What should I ask Samantha Power?

I will be having a Conversations with Tyler with her, no associated public event.  She has a new book coming out The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir.  So what should I ask her?


How can she ignore the history of US involvement in Latin American genocide when making the case that the US should intervene more in foreign countries? Does she have any regrets about the chaos in Libya?

I agree with Dew.

I have similar questions about her push for US involvement in Libya (and in foreign countries in general).

I would expand on this from a slightly different angle.

If the conditions in a country are the result of two things:

A) path dependency from institutions, culture, people, history

B) imposed by internal or external “bad” groups or people (Ghaddafi and his military, Hussein, Assad, janjaweed)

Have her weights on A vs B changed since she joined the Obama administration, or since Libya, Syria, etc? Arab spring? Iraq war? Afghanistan ?

If she had to give a number (summing to 1), what would the weights be? What would convince her to reassess the weights ? Does this change her outlook on R2P?

"history of US involvement in Latin American genocide"

I don't think he wants to ask about imaginary things.



Read a book

You are aware that this was done by Guatemalan's, right?

Dew, that is a fallacy. It's like asking "how can you ignore all the car-related deaths while discussing what to use to transport a sick patient."

Tyler, my question for Samantha Powers is: what does she think of everyone in the country being a shareholder of the government over some minimum threshold, and most wealth being required to be in these tradeable stateshares.

"required"! Have you read the constitution?

If more people died in car crashes on the way to the hospital in ambulances than were saved, then your analogy would work.

My point was that Power’s book about genocide and philosophy ascribes pure motives to the US while ignoring its actual history of violent intervention in countries. Why is she so sure the “cure” of US intervention would be preferable to non-intervention. Is Libya better off for our invasion?

Then your question doesn't apply because more people are saved than killed by American foreign aid.

Foreign aid sure. Foreign military invention as Power advocates to prevent genocide? No fucking way

Ask her what she really thinks of Hillary Clinton and why? Also ask her about Epstein, but that's not really fair since I don't think anyone expects her to answer....

1. South Sudan: this should have been a showcase of the U.S. using everything in its toolbox to prevent genocide. Why did it go so wrong?

2. In her book "Chasing the Flame" about Sergio Vieira de Mello, the section on East Timor (Part II) doesn't mention the Portuguese dimension to East Timor in terms of language/religion/identity vs. Indonesian West Timor. Was this on purpose? Does she specifically try to avoid discussing national identity contributions to conflict?

Can the US really push hard on global human rights anymore, if doing so would simply drive countries into the arms of China? Myanmar for instance.

Ask her about being known as "The Unmasker-In-Chief"


"It turns out that Power — the diplomat whose authority inexplicably was used to unmask hundreds of Americans’ names in secret intelligence reports during the 2016 election — engaged in similar Trump-bashing
[similar to the FBI duo of Strzok and Page] on her official government email, according to documents unearthed by an American Center for Law and Justice lawsuit...

The discovery could add a new dimension — a question of political bias — to a long-running congressional investigation into why Power's authority was used to unmask hundreds of Americans' names in secret National Security Agency intercepts during the 2016 election. That practice of unmasking continues to grow today."

I do wish someone would ask he about this unmasking stuff. But I doubt if this is the right venue, an interview which should be focussed more on academic and policy issues.

Of course an interviewer must proceed with the utmost tact, and make it clear that any implied criticism is coming from out there somewhere, not from the interviewer. But unmasking does seem like a policy issue and maybe a human rights issue to boot. And Congress supposedly is still looking into it.

No time for that. He needs her views on charter cities and quadratic voting, stat.

Ask her to google "Samantha Power Rules the World," read the first result and then comment.

Google's search results change over time and are customized for different regions and different users. How about being less coy and just provide a link.

What does it feel to be one of the people responsible for reestablishing slave markets in North Africa?

Ms. Power, you have been roundly criticized for your acqiescence to Assad's atrocities committed against the insurrectionists in Syria. Since the insurrectionists in Syria were largely members of the same Sunni Muslim terrorist organizations who attacked the U.S. on 9/11 and killed and maimed thousands of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, are the complexities of the politics in the middle east too difficult for the typical American to understand. If so, will America's involvement in the middle east serve to divide Americans more than to unite them?

