Ben Rhodes

Who is Ben Rhodes? I remember asking this before!

In Washington, being catastrophically wrong on Libya eminently qualifies Ben Rhodes to take the lead on US Syria policy.

@daniellmcadams June 17, 2013

Everyone is wondering (at least I am) who is Ben Rhodes, a 30-something who ascended from literally nowhere to be what seems a main driving force behind Obama’s foreign policy. He is credited with convincing the president to embrace the Arab Spring, convincing the president to bomb Libya, and, now, convincing the president to start yet another war, this time against Syria.

Who is he? How did a 24-year old aspiring fiction-writer in 2002 suddenly become one of the drafters of not only the 9/11 Commission report but also the Iraq Study Group Report? Then move on to Obama’s presidential campaign as a speechwriter and then to Deputy National Security Advisor, from which he announced the beginning of a US war on Syria while the president met with supporters in the East Room of the White House? Those familiar with Washington know that such miraculous ascents rarely happen on their own and are equally rarely the result of pure, raw talent.

There might be some clues to his brother David’s also improbable rise — from a lowly production assistant at Fox News at the end of the 1990s to covering presidential elections for Fox News (including the one where his brother was writing Obama’s speeches) to the lofty position of president of CBS news by 2011!

The excellent Russ Baker was wondering about all this way back in March, when he noticed a typical New York Times gloss-over article on Rhodes.

Aside from his quite unbelievable rise, we do know that he was catastrophically wrong on Libya, where a Time Magazine article pointed out at the time that he was the strong counter-weight to those who argued for more caution on the use of force.

Here is how Time put it back in 2011, when the interventionists were on the verge of their triumph:

Obama and his aides know they are taking a big risk. “It’s a huge gamble,” says the senior administration official. The administration knows, for example, that al Qaeda, which has active cells in Libya, will try to exploit the power vacuum that will come with a weak or ousted Gaddafi. They also know that the U.S. will have to rely on other countries for the crucial task of rebuilding Libya and that the region may in fact be further destabilized by intervention. Outweighing that, the National Security Council’s Ben Rhodes says, are the long-term benefits of saving lives, protecting the possibility of democratic change elsewhere in the region and—tellingly—ensuring “the ability of collective action to be a tool in circumstances like this.”

Rhodes carried the day on Libya and he was completely incorrect in his assessment, his analysis, his prediction, and his prescription. Anyone who bothers to look at Libya today, which is run by gangs of roving extremist death squads would see what a fool Ben Rhodes is for his promise of “democratic change” in Libya — and how much more foolish is the president for following the advice of such a person.

Rhodes is named as the source of the White House-altered CIA talking points on Benghazi, where references to the Islamist extremist role in the attack on US Ambassador Chris Stevens were erased. It is understandable why the fiction writer Rhodes would want to toss that reference in the circular file: that particular sub-plot did not fit in with the main theme he had already painstakingly written, namely that the US attack on Libya would end the killing, stabilize the country, and bring about a democratic revolution that would continue to spread through the region. Fiction writers understand that a sub-plot could take your readers too far off the main narrative of the story and cause serious structural problems. That is why there are so many rounds of re-writes. The killing of Stevens and the rise of murderous — and racist — extremists did not fit the plot, so it had to be deleted.

Being wrong on war when you are on the sending end of death and destruction is less obvious to your countrymen than when you are on the receiving end. But anyone living in Libya after Rhodes’ “life-saving” mission knows full well the kind of liberation that comes at the tip of a US missile. And neighboring countries know as well what happens when a nation armed to the teeth with weapons, including chemical weapons, completely implodes after its infrastructure is destroyed by foreign attack.

In Washington, though, being catastrophically wrong on Libya eminently qualifies Ben Rhodes to take the lead on US Syria policy.

New York Times Magazine The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru. How Ben Rhodes rewrote the rules of diplomacy for the digital age.


“I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends.”

