MR. MAJOR GARRETT: That brings us to our guest, Samantha Power, who is the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. Samantha, thanks for joining us.
ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: Thank You.
MR. GARRETT: Anything you want to find fault with in that rather lengthy Introduction?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I don’t know where to start, but no. I think your last point is very compelling. I also think the strategic case for not only doing humanitarian work, but it’s really the development work. The longer term stuff of investing in job creation for young people, or we distributed 700 million COVID vaccines. You know, that’s an investment in our security as well as a reflection of the decency and really, as you attest, long term generosity of the American people.
I mean, we have a lot of debate domestically, we’re having a lot of debate now about a lot of what we’re doing. But over the years, through thick and thin, somewhere, the American people have recognized both that they want their values reflected internationally, and a more stable and prosperous international system – or less dangerous one might be the way we think of it today – is good for us.
MR. GARRETT: And it has been sometimes used as a compliment, sometimes as less than a compliment to call this part of soft power. Explain that concept.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, soft power, as defined by my former Kennedy School colleague Joe Nye, is in essence the ability to make others want what you want. So to attract rather than coerce. And, you know, whether it’s Taylor Swift, or LeBron James, or USAID, you know, being in communities, being visible, being attractive, appealing, doing things – listening, I think is something that we have gotten better at over the years, and I think are trying to get better at still.
But when you’re there for someone in an emergency, or there to help them think through how they get girls educated when only boys have been educated, that’s some – or you give a scholarship and they get to come to the United States. I mean, so many world leaders have been touched by American education. That’s the gift that keeps on giving. It just changes how they see what the United States is, what we stand for. And we can say we stand for certain things, but it turns out when you actually stand for them, that’s more convincing.
MR. GARRETT: And one of the reasons Kennedy had the political clout to do this in 1961, is because Dwight Eisenhower as president, having been Supreme Allied Commander, understood the power of these gestures.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Absolutely, and we see it now. I mean, one of my closest colleagues is [Secretary of Defense] Lloyd Austin. Chairman [Charles] Brown, Chairman [Mark] Milley before him. I mean, we talk, and not just in –
MR. GARRETT: You mean military leaders.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: – In this administration, the Secretary of Defense and the successive Chairman. But we talk about the three D’s of American foreign policy: diplomacy, led by, these days, by Secretary [Antony] Blinken; development, led by USAID, but not only USAID, the Peace Corps, the Development Finance Corporation, different parts of our government that lend technical assistance. You know, I spend some time talking to [Secretary] Mayor Pete [Buttigieg] about what lessons we can share on airline safety. There’s a lot of knowledge, technocratic knowledge, to go around.
But then finally the third D, defense. And there’s no greater champion of the deployment of our resources than the defense community. Because, as you know, General [James] Mattis, you remember, famously said, if you cut assistance, buy me more bullets. So there is that recognition. But you have to argue the case as the threats evolve and as conceptions of national security evolve. I mean, 10 years ago, it would’ve been hard to convince people that pandemic preparedness was a national security interest.
MR. GARRETT: Now, a very large part of your budget.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Indeed. Exactly. And, I think climate, there’s obviously huge domestic division still on climate change, even as our own communities are being racked by the effects, already, of a warmed planet. But again, when you talk to the intelligence community or defense colleagues, they see how destabilizing it is to have 21 million people moving within a country, most of them, because of climate related drought, floods, or emergencies. And so, you know, we have to think about climate adaptation, climate resilience, just like we do in our cities, on our farms, in America.
Thinking that through internationally and what those investments look like, and how we bring in the private sector in other countries so we’re not – I mean it’s way too big a burden for any country to tackle alone. But that’s, again, an investment in stability and in not having 21 million people restless, jobless, and mad. That is not in our interest. And so I think, again, defense, diplomacy, development together, that’s the toolkit we need going forward.
