Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Harvard professor Samantha Power ’92 returned to her alma mater on Tuesday to discuss the impact the war on Iraq has had on America.
In a presentation titled “Iraq’s Collateral Damage,” Power detailed not only the detrimental effects of the Iraq war on United States foreign policy but also her own take on what the government must do to rectify some of that damage. Many audience members said Power’s argument was both valid and important for the community to hear.
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Power’s address described the United States in the period before the Iraq conflict, the collateral damage the war has caused already, and possible means of rectifying such damage.
She spoke specifically about how the United States has been “tainted” by the war in Iraq.
“The war in Iraq has eroded U.S. power in ways that are almost impossible to put into words,” she said. “I think this war will go down in the history books as one of the greatest strategic blunders in the history of American foreign policy.”
Power said the Iraq conflict has caused myriad problems in the region, including Iraq’s emergence as a terrorist threat and the failure of democracy in Iraq because it was forcibly imposed by the United States. Power also discussed the isolation of America, the death of humanitarian intervention and the lack of respect for or fear of the United States in rogue states such as Sudan.
Power called for a return to realism in foreign policy, including more government accountability and consistency in basing policy on morality or democracy. She stressed, though, that pulling out of Iraq will not end the problems created by the invasion.
“One way or the other, it’s going to be a disaster in Iraq,” she said. “There’s no happy story if we get out now.”
Speaking in the Luce Hall Auditorium, Power’s talk attracted a standing-room-only crowd.
“There are people from the Yale community of all ages and affiliations that were interested in what she had to say,” said Richard Kane, associate director of the MacMillan Center.
Brooks Swett ’09 said the Iraq war is am extremely relevant and important topic for students to discuss, though one student called the outlook for the country “depressing.”
Raphael Starr ’10 said while the situation in Iraq is disheartening, he found Power’s arguments inspiring.
“Though there’s much to lament in what she spoke of, one thing that does give me hope is that she has the ear of influential people,” he said.
Power is not the only expert to speak on the state of affairs in Iraq on campus in recent weeks.
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III ’63, who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, spoke about terrorism and the state of Iraq at a Berkeley Master’s Tea on October 25. In the talk, Bremer said U.S. involvement in the Middle East has helped curb terrorist activity and that an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq would significantly harm the democratization of Iraq.
Power, who is affiliated with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 2003 for her book “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.”