Samantha Power's Nomination Hearing: Video & Transcript

Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Chaired by: Senator Robert Menendez (R-NJ)
Witness: Samantha Power, Nominee to be Representative of the United States to the United Nations, Representative of the United States in the Security Council of the United Nations, and Representative of the United States to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations
Date: Wednesday, July 17, 2013

SENATOR ROBERT MENENDEZ (R-NJ): Good morning. This hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will come to order. Good morning, Ms. Power; welcome to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Your nomination as ambassador to the United Nations has come with much fanfare and with some criticism, which at the end of the day means you must be doing something right. But without fanfare or criticism, I don’t believe anyone can question your credentials, nor can anyone question your service. And certainly no one can question your willingness to speak your mind — often forcefully, always passionately and usually without hesitation — and I commend you for your willingness to speak out, particularly on human rights issues around the world. Whether as a war correspondent in Bosnia, in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda and Sudan, where, as you said in your Pulitzer Prize-winning book on genocide, witnessed evil at its worst, you have been an unrelenting principled voice when it comes to human rights and crimes against humanity. And I know that voice will be heard around the world, should you be confirmed.
Personally, I am incredibly appreciative of the principled position you’ve taken on many of these issues, but on the Armenian Genocide. In 2007, you wrote in Time magazine, quote, “a stable, fruitful, 21st century relationship” — and referring to Turkey — “cannot be built on a lie,” and I completely agree.
Your belief that we should use the lessons of what clearly was an atrocity of historic proportions to prevent future crimes against humanity is a view consistent with my own and many others on this committee and which is supported by your role on the president’s Atrocities Prevention Board. I agree that we must acknowledge and study the past, understand how and why atrocities happen, to put into practice and giving meaning to the phrase “never again.”
As the son of immigrants from Cuba, one whose family and friends bore witness to, suffered, and continue to suffer under the Castro regime’s oppression, I personally appreciate your commitment to exposing the Castro dictatorship’s total disregard for human and civil rights and for not idealizing the harsh realities of communism in Cuba. I know from the conversation we had in my office that you appreciate the suffering of the Cuban people — the torture, abuse, detention and abridgment of the civil and human rights of those who voice their dissent. I also welcomed your commitment to reach out to Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of the long-time dissident and Cuban activist Oswaldo Paya who died under mysterious circumstances last year in Cuba. Ms. Paya is in Washington this week accepting a posthumous award from the National Endowment for Democracy on behalf of another young activist from Cuba who died alongside Oswaldo Paya, making your commitment to reach out to her that much more timely.
And yesterday’s news of the discovery of illegal arms shipments from Cuba to North Korea reinforces in my view the necessity of the United States to keep Cuba on the list of countries who are the sponsors of terrorism.
I share your view that we should not lose sight of these moral issues even as we address the pressing economic and security issues that confront our nation.
It is fitting that you will be at the United Nations, which was created after a period of atrocity and conflict with the goal of bringing nations together to achieve peace and stability. In the words of the U.N. Preamble, it was created, quote, “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women of nations large and small.”
If confirmed, your focus at the United Nations will no doubt be on the crisis du jour — the Middle East, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, increasingly North Africa, and the nature of nations that emerge from the Arab Spring. But I would encourage you to also keep your focus and task your staff to what is happening off the front page as well as on it: What may be happening on freedom of expression in Latin America; fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and polio in Africa; on the status of talks to resolve the 66-year- long question of Cyprus; on women’s rights in Pakistan, labor rights in Bangladesh and human rights in Sri Lanka.
The U.N., for all its faults, has a great ability to serve as arbitrator, a neutral fact-finder and overseer of peace. I urge you to harness its strengths in the interests of our nation and — not coincidentally — in the interest of fulfilling the stated purpose of the United Nations, which is “to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security.”
We’ll address these issues, among many others, in our questioning, but let me to take this opportunity again to welcome you to the committee and to say that we look forward to a full and frank dialogue on the issues you will face should you be confirmed.
Let me also say for the record that if there are additional questions for the record of this nominee, they should be submitted by 5:00 p.m. today.
With that, let me turn to the distinguished ranking member of the committee, Senator Corker, for his opening statement.
SENATOR ROBERT CORKER (R-TN): Mr. Chairman, thank you for having this hearing, and I want to welcome the nominee. We had a very good meeting. I’ll be brief. I know you’re going to be received very well here in spite of the two introducers that you have beside you, but I do — I do appreciate the time and the candor in our office. I want to thank you for being willing to serve in this way, and I think you know, our ambassador to the U.N. is one of the most important diplomatic posts that we have. You have daily contact with leaders from all around the world, and therefore are maybe out there amongst people around the world more than anybody else. And it can be a critical component of our diplomatic efforts.
We’re the largest contributor to the U.N., I think you know that. And I hope that one of the things you’re going to pursue — I know you’re very policy-oriented, and I appreciate that, but I hope you’re also going to pursue reforms at U.N. to cause it to function in a much better way for not only U.S. taxpayers but for the world. All too often — I think you know this — the U.N. acts as a place where bad actors deflect criticism, and I hope that you will — I think you will, actually — but I hope you will follow the footsteps of predecessors like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane Kilpatrick (sic/Kirkpatrick) who basically, you know, got out there and championed our national interest at the U.N. even when it was unpopular.
So again, I thank you for coming before us today. I look forward to your service. I know there’ll be a number of questions today that I know you’ll answer well, and again, thank you for your willingness to serve. And Mr. Chairman, I look forward to hearing from your extra-distinguished guests today that I know are looking at their watch, wanting to go to the next hearing. So — even though they’re glad to be here, I know.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Thank you, Senator Corker. We’re pleased to have our distinguished colleagues from Georgia with us to introduce Ms. Power to the committee, so I’ll first recognize the senior member from Georgia, Senator Chambliss, followed then by Senator Isakson.
SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): Well, thank you very much, Chairman Menendez and Senator Corker, for allowing Johnny and I to come today to introduce Samantha Power to the Foreign Relations Committee. Samantha is already well known by this committee, but suffice it to say, she’s an Irish-born American who matriculated to Atlanta to become educated in high school to prepare herself not just for this job, but to go to Yale and go to Harvard Law School. Pretty good credentials coming out of Lakeside High School in Atlanta.
She has a passion for human rights, as you stated, Mr. Chairman, and she takes her passion very seriously. She’s a prolific writer who believes in what she’s writing about to the extent that she gets into the fray, as she did in Yugoslavia by dodging bullets to report on the war in Yugoslavia. She’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. She has extensive foreign policy experience as a staffer, as well as a member of the president’s national security team.
You know, the job that she’s been nominated by the president to assume is a very difficult job. It’s one that requires charisma and at the same time, toughness. Now, I am told by her friends that Samantha can be kind and gentle. But she is one more smart, tough lady who can express herself in very strong terms when she needs to. And she’s going to need that ability. I look forward to seeing her as an adversary to some of the tougher leaders around the world that she will be dealing with at the United Nations, because I am confident that the same passion she has for human rights, she has for this country. And she will express that passion in no uncertain terms. She’s going to be a great representative of the United States as ambassador to the United Nations. I commend her to you highly, and I look forward to seeing her confirmed in short order. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Thank you. Senator Isakson.
SENATOR JOHNNY ISAKSON (R-GA): Thank you, Chairman Menendez, Senator Corker. It’s an honor to be here to introduce one with Georgia roots. At the age of nine, Samantha’s parents brought her from Ireland to the United States and she ended up at Lakeside High School in DeKalb County, Georgia, where she graduated. I did some research to find out what others said about her when she was in Georgia, and a good friend of mine, Jeff Hullinger, who’s the sports director for WSB in Atlanta, had her as one of his interns in 1989. And I want to quote directly from what he said about Samantha.
He said: She seemed to be a fish out of water in the sports department. Oh, my God, was she bright. Acerbic, lightning-witted, and the depth of the Mariana Trench.
So I don’t know if you’ve got a better introduction or a better compliment than that, but Jeff said she’s one of the brightest people that he’s ever known. I appreciate her asking me to introduce her today, and I’ll just share a few thoughts additional to those Senator Chambliss said.
As you know, I’ve traveled to Sudan, I’ve traveled to Rwanda, I’ve been to some of the places Samantha has written about and been an activist about. In fact, in her book about Rwanda, “A Problem from Hell,” which was a great book, she wrote about her — couldn’t believe that during the three months of the slaughter of over a million Rwandans, there was not even a high-level meeting at the White House. That, I’m sure, was part of the motivation for her to create the Atrocities Prevention Board in the White House and for her to be a part of it.
Rich Williamson, who was the special envoy from — for President Bush to the Sudan, who I met with in Darfur — Senator Corker traveled with me to Darfur — gives her high marks. My dear friend Senator Bob Dole sent me an email after her nomination, said this is one woman who’s most appropriate for the position to which she’s been nominated.
Lastly, I am the Republican designee from the United States Senate to the U.N. for this session of Congress. Senator Leahy is the Democrat.
I’ve traveled to the U.N. Security Council and I watched the challenges that Senator Corker referred to in dealing with those 13 members. I have no reservation or doubt whatsoever that Samantha Power will be just what her name implies — a powerful representative of the United States of America, and a very powerful body: The Security Council of the U.N. It’s a pleasure and a privilege for me to introduce her, and I wish her the best of luck in her confirmation.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Well, we thank both of our colleagues for coming and joining — (inaudible). We welcome Senator Isakson back to the committee, as the — Senator Isakson was a distinguished member of the committee; we miss him on the committee and we hope that at some point he’ll return in the future. And I know you have busy schedules, so when you feel appropriate, please feel free to leave as you — as you need to.
With that great set of introductions, Ms. Power, you’re welcome to start your testimony. If you have family or friends here, you’re — please feel free to introduce them. We understand this is a commitment not only of yourself but family, and we appreciate that. Your full statement will be entered into the record, without objection.
And the floor is yours.
SAMANTHA POWER: Thank you, sir. And thank you, Ranking Member Corker and distinguished members of this committee.
It is a great honor to appear before you as President Obama’s nominee to serve as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations. Representing the United States would be the privilege of a lifetime. I am grateful to the president for placing his trust in me.
I would like to thank my friends and my remarkable family — my parents, who brought me here from Ireland, Vera Delaney and Edmund Bourke; my husband Cass Sunstein; and our children, 4-year-old Declan, and 1-year-old Rian, who has already proven less interested in this hearing than others here today. (Laughter.)
I would also like to thank Senator Chambliss and Senator Isakson for their generous, remarkable introductions. Growing up as an Irish immigrant in Atlanta, Georgia, I can’t say that the U.N. was a popular topic with my classmates at Lakeside High School. But it was in Georgia, while working at the same local television station, that I witnessed footage of the massacre in Tiananmen Square and resolved then that I would do what I could for the rest of my life to stand up for American values and to stand up for freedom. My Georgia friends supported me every step of the way, and I am so proud now to count these two great public servants — Senator Isakson and Senator Chambliss — among them.