MR. GARRETT: We’re going to talk a great deal about Ukraine. We’re at a Ukrainian-themed restaurant, Ruta, here in the Eastern Market part of DC. Administrator Power, we’re gonna carry this into the next segment, but I want to get you started on Ukraine assistance. It’s still hanging fire in Congress. What are your hopes?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, first just stepping back, USAID is doing amazing work around the world. The impact that USAID and our Ukrainian colleagues on the ground have had, even just since 2014. I was in government under [President Barack] Obama as UN Ambassador when Putin invaded Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and that’s really when USAID investments started to pick up – on independent media, investments in independent media, investments in anti-corruption institutions, investments in the agricultural sector, and investments in the tech sector. And we have a situation where, notwithstanding Putin’s massive bombardment of civilian infrastructure, Ukraine’s economy is growing at a rapid clip.
MR. GARRETT: Doing more than holding on – I’m gonna stop you right there because we need to hit a break. Samantha Power is our special guest, Ruta is our restaurant, back for segment two in just one second.
MR. GARRETT: Welcome back to The Takeout. Samantha Power is our guest, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Administrator Power, about Ukraine, its economic resilience – there is a sense that U.S. involvement is entirely military, that’s not the case. There is a direct U.S. economic involvement. What is it manifested?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, as I was saying before the break, just the investments that, indirectly, the U.S. taxpayer has made, have borne such fruit that notwithstanding the bombardment, Ukraine’s economy grew by nearly five percent last year. I mean that’s extraordinary. Ukraine’s farmers have managed to get – despite the blockade of the Black Sea, and the bombardment of ports, and grain silos – they are managing almost to exceed their pre-February 2022 invasion in terms of export of food.
So here is – and I should note that food, much of it goes to developing countries. Ukraine before Putin’s full-scale invasion was the largest grain source for the World Food Program who, of course, is USAID’s key partner in many humanitarian emergency circumstances. So, you know, this is a people that is finding a way to keep on keeping on, and it’s in the face of the most gratuitous aggression and brutality that we have seen in many generations.
MR. GARRETT: On the continent since World War II.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Indeed, and so the stakes are high.
MR. GARRETT: And speaking of resilience, there’s also a tremendous amount of risk taking the Ukrainians. I just read a story in The Economist about how they have now created routes, right along shore, for their vessels, shallow waters, to avoid Russian subs, to get even more food stuffs out of Ukraine. It’s not easy, it’s full of peril, but they’re doing it. I mean, they’re figuring out ways to push through this.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: And this is not just a talking point, this is actually relevant to your question about the supplemental and additional budget support for Ukraine.
MR. GARRETT: The President’s ask for $60 billion from the Congress to continue assistance to Ukraine – military and economic.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: So, there are a few perceptions that are worth addressing because there’s a lot of misinformation out there as well, some of it Russian backed, some of it organic. But for every dollar the U.S. has put in, we have mobilized $2 from other countries. So there’s a sense of why is America bearing this burden? No, the Ukrainians are bearing this burden, let’s be clear, of standing up against aggression, and for democracy and freedom.
It is a substantial investment that the United States has made, but the reason I started by talking about economic resilience and how quickly their economy is growing, and how they’re feeding the world, and bringing down global food prices – including for us here in Washington, DC, nevermind for people in Somalia, and Kenya, and Lebanon, and places where they can’t afford higher food prices – is that’s part of the story also about why the assistance is not indefinite. We are tapering our assistance. The investments we are making are investments in Ukraine’s own self-sufficiency.
There’s a reason that Europe has just agreed to start accession talks with Ukraine. And it’s in part because the United States, and the European Union, have invested over these years in building democratic institutions, but also in economic reforms that have created more interoperability between the Ukrainian economy and the European economy.
So, we hear a lot about we are bearing too much of this burden ourselves. To turn a dollar into $2 from others is a decent rate of return given the budget climate around the world. To think about, again, the Russian Federation and the threat it poses to so much that Americans care about. And that there is a group of individuals, men, and women who are willing to put their lives on the line to challenge that worldview and that aggression, and to inflict a price, that is extremely important. And it is not an indefinite – it is not a blank check. These resources are – there are checks and balances that have been built over time that are ensuring that these resources are going where they are meant. And that the amount we are asking for is going down over time.