Terrorists? You mean the kids that sprayed anti-Assad graffiti at school and got detained? Their parents who protested to free them and got killed? The people who got shot protesting the killing of said parents? And everyone around the country who subsequently took the opportunity to protest their brutal dictator?

Your comment is extremely, extremely ignorant. 70-80% of Syrians are Sunni Muslim. Assad gives special treatment to minorities because he is of a minority himself, and he wants to virtue signal to the West (on the things that matter: Christian lives). Most of his oppression is reserved for the Sunni majority. So when they called for him to step down, the fact that they were Sunni was incidental. Syria is NOT a religious conflict. The terrorists you’re talking about were invited into the country by Assad and are mainly composed of North African youth led by former Saddam-ites. Also don’t forget that Assad funded Al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor to ISIS, when they were shooting at American troops in Iraq. https://www.thedailybeast.com/assad-henchman-heres-how-we-built-isis

Assad is a Shiite (Alawite). The insurgents in Syria and Iraq are Sunni Muslims. Al Qaeda and ISIS are Sunni terrorist organizations, al Qaeda having been the Sunni terrorist organization that attacked America on 9/11. Shiites are the majority in Iraq, Sunnis are the majority in Syria. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Muslim, like Assad a minority dictator. But it was the Sunni minority insurgents in Iraq who killed and maimed thousands of American soldiers in Iraq, the same insurgents who have committed atrocities in Syria. That Assad has also committed atrocities in Syria against Sunnis doesn't somehow absolve the Sunni terrorists in Syria, al Qaeda and ISIS, from atrocities. Like I said in my comments (question for Ms. Power), are the political complexities in the middle east too much for the typical American to understand. It's clear that Allen doesn't understand.

You ignored the part where Assad funded Al Qaeda in Iraq and invited ISIS into Syria. Sunni Syrians are the biggest victims of those groups. They’re being scalped and boiled alive by Assad AND ISIS, but by the former at a much higher rate.

You know why Assad wanted terrorists in Syria, when there were none at the start of the revolution in 2011? So that he can say “I know I’m bad, but look at the alternative.” You fell for it. You swallowed Russian and Syrian state propaganda without questioning it, because “Sunni = bad guys.” The world is not that simple my friend. Syrians are beautiful, generous people with the most ancient civilization around. I hate to see this happen to them.

Sorry, I don't support invading another country. I'm sure you have a nice story to tell but no America First!!

“America First” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/America_First_Committee

In response to Iran destroying an US drone, reports suggest that the US responded with a proportional cyber attack and a claim that the US backed off of an escalatory military strike. Is the latter an effective way of signaling a willingness to escalate while potentially having a less-than-proportionate actual response?

What about the blowback from global interventions?

Intervene to help the mujahedeen turn Afghanistan into a quagmire for the Soviets, and a few decades later you have 9/11 and then America's own quagmire there.

Intervene in Kosovo while Serbia's ally Russia seethes impotently, and you bring Putin to power in Russia a few months later as a direct consequence. You get a new war in Chechnya and eventually a new Cold War, and eventually Trump (in the firm belief of about half the people). And in the words of Masha Gessen, by changing the way America wields power and bypassing the Security Council, you pave the way for the war in Iraq.

Intervene in Libya, and you get chaos and slave markets (!) and a new civil war that may well end back at square one with a new strongman. And you set back non-proliferation efforts worldwide by setting a bad example of what may happen to dictators who abandon their WMD programs and try to cozy up to the US.

The first two cases above were before her time, but any regrets and second thoughts about Libya? Should Obama have intervened in Syria?

In very concrete and specific terms, if a US government that met her approval came to power tomorrow, is there any specific place in the world where she would recommend a future US military intervention (or perhaps simply arming anti-government factions rather than outright bombing)? Or is there is no such place, for the foreseeable future?

"why she is so anti-American" You remember which administration she was in, right?

'You remember which administration she was in, right?'

The last one that a majority of American voters chose twice in a row?

You Germans don't seem to be familiar with American elections, not surprisingly. Trump won 304-227.

How did she go from anti-genocide crusader in “A Problem front Hell” to Obama apologist on the biggest genocide in the 21st century (in Syria)?