When I first came to this country, I viewed the United Nations as a place where people assembled to resolve their differences. It was the stage, as Senator Corker said, on which iconic Americans like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane Kirkpatrick stood up for what was right. Unfortunately, when I travelled to the Balkans in 1993, I saw a different side to the U.N. U.N. peacekeepers had been sent to protect civilians, but in the town of Srebrenica, more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were executed in cold blood, as the peacekeepers stood idly by.
The U.N. is of course multi-faceted, and its record mixed. It was with the support of the U.N. that I travelled in 2004 to Darfur, where I discovered a mass grave and many charred villages, hallmarks of the genocide being carried out by the Sudanese government. Today, it is the World Health Organization that is helping to provide polio vaccinations, even as terrorist wage an assassination campaign against doctors. And last Friday, it was the U.N. that provided a stage for Malala, the brave young Pakistani girl who was shot last year by the Taliban on her way home from school. Together, she and the U.N. will inspire millions to stand up for girls’ education.
Yet alongside all of this, within the U.N., an organization built in part to apply the lessons of the Holocaust, we also see unacceptable attacks against the state of Israel. We see the absurdity of Iran chairing the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. We see the failure of the U.N. Security Council to respond to the slaughter in Syria — a disgrace that history will judge harshly. What is also clear, 68 years after the United Nations was founded in San Francisco, is that an effective U.N. depends on effective American leadership. The war in Bosnia didn’t end because the U.N. acted, it ended because President Clinton, backed by a bipartisan coalition in Congress, including Senator McCain, took robust action. It is now possible to imagine an AIDS-free generation in Africa not merely because of the essential work of UNAIDS, but because President George W. Bush decided to provide life-saving drugs on a massive scale.
I believe that America cannot — indeed, I know that America should not — police every crisis or shelter every refugee. While our goodwill knows no bounds, our resources are of course finite, strained by pressing needs at home. And we are not the world’s policeman. We must make choices based on the best interests of the American people. And other countries must share the costs and burdens of addressing global problems.
There are challenges that cross borders that the United States alone cannot meet. There are cases — as with sanctions against Iran and North Korea — where U.S. efforts pack far more punch when we are joined by others. There are occasions — as in Mali today — when the U.N. has to step up to prevent state failure, which abets terrorism.
An effective U.N. is critical to a range of U.S. interests. Let me highlight quickly three key priorities that I would take up if confirmed by this Senate.
First, the U.N. must be fair. The United States has no greater friend in the world than the state of Israel. We share security interests, we share core values, and we have a special relationship with Israel. And yet the General Assembly and Human Rights Council continue to pass one-sided resolutions condemning Israel. Israel — not Iran, not Sudan, not North Korea — is the one country with a fixed place on the Human Rights Council’s agenda. Israel’s legitimacy should be beyond dispute, and its security must be beyond doubt. And just as I have done as President Obama’s U.N. adviser at the White House, I will stand up for Israel and work tirelessly to defend it.
Second, the U.N. must become more efficient and effective. In these difficult budget times, when the American people are cutting back, the U.N. must do the same. This means eliminating waste, strengthening whistleblower protections, ending any tolerance for corruption and getting other countries to pay their fair share. It means closing down those missions and programs that no longer make sense. The United States has the right and the duty to insist on reform, and if confirmed, I will aggressively pursue this cause.
Third, the U.N. must stand up for human rights and human dignity, which are American values and universal values. Today, The Universal Declaration of (sic/on) Human Rights is widely hailed and yet only selectively heeded.
Taking up the cause of freedom is not just the right thing to do, it is of course the smart thing to do. Countries that violate the rights of women and girls will never approach their full potential. Countries that don’t protect religious freedom create cleavages that destabilize whole regions. If I am given the honor of sitting behind the sign that says “United States,” I will do what America does best: stand up against repressive regimes and promote human rights. I will also do everything in my power to get others to do the same.
This means contesting the crackdown on civil society being carried out in countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia and Venezuela. It means calling on the world to unite against human trafficking and against the grotesque atrocities being carried out by the Assad regime. And it means uniting peoples who long to live free of fear in the cause of fighting terrorism.
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Corker and other distinguished members of the committee, the late ambassador, my friend Richard Holbrooke, told this committee that Congress should be in on the takeoffs, not just the landings. I appear before you today not just to seek your support but to ask to join you in a conversation about how to strengthen what is right and fix what is wrong at the U.N. If I am confirmed, I will continue this dialogue directly and personally. And if the prospect of visiting the U.N. doesn’t immediately entice you, my son Declan has resolved to become a tour guide like no other. (Laughter.)
If I am given the privilege of sitting behind America’s placard, behind the United States of America, you will be able to count on me. I will fight fiercely every day for what is in the best interests of the United States and of the American people. I will be a blunt, outspoken champion of American values and human rights. I will be accessible to you and forthright in my dialogue with you. And above all, I will serve as a proud American, amazed that yet again this country has provided an immigrant with such an opportunity — here, the ultimate privilege of representing the United States and fighting for American values at the United Nations.
Thank you, and I look forward to answering your questions.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Well, thank you very much for your statement. We’ll start a round of questioning. And I — and I would just say that following Declan at the U.N. I would not get lost, because I would see that red hair no matter what, so — (laughter) — and he’s being very well-behaved, despite that this is boring. (Laughter.) So —
MS. POWER: The day is young. (Laughter.)
SEN. MENENDEZ: We’ve got a lot of rooms here, so — let me start off — I appreciate your statement on Israel and I agree with you wholeheartedly. You know, above and beyond fighting battles to — those who seek to delegitimize Israel, the U.S. has been very helpful in promoting Israel’s position at the United Nations. As you know, Israel is seeking to represent the Western Europe and other groups on the Security Council in 2018, representing the first time that Israel would serve at the pinnacle of the U.N.’s system. Do you know if we’re working to promote Israel for the Security Council? And how can we work in that regard — as well as the other injustice that Israel faces in the U.N. system is that in Geneva, unlike in New York, Israel is not part of any regional grouping.
So would you commit to the committee that you will make efforts, should you be confirmed, to have Israel among the family of nations have an opportunity just like any other country?
MS. POWER: (Off mic.) Excuse me. Absolutely, sir. I did speak in my opening remarks about fighting delegitimation, but what’s a critical complement to that is legitimation. We have had modest success, I think, working with our Israeli friends to secure leadership positions across the U.N. system, such as the vice presidency of the General Assembly several years back, some leadership roles in UN-HABITAT and other organizations, Membership in WEOG and participation in WEOG in New York.
But you’re right. The Security Council seat is one that has eluded Israel, despite its many contributions across the years, and I commit to you wholeheartedly to go on offense as well as playing defense on the legitimation of Israel and we’ll make every effort to secure greater integration of Israeli public servants in the U.N. system.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Now, this committee has had a great deal of focus and the chair has had a great deal of focus on the question of Iran sanctions. You mentioned it in your remarks about we are stronger when we can multilateralize those sanctions, and I agree with you, although often we take the lead and we get others to then join us in a multilateral effort. So sometimes leadership is important in order to bring others to a point which they may not be, but for American leadership.
As Iran continues, despite our best efforts, to march towards nuclear weapons capability, clearly the Senate doesn’t always express itself unanimously — it has on this issue — to continue our efforts to prevent Iran from becoming the next nuclear state. How do you plan to use your position at the United Nations to build consensus for additional measures against Iran, and how do you see bringing that continuing multilateral effort to the next stage?
The clock is ticking, the centrifuges are spinning and the window is increasingly closing for us.
MS. POWER: Thank you, Senator, and thank you for all your leadership on that issue. Let me start by saying that the last four years have entailed a ramp-up of very significant pressure on Iran, including of the multilateral kind. And you’re absolutely right that the foundation for our leadership is the domestic measures that we have put in place, which other countries have also replicated with their own national measures.
The Security Council passed a crippling resolution back in 2011 that I think has had a great effect. There are some of the most stringent sanctions that we’ve ever seen put in place in the multilateral system. And I was very much a part of that effort by virtue of my position as the president’s U.N. adviser, working with the team in New York.
I think there are a couple of things that we need to think about going forward. First of all, given that we need to increase the pressure until Iran is willing to give up its nuclear weapons program, we should always be prepared to look at new measures and see whether further action of the Security Council is required.
In addition the panel of experts, which is very useful way of holding countries accountable — it’s a body that holds countries accountable for their compliance with the sanctions regimen that exists already — has pointed out, I think, in its most recent report that there are a fair number of evasive tactics that are being used, not only by Iran but by other members of the U.N. — the United Nations.
And so one of the things that we need to move forward on with haste — and again, the team in New York is already seeking to do this — is the panel of experts’ recommendations as to how those loopholes can be closed, and how those countries that are in deviance of sanctions can be called out and held accountable and indeed how those practices can stop.
The other thing I would draw attention to of course is the human rights situation in Iran. Again, over the last four years we’ve had some success. The margin now in which the General Assembly Iran human rights resolution passes is larger than it ever has been, I believe. We’ve also created the first-ever country-specific human rights rapporteur at the human rights council, and that is for Iran and that individual — I talked to Senator Kirk about this earlier this week — deserves our full support, as the crisis that the Iranians are facing inside the country is extremely grave.
So what I can commit to you, sir, is to be maximally consultative with you and to hear any ideas you have about things that we could be doing within the U.N. system that we’re not doing, ways we can shore up the sanctions regime that already exists, and any other additional measures we should be contemplating to try to increase the pressure on Iran. Because I agree wholeheartedly with your premise, which is that there is a window, but the window will not stay open forever.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Finally, this committee acted in a bipartisan manner as it relates to Syria and the conflict in Syria has killed over 100,000 Syrians, created 1.7 million refugees, millions more displaced inside of the country. A continuing, in my mind, tragedy of enormous proportions, probably one of the largest ones in the world right now, if not the largest one in the world.
But we have seen Russia and China continue to obstruct action by the Security Council, so much so that your predecessor, Ambassador Rice, said that the Council’s inaction on Syria is immoral and a strategic disgrace that history will judge harshly. I assume you agree with that characterization. And how do you work to move the Security Council to a more vigorous role on Syria?
MS. POWER: Thank you, Senator. And I agree with you one of the most critical issues facing us today, one of the most devastating cases of mass atrocity that I have ever seen. I don’t know that I can recall a leader who has in a way written a new playbook for brutality in terms of the range of grotesque tactics that the Assad regime has employed in response to a democratic uprising.
What I will say is that the situation of the Security Council is incredibly frustrating. I described it as a disgrace that history would judge harshly, in my opening statement. And I certainly agree with Ambassador Rice’s claim that this is a moral and strategic disgrace in both respects.
