The Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall is honored to have hosted the Honorable Samantha Power, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations (2013-2017), senior advisor to President Barack Obama, and Pulitzer Prize winning author.
After forging press credentials to cover the Bosnian war in the mid-1990s – she was sure to advise the students in attendance against following in her footsteps in that regard – Ambassador Power was on the front lines of the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War Two. “What does it mean to do something,” she asked the audience, in the face of these tragedies? “Do something is a fairly low bar.” She mentioned the entire toolbox governments and international organizations have to pressure actors to stop committing atrocities like the Srebrenica massacre, one of the events that helped lead her to focus on ending genocide and mass atrocities around the world.
Power spoke on her time in the 2008 Obama Presidential Campaign and its then-stated goals of raising awareness about working to close the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and working to get Congress to provide the next president, whomever that was going to be, a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. She was sure to mention that, as a law professor, he saw major legal and moral problems with both of those institutions, and had a robust legal group to help the campaign and then the presidency work on those issues.
She took questions from the audience after her moderated discussion with former President of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council Mr. Terry McCarthy, many of which focused on China, Russia, and the Middle East and North Africa. Some key points were her statements on the Responsibility to Protect (RTP or R2P) and when it should be invoked. She mentioned that R2P was invoked in Libya, but not in Syria – both countries are, to this day, still roiled by violence. With that being said, Ms. Power did mention that R2P is at its core “a modest proposal to countries to take seriously mass atrocities.” She also was sure to point out that we should not be conflating the Responsibility to Protect with military action, and must instead work to use the entire toolbox of American power.
Stepping away from the heavy topics of genocide and war, Ms. Power read a passage from her new book, The Education of an Idealist, about how she met her husband, Mr. Cass Sunstein: “We have all accidentally hit ‘reply all’ on an email thread.’”
We thank the Honorable Samantha Power for speaking to not only our members and distinguished guests, but for speaking to students of Los Angeles Unified School District in attendance as well.