Dexter Filkins devotes his New Yorker column to Samantha Powers’s support for humanitarian military intervention:
Power’s new book, “The Education of an Idealist,” takes in much of this tumultuous time. In the opening pages, she warns that the title might suggest that she had “lofty dreams about how one person could make a difference, only to be ‘educated’ by the brutish forces” she encountered. She adds, “This is not the story that follows.” But the book does hint at the death of a dream. Power, who provided Obama with foreign-policy advice when he was a senator and a Presidential candidate, joined the White House in 2009 as a champion of humanitarian intervention in an Administration dedicated to ending the conflicts it had inherited and refraining from entering into others. One of the questions facing the new Presidency was whether someone like Power, an insistent voice for the primacy of morality over politics, could be effective—or whether the idea of humanitarian intervention, on which she had built a career, had essentially exhausted itself.
The premise is fatuous. We are responsible for our actions not for our inactions. We are also not all-knowing or all-powerful. We do not have the ability to ensure that our blundering about destroy and killing will produce a benign outcome and good intentions are far from enough. As I’ve said before, if you can subject military intervention to cost-benefit analysis, you should not intervene militarily.
In attacking Qaddafi’s government in Libya we broke the law. Not only did that wreck Libya, it had adverse effects on our relationships with Russia and China. The murders and destruction and people literally being sold on the block as slaves that cannot be justified by good intentions. Supplying our enemies in Syria because Assad is a bad man cannot be justified. Not only was it immoral it was stupid.