What we have sought to do, as you know, is not simply rely on the Security Council but to proceed with multiple — a multifaceted approach aimed at isolating the regime, bringing about the end of the regime, strengthening the opposition, et cetera. We have worked through the General Assembly to signal just how isolated Syria is, even as the Security Council remains paralyzed.
We have worked in the human rights council to create a commission of inquiry to investigate the abuses because when the Assad regime falls — and it will fall — the individuals responsible for these atrocities will need to be held accountable and the evidentiary base needs to be built now. And we have gone outside the U.N. of course to the friends of Syrian people to coordinate the efforts of the like- minded.
I think we have to be clear-eyed about our prospects for bringing the Russians in particular on board at the Security Council and not overly optimistic. By the same token, their interests also are imperiled with the rise of terrorism in the region, with the use of chemical weapons, and we will continue forcefully, repeatedly to make that argument to Russian officials and to engage them, given the urgency and, again, the devastating human consequences of allowing this crisis to persist.
SEN. MENENDEZ: And one final point before I turn to Senator Corker. Am I correct in that right now is the turn of the United States to chair the Security Council?
MS. POWER: We are the presidency — we have the presidency of the Security Council in the month of July, which happens once every 15 months, yes.
SEN. MENENDEZ: So right now that presidency is — the person who is sitting there is in an acting position?
MS. POWER: It is. A wonderful Foreign Service officer named Rosemary DiCarlo.
SEN. MENENDEZ: And I’m sure she is wonderful, but it would great to have the United States ambassador to the United Nations sitting in that chair.
Senator Corker.
SENATOR BOB CORKER (R-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you again for being willing to serve. I enjoyed our meeting and our discussion about what a liberal interventionalist is, and certainly though would like to drill down a little bit on the responsibility to protect.
First of all, you know, in following up on the Security Council discussion that just was had, do you believe that for us to take unilateral military action that we need a U.N. Security Council approval to do so?
MS. POWER: Sir, I believe the president always should act in the interests of the American people. When U.S. national security is threatened and the Security Council is unwilling to authorize the use of force, but the president believes it is judicious to do so, of course that is something that he should be free to do.
SEN. CORKER: And — that was brief. (Laughter.)
What exactly does the responsibility to protect mean to you?
MS. POWER: Well, sir, as I mentioned in my opening statement, some of the foundational events in my life were —
SEN. CORKER: What does it — I shouldn’t say “to you.” What does that mean to us as — knowing that you’re going to be at the United Nations, you no doubt are going to be a force? I think anybody who’s met you knows that that is going to be the case. But how will that affect our effort? When is it that we should respond to atrocities? And what are the guidelines as to whether we do that unilaterally?
MS. POWER: Thank you, sir. I believe that the way the president has articulated this is very important, which is that the United States has a national interest — national security interest and a moral responsibility to respond to cases of mass atrocity — when civilians are being murdered by their governments. That does not mean the United States should intervene militarily every time there is an injustice in the world.
What the president has asked us to do — and what I strongly support doing and am eager to do again, if confirmed by you — is to look at the tools in the toolbox: diplomatic, economic, arms embargoes, radio jamming, expelling diplomats from various institutions, creating commissions of inquiry, et cetera — and maybe deploying peacekeepers, providing different forms of assistance. There are so many tools in the toolbox.
So I think the concept of the responsibility to protect, which is less important, I think, than U.S. practice and U.S. policy, which is that when civilians are being murdered by their governments or by non- state actors, it’s incumbent on us to look to see if there’s we might be — might do in order to ameliorate the situation. And there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. There’s no algorithm nor should there be. If I am confirmed to this position, I will act in the interest of the American people and in accordance with our values. That’s the formula.
SEN. CORKER: And that action might take place under the U.N. — under a U.N. resolution or it might take place unilaterally, is that what you’re saying?
MS. POWER: The president — if you’re referring to the use of military force, the president needs to make judgments about when to use military force on the basis of U.S. national interests.
I think what we’ve found in history is that there are times where we have to work outside the Security Council, because the Security Council doesn’t come along — although presidents have believed that it’s in our national interest to act. There are times when we find it beneficial, of course, to have Security Council authorization, because then we tend to be able to get some buy-in on the backend, maybe get some assistance with peacekeeping or reconstruction assistance and so forth.
There’s no question that internationally, a Security Council authorization is helpful. But from the standpoint of American interests, it is U.S. national security interests and the needs of the American people that are paramount.
SEN. CORKER: Yeah. Thank you so much.
We — many of us care about just the overall growth of the United Nations. I know that just in 2000, there was a $2.5 billion budget. It’s now up to 5.4 (billion dollars). Some people have advocated a zero-growth policy. And I’d like for you to speak to that and just whether you believe there are many, many duplicative programs there that are wasteful and should be looked at and streamlined.
MS. POWER: Well, thank you, Senator. And again, as I said in my opening remarks, I completely share the spirit of your question. These are such tough times for so many people her at home that we have to be zealous in our scrutiny of every program and every initiative that the American people are helping to support through their generosity.
We have had, I think, significant success over the last four years on a U.N. reform agenda — building on some of the work done by our predecessors. We have found in the peacekeeping budget $560 million to cut, and that is a substantial amount when, as you say, the U.S. share of that budget is significant.
The cuts can come when we have found — in the case of peacekeeping — duplications where a peacekeeping mission in one place is staffed or serviced logistically by one base. And then in another mission, there’s another base supporting that peacekeeping mission. Those have now been consolidated and that’s where some of those savings have done.
We’ve also closed down — the Security Council has closed down two peacekeeping missions over the course of the last four years. And that is a very important cost savings. Again, looking at the situation on the ground and making sure that closing down a mission is something that will not squander the gains that have already been made, but very cognizant of the tough budget times that we operate in.
We actually brought about the first budget reduction, I believe, in 50 years in the history of the United Nations. It’s very important that we keep that sensitivity that I think I think we’ve inculcated in New York going forward. And there are — as you and I’ve discussed, I believe in your office — there are always countries who want to throw new programs onto the table. But what I will commit to you, as I said in my opening statement, is to — when I sit down, if confirmed, in New York with the team and to go over the landscape and be as aggressive as possible in seeking to deliver, again, on the generosity of the American people.
SEN. CORKER: And that includes looking at other longstanding peacekeeping missions that may or may not be necessary?
MS. POWER: Indeed. And I think we already — looking out on the horizon — can see some that can be reduced in size and will be reduced in size, which should bring about some savings.
SEN. CORKER: Richard Holbrooke was able to negotiate our share back in 2000, I think it was, at being 25 percent. And it got down to just a little under 26 percent, I think, in 2009. It’s back up today to 28.4 percent. And just interested in your thoughts there and whether you’d be willing to try to — I know there’s lots of Holbrooke doctrines, but if this is one you would try to adopt.
MS. POWER: Certainly, sir. I commit to you that I will do everything in my power to reduce the U.S. share of the peacekeeping budget. There are complicated formulas that are involved in that we have inherited from our predecessors, but I will do everything in my power to address that.
I will say also, again, that the absolute size of the peacekeeping pie is critical to this as well. So in addition to dealing with our share, we have to bring down, if we can, the overall cost. And that becomes ever more challenging with al-Qaida and other terrorist actors out there on the scene targeting the United Nations as they are, because the cost of peacekeeping missions has gone up in light of the threat posed to U.N. workers, which we’ve seen, you know — seen cause very tragic consequences in recent years.
SEN. CORKER: And briefly, I know we have to move on, but your view of expanding permanent seats on the Security Council. I know there’s been some discussion there.
MS. POWER: Thank you, sir. The effectiveness of the Security Council is very important for U.S. interests, as I’ve described in my opening statement. I think any expansion of the membership of the United Nations Security Council should be one that both increases the representativeness of the council, which is what a lot of aspirants have emphasized, but also ensures the effectiveness of the council. And so it’s not enough just to look to representativeness. We need to look at the degree to which the Security Council is going to maintain international peace and security. We do oppose, of course, giving up the veto.
SEN. CORKER: Well, we have lots of people who come before us, some of which are more interesting than others. I have a feeling that you certainly are going to carve a path at the United Nations. I look forward to watching that. And I do appreciate the comments we’ve — the conversations we’ve had privately. I look forward to you carrying out in the same way that we’ve discussed things. I thank you for your willingness and certainly look forward to your service, OK?
MS. POWER: Thank you so much, Senator.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Senator Shaheen.
SENATOR JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Power, thank you so much for being here today and for your willingness to take on this very important role. I certainly intend to support your confirmation and I hope the entire Senate does as well.
You had an interesting exchange with Chairman Menendez about Iran sanctions. Obviously, one of the things that’s changed recently in Iran is the election of their new president, Mr. Rowhani. And I wonder if you think that offers an opening. He’s indicated that it’s his intention to improve relations with the United States. Do you think there is an opening there with the new president-elect? And how can we pursue that and does the U.N. have a role in trying to move Mr. Rowhani and Iran to resume negotiations with the P-5 plus one?
MS. POWER: Thank you, Senator, so much for raising that issue.
I would say, first, that while whatever the public statements out of Iran, we have to remember the conditions that gave rise to that election or the conditions surrounding that election, which were the furthest thing from free, the furthest thing from fair, and I don’t think anybody can say that the election in Iran represented the will of the Iranian people. I think we saw the will of the Iranian people reflected in the previous election and the democratic will of those people crushed. So that’s point one.
Second, I would say that our policy — the administration’s policy, since I’m not currently serving the administration — is, I think, very much reflective of the views of people here in this body as well, which is verify, then trust — deeds, not words — and, again, we have a negotiation track. It is something that we want very much to succeed and we recognize that we need to increase the pressure in order to increase its chances for success. And so we are — we call upon the Iranians to engage that process substantively in a way that has not happened to date.
SEN. SHAHEEN: And is there further action that could be taken at the UN that might help move the discussion in a positive way?
MS. POWER: I think it’s — again, to my exchange with Senator Menendez, I think we have to look at everything. Any — this is so critical. This is so urgent. The clock is ticking. If there are steps that we can take in the Security Council we should take them and, again, this is atop the list of urgent priorities in New York but beyond that I think it’s probably best to get into the specifics in the event I’m confirmed and can look at what is possible.
SEN. SHAHEEN: You mentioned in your opening statement and you have written very eloquently about the tragedy in Bosnia and we have seen since those days that Croatia has achieved EU membership. We’re seeing some breakthroughs with Serbia and Kosovo.
But Bosnia really seems to be stalled, and in talking to some of the folks who have been involved with efforts in Bosnia for a very long time they have suggested that the structure that was set up as a result of the Dayton Accords has made things more difficult there to really achieve long-term resolution in the country for some of their challenges. Can you speak to that and to what more we might be able to do to support efforts in Bosnia to move them towards EU integration and further into the West?
