UN Ambassador Samantha Power was widely misinterpreted when she took to Twitter after delivering the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA Sunday. She tweeted:
But a look at the lecture she gave makes clear she felt Pearl was a hero and the victim of a brutal crime. She extolled journalists like him and touted the need for freedom of the press to hold leaders to account around the world.
She might have mentioned her own administration’s bullying of the press – including attempts by the president himself to intimidate Fox News – and the recently uncovered plan to have the FCC to install its goons in newsrooms to “research” how they do their work.
But I digress.
Power’s real crime here is not that she is holding Pearl responsible for anything. It’s that she’s holding us responsible.
From her speech:
I think (Daniel Pearl) would be very proud that the Foundation established in his memory is dedicated to inter-cultural understanding. Given the circumstances of Daniel Pearl’s death, we should recognize how remarkable that is. Much of the world’s sorrow can be traced to cycles of retribution, where one group seeks revenge for real or imagined wrongs done by another.
Individuals become symbols, faiths become enemies, and hate becomes a currency of identity — all that we have in common — as fellow parents, fellow students, fellow believers — all that we have in common becomes reduced to a catastrophic alchemy of Us versus Them.
That was the ugly mindset of the men who murdered Daniel Pearl because he was a reporter, an American and, most of all, because he was a Jew.
In that infamous video, the killers advertised their ruthlessness, betrayed their faith, and sought further to inflame passions that divide the world. Not long thereafter, the Daniel Pearl Foundation took its brave stand on the opposite shore, guiding us toward a more profound response to hate: urging dialogue, shared learning, reconciliation, and a recognition that individual — not collective — accountability is required to break cycles of violence.
Notice the presuppositions here. The assertion that we are involved in a “cycle of violence” suggests both sides are instigating atrocities like the murder of Daniel Pearl by reacting in hateful ways that lash out at entire societies rather than at a few bad apples within them.
It’s a cycle, she says. Both sides do it. We succumb to hatred, and so do they. And so we are breeding the monsters who killed Daniel Pearl.
Well, that’s not how it happens.
The United States, which is a force for good in the world, reluctantly reacts when it is attacked and does its best to focus its response on the individuals who kill Americans. When a government is protecting those individuals, then the government and its military may be attacked as well. But it’s a legitimate response. Self defense against very bad people. Not a mindless cycle.
The same goes for the Israelis, whom the moral equivalence crowd -of which Power is a charter member – find the most sumptuous of targets.
We are not the same as our enemies, and our responsibilities are different.
It stretches political correctness to inane lengths to believe that there is nothing ailing about societies that produce rampant anti-Americanism, moribund economies, a disturbingly healthy population of extremists, routine antisemitism of the most virulent sort, and frequent repression of women, minority populations, and gays.
Sure, there’s room for dialogue, shared learning, and reconciliation. But that’s not what’s going to mitigate the violence and dry up the recruits to kill people like Daniel Pearl.
While we wait for these societies for figure it out, and help them do so to the extent we can, the answer to the aggression that emanates from them is a strong response of the right scale that will let individuals, and if necessary governments, know that crimes against us will be dealt with harshly.
Peace through strength works. It’s not pretty, it’s not unfailingly successful, but it in general, it works. Sensitivity encounters with people who want to kill you and destroy your way of life doesn’t.
Samantha Power and her boss, President Obama, believe unreasonable people think like we do. And when bad actors know they can put one over on the United States, the world becomes the increasingly dangerous place it is today.