MR. GARRETT: To that point, we’re recording this on January 31st, and the next day or so the European Union is likely to gather and approve $50 billion, €50 billion – $55 billion in U.S., over four years for Ukraine. Which as some critics have pointed out, would be less than one percent of their 27 nation combined GDP. Not enough is the argument. Ukraine needs more. Does it from Europe?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, I mean, that’s not counting – that’s the latest €50 billion package. Right?
MR. GARRETT: Understood. The latest tranche, but spread out over four years.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Yeah. I mean, yes, spread out over four years. But with vital direct budget support, with vital investments in preventing Putin’s attacks on energy infrastructure to end the war tomorrow. I mean, if this economic support gets cut off, Putin can win this war without firing a shot.
MR. GARRETT: Any more shots.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: So, anybody who thinks that security assistance alone can sustain these brave Ukrainians, it can’t.
There are two fronts in this war. One, the obvious one, and the second, the home front and the economy and so forth. So this money is vital. And, again, given the financial budgetary pressures that we face here in the United States, they face in Europe, it’s vital that that be sustained. Given [Viktor] Orbán and Hungary and how much opposition, it’s tough to herd 27 cats –
MR. GARRETT: Definitely the fly in the ointment for the EU.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Has been. But eventually, even in Hungary, I mean, especially in Hungary given what they’ve experienced of Soviet aggression back in the day, it is the idea of Hungary standing with Putin and with Russian aggression is anathema to many, many Hungarians. And I think fundamentally Orbán knows that. And that’s why when push comes to shove, he comes through again and again, even if reluctantly and if extracting a price for doing so.
But back to your question, on top of the resources that they’ve spent – so the U.S. has spent $70 billion if you count the economic, the development and the military – Europe has spent $110 billion so far. If that €50 billion goes through, our negotiations are still ongoing. So it’s very important that they are taking this lead. There were some in Europe who were arguing, let’s see what the United States does, let’s wait, that would’ve been wrong. It’s their backyard, they have a responsibility.
MR. GARRETT: It might improve the atmospherics in Congress.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I hope it has that effect and not its converse. But the other thing I’d add is on top of the resources, again, that are pending, they have also absorbed millions of Ukrainian refugees.
MR. GARRETT: Yes, they have.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: And it’s $18 billion worth of social support translating into schooling Ukrainian children, providing health benefits and other things to Ukrainian refugees. We, of course, have opened our doors as well to Ukrainians, but it’s a much, much smaller number.
MR. GARRETT: And that is part of the context. And that is often glossed over in the conversation about what’s Europe doing. Absorbing refugees is no small task.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: There’s also still a sense of Europe, understandably, because of the long time underinvestment in defense – which you, I know, have written about and talked about over the years – there’s still a sense, well, okay, the U.S. must be doing the heavy lifting when it comes to security assistance. And so since we are, why doesn’t Europe carry the bag on economic development and humanitarian? Well, they are carrying, again, a bigger burden than we are in those domains, even though we are investing substantially.
But what’s noteworthy is that, actually, when it comes to military assistance, the European Union and the United Kingdom together, the ratio is not like 90:10, U.S. to Europe in terms of investments in the actual military hardware, it’s much closer to 55:45, 60:40 depending on when you’re counting. And, of course, that ratio is going up because they’re still providing military assistance, because we haven’t been able to get the supplemental through, our packages have become smaller and smaller.
So this supplemental package is vitally needed. It is not a blank check. It is tailored resources to not only help Ukraine fend off this brutal, brutal aggression, take back more of its territory – with the support we’ve given, it’s already taken back 50 percent of the territory that Putin took in the early days of the war, benefiting from surprise, and again, a disproportionate military advantage – but it is an investment, as well, long term in Ukraine being an ally to the United States that will help us in other parts of the world stand up for democratic principles and against aggression.
MR. GARRETT: And yet it feels, ladies and gentlemen, like a delicate moment. Maybe the most delicate moment in the course of this conflict, Russia and Ukraine. And by that, I mean there are all sorts of stories. First, in the Financial Times earlier this week, on the front page of the Washington Post digital section this morning about, well, President Zelenskyy is gonna sack his top general. And there’s disarray at the top of Ukrainian leadership and what was accomplished or failed in the spring counter offensive. We’ll talk with Samantha Power about that on the other side of this break. I’m Major Garrett, Ruta is our host restaurant, back in a minute.