MS. POWER: Thank you, Senator, and as you know, yes, Bosnia is a country very close to my heart. I think what I would say is that, first, it’s important to put today’s challenges in some context. The country is at peace, at relative peace. It is an inspiring tribute, I think, to American leadership when you travel to the country and see the cafes open and see the hills no longer a source of target practice for nationalists and extremists but instead a source of beauty, and it’s a remarkable country and it’s a remarkably resilient people.
So I think the United States can — especially, again, the Americans who supported U.S. leadership — can feel some sense of satisfaction at what the United States and our allies have done in preventing what was one of the most horrific crises of the last half century.
Second, though, in terms of ethnic polarization, I agree completely with your characterization. I think it is extremely problematic when you go to central Bosnia and you see entrances for Croatian students on one side of the building and for Bosniak or Muslim students on the other side. I mean, how is that possible in 2013 in Europe?
With regard, I think, to the degree to which the Dayton structure is to blame versus the absence of political will in the leadership across Bosnia, I think I haven’t worked on that issue very much over the last four years. It is something I certainly would be eager to look at if I returned to the administration.
But I think starting with popular will, popular culture, doing away with the polarization as a matter of social norms is also something that needs to be done and, again, there are real efforts — an amazing set of contributions by the international community and amazing leadership at the civil society level in Bosnia. But of the leadership we just haven’t seen that commitment to multiethnicity that we need.
SEN. SHAHEEN: Thank you. Finally, there is a relatively new office at the United Nations that deals with women and empowering women around the world. I think one of the things that we have realized more in the last several decades is how important empowering women are in — to the success of communities and countries and that when women have human rights and the opportunity to participate fully in a society that communities and countries do better.
So I wonder if you will commit to doing everything you can to ensure that that office continues to operate in a way that continues to support women around the world and recognize the importance of the future legacy for that office.
MS. POWER: Absolutely, Senator. I think President Bachelet did a remarkable job. As you know, we worked behind the scenes with the secretary general in order to try to bring about that consolidation of all the efforts on women and girls across the U.N. system. We are very encouraged with its launch but, needless to say, the stakes and the urgent needs in the real world are very high. So the more support we can give the better and I think U.N. Women is operating very well in tandem with some of our bilateral programming on these issues as well. Thank you.
SEN. SHAHEEN: Thank you.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Senator Rubio.
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Ms. Power. Congratulations on your nomination. I know your family is proud of you. As you recall from our meeting, and I highlighted this at the time and I’m sure you’re aware of it, as part of any one of these hearings when I told you I probably never wanted to be nominated to anything and part of — but one of the parts of any nomination is a nominee will be asked questions about previous statements that they’ve made and asked to clarify those.
So I wanted to give you an opportunity to do that here this morning. I’m not sure the time will permit to go through all of them but I did want to go through a few and I’m sure you’re familiar with them. You’ve been asked about them before. So let me start by a 2002 interview where you advocated the use of a, quote, “mammoth protection force,” unquote, to impose a solution to the Israel-Arab conflict, saying external intervention was needed. Do you still hold that view and how would you place that in the context of today?
MS. POWER: Thank you, Senator, and thanks for giving me an occasion to clarify in a very public setting my actual views. I have disassociated myself from those comments many times. I gave a long, rambling and very remarkably incoherent response to a hypothetical question that I should never have answered.
What I believe in terms of Middle East peace is, I think, what is obvious to all of us here which is peace can only come about through a negotiated solution. There is no shortcut. That’s why Palestinian efforts at statehood — by the way, my daughter doesn’t like that quote either, just for the record.
SEN. RUBIO: We’ve all — we’ve all been heckled. Don’t — (inaudible).
SEN. MENENDEZ: And we’ve all answered hypothetical questions.
MS. POWER: Thank you, sir. Palestinian unilateral statehood efforts within the U.N. system — shortcuts of that nature just won’t work. A negotiated settlement is the only course.
SEN. RUBIO: OK. Then in 2003 in an article you recommended a historical — quote, “a historical reckoning with crimes committed, sponsored or permitted by the United States,” unquote. Which crimes were you referring to and which decisions taken by the current administration would you recommend for such a reckoning?
MS. POWER: Thank you, Senator, and, again, thank you for giving me occasion to respond to that. I, as an immigrant to this country, think that this country is the greatest country on Earth, as I know do you. I would never apologize for America. America is the light to the world.
We have freedoms and opportunities here that people dream about abroad. I certainly did, and with regard to that quote, one of the things that had moved me I had, as some have mentioned, written very critically — I guess Senator Isakson mentioned — written very critically about the Clinton administration’s response to the Rwanda genocide back in 1994 — written in great detail about that.
And President Clinton himself, as you know, had come forward and expressed his regret that he — that the United States didn’t more in the fact of the genocide. When I traveled to Rwanda, however, having been very, very critical, I was stunned to see the degree to which Clinton’s visit to Rwanda, his apology for not having more, how it had resonated with Rwandans, how it had impacted their sense of the United States and how — and the kind of regard the United States had for them. And it moved me, and I probably very much overstated the case in that article. But the point I think that I was trying to make is that sometimes we, as imperfect human beings, do things that we wish we had done a little bit differently, and sometimes it can be productive to engage in foreign publics — excuse me, engage with foreign citizenry in a productive dialogue. And I think that’s what President Clinton in the wake of the Rwandan Genocide. It had a great effect. It really meant a great deal. And that’s really all I was meaning.
SEN. RUBIO: So is — I would categorize the Rwanda situation as a crime, as — the words used — “permitted by the United States.” Which ones did the United States commit or sponsor, that you were referring to?
MS. POWER: Again, sir, I think this is the greatest country on Earth. I — we have nothing to apologize for.
SEN. RUBIO: OK. So you don’t have any in mind, now, that we’ve committed or sponsored?
MS. POWER: I will not apologize for America. I will stand very proudly, if confirmed, behind the U.S. placard.
SEN. RUBIO: No, I understand. But do you believe the United States has committed or sponsored crimes?
MS. POWER: I believe the United States is the greatest country on Earth, I really do. (Chuckles.)
SEN. RUBIO: Well, that’s — so your answer to whether we’ve committed or sponsored crimes is that the United States is the greatest country on Earth.
MS. POWER: The United States is the leader in human rights. It’s the leader in human dignity. As you know, one of the things that makes us so formidable as a leader on human rights is that when we make mistakes — and mistakes happen — for instance, in the case of Abu Ghraib; nobody is proud of that. Virtually every American soldier operating in the world is operating with profound honor and dignity. We hold people accountable. That’s what we do — because we believe in human rights, we believe in international humanitarian law and we observe those laws. We are, again, unlike any other country — a country that stands by our principles.
SEN. RUBIO: What is the reckoning you referred to? What would you consider reckoning for those instances that you just highlighted from that (point ?)?
MS. POWER: I think when any of us who have the privilege of serving in public office deviate in any way, we have procedures in order to be held accountable — deviated in any way from our own laws, regulations, standards —
SEN. RUBIO: Right, I understand. But that’s true of the individuals that committed those acts. What about the country? Because your quote was about the United States committed or sponsored a crime. What reckoning does the country have to face in response to acts committed by individuals of that nature? Because certainly that wasn’t the command they had received.
MS. POWER: Again, sir — I mean, I gave you the Rwanda example. I think sometimes we see, in the course of battle — you know, we — unlike most militaries around the world have, we put every target, every choice through the most vigorous scrutiny. And occasionally there is collateral damage, and it’s in the face of — even after all of that energetic effort. And in those cases, we engage with foreign publics. That can be done at a national level; that can be done at a local level. I think there are various ways one can go about —
SEN. RUBIO: Yeah — my time is about to expire, so two very quick questions. One is, given an opportunity to restate what you wrote in that 2003 article, it sounds like you would state it differently.
MS. POWER: Indeed, sir. (Chuckles.) I would absolutely state it —
SEN. RUBIO: So let me bring you to a more recent one. In a 2008 op-ed, you described the Bush administration’s concern about Iran as a, quote, “imagined crisis.” And you said that, quote, “redundant reminders that military force is still on the table,” unquote, strengthen the regime. Do you still hold the views that you held in 2008 with regards to Iran? Is it still an imagined crisis, and do you believe that reminders that military force is still on the table strengthen the Iranian regime?
MS. POWER: Thank you, sir. I have never referred to Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon as an imagined crisis — ever. What I have long argued is that it is important both to have a pressure track and a negotiation track. And as we’ve discussed here today, it’s essential to kick up the pressure, to tighten the vise. That is what the sanctions that I worked on over the last four years have done; that is what we need to do in terms of, again, closing loopholes that have been established by the Iranian regime. And so pressure is a — and, of course, part of pressure is making very clear that military force is on the table.
With respect to that article, I was stressing the importance of also having a negotiation track so that if the pressure could be intensified, there was an off-ramp so that Iran could in fact give up its nuclear weapon, if they ever chose to do so.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Thank you. Senator Murphy?
SENATOR CHRISTOPHER MURPHY (D-CT): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome, Ms. Power. The Cold War is over, and yet we’ve seen specifically, most recently, with respect to our deliberations internationally over Syria, that the juxtaposition between the United States and Russia can effectively cripple deliberations of the U.N. Our relationship with them is obviously incredibly complex. Lots of good news in the last decade — cooperation on arms control, cooperation on antiterrorism efforts, a willingness to work together on Afghanistan that was maybe unexpected at the beginning of that conflict. And yet during that time, we have seen a very rapid downwards slide in terms of the status of civil society in Russia. And so without asking you to explain how you are going — (chuckles) — essentially negotiate every different political issue with Russia, I would love you to talk for a minute about what the role of the permanent representative is to continue to raise these issues of civil society and issues of human rights abuses in Russia — knowing, as we heard at a hearing not long ago, that the State Department is preparing, as they told us, to send forward another set of names to be added to the — to the Magnitsky Act, which is going to further complicate relationships with Russia but also give us a renewed platform to raise some of these issues.
So you are going to — the administration is always in a difficult position because there’s all sorts of important, proactive work to do, which sometimes makes it difficult for them to try to raise issues of human rights. You will be in the same position whereby you will be trying to get them to the table on things that we care about, which may potentially compromise your ability to call them to the table on the way in which they are treating political opposition there. So talk to me about how you strike that balance.
MS. POWER: Senator, thank you so much. It is of course one of the most important relationships that has to be managed in New York. And we have a whole range of interests, as you’ve indicated, that float through Moscow.