She literally said there were no excuses for not intervening in a large-scale genocide...until she was in the hot seat. 400-500k Syrians have been killed so far, many of them indiscriminately via aerial bombardment. I would have expected someone like her to vehemently disagree with Obama and quit if necessary. Ironically, she has done a lot of damage to the notion of “Never Again.” Instead of never again, now we have the “Wait and See” doctrine. Don’t retaliate against Assad too early, wait for him to invite ISIS into the country, wait for Russia to establish a larger presence, wait to see if Assad would use more chemical weapons, etc... I don’t buy that Syria ever could have caused WWIII, but by ceding the country to Russia, we have made it more difficult to ever intervene in the future. What a tragedy.

Thiago I know that you think Muslims are subhuman so by default you don’t think intervention is worth the trouble. I’m not interested in your response.

Maybe they should stop killing each other if they don't like dying. I am much more concerned about innocent people they kill. And so should you.

It wasn't worth going to Syria. Even an idiot like Trump understood this.

Should we have liberated the Syrians from Assad the way we liberated the Iraqis from Hussein? If you’re truly concerned about innocent lives maybe look at the Iraqi death toll from the Iraq War before suggesting military intervention

What was it like reporting to a monster who puts out an unattractive amount of deceit?

Do you people even hear yourselves speak? I guess that's partisanship in a nutshell.

She didn't work for Trump, you buffoon.

Not pro or con Samantha Powers specifically, but isn't calling yourself "an idealist" in a memoir title being somewhat self-congratulatory? That's how I might begin discussion of her new book

Spot on. There was nothing ideal about her tarnishing of “Never Again.” She has no right to speak on behalf of the oppressed anymore. That would have been the hard thing to do on Syria, and she didn’t do it. It was easier to defer to Obama and say that Syria’s a quagmire.

Intervening heavily in Syria against the Assad regime would have been absolute madness.

To paraphrase Gates, anyone who wants to send a large army into Syria during a fractured and many sided civil war needs to have his head examined.

Not even speaking to any specific actions on her part, just that "The Education of an Idealist" sounds like "A Truly Wonderful Person's Frustrations Dealing with the Cesspool of Other Not-So-Wonderful People."

So I would not say "My you have a high opinion of yourself, don't you," but seriously I would ask her to expound on that choice of title.

She has a habit of praising herself. Only a few seconds into this video she refers to herself as an honest person. https://youtu.be/VJ0Wt1beMtk

So what? I am an honest person, too.

Yeah, who cares.

You’re advocating a land invasion of Syria proper.


At this point I don't know that I advocate anything, since the genocide has slowed down considerably. However, let's say I was president when the Syrian revolution started. I would:

- Raise public awareness of the issue, emphasizing the scale of indiscriminate killing by Assad
- Cooperate with allied nations to freeze the assets of every single person known to be working in Syrian armed forces, intelligence, the government itself, or corporations tied to the regime
- Ban movement of the above people AND all known relatives into allied nations (as messed up as it is, Syrian regime officials would think twice about killing hundreds of thousands more because, God forbid, they wouldn't be able to send their kids to INSEAD or Oxford, and would otherwise be shunned from European elite society)
- Specifically sanction Russia for aiding the Syrian regime
- Grant financial aid to surrounding nations for border patrol, to ensure bad actors like Hezbollah and Al Qaeda don't worsen the situation
- Dangle carrots in front of the Arab League for them to help resolve the issue. Let them get some practice in stabilizing their own region.

If and only if all of the above doesn't stop the genocide over a reasonable time frame, I would undertake the following military activity:

- First, cooperate with allied countries to obliterate Assad's airforce, which is responsible for the vast majority of civilian death in Syria. This could be done overnight.
- Then institute a no-fly zone where civilians can find reprieve. Tell Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan that they have to enforce it with their own airforce, or else we'll withdraw all subsidies. This would be near the Turkish border. If Arab countries turn out to be useless, cooperate with Turkey and have them patrol the NFZ.
- Since this would be in 2011/2012, before Assad destroyed the Free Syrian Army using a constant supply of Russian aerial munitions, I would then get guarantees that they will allow free civilian elections after the war, and that none of their officers would run for office. Cooperate, and receive some kind of economic subsidy, or don't at your peril. Keep in mind that the Free Syrian Army was pretty untainted at that point. They just wanted freedom for their people. As the war went on and Saudi Arabia and Qatar gave conditional financial aid, they started to self-sabotage and fall apart. They also didn't have an airforce, so even with 50-60k strong at their peak they were helpless against Russian jets.