MR. GARRETT: Welcome back to The Takeout. I’m delighted to have Samantha Power, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development at our table. Ruta is our restaurant. So, you saw the stories, you’ve heard all the conversation about Zelenskyy and the top general in Ukraine and what that might do for morale. Can Ukraine win? What does a win look like? You can’t set policy, I can’t set policy. Your expertise right now is in the area of development and assistance. I have zero expertise, I just ask questions. Shed whatever light you can on that part of the story.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, you’re right, it’s getting a lot of attention and it comes in the context of both Europe and the United States trying to mobilize more resources, and more confidence in the Ukrainian war effort. Of course people like to back winners, and so there’s a lot, even more attention to this than might have come at different inflection points. But having said that, I mean, much of this coverage is not taking note of the amount of turnover in the Russian military over the course of this war. I mean, there was a period where for weeks and weeks –
MR. GARRETT: Putin was sacking generals left and right.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: – Left and right. And, it’s true that the front lines stabilized and didn’t move as much as, of course, the Ukrainians, or we, would’ve wished to see. But at the same time, Russia is investing infinite capital in its industrial base, in its military, throwing prisoners, and drafting citizens, and mobilizing people to the front lines. Huge casualties, tragically for those individuals who would prefer not to have been mobilized. But I think that there has been more of a static posture on the front lines than anybody wanted, but that is precisely the reason to give Ukraine the tools to succeed. I mean, the answer is not to pull back, but instead, to look at what the next –
MR. GARRETT: The answer to a stalemate is not defeatism.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Yeah, exactly. And there are – Putin is all in. The only actors on the global stage who will be jumping up and down with delight if we fail to move our security and our economic and humanitarian package forward, are individuals in Moscow, Tehran, and probably Beijing.
MR. GARRETT: And maybe Pyongyang.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: And Pyongyang as well, certainly – because it has been a lifeline for Pyongyang’s faltering economy, being able to do missile exports and export other weapons to the Russian Federation. So, it has been a very long war for the Ukrainian people. It has taken a tremendous toll. What keeps, and I’ve seen this first hand – I was in Odessa this summer, been in Kyiv multiple times since the full-scale invasion began and before – and international support is more than a logistic lifeline, it is a morale lifeline. Knowing that the forces of freedom stand together on behalf of their sacrifice, or in support of them as they sacrifice, makes a world of difference.
And that is, that is not something the Russian Federation has on its side. People on the Russian side of the lines are not dying for a cause. Yes, there’s massive misinformation about Ukrainian aggression, about NATO encirclement, but nobody’s buying that. They’re dying for a paycheck, they’re dying so as to get out of prison, they’re putting their lives on the line because they have no choice, because they’re being coerced.
At the end of the day, if it’s a battle of wills, Ukraine can prevail and can get back on the offensive. But that is not going to happen if they are looking over their shoulder, wondering if their biggest backers and the biggest forces of freedom are ambivalent about their fortune.
MR. GARRETT: Let’s turn to the Middle East. I mentioned UN Relief and Works Agency as one of my breadcrumbs. You know that that agency all this week has been under tremendous scrutiny. The Israeli government has provided what the Secretary of State has called credible information about some members – a very small number of the UN Relief and Works Agency – having had some role in the October 7 attacks. The United States has frozen contributions. Your thoughts?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, first of all, anybody who was involved in the October 7 attack and the brutality, and the planning of it, and the execution of it, in kidnappings, not only deserves condemnation, but also punishment. And so what the UN has commenced, which is an internal investigation into these allegations, which do seem credible, but we will see how this investigation plays out. I mean, that’s incredibly important. And then the question of what to do with these individuals on the back end of that. But more than that, the systemic changes that would need to be made within UNRWA because it’s just not okay. There’s just nothing okay about this. And, I think that this, the seriousness with which the Secretary General is engaging it.