I think the challenge is to maintain — to stand up for U.S. interests and to stand up for U.S. values. I mean, it’s a simple — (chuckles) — it’s a sort of simple formula — sometimes our interests of course necessitate cooperation, as you’ve again alluded to; supplying our troops in Afghanistan; the North Korean and Iran sanctions regimes, where Russia has stepped up and supported multilateral sanctions that are critical in our larger effort. These are examples where we have found a way to work with Russia. But we can never be silent in the fact of a crackdown on civil society — something I mentioned in my opening remarks today. We can never be silent — to get to an exchange I know Senator McCain had earlier in the week, or last week — we can never be silent when the Russian government sentences Sergei Magnitsky or convicts him or a crime rather than looking into those who are responsible for his death. I mean, we have to use the pulpit. We have to use the platform. We have to recognize that when the placard says the “United States,” people around the world, including across Russian civil society, are looking to the United States for leadership.
And I do think we can do both at once. I think it’s extremely challenging, and there’s no question that threading that needle and making sure that you don’t sort of silence yourself and silence the values of your nation in the service of, you know, your short-term needs — it’s a — it’s a — it’s a big challenge; every diplomat has I think faced it. But I think our greatest ambassadors in New York are remembered for how they stood up for our values.
SEN. MURPHY: I don’t want to steal Senator McCain’s thunder — (chuckles) — on this issue. He’s been a hero. But we are at a fulcrum point.
And the problem is not only the very quick downward slide of Russia. It’s that their neighbors are watching them and we are confronting many of the same issues, whether it be in the Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and when the United States doesn’t stand up at the U.N. to Russia then that’s a signal to them that we may allow for them to engage in that same kind of behavior.
Quickly to turn to the issue of climate change. A really wonderful new initiative at the U.N. surrounding the issue of short- lived climate pollutants and fast-acting climate pollutants, specifically working with other nations to try to engage in best practices for the capture of methane coming out of landfills, to work that the U.N. has been doing for years on building a new type of cookstove to downgrade the amount of black carbon escaping into the atmosphere.
There is technology and best practices out there today with respect to non-carbon dioxide emissions. We’re going to have a big fight over a new international global warming treaty, but there are some relatively simple things that you can do when it comes to just managing landfills better, or trying to get $15 cookstoves in the hands of more Indians and Chinese.
I think the answer to my question as to whether you’re going to continue to help lead on this issue is probably self-evident, but this potentially allows for some of the quickest gains in the interim between now and when we ultimately get an operative global warming agreement in 2020 and you can play an incredibly important role in trying to move forward the work of the U.N. to engage in voluntary measures with member countries to try to engage in best practices as to decreasing the release of short-lived common pollutants and we’d love to see your leadership on that.
MS. POWER: Thank you, sir. You will have it.
SEN. MURPHY: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Thank you. Senator Johnson.
SENATOR RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ms Powers, welcome. Like Senator Corker, I certainly enjoyed our conversation. It was very interesting. I think you will be a force. I also want to thank you for your willingness to serve. You’ve got a young family. It will be a sacrifice, so I truly do appreciate it.
I also recognize you’re a pretty prolific writer. I did compare notes here. I actually had another 2003 article, which I found very interesting. There are a number of interesting comments you make in that, and I do have to ask you some questions. And I realize your thoughts can certainly change over time, but there are certainly some quotes here that do disturb me.
And kind of going back to what we talked about in our office, I was very disappointed in President Obama early in his term, going around the country on, you know, basically what’s been called his apology tour. I don’t believe that’s helpful. You’re saying you’ll never apologize for America. Now that’s good, but back in this article, this was full force in New Republic, March 3, 2003.
You said a country has to look back before it can move forward. Instituting a doctrine of mea culpa would enhance our credibility by showing that American decision makers do not endorse the sins of the predecessors. Kind of going back to what Senator Rubio was talking about, you know, which sins are you talking about there? And do you think President Obama’s apology tour was well advised? Did that work very well?
MS. POWER: Thank you, Senator. I don’t know if it’s good news, but the quote that Senator Rubio was referring to is the same quote as this, so my response is similar. But let me start just by saying what I should have said perhaps at the beginning before, which is I have written probably two million words in my career, a million, two million. I’ve certainly lost track. Only my husband, Cass Sunstein, has — well, there are others perhaps who’ve written more, but Cass has left most of humanity in the dust in terms of prolificness.
There are things that I have written that I would write very differently today and that is one of them. Particularly having served in the executive branch —
SEN. JOHNSON: Move forward in terms of President Obama’s apology tour, the re-set with Russia. Has that worked? Was that a good strategy for us to go across the world and actually provide that mea culpa? Do you think that was good or bad? Did it work or didn’t work?
MS. POWER: I’m not sure exactly to what you’re — are you talking about the reset?
SEN. JOHNSON: Well, we can talk about reset, sure.
MS. POWER: So the reset, again, is I think something that has yielded a very complex set of consequences. In some respects, such as Syria, the reset has not produced the kind of dividend that we seek in New York, and with devastating consequences, again, for the people of Syria. On shipping supplies and reinforcing our troops in Afghanistan, the fact that we have a channel of dialogue and cooperation with Russia has produced results.
Honestly, the sanctions imposed against Iran back in 2011, the sanctions resolutions we’ve imposed even recently on North Korea, they come about in part because the bilateral relationship is strong, at least strong enough to allow us to agree on issues of shared interest.
There’s also a lot which I didn’t mention in response to Senator Murphy that goes unseen. And again, none of this takes away from the crackdown on civil society, takes away from Snowden and his presence in Moscow, takes away from Magnitsky, takes away again from Syria. But there are things that happen on the Security Council, for instance, Russian support for robust peacekeeping action in Ivory Coast, Russian support for the South Sudan referendum going off on time, which was a major mass atrocity averted. So we work with them where we can get them to see that their interests align with ours and that their interests align with maintaining international peace and security.
SEN. JOHNSON: OK. You had mentioned earlier that Assad will fall, and I think we’ve heard that in the past where it’s not a matter of if, not a matter of if but when. Seems like he’s getting more entrenched, and I’m not quite so sure. Do you believe there was a point in time, had we shown leadership, that we could have tipped the scales and he could have already fallen by now? Have we missed opportunities?
MS. POWER: Thank you, sir. Look, I think the situation on the ground right now is very worrying for a whole host of reasons. First, the military gains that the Assad regime has made lately. Second, the fact of chemical weapons use in recent months, sir, something you and I talked about, I believe, the growth of the extremist presence within the opposition, et cetera. So I think nobody is satisfied with where we are today. I know the president isn’t. And we are — the administration is constantly examining and re-examining how it can heighten the pressure on Assad so as to hasten that day that he departs.
I guess to come back to my comment where, given some of the facts on the ground right now, how I could say something of that nature, just, again, I think history shows that regimes that brutalize their own people in that manner, that totally force it, their legitimacy, that do not abide by even basic norms of human decency, they just do not have the support to sustain themselves. So the day of reckoning will come. I agree certainly wholeheartedly with your concern that the day is not coming soon enough.
SEN. JOHNSON: OK. Obviously he’s going to fall because we’re all mortal. Getting back to that article, the final concluding paragraph, embedding U.S. power in an international system and demonstrating humility would be painful, unnatural steps for any empire, never mind the most important empire in the history of mankind. We’re in more pain now often (ph 8:25); we’ll be in far less pain later.
Do you believe America is an empire?
MS. POWER: I believe that we are a great — a great and strong and powerful country and the most powerful country in the history of the world. Also the most inspirational. Again, that is probably not a word choice that I would use today, having served —
SEN. JOHNSON: Fair enough. Besides, giving up a pinch of sovereignty will not deprive the United States of the tremendous military and economic leverage it has at its disposal of last resort. So you’re basically recommending that we give up a pinch of sovereignty. Is that still your view?
MS. POWER: One of the things that I would do every day, if confirmed for this position, is defend U.S. sovereignty. I think nothing that I support — have supported the last four years would ever have that effect of giving up U.S. sovereignty. It’s non- negotiable.
SEN. JOHNSON: So your thinking has changed on that then?
MS. POWER: My — again, serving in the executive branch is very different than sounding off from an academic perch. Yes.
SEN. JOHNSON: Good. I appreciate your answers. Thank you.
MS. POWER: Thank you, sir.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Senator Kaine.
SENATOR TIM KAINE (D-VA): Welcome, Ms. Power, and congratulations. I look forward to working together. You have the ideal intellectual and value credentials for this position. When I heard of the appointment, though, my first reaction was, wow, she’s pretty blunt and outspoken.
I don’t think blunt and outspoken is actually usually a great qualification for a diplomatic post, but actually for this one it is because my experience with the U.N. is it’s vague and amorphous and then you translate vague and amorphous into six languages and I think the U.N. could use a lot more blunt and outspoken. And I think that’s part of the reason why you’re going to do a very good job in that position.
I visited the U.N. recently and spent a day with Ambassador Rice — and I would encourage any member of the Senate to do it. To go to a Security Council meeting — even on a topic that may not be the one that you’re most passionate about — is instructive. And you immediately sense some of the dynamics, some of the good, some of the bad. One of the things that I really came away from that visit — even seeing good and bad — was a real pride that it’s — a pride in this country for having been such a key part in creating the institution.
You know, it was an American president who had the visionary idea in the aftermath of World War I to try to create something like it in the League of Nations. And neither the American public nor Congress, nor really the world, embraced the idea, but America wouldn’t let the dream die. And in the closing days of World War II, President Roosevelt and his advisers planned it. President Roosevelt didn’t get to see it; he died before the San Francisco conference. President Truman had two decisions to make in his first two days in office: whether to keep the Roosevelt Cabinet, and he decided to do it; and the second one, he was asked, we can easily cancel or postpone the San Francisco meeting that was going to happen within weeks of President Roosevelt’s death. And the second decision he made was no, we need to carry it forward.
And so for all the frustrations of the United Nations — and there are many and I’m going to ask you about my chief one in a second — but for all the frustrations, it was the United States that wouldn’t let the dream of an international institution of this type die. It was birthed here; we’ve nursed it along; we’ve funded it; we’ve kept it going; we’ve hoped for its improvement; we’ve battled for its improvement. And of the many things to be proud about, about this country, the United Nations I think is one. And yet — and yet there are a lot of frustrations.
I was in Israel in April of 2009. I was at Yad Vashem at Yom Hashoa as a guest of Prime Minister Netanyahu. And at the very moment we were there, the U.N. had convened an anti-racism conference — Durban II in Geneva — and it invited President Ahmadinejad to be one of the keynote speakers. Now, the United States — this administration — boycotted that conference in Geneva, encouraged other nations to boycott it as well. Many other nations did, some others attended and then walked out during Ahmadinejad’s speech.
But I think one of the things that we wrestle with here, and I think the American public wrestles with too, is how — explain the psychology within an institution that was so critical to the formation of the State of Israel, to the beginning of the State of the Israel, explain — because you’ve been involved with the institution — the psychology that puts Israel on the permanent agenda to talk about human rights when North Korea isn’t; when so many other nations aren’t. Israel isn’t perfect, but neither is the United States and neither is any of the member nations of the United Nations. You can be frustrated about the lack of pace toward a two-state solution. But we can think of frustrations about any nation that’s a member of the U.N.