What might we be able to do to somehow help the oppressed population of North Korea? Can she constructively critique Trump's approach and results thus far?

You should have interviewed Justin Raimondo while he was alive. Much more interesting, ethical, and smarter individual.

Glenn Greenwald before a right wing lynch mob in Brazil gets him.

Ask her if she sees herself as more of a Ribbentrop or more of a Molotov.

Ask if the balance of power is changing now that Brazil's GDP is growing 6% a year. Should we seek convergence with the Brazilian sistem, which has proved itself superior?

As having spent considerable time as a UN diplomat for the United States, what do you think the faith of the UN lies if the United States retreats as the main driving force of the liberal International order? Will China fill this power void in the UN?

Ask why does she think that US "human rights" advocates have been so weak in criticizing the one-party state and massive propaganda and censorship campaign that is ongoing within the People's Republic of China? And in contrast, so vocal about criticizing the relatively less significant problems of Russia.
What does she think about George Soros' essay earlier this year pronouncing Xi Jinping the world's most dangerous opponent to free societies?
Why do the American-hating, terrorism-supporting, religion-based leadership of the Palestinians deserve more moral support from the US than, say, the democratically elected, secular, rights-protecting government of Taiwan?

"Ask why does she think that US "human rights" advocates have been so weak in criticizing the one-party state and massive propaganda and censorship campaign that is ongoing within the People's Republic of China? "

+1, human rights groups do seem to downplay China's massive tyranny.

It's not that the issue doesn't get mentioned, it's that those same groups don't seem to care much.

One million Uigars in re-education camps, but hey tariffs are a step to far....

It's as if US intellectuals are so afraid of looking dumb by saying that China is run as a one-party state by the communist party, because smart people know that today's communist party is much more hypocritical in action (market friendly) than it was 40 years ago. So to in their effort to prove that they are sophisticated, nuanced appreciators of China's transformation, they miss the evidence that the new path is an increasingly dangerous Han nationalist/fascist trending state.

Also - ask if she has heard if the Chinese government have hired any Americans to help advise them on how to "nudge" their population per Powers' husband's book. Or in general, how many people in her social sphere have been hired directly or indirectly by the Chinese, versus how many have been treated by the Russian. I hear the Chinese government is much better versed in flattering US intellectuals with fancy banquets, trips, and feigned interest in their ideas than are the Russians.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria-- each is arguably worse off today than it was before US intervention, direct or by proxy. Either the US government is unable to learn its lesson, or the unintended consequence are not really as unintended as they seem. Which is it?

Ask her, "Do you have the perfect last name or what?"

She's married to Cass Sunstien. What a tight knit little group - faz parte da panalinha.

It is not that simple. It is pretty common for married people to have common callings.

Is this the first spouse of a previous CWT guest to converse with Tyler? Did she get any advice from Cass on how to prepare for the conversation?

Overrated/ underrated: nudge theory, the UN, peacekeeping, war correspondence as a means for influencing policy/ public opinion, humanitarian prizes for incentivizing humanitarian work--it seems to me that these people are not driven by prizes. When I first learned about the Rwandan Genocide, I learned a lot about ethnic strife created and exacerbated by colonial rule. In Diamond's Collapse, he suggests that land/ resource shortages also explain the terrible escalation of these tensions. How should we think about such tensions going forward? Should we just try to produce as much stuff as possible so that people can more easily ignore differences? Should we encourage people to build strong bonds outside their inner groups to reduce the likeliness of violence? Where does climate change/ where do climate refugees come into this analysis? I find it difficult to really deeply understand what drives war correspondents--it just seems so hard to do even if it is important. Also, they seem to care a lot more about people outside of their nation than others--what leads to that valuing of others who live far away? With journalism seemingly always in a financial decline, should we expect fewer people to report on combat? Are online platforms picking up the slack, if there is any slack in her view? I find I often learn about protests and demonstrations through online forums before news sources pick them up (if they choose to pick them up at all). Are films like Blood Diamond admirable for amplifying America's awareness of other countries or are they a sort of signaling? Hope this helps and good luck.