But, we, as USAID, we are one of the lead humanitarian providers, you have 90 percent of the Gazan population that has been displaced. There is acute dependence for survival, not for a healthy calorie intake, but for mere survival on the humanitarian infrastructure. And what people maybe aren’t fully aware of is that particularly since October 7 and the full-scale war, but even beforehand, USAID’s traditional partners, like the World Food Program, UNICEF, International Committee for the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, a lot of the agencies that USAID and the State Department fund, for distribution they rely on the UNRWA infrastructure. So it’s not only the displaced who are gathered at UNRWA sites –
MR. GARRETT: For my audience’s benefit, most of the warehouses and almost all of the trucks, pre-October 7 and post-October 7 are managed, supervised, and staffed by UNRWA.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Correct.
MR. GARRETT: They are the lifeline within Gaza.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: They are the lifeline. And unusually, when something happens and you have diversion, or you have an implementing partner of the United States get implicated – I mean, again, something like this is especially horrific – but you can look around and you have a multitude of other partners that you can shift resources to. That is really the ability to scale. They have 13,000 workers who are working on the ground in Gaza. They are a kind of administration of sorts, almost like a civil administration. So if I look at the World Food Program, which is a very large implementing partner, you’re talking about dozens of officials that they have doing the work, maybe you ramp that up and you get it up to hundreds of officials, but replicating that distribution network at a time where the UN is assessing that 25 percent of the population is suffering from acute food insecurity, critical food shortages –
MR. GARRETT: – Borderline famine.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: So you ask my thoughts, we are grappling with this tension right now. And what’s important is that this investigation proceed, that it’d be thorough, that it not just be about these individuals, but be looking at the systemic failures that may have made something like this possible. But at the same time, we are doing contingency planning because we have to continue, not only continue to get supplies in, we should be dramatically increasing not only humanitarian traffic, but commercial traffic into Gaza. Or even if everything stayed static and this UNRWA scandal had not occurred, we were not meeting needs sufficiently.
So if you throw that preexisting condition, or if you assess that on its own, the trajectory we were on was one that was going to produce large scale pain, even more than has existed so far and likely death. Now, if somehow 13,000 aid workers are taken off the field and the work that they were doing is suddenly not being done, that situation’s going to get a lot worse –
MR. GARRETT: Which leads to a vital question, how long will the United States freeze this?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, it’s going to be action dependent. And, we are in engagement with the UN about their investigation and what it turns out and about whatever remediation can be taken. We’re also in touch with the Israelis. I met yesterday with COGAT who I’m sure you know, who oversees many of these – the relationships inside Gaza, and what goes into Gaza. And I think we all need to get on the same page of averting humanitarian catastrophes. Certainly that was COGAT’s, the Israeli General in charge of the occupied territories, and what goes in and what goes out. But what the UN does, the speed of this investigation is going to be really important in figuring out next steps.
And all donors that have suspended assistance, and I think we’re now more than a dozen countries have done so because the allegations are so horrific, are asking the same question. I mean, nobody is turning their back on the people of Gaza, quite the contrary, we’re looking at, again, what will it take to be in a position to be surging assistance and going far beyond what we’ve done to this point –
MR. GARRETT: In other words time is of the essence. That is the voice of Samantha Power, our special guest. Stay tuned for segment four of The Takeout in just one second.
MR. GARRETT: Welcome back to The Takeout. Ruta is our host restaurant, we thank them for their hospitality. Samantha Power, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, our special guest. If you don’t know this ladies and gentlemen, Samantha Power won a Pulitzer prize for a 2002 book on genocide. That word has been thrown around about the war between Israel and Hamas. Matter of fact, the South African government has alleged that Israel has committed genocide. The International Court of Justice in the Hague has not rendered an opinion about that, but is considering the question.