I think the single thing that’s the hardest for American citizens to grapple with is the continual drumbeat out of the United Nations that is hostile to the nation of Israel and seems to hold Israel to a standard that’s different than other nations, that ought to also have their time under the microscope in terms of the analysis of their flaws and the recommendations for improving those flaws.
So with your experience in the institution and in working in these areas, I’d like for you just to explain to us: What is it about the psychology of the body that makes Israel the perennial punching bag at the United Nations?
MS. POWER: Thank you so much, Senator. The constant de- legitimation of Israel across the U.N. system, as I indicated in my opening remarks, is a source of almost indescribable concern to me and to this administration. We — as the president’s U.N. adviser the last four years, working with the team in New York, our team in Geneva and elsewhere, we push day in and day out to contest this kind of delegitimation.
In terms of the psychology, what I will say is that fewer than half of the countries within the United Nations are democratic. When you’re not democratic, it helps to have a diversion; it helps to scapegoat other countries. And I think that’s part of the psychology is just having a sort of — a reliable way of changing the subject. And that’s what these countries have done over so many — so many years.
We have contested this, again, day in, day out. I was — spearheaded the decision not to participate in Durban II, because it reaffirmed Durban I, which was so problematic. We stood up against the Goldstone Report, against attempts to politicize and judge Israel over the flotilla incident. In the Human Rights Council — which, as you know, we’ve joined in part to be within that institution to stand up for Israel — we have succeeded in cutting down the number of special sessions, cutting down the number of countries’ specific resolutions. But given, again what I said at the start, the fact that there is a standing agenda item for one country, and that is Israel, and not for Cuba and not for North Korea and not for Iran, just reflects a lack of seriousness and just how political and politicized this has become — and unfair this has become.
SEN. KAINE: I don’t have another question, but I’ll just conclude, Mr. Chair, by saying, you know, I think the blunt and outspoken part of you will really be pressed into service in this job. And I think the best ambassadors that we’ve had have been willing to do that. And it’s issues like this double standard with respect to Israel that really demand very blunt and outspoken American leadership. And I wish you well.
MS. POWER: Thank you, sir.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Senator Flake.
SENATOR JEFF FLAKE (R-AZ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for the answers so far. I appreciate you coming by my office and the discussion. It was nice to discover we have a mutual interest in time spent in Zimbabwe and writing on the subject too. And thanks for sending those articles.
With regard to the U.N., the — our law requires that we compile a list of — an analysis of who votes with us and who votes against us. And it’s sometimes frustrating to see so many countries where we play a vital role in terms of aid and development and in their economy and to see them just continually go against us. It sometimes seems, in the General Assembly, if it weren’t for Israel, Palau and Marshall Islands, we wouldn’t have any friends.
But in fact, I think 131 countries in the U.N. vote against the U.S. position more than 50 percent of the time. And in the 2012 General Assembly, there were about eight resolutions that went before the General Assembly that were deemed important by the State Department and countries voting with us, just about 34 percent of them voted with our position.
How can we change that culture; what can we do to better that situation? You and I have seen situations — just take the country of Namibia where the General Assembly had long declared just one of the parties as the sole and authentic representative of the Namibian people, which was highly detrimental, I think, for a number of years and forestalled negotiations that should have happened. But then the Security Council came in with a resolution that actually paved the way for Namibian independence and played a vital role and a good role. And so we see both within the same institution — just the difference between the General Assembly and the Security Council.
How can we, in the General Assembly, have a better situation where more countries recognize that we’re friendly than we seem, I guess?
MS. POWER: Thank you, Senator.
This issue of voting divergence is critical. It’s been acutely frustrating. I will say, if you could look at the charts that show the trend lines, we’re trending more positively than you would expect. I would say in the General Assembly —
SEN. FLAKE: Pretty low base, but yes.
MS. POWER: It’s a low base; it is. I very much agree with that. I don’t think the convergence rate is trending positively in the General Assembly on Israel, however. And again, that’s something that we have to fight every day to try to change.
But with regard to other countries, it’s acutely frustrating. I mean, some of it relates to my response to Senator Kaine’s question, which is, you know, standing up to the United States can be a cheap and easy political win for a leader — for a small country to show that they’re not with us. But again and again, we see them voting against their interests. And in the case of those countries that are democratic — either fully free or partly free — we see them acting in defiance of the values that they are most proud of in their own countries. And that’s the conversation, you know, I’ve certainly sought to have over the last four years with countries who vote en masse, as part of regional groupings, reflexively rather than thoughtfully.
And again, we’re nibbling away at it, but it is an urgent priority for any incoming official in New York. And if I’m confirmed, getting countries to vote their interests and their values; getting them to see the importance of maintaining international peace and security, doing that has huge consequences for the United States, but it has huge consequences for these countries as well.
Taking advantage of the fact that a lot of, including several important African countries, are involved in U.N. peacekeeping to get their countries engaged in the politics in the countries where their troops and their police are deployed.
So there are just a lot of disconnects, I think, between at least what we would perceive as beneficial for those countries and, as you suggest, how they have performed on various votes and we just have to keep fighting every day and be aggressive in our pursuit of convergence, not divergence.
SEN. FLAKE: On that last point, Zimbabwe, a country that we’re both very interested in, elections are scheduled July 31st, likely too soon to have any real prospect of free and fair elections or elections that mean anything. Can you foresee a role of the U.N., a broader role than it is currently playing, in that situation?
MS. POWER: Thank you, Senator. I mean, that’s certainly something we should look to. It has been very difficult for the United States, very difficult for United Nations programs that Zimbabwe most needs — for instance, a human rights office, development assistance that is spread equally across the country irrespective of the politics of the recipients, et cetera — the kinds of standards we would want to see as part of our assistance with the Mugabe regime. It’s just almost impossible to operate in that environment.
And so I think, you know, the hope would be that in the wake of the election and certainly with the passage of authority to new leadership that there’s an opening to have a conversation about what an impactful U.N. presence would look like and how it could contribute to what has to happen in Zimbabwe, which is a meaningful transition to democracy. And I would note — and I know you’re more familiar with this than I am — but the civil society in Zimbabwe is unbelievable.
I mean, just they keep slogging along and battling it out, going to court, getting released from court, going on hunger strike, going again and again back at the regime, refusing to accept that Zimbabwe can’t achieve its promise. And, again, I think the United States has a critical role. They look to us for leadership. They have some friends in the U.N. system but they’re now outliers. You know, friends like Cuba and Iran, et cetera, you know, are not credible.
So given that there’s a moment of opportunity potentially upon us, I think we have to look at what programming could be helpful.
SEN. FLAKE: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Thank you. Senator McCain.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome and thank you for your continued service and advocacy on behalf of human rights and I’m glad you’re able to correct the record on some of your past statements, speaking for myself and my colleagues who have never said anything that I later regretted or wanted to correct in the record. And I note your young son there, he has a future in the diplomatic corps if he’s been able to sit quietly through this ordeal. I congratulate you on his — there he is.
Could I — in your testimony you called the failure of the U.N. Security Council failure to respond in Syria a disgrace that history will judge harshly. Do you think that the Security Council will ever authorize an international military intervention in Syria, certainly in the foreseeable future?
MS. POWER: Thank you, Senator, and thank you for all that you’ve done for me and my family. Thank you for all you’ve done for Syria. Right now, the fact that the Security Council has not managed even to pass a condemnatory resolution, never mind economic sanctions — to this point, not even anything on chemical weapons use, you know, I think — I think we could start there in terms of where we would seek to move the Russians. The Russian position, as you know —
SEN. MCCAIN: I got you. We got short — I got about three or four questions.
MS. POWER: Oh, please go ahead.
SEN. MCCAIN: So go ahead. The answer, I think, is not likely in the near future. Is that —
MS. POWER: That’s probably better put.
SEN. MCCAIN: Is that correct? I was struck by an article by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a piece she published in the Financial Times that said that the Article 52 of the U.N. Charter could serve as a basis for international action in Syria in the event that regional organizations like NATO and the Arab League notify the Security Council of their actions as required by Article 54 but not necessarily seek approval. Do you believe that Article 52 of the U.N. Charter could serve as a basis for international military intervention in Syria by regional organizations?
MS. POWER: Well, Senator, as you know, the president’s policy is to focus on all forms of assistance to the opposition, to build up the opposition in terms of the legal rationales. That’s not something I feel equipped to weigh in on.
SEN. MCCAIN: I hope you’ll look at that because that’s specifically under your area, Article 52 of the U.N. Charter, because I think with a hundred thousand people massacred we’re going to have to look at every option that we possibly can.
Senator Lindsay Graham has, with the help of our senior — our chairman and ranking member, as we’ve passed a couple of authorizations concerning Iran, he’s now authored with a large number of us a resolution that would — by the Senate or Congress that would authorize the use of force on Iran if Iranian nuclear progress reached a point that the president has described as unacceptable. What do you think about that?
MS. POWER: Well, sir, as somebody aspiring to go back into the executive branch it may not surprise you that I would want to ensure that the president had the flexibility that he needed to make a judgment that he thought best on behalf of the American people.
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, it gives him — it authorizes him to use force. It doesn’t — in fact, it gives him flexibility.
MS. POWER: Having not studied the authorization I probably shouldn’t comment.
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, maybe you could look at it —
MS. POWER: Happily.
SEN. MCCAIN: — and for the record give us your opinion on that. I think it’s very important because I don’t think there’s anyone who would argue that the Iranians have proceeded undeterred from their pursuit of the ability to acquire and use nuclear weapons — I think you would agree with that —
SEN. MCCAIN: — which means that matters are probably going to come to a head, at least in the view of some experts, within six months to a year, you would agree.
MS. POWER: That’s certainly what our assessments have shown.
SEN. MCCAIN: Everybody has for you the cheapest commodity in this town and that is advice and so I will not exempt myself from that privilege. The — I’ve noted and admired many men and women who have served as our ambassador to the United Nations and I agree that it’s a very important position.
The one I admire most is a woman named Jeane Kirkpatrick. I hope you will look at her record of service in the United Nations. She took on — she spoke truth to power. She took on the vested interests. She argued for budgetary restraint. She spoke up for the United States of America in a way that I think still many of us admire and revere her memory.
So when you look at the record of your predecessors, as I have looked at mine, at my predecessors in the United States Senate, I hope you will be instructed to some degree by her performance, which I think made all Americans who had a very poor opinion of the United Nations very proud of the role she played speaking for them in the United Nations.
MS. POWER: Absolutely, sir. I actually got to know her a little bit as an intern in this town in the early 1990s when she was a forceful advocate on Bosnia long after her service in New York and absolutely will study her legacy.
