The Book of the Week is “The Education of an Idealist, A Memoir” by Samantha Power, published in 2019.
“The news coverage quickly became saturated by sensationalized fear,” Power wrote of the 2014 Ebola epidemic that was largely contained in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. A whopping 134 members of the United Nations voted in favor of contributing resources to stem the spread of the disease. According to Power, there were a few major reasons American president Barack Obama, along with other nations vanquished Ebola before it became an international crisis:
- Obama refused to impose a travel ban because a ban would deter American: medical, aid, diplomatic and military personnel, from going to affected areas to contain Ebola; by so doing– he inspired other world leaders to pitch in, and it became a global effort that worked.
- The cooperation among nations meant the spread of the disease could be tracked, and fast and appropriate action could be taken.
- More lives were arguably saved with the joint international effort rather than with a travel ban. Whipping up a panic, saying that there would be adverse consequences if people weren’t stopped from entering the United States!!! was just nonsense.
Born in September 1970 in London, Power grew up in Dublin, Ireland until she was nine, then in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and finally, Atlanta, Georgia. Her father, a medical doctor, died when she was fourteen. Her mother, also a medical doctor, established the first kidney transplant and dialysis center in Kuwait.
In the early 1990’s, Power began her career as a journalist, becoming obsessed with genocide. She reported on it from Bosnia and later, Darfur, Sudan. To push the point, she wrote a six-hundred page book on the subject, that came out in 2002. In 2005, she transferred her communications skills to the political arena. In 2009, she was afforded three months of unpaid maternity leave by her employer, the National Security Council of the United States government.
Power became an international-affairs adviser to president Barack Obama. She steeped herself in the ills plaguing the world, such as putsches, civil wars, atrocities, terrorist attacks and natural disasters. She helped found a federal agency that alerted the president to horrendous goings-on so that they could be dealt with as soon as possible (which, sadly, wasn’t very soon).
There were numerous parties involved arguing over what to do– send in US peacekeepers, or impose economic sanctions, or do nothing, etc. She participated in the discussions that led to offering rewards for information leading to the capture of war criminals in the Balkans. One criminal was caught and put on trial in an international tribunal. U.S. troops made their presence known in Central African Republic in order to successfully stem unspeakable horrors by a political group in neighboring Uganda– where civilian deaths allegedly plummeted between 2010 and 2014 inclusive.
Each new crisis posed dilemmas for the United States. In 2010, America refrained from pushing for free and fair elections in Egypt because putting too much pressure on Egypt would jeopardize its keeping the peace with Israel, and countering terrorists. An added difficulty for president Obama was that Republicans would oppose everything he did, big or small, even if secretly, they thought he was doing the right thing. They would criticize him with childish fury.
In 2011, what made taking action to oust Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi easier, was that Muslim countries in the United Nations actually agreed with the United States on that. Two major communications outlets– The New York Times and Rush Limbaugh created a sexist smear of a distraction by saying that three females in the Obama administration influenced Obama regarding policy on Libya. The (mostly male) debaters tried to imagine how much and what kind of violence there would be with Qaddafi’s remaining in power, and with his removal.
In the case of Burma, the policymakers had to consider the oppression of a minority ethnic group, and the adverse conditions occurring when refugees flooded neighboring Bangladesh.
Power met with 191 of the 192 ambassadors (excepting North Korea) at the United Nations. Read the book to learn lots more about Power’s life in the professional and personal realms, including how she engaged in spousification with her young son.