I know you can’t answer that definitively, but do you have thoughts about how that word is being used even by some protestors here in our country? To the President of the United States about Israel’s conduct in Gaza?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, I think, I have the privilege of working at USAID, and unlike when I was a journalist or –
MR. GARRETT: A war correspondent, yes, in Bosnia.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: – a war correspondent back in the day, I get to do something about humanitarian crises and really focus on the tangible needs –
MR. GARRETT: And engage with decision makers.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: – and engage with decision makers, of course. And I think that we are in, we are of the view, and President Biden at the beginning of this conflict decided, thought a lot, about how best to exercise leverage, and decided to use our leverage pressing the Israeli government to allow more humanitarian assistance in, to consistently seek to improve protection of civilians. I recognize that the number of people who have been killed is a very, very high number –
MR. GARRETT: More than 26,000.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: – The conditions are horrific for Palestinians in Gaza. But our focus, again, is on pressing for greater compliance with international humanitarian law. Even recognizing what Hamas is doing, which is abusing humanitarian law and sheltering in areas that should be sacred like hospitals, mosques, and the like. And so, my focus in my role is pressing, pressing, pressing as I had the opportunity to do this week with my Israeli counterparts, for better precautions, better safeguards, better protection for civilians.
At the same time, I think one of the – there’s a lot of frustration in a lot of quarters about, why focus just on the humanitarian pause and not on a ceasefire, which I completely understand, believe me, seeing every day the suffering of Palestinians, where that question comes from, I think the challenge that all of us are grappling with is, the same people who carried out October 7 are still at large, most of them. And they still have the same intent, which is to attack Israel, to kill Jews.
And so, the challenge with, end it tomorrow – even if there are clear humanitarian imperatives and Palestinian civilians are paying a price for what those killers did on October 7 – the challenge, again, is one could have no confidence that the same thing wouldn’t happen again, and that they wouldn’t reconstitute. So, we press – I mean, there aren’t enough supplies getting into Gaza to deal with basic food, medicine and shelter. But also, again, humanitarians are not able yet to be able to move freely and know that they, themselves, are not going to be struck in the course of a war. And that is where the protection of civilians simply, again, has to improve. And that is where we continue to press.
MR. GARRETT: You know, and UNRWA has its critics. I’m not a critic or an advocate, but one of the facts is, as you mentioned, Administrator Power, they have 13,000 employees in Gaza – 150 have been killed.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Again, something that we raise with the Israelis constantly. I mean, some killed in their workplace, where displaced persons are sheltered around them, so we hear about the aid workers, but often if an aid worker’s dying at the workplace, chances are they’re displaced persons gathered, sheltering thinking that the UN flag will protect them. Many killed in their home. One of the most tragic, sort of, testaments to just how dangerous life is for a Palestinian civilian in Gaza, is that parents, I mean imagine this for ourselves, every night are thinking about how do I separate my children so they’re not all in one place –
MR. GARRETT: In one place.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: – And family after family, including families of our implementing partners, talk to us about those decisions that they make every day before sunset, worried about what is gonna happen in the night. So again, we are pressing, we are using our leverage behind the scenes. The results are not what they need to be, but we are not going to stop pushing.
MR. GARRETT: It has been said, if there is a truck heading into Gaza and the Israelis find some fault with it, meaning from a security perspective, they will stop the whole convoy. Is that true? And is there a dialogue going on about increasing the flow and not using security as a means by which to staunch available aid into Gaza?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Is there a dialogue? You know, I think the president of the United States knows –
MR. GARRETT: I can only tell you how lengthy the dialogue is.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I don’t know that there’s ever been an American president who has been so immersed in truck contents, and what is on the forbidden list, and what is on the allowed list, and what is dual use, and should it be dual use? And, yes, we think there are goods that should be able to flow, many goods that were prohibited at the beginning of the conflict – because of President Biden, or Jake Sullivan, or the Secretary [Blinken], or my, or others’ pressure – now is flowing into Gaza. Fuel is the best example of that, of course, where the population would not be surviving at all but for the decision finally to allow fuel in.
But we think, of course, that more goods should be flowing that are being vetted through the Israeli, sort of, vetting system. We also think Israel now has the technology to track where things are going, and that tracking has produced evidence of things not going where they should go, and then we’re able to make corrections and so forth. It’s not going to be a perfect system. So again, that is an area we continue to press.
But I would underscore the point I made earlier, which is it’s not just about these humanitarian goods – we are not gonna be able to humanitarian aid our way out of a colossal humanitarian crisis. Commercial traffic has to flow. And it has begun to flow because, I think, largely of U.S. pressure but it is not flowing at scale. And there’s just not enough money in the world to use just humanitarian aid, nor is there dignity in that, of course, for the people of Gaza. So it is not enough to focus just on the humanitarian, but we need to return to 300, 400, 500 commercial trucks flowing in.