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I hope you will continue the work you’ve done in speaking up for human rights. We are about to see a Middle East that is already imploding. You may be faced with issues before the United Nations and the Security Council the likes of which we have not seen and so I hope that you — I know that you will preserve your fundamental beliefs in the supremacy of the role of the United States in the world and our advocacy for the freedoms that are so important to all of us. And so I look forward to having you go to work as soon as possible. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MS. POWER: Thank you, sir.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Senator Risch.
SENATOR JAMES RISCH (R-ID): Thank you, Madam (sic) Chairman. Ms. Power, first of all, your work in Idaho has not gone unnoticed and we thank you for that. It is greatly appreciated.
Thank you for coming to see me. And I — you and I talked about a number of things. One of the things I’m concerned about is one of the matters that Senator Corker raised, and that is reform at the United Nations. People in America are not happy with the growth and particularly with what seems to be this expanding reach.
The United Nations plays an important role when it comes to peacekeeping, when it comes to nations being able to sit down and resolve their differences. But this continued growth and this continued reach in the areas that really are the sovereign concern of an individual nation bothers me and I think it bothers a lot of Americans. What are your thoughts on that?
MS. POWER: May I ask you to be more specific? If not peacekeeping, what do you have in mind in terms of —
SEN. RISCH: Well, I’m talking about just the continued growth of the size of it and its reach into areas — I have one particular item in mind but I’m not going to raise it as it will probably divide the panel as we talk here. But it just — this continual reach into matters that are sovereign concerns of individual nations is concern — concerning.
MS. POWER: OK, well, let me if I could address maybe two dimensions of that, one the growth and then second, maybe treaties, U.N. treaties, which tend to raise sovereignty concerns, particularly in this body, yes. So in terms of the size, you mentioned peacekeeping and I appreciate your recognition, and we discussed this in our meeting as well, that peacekeeping can perform important service. Mali is a great example today of a mission that three years ago, if you’d said in 2013 are we going to have a peacekeeping mission in Mali, we’d say, Mali? Why peacekeeping there at that time.
And yet in the wake of the French intervention we cannot afford to squander the gains that have been made and to allow al-Qaida to regain a foothold in that country. And again, the peacekeepers aren’t going to be challenging al-Qaida but they are going to be strengthening the Malian armed forces, who hopefully then will have occasion or will be in a stronger position to hold off any further resurgence.
So that’s just one example of something that sort of comes into our plate because the world demands it. The Iraq and Afghanistan missions are much bigger now than they were five years ago — the U.N. missions, that is, political missions. And of course it’s in our interest to see those missions do important work, particularly in the wake of our withdrawal from Iraq and as we draw down from Afghanistan. The last thing we want to see after all of the sacrifices that Americans have made is those gains in terms of political reforms and political transition and the road to democracy, those gains squandered. So you know, that’s the good side of the growth.
SEN. RISCH: Let me ask a little more —
MS. POWER: Pardon me. OK.
SEN. RISCH: — been an advocate for any areas for the U.N. to expand into that they’re not already into. I don’t mean geographic areas. I mean issue concerns.
MS. POWER: Again —
SEN. RISCH: Is their reach broad enough I guess is what I meant.
MS. POWER: I think there — OK, two issues. One is, are there places the U.N. should go where they haven’t gone? Nothing is coming to mind —
SEN. RISCH: I’m not talking about places. I’m talking —
MS. POWER: No, no, sorry, I meant thematic areas. Then there’s — the U.N. touches so many social and economic development, peace and security issues, but there’s plenty, and I would cite corruption as one, where there’s a U.N. convention on corruption. But the modalities of actually tackling corruption in countries around the world are not as strong as I think they could be. And so there’s an example where there’s reach but not necessarily substance, or sufficient substance.
And so those are the kinds of gaps — if — rather than — so there’s two forms of cuts that one would seek. One is, is there just extraneous stuff being done that was started 50 years ago for one reason and persist today for no good reason, that of course we would need to — if it started 10 years ago or five years ago. And that’s where we draw down peacekeeping missions, when the original function, the original motivation for those peacekeeping missions has gone away or has been addressed.
And then there is beyond shrinkage, are there things the U.N. is doing that it should be doing but that it’s not doing well, where we increase effectiveness and not just efficiencies. And so I think both have to be an area of emphasis, but my message to you, you know, which I hope I’ve expressed forcefully, is that the American people are making cuts. This Congress is, and this president are negotiating how to get our fiscal house in order. It is not tenable for the United Nations to exist immune from that conversation.
I don’t think it has, in the sense that I think the administration has really pushed it to tighten its belt, and I think that’s where we found you know, nearly half a billion — more than half a billion dollars in savings in peacekeeping just in the last year —
SEN. RISCH: Let me touch on just a couple of — because my time is running out here. First of all, as Senator McCain said, advice is rampant in this town and I want to give you mine. I hope as you go to the United Nations you will take the view that America is unique and exceptional and we’re a unique and exceptional people. We need to hold our heads high, we need to be proud, we need to not apologize for things that we do.
We are leaders in this world. We need to be leaders in this world and I certainly hope that when you go to the United Nations you will convey that to them, that we are a proud people and we do good things. If you look around the world, the world wouldn’t be what it is today without the leadership of America, when it comes to quality of life or to anything else.
Finally, let me say one of my concerns, as we talked about, is Israel. And there’s a lot of us — in fact, Senator Rubio yesterday or today dropped the bill on United Nations transparency and accountability reform act. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that or not. There’s a number of us that are co-sponsors of it, and it has some really good reform provisions in it. And particularly it has to do — one of the provisions, one of the several provisions has to do with withholding United States contributions to any U.N. entity that grants full membership to the Palestinian Authority.
As you know, there’s been a push to do that in some of the operations of the United Nations to include the Palestinian Authority in the absence of a negotiated peace settlement with Israel. We want to see that, I’m sure you want to see that, everyone wants to see that. One of the ways I think we need to do that is to insist that the U.N. — that the U.S. withhold contributions to any U.N. entity that would grant full membership to the Palestinian Authority. Do you have any thoughts on that?
MS. POWER: Thank you, sir. First, on your first point on advice, I’ve spent my whole career standing up for American values and —
SEN. RISCH: Thank you.
MS. POWER: — I will not apologize for America. American leadership is a light to the world. Couldn’t agree more. Second, we need to deter the Palestinians in any way we can that will — and we need to get their attention. They have held off, but as you know they have made clear their previous intention to join very few U.N. agencies in the wake of the General Assembly vote last fall.
The one caution I would issue — and again, our concern is — we are completely aligned on preventing the Palestinians from seeking unilateral actions at the United Nations. The one caution is that when we are out of U.N. agencies, which would be the consequence ultimately of de-funding U.N. agencies, we can’t stand up for Israel, we can’t stand up for American values, we’re not there leading on a range of other U.S. interests. And so I just think we have to find the right balance.
SEN. RISCH: That’s the decision the agency has got to make, if it goes ahead with that type of proposal. And I think we ought to put them in that position where if they’re going to make that judgment, they’re going to live with the consequences of it. So thank you for your thoughts on that, thank you for your candor on that. Time’s up. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Senator Barrasso.
SENATOR JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’d like to follow up a little bit of what Senator Risch just talked about. First, congratulations to you and to your family, and I appreciate you coming by to visit on issues.
I want to talk about the U.S. arms trade treaty. When Secretary Kerry came before this committee in January of this year, I asked him during his confirmation process if he would support any treaty that allows the United Nations to establish and maintain a gun registry on law-abiding U.S. gun owners.
He stated in writing that we will not support a treaty that impacts domestic arms transfers or creates a U.N. gun registry. I have that U.N. arms treaty here and article 12 is called record- keeping. It encourages countries to maintain records on the importation of conventional arms, including small arms. It specifically requests that the states maintain records on the quantity, the value, the model, the type and the end user. These records, it says, must be maintained for a minimum of 10 years. Article 13, quote — titled reporting, that requires signatory states to issue annual reports to the U.N. on all imports and exports.
So the question I have is, do you believe that this framework could lead to a U.N. gun registry?
MS. POWER: Thank you, Senator. Let me start just by saying again that we in this administration, and certainly I, if I have the privilege of going to New York, would never do anything that would infringe on U.S. sovereignty or that would interfere in any way with American law. Second Amendment rights are paramount. American law is paramount, the Constitution is paramount.
Again, in terms of what the U.N.’s designs are in taking that treaty forward, I’m not myself familiar with those.
I think what’s important is that Secretary Kerry has given you the assurance that nothing the administration puts forward with regard to that treaty would ever contemplate a gun registry in this country, or our participation in a gun registry. So I think that’s the key point — is irrespective of the provisions that you have pointed to, the United States in dealing with this body in any future engagement on the arms trade treaty would never, again, allow anything in that treaty to interfere with American law or American practice.
SEN. BARRASSO: OK. So then, the simple question would be, do you support the United Nations of establishing and maintaining a gun registry on law-abiding U.S. gun owners?
SEN. BARRASSO: The answer’s no. Thank you. Following up on also what some other members have asked about in terms of the U.N. budget, reporting to Congress — in 2009, 2010 the Office of Management and Budget provided Congress with a list of total U.S. contributions to the United Nations from the State Department as well as 18 other U.S. departments and agencies. And I believe this information is valuable for all citizens. I think it’s important for everyone to understand how the U.S. is spending taxpayer money at the United Nations.
I don’t want to quiz you on the specifics of the budget, but I would ask you, do you support transparency of U.S. funding?
MS. POWER: I do, sir.
SEN. BARRASSO: And support the Congress and American people receiving a report from OMB on an annual basis on U.S. contributions provided to the U.N.?
MS. POWER: Full transparency. I think to sustain support for, again, the generous contributions that the American people make, you have to provide transparency.
SEN. BARRASSO: The other question — now, you raised the issue of sovereignty. This is — your position is very important — could you just talk a little bit on how you plan on preserving and protecting American sovereignty within the United Nations?
MS. POWER: Well, one starts, of course, sir, by asserting again and again the importance of American sovereignty. It also involves protecting the interests and projecting the values of the United States within the United Nations when countries seek to judge us and take steps, any steps that would interfere, again, with domestic law or domestic practice; to stand up against that, and to fight for our laws to be ascendant as they are within this country.
SEN. BARRASSO: Can you talk a little about your commitment to challenging the actions of the United Nations that run contrary to our standards, our values and our interests?
MS. POWER: Well, I think there are maybe at least two dimensions to that — one, on the mismanagement side, that certainly runs contrary to our aspirations for how we govern ourselves; and then, again on the values side, whether it’s corruption or those countries that trample human dignity or that stand with human rights abusers, we have to use the bully pulpit and be forceful in contesting that wherever we can and also creatively thinking about what other tools we can do beyond speaking out — what tools we could put in place in order to halt those practices.