What does she think should be done about occupied Cyprus?

Q: why should the United States care about the Chinese grabbing rocks and reefs in the South China Sea? Before you refer to US defense treaty commitments, note our relevant defense treaty partner doesn’t even care as Duterte has dropped opposition to Chinese activity in the SCS, showing a logical preference for $30 billion in Chinese infrastructure investments the Philippines desperately needs (and the US is unable to provide).

I know these won’t be asked as no US “great ideas” thought leader bureaucrat admits culpability and it’s not tactful to be so confrontation for your guest but just fantasizing:

-What are your thoughts on US responsibility on creating the European Migration crisis as the culmination of US Middle East interventions/great ideas?

-Why did ISIS develop right after the Arab Spring?

-How’s Libya working out with its slave markets and as a rally point for migrants after Qaddafi was executed and sodomized?

-Is Putin currently developing even more devastating memes to sway the election again if the election does not go the way you want to go?

What early ideals did she realize were unrealistic during the course of her “education”? What ideals are in conflict with other ideals? What ideals we’re wrong?

Given her experience in the former Yugoslavia, ask her if she thinks multiethnic societies are more prone to civil strife and war than ethnically homogeneous societies.

why should sovereign America let its foreign policy be determined by leftist globalist interventionist European immigrants.

Which crisis in the world does SP think more awareness be brought to (ie Congo, Syria, Yemen, Zimbabwe etc.)

The question to ask all people coming out of high-level government experience: what do you now think differently about than before you went it? Has actual experience changed your views on anything significant?

-What's the most important thing you learned about the United Nations while working there?
-What role should formal, Cass Sunstein-style cost-benefit analysis play in foreign policy decision-making?
-If you could do one thing differently about the Libya intervention, what would it be?
-Who should win the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019?

How do you think Nikki Haley did?

I don't think you are going to get a serious response, but I'd ask her what place idealism has in a country's foreign policy. Nixon's realpolitik triangulated China against the Soviet Union, contributing to the latter's eventual decline and fall. Powers's idealism gets us the failed state of Libya and hostile Muslims in Europe.

During the NATO bombing of Serbia, the USG was adamant that it sought only autonomy for Kosovo, not its independence (see M Albright). After Kosovar militias forced out ethnic minorities, the USG reversed itself and began aggressively lobbying surrounding countries to recognize demographic reality and accept Kosovar independence. A certain Viktor Orban was prime minister of Hungary then, while Milos Zeman was prime minister of Czech Republic. 2 months following the conclusion of hostilities, Yeltsin would appoint a new prime minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Do you think the bombing campaign and its effects changed Orban, Zeman, and Putin’s political outlook vis-vis the West? Also, is there any significance to the fact that Bin Laden had a Bosnian passport?

Translation: Could stopping the genocide of Kosovar Muslims have alienated racist psychopath leaders and made it harder to cozy up with them? Can racist psychopaths exact consequences for deviating from their desired racist behavior? Should we let them do their racist thing because they’d throw a fit otherwise?

Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland joined NATO in April 1999, in the middle of the bombing campaign against Serbia. As you mentioned, Orban and Zeman were prime ministers of the first two countries at the time.

A bit later, in June 1999, Hungary and other countries denied overflight rights to Russia, preventing them from reinforcing their peacekeeper contingent at Pristina airport, and forcing Russia into a humiliating climbdown.

So, no, the later political evolution of Orban and/or Zeman had little to do with a NATO bombing that they themselves were part of, as government leaders of newly-admitted NATO countries.

It certainly altered the course of Russian history, though, in bringing Putin to power.

1. How did and does she balance work and parenthood, how did she overcome mom-gulit? 2. Please share your 10 most favorite books of all time (maybe she could also have a booklist a la Obama)?

Could you please consider asking her what her favorite books are? I would like to know what books she has read that may have influenced her life greatly.

Could you also consider asking her how she's found confidence within herself and how she cultivates it?

Very much looking forward to your conversation with Samantha.

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