And of course they’re, if I could just say one thing about the Israeli system, where they’re coming at this from is somehow all of those supplies got into Gaza prior to October 7. Such that they were able to stage an operation of that sophistication, with that level of deadly weaponry. And so, again, from their standpoint, they never wanna live again with the knowledge that something has slipped through that has given rise to a capability that results in more than a thousand Israeli deaths. That risk aversion, risk avoidance, imperative, of course, needs to be balanced against the need for people to be able to live securely with dignity, to be able to feed their families.
And like the UNRWA question, that is something we are grappling with now. But we are pressing, and again, had the occasion to do so just yesterday with the person who’s making those choices about what goes in and what goes out. And it is important, again, that more in quantity and that more in variety of staple gets into the people of Gaza.
MR. GARRETT: As I said, in my lengthy, and possibly self-indulgent intro, humanitarian aid can sometimes be very messy business. Samantha Power, thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate it.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you.
MR. GARRETT: We’ll see you next week folks. Stay tuned for your Takeout outtake, especial. Don’t forget that, stay tuned for that.
MR. GARRETT: Welcome to your Takeout outtake especial. We’ve had a pretty heavy conversation with Samantha Power. These are heavy times. Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. So this will be a little lighter, this will be a little easier, this will be a little less aggressive in terms of the topicality.
So we have three questions we ask every guest who appear on the show, take these in whatever order you prefer. I give them this way: most influential book in your life and why, all time favorite movie, and if you’re on a long flight or a long drive and you are really going to enjoy some music, what kind of music – artist, or genres – is that most likely to be?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Okay, I will start with most influential book. It’s interesting because influential and favorite may be two different things.
MR. GARRETT: Right, yeah. I like to think of it as a book that, like, changed your point of view, or changed the way you thought about yourself or the world around you.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, I would say, the most influential would be George Orwell’s Politics in the English Language – in terms of changing the way I wrote, communicated. But also, as my poor staff can attest, my exactingness in terms of how to clearly express USAID is an agency that is doing unbelievable work around the world, but sometimes the way we describe it is very technical and very jargony –
MR. GARRETT: A little leaden.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: – We need to actually describe it as we would describe it here, sitting at a dinner table. And there’s just no better little treatise on how to write and how to express oneself. In terms of life changing, I’d say Primo Levi. Basically everything Primo Levi ever wrote – the Holocaust and reading and learning about it was foundational in my education. I’m an immigrant to this country. Understanding, also, how America was changed by the Holocaust, by the liberation of the camps, but also, by the memory of what Hitler did. And Primo Levi, just the humanity that he captures in his own life in the camps, but also the spectrum, the gray zones that so many find themselves on – not merely perpetrator or victim but everything in between, really changed so much of the way I think about the world.
MR. GARRETT: Movie.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Movie, well, movie, my husband is very – he’s not known for this, but he’s very romantic. My husband is Cass Sunstein, author of 50 books, not known for his romantic flare, maybe, in the written word. But, we both love this movie About Time, which is a time travel movie. I hate time travel, Cass loves time travel. But it’s a time travel backwards, and it’s not like Groundhog Day or something like that, but where you get in the movie, sort of the moral of the story is to savor the simple moments. You know, the small gestures at a restaurant, or the small making eye contact on a street, or, and it’s in many ways about dignity, and how to treat people, and the way one would wish to be treated. So, it’s not a well known movie, but I would urge people –
MR. GARRETT: Absolute winner.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: – To explore it. It’s great, About Time. And then music, oh, so much to say about music, but I would just say, especially because Shane MacGowan just died, I would say anything by The Pogues, at any time, can rev me up and get me ready to get back to the office to face some of what awaits.
MR. GARRETT: Excellent, answers we’ve never had in nearly eight years. So, well done. Samantha Power, it’s been a pleasure.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you.
MR. GARRETT: Thank you so much for your time. We’ll see you next week, folks.