How the Left Should Respond to Ethnic Cleansing in China
In her Pulitzer Prize–winning A Problem from Hell (2002), the journalist and lawyer Samantha Power argued that the United States should use its overwhelming power to prevent or halt crimes against humanity. Power was responding to the United States’ failure to thwart genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and her arguments quickly permeated the Democratic Party’s foreign-policy establishment. After all, many reasoned, if the United States was truly the world’s “indispensable nation,” shouldn’t it work for the good of all?
When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Power’s arguments helped undergird the liberal internationalism of his administration (in which Power served). Though Obama campaigned on an anti-militarist foreign policy, his administration intervened in Libya to prevent a massacre in Benghazi—which helped engender the chaos the country finds itself in today—and helped militarize the Syrian conflict, in part with humanitarian goals in mind. By the end of Obama’s time in office, humanitarian intervention had become a core tool in the kit of liberal foreign policy.