SEN. BARRASSO: Can you talk a little bit about what measures you might use in assessing whether or not to veto a specific U.N. resolution — just how you would think about those things.
MS. POWER: Obviously, any discussion or decision about using the veto would be something that one would have in the context of the interagency and so forth, but we will not allow anything to go through the Security Council that we deem a threat to U.S. national security interests. And that’s, I think, a broad standard but a critical one.
SEN. BARRASSO: I wanted to follow up a little bit with Senator Risch on the Palestinian Authority — (inaudible) — a number of written questions that I’ll submit. I’m just wondering how you’re going to make it clear to the Palestinians that their actions at the United Nations will have serious implications and consequences.
MS. POWER: Well, I know from having worked this issue for the last two years that we make it clear in every bilateral encounter we have with the Palestinians that it will have serious consequences. Moreover, it will have serious consequences not just to the U.S.- Palestinian bilateral relationship but to the peace process which the Palestinians have invested in and which all of us have an interest in seeing bear fruit. I think there’s legislation up here as well that would impose direct symbolic and financial consequences in terms of the Palestinian office in some of the funding, and the Palestinians have been made well aware of those consequences as well.
SEN. BARRASSO: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Senator Paul.
SENATOR RAND PAUL (R-KY): Congratulations on your nomination, and thanks for coming today. Was the recent military takeover in Egypt a coup?
MS. POWER: Thank you, Senator. As you know, I — and as we discussed, I share the president’s concern and your concern over the seizure of power from President Morsi, the suspension of the constitution, the arrests, et cetera. On the legal matter and on the review that the administration is carrying out, I just don’t feel equipped to comment, not now serving in the administration and not having access to full facts, and not being part of the review.
SEN. PAUL: OK. So for the record, you’re unsure if it’s a coup.
MS. POWER: I don’t feel equipped to comment.
SEN. PAUL: Very politic of your answer. You stated that whenever a government is killing its citizens, it’s morally incumbent, I presume, for us to intervene. In Pakistan, they kill their citizens for certain types of speech. Does that mean we should intervene in Pakistan?
MS. POWER: Thank you, Senator. And the quotation that you read surprises me because that is not language that I would normally use. But let me refine my own view, if I could. “Intervene” is a word that can mean a range of things. When you speak out in a country to contest gross violations of human rights or mass atrocities, that’s a form of intervention in the sense that you’re in a way meddling in the internal affairs of a state on behalf of human rights. Economic sanctions are a form of response. I think in the face of gross violations of human rights — mass atrocity, genocide — and this is, again, something we discussed yesterday — we have a vast array of tools in the toolbox: assistance —
SEN. PAUL: I guess my specific question then would be, are you willing today to speak out against the practice of killing people for making religious statements that are objectionable to certain religions?
MS. POWER: Absolutely, sir. I have spent my whole life speaking out about such —
SEN. PAUL: OK. Because I mean, that’s part of it — is I think we have become so timid with certain of these — you know, at the very least, we can call them intolerances — but basically killing people for religious speech I think is something we shouldn’t be ashamed of speaking out about. I’m not proposing we invade Pakistan to tell them how to live their — to lead their lives and their country, but I am saying that not only should we speak out about it, we should make our aid contingent upon it. Do you think any aid to these countries should be contingent upon behavior?
MS. POWER: Well, sir, again, as we discussed, I think every tool in the toolbox needs to be reviewed, and depending on the circumstances — it’s hard a little bit to speak in the abstract — but we need to use the leverage we have at our disposal consistent with our other interests, because we do retain other interests, of course, with these countries as well. And — but certainly, examine anything we can do to deter such horrible practices.
SEN. PAUL: When we intervene in countries, who gets to make that decision — the president or the Congress?
MS. POWER: (Chuckles.) Thank you. Well, let me just say that — and I hope the last few weeks, that the past is prologue in a way — if I am confirmed, I would benefit enormously if I could maintain the relationships that I’ve feel like I’ve begun to forge here these last weeks, and continue these conversations. So consultation is indispensable; I cannot do this job, even if confirmed, without you.
SEN. PAUL: Congress or the president decides whether we — (inaudible) —
MS. POWER: As you know, there’s a —
SEN. PAUL: — intervene —
MS. POWER: — long-standing debate between the executive and the legislature that has crossed Republican and Democratic administrations about authorizations for the use of force. And all I can say is that I promise to consult with you extensively at all times.
SEN. PAUL: Sounds like a non-response response. But you know, the thing is is that these are important questions. The vast majority of the public is not in favor of arming Islamic rebels who in all likelihood will be killing Christians in Syria. The vast majority of the American public is not in favor of giving arms to people who are basically aligned with al-Qaida in Syria. The vast majority of the public doesn’t believe that we’re going to have a way of knowing who our friends and who our foes are. We can’t even tell who our friends are in the Afghan army, which is a much more stable situation than Syria. So I find it incredible to think that we will.
But the thing is, is those are — those can be honest disagreements among people who say, oh, absolutely we can say who the good people are, and we’re only going to give weapons to good people. I find it a ridiculous argument, but I think it’s an argument that some could make. But the thing is, is I don’t think there’s a valid argument for fighting secret wars without the permission of Congress. And basically, that’s where we are right now.
I think it’s also untenable to the American public for the administration to say, well, you know, we’re going to go over there and we’re going to arm them; we’re not really going to try so much to win but we really would like to get to stalemate so we could get the Russians to negotiate.
And I think that’s really not, you know, very tenable either or not too exciting for American GIs to, you know, who might lose lives and limbs, you know, should we be stuck in another war in the Middle East, to be too excited about this that, well, our goal is stalemate.
And you know, I think that people — and I think you have noble purposes in wanting to eradicate human rights abuses around the world, but realize that, you know, war is a messy business and you know, people do lose their lives — you know, people you know. You know, a young sergeant in the neighboring town to mine lost both legs and an arm in Iraq. And so these aren’t geopolitical games and they aren’t things that we can say, oh, we’re going to make the world, you know, this great groovy place where nobody has any human rights abuses, but we’re going to do it through war.
And so my caution is to be careful about what we wish for and to be careful about the belief that even though we are a good people and we want good things — and I think you’re a good person; you want good things — that in all likelihood, as you do this, there are unintended consequences. And as we slip into this new war in Syria, if our trainers that are over there — I don’t know how many there are, but the newspaper says several hundred trainers are over there that are Americans — if they get killed, are we going to — you know, what’s the typical response? It’ll be mine; I’ll be mad at the people who killed them, but then it will be the response that we send more soldiers and then we send platoons and regiments and generals. And then all of a sudden, we’re in another decade-long war, you know, which people say they want to fight to stalemate.
So I would just say that even though noble intentions, I think, are yours, be very wary of what intervention means when we intervene. And it’s one thing to send bread, but it’s another thing to send guns.
Thank you.
MS. POWER: Thank you, sir.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Thank you, Senator.
I did have some final questions and then we’ll hopefully let you go. You’ve been resilient here for two hours. And your son is doing exceptionally well. It’s amazing what food can do, huh? (Chuckles.)
Let me ask you, first of all, when you get confirmed — and I believe you will be — I’d like to look at our charge and mandate at the U.N. on the question of Cyprus — the division of Cyprus and where we’re at in that regard. And I believe the Cypriots have a new president and some new initiatives, even in the midst of economic challenges. And I would like to see us be able to be more vigorous in our engagement through what is an ongoing U.N. effort to end the division of a country for quite some time. So I hope you will be able to do that.
MS. POWER: Absolutely, sir. I take it that the special representative, Downer, is hoping to restart talks in October. And it feels like a ripe opportunity.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Now, these are two generic questions, but they’re important, I think: Is genocide, genocide only when it is convenient to call it so; or is genocide, genocide when it violates the convention and punishment of the crime genocide?
MS. POWER: I’ve written, as you know, a great deal about this. I think the genocide convention is a worthy instrument. I would note that political groups are excluded from the convention as a potentially targeted group by virtue of the role of the Soviet Union in the drafting of the convention. So it’s not a perfect instrument, but I think it’s an agreed upon tenet of international law today.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Well, let’s move the convention aside, then, for a moment. Is genocide, genocide when all of the facts that we observe would lead to a conclusion that a genocide has taken place, or is that only when it is convenient to acknowledge it as genocide?
MS. POWER: The former. The facts should drive the analysis.
SEN. MENENDEZ: And if the facts drive the analysis, then we should call that set of actions — whether historical in nature or present, god forbid — in reality a genocide?
MS. POWER: I believe so, yes.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Is violation of human rights a violation of human rights, depending upon where it takes place or is it universal?
MS. POWER: Universal, sir.
SEN. MENENDEZ: I think you understand why I asked you those questions. And I hope that your past history in this regard — even in the context of understanding the new role that you’ll play — will not diminish your fire for making the case internally why genocide should be called genocide when the historical facts attain to themselves to that standard.
All right, with that, Senator Corker, any final remarks?
SEN. CORKER: I do. I want to thank you for having the hearing. And I want to thank Ms. Power for coming before us.
There are very few people nominated to positions like this that have so many people in advance giving strong opinions about your service. And as I mentioned on the front end, sometimes our nominees are more interesting than others. You, no doubt, are one of the more interesting nominees. And I very much appreciate the conversation that we had in the office. I think you’ve handled yourself exceptionally well today.
And you know, based on those conversations — I know nothing about pre-meeting you a few weeks ago firsthand — I think you’re going to be a significant and positive force at the United Nations — something that, certainly, our nation and the world needs at this time from the, as you mentioned, the world’s greatest nation.
So I happen to be — based on the interaction and again, the way you’ve answered questions today — exceptionally excited about the fact that you’re going to be in this position. And I hope that you will continue in your service along the lines that the answers were today, and certainly, the meeting that we had in our office. And I think you will.
So look, we need very, very strong representation and leadership at the United Nations, especially today. My sense is you’re going to be, again, an exceptional advocate for our country and for causes around the world that we care about. And I am thankful that you are going to be in this position very soon.
And I thank your family. I’ve enjoyed getting to know them. I had the — I had the chance to spend a little extra time with your daughter in the back — (laughter) — so I thank you very much.
SEN. MENENDEZ: There’s a letter written to both myself and Senator Corker from 30 different individuals representing a wide variety of political ideology, and past history in the Foreign Service field, in support of Ms. Power’s nomination.
I ask unanimous consent that they be included in the record. Without objection, so ordered.
I would remind members that at 5:00 today is the close for any questions submitted for the record.
I would urge you to answer the questions as quickly as possible. It is the chair’s intention to put your name at an executive calendar meeting for next Tuesday. That will depend upon answers to questions being submitted in a timely fashion, which I would expect you would do, so that we could get, hopefully, you seated while we’re still the president of the Security Council and get you to work.
With the thanks of the committee, this hearing is adjourned. (Sounds gavel.)
(C) 2013 Federal News Service

UN Watch

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