guess you believe that Iraq would have just said, "We surrender!"

Chemical weapons don't need precise targeting, in fact, their lack of precision adds to the barbarity. When two warring nations employ WWI trench style warfare, complete with the chemical trimmings, they really don't need any special intelligence assistance from sponsors, Soviet or US. But if you care to know, you'll find that the Soviets provided all the necessary tools to their client state, Iraq, just as they did for Syria and Libya. Throw in Egypt as well. All of those countries possessed chemical warfare capabilities, offensive and defensive, not only to use on a tactical or operational application but also as a strategic offset, however inept, to counter Israel and its nuclear program.

You can carry on foolishly about Hussein and Reagan but leave yourself plenty of room to include the brilliant diplomatic performance of Nancy Pelosi in Damascus when Syria was assisting AQ against Americans in Iraq. Mind you this was only a couple of years after the Hariri assassination and the recall of our ambassador! Why the Obama Administration would decide to reestablish relations in the face of these things is inexplicable but that can be said of the Obama foreign policy in general.

A prime example of Obama's failure on foreign policy that ties into the carnage in Syria is our abandonment of Iraq. Now that we're gone, Iraq is a transhipment point for Iranian resupply to Syria. Weapons, ammunition, and Qods Force personnel come through Iraq and its airspace to keep the Assad regime alive and in the process leave thousands of Syrians dead, maimed, or homeless.

mark said...

equitus/lfm,

Alleged?
No, the charges against Menendez were "alleged". The Reagan administration did provide assistance with chemical-weapons attack.
Would those attack have occurred regardless of our help? Probably.
How does that change the immorality of our involvement? How many billions of dollars and thousands of lives have been lost in getting rid of the monster that Reagan empowered?
Reagan is certainly not alone in condoning/assisting with disgraceful acts. And it is certainly not limited to repubs.
So criticize Obama all you want (and some of it is certainly deserved). There is no evidence that he has done anything that equals the disgraceful behavior that occurred under Reagan.