Rhodes at a nuclear-security summit meeting in March, where President Obama met with President Xi Jinping of China. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times
Rhodes (center) and Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, listening as President Obama spoke to reporters during an off-the-record discussion. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
Rhodes on board Air Force One, editing the speech for the Mandela memorial service.
Thomas E. Ricks May 6, 2016
A stunning profile of Ben Rhodes, the asshole who is the president’s foreign policy

The profile of one Ben Rhodes running in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine is not unsympathetic, which makes it all the more devastating.

Perhaps the key sentence is this: “His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing — is still startling.”

Rhodes comes off like a real asshole. This is not a matter of politics — I have voted for Obama twice. Nor do I mind Rhodes’s contempt for many political reporters: “Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

But, as that quote indicates, he comes off like an overweening little schmuck. This quotation seems to capture his worldview: “He referred to the American foreign policy establishment as the Blob. According to Rhodes, the Blob includes Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and other Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East.” Blowing off Robert Gates takes nerve.

I expect cynicism in Washington. But it usually is combined with a lot of knowledge — as with, say, Henry Kissinger. To be cynical and ignorant and to spin those two things into a virtue? That’s industrial-strength hubris. Kind of like what got us into Iraq, in fact.

Rhodes and others around Obama keep on talking about doing all this novel thinking, playing from a new playbook, bucking the establishment thinking. But if that is the case, why have they given so much foreign policy power to two career hacks who never have had an original thought? I mean, of course, Joe Biden and John Kerry. I guess the answer can only be that those two are puppets, and (as in Biden’s case) are given losing propositions like Iraq to handle.

Fact check: Obama’s hasn’t been an original foreign policy as much as it has been a politicized foreign policy. And this Rhodes guy reminds me of the Kennedy smart guys who helped get us into the Vietnam War. Does he know how awful he sounds? Kind of like McGeorge Bundy meets Lee Atwater.

Haaretz :

” . . . Rhodes, 38, was born in New York, the son of a Jewish mother and Episcopalian father.

For the past seven years he has been one of President Barack Obama’s top White House advisers.

They first met in 2007 when Rhodes joined then-Senator Obama’s speechwriting team for his presidential campaign.

In the time they’ve worked together, Rhodes and Obama have developed such a close relationship that it’s nearly symbiotic.

In some ways, it’s similar to the relationship Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has with his close adviser and current Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. . .”

This guy may be a little out of favour with the mass media due to his position regarding Palestine.

” . . . Obama’s attempt to make a breakthrough in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was one of the things that precipitated the acute friction between the U.S. administration and the Netanyahu government.

At times, it seemed as if Israeli government ministers were vying to see who could make the harshest statement to the press against the White House.

In 2013, after John Kerry was appointed U.S. secretary of state and pushed a new peace initiative as hard as he could, tensions increased. Things reached a new low in January 2014, when Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon calling Kerry “messianic” and “obsessive,” and saying Kerry “should win his Nobel Prize and leave us alone.”

In recent months, the prime minister and his people seem to be counting the days until January 2017, when a new American president — preferably, they hope, Republican — takes office.

The thinking appears to be that with Obama and Kerry out of the picture, the “threat” of peace will be removed — or at least that the motivation to pressure Israel to make decisions and progress on the Palestinian issue will be lessened.

“Sometimes it is an excuse to suggest that this is solely an interest of Kerry or Obama.

It will be an interest of whoever the next president is,” says Rhodes. “Sometimes people see this as a scorecard — like the comments about Kerry that this is a desire to win some award.

This is about people’s lives and the president has met with Israeli families of terror victims, he met with Palestinian young people who are growing up without hope of living in their own state — those people are still going to be there after Obama leaves office …

All the problems created by the lack of Palestinian state will be there.”

In his seven years in the White House, Rhodes has observed the tensions in Jerusalem-Washington relations from up close, and Obama’s various attempts to advance a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

He was present at almost every meeting between Obama and Netanyahu, participated in all the internal discussions convened by the president on the subject, and is familiar with all the details of what went on behind the scenes. . .”

Still, Libya was a faux pas of giant proportion and I suspect the man is a peon played in the typical (and superficial) “complex and conflicting” character

while a deeper agenda is pursued behind these superficial facades designed to fool the unsuspecting pundits.

shrt lnk:


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