February 25th, 2017

How we got here: Ben Rhodes on callow youth

The other day I was reminded by commenter “AesopFan” of this article from last spring:

“[Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor Ben] Rhodes, 38, said in the article that it was easy to shape a favorable impression of the proposed (Iran) agreement because of the inexperience of many of those covering the issue.

“All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. 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.” ”

Old man Rhodes—38 years old when that quote was uttered—knows whereof he speaks. Prior to becoming a mover and shaker in foreign affairs, this was his own resume: born in 1977, majored in English and political science at Rice and graduated in 2000, got an MFA in creative writing at NYU in 2002.

Sort of like the resumes of those kid reporters he’s talking about. He “literally [sic] knew nothing.”

Then in 2002 Rhodes got his big break, one I confess I don’t fully understand even though I’ve read quite a bit about him over the years (his brother was in the news business and later become the head of CBS News, but didn’t hold that position at the time). This is what happened:

In 2002, James Gibney, editor of Foreign Policy, introduced Rhodes to Lee Hamilton, former member of the House of Representatives and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who was looking for a speechwriter. Rhodes then spent five years as an assistant to Hamilton, helping to draft the Iraq Study Group Report and the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

So, was the 25-year old recent creative writing Master’s recipient Ben Rhodes hired by the Democrat Hamilton (who’d been a member of Congress for about three decades, and had a great deal of experience) on the strength of his writing and editing skills? Even in that capacity he was pretty green. At any rate, the Iraq Study Report that Rhodes helped to author was roundly criticized by just about everyone on the right, for what that’s worth.

What did Rhodes the creative writer, who at that point had never been to the Middle East or studied it as far as I know, a young man of 25 when he began that particular gig, actually contribute to the report? I don’t know, but he made it clear that he didn’t think much of the people he was working with: “When [Rhodes] was a staff writer on the congressionally mandated Iraq Study Group in 2007, Samuels reports, Rhodes concluded most foreign policy decision makers were ‘morons.'”

At that point, what popped into my head was “Holden Caulfield.” And sure enough, the author of that Bloomberg piece (Eli Lake) had much the same thought:

Let’s start with our Holden Caufield character. When Rhodes decided to give up fiction writing and take up foreign policy, he landed his first job at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Lake doesn’t seem to know much more about what Rhodes actually did there (other than sneer at the moronic old fogies who were in charge) than I do. No wonder Rhodes had a lot in common with Barack Obama, who had much the same high opinion of himself, and for whom experience had little valence.

Here’s more on Rhodes and the Iraq Study Group (although we still don’t know what “Rhodes wrote” means in this context; does it refer to contributing ideas and content, or just to the putting-together of the words in a readable manner?):

When Hamilton was named co-chair of the Iraq Study Group in 2006, Rhodes helped him write that panel’s landmark report as well. Most notably, Rhodes wrote a majority of the chapter advocating direct U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran and Syria, a recommendation that would have considerable influence on President Barack Obama beginning in 2009. Indeed, Obama ultimately adopted most of the report’s 79 suggestions. Critics have noted that the report’s “expert list” was heavily weighted with pro-Arab apologists who directed a number of rebukes pointedly at Israel. According to the American Thinker, “Some of the experts who were interviewed were appalled by the final written report because they felt it did not reflect facts, their testimony, or reality.”

Then in 2007 at age 30 Rhodes became Obama’s speechwriter and trusted policy advisor. Shortly afterwards, he wrote (among other things) Obama’s famous Cairo speech.

The depth of the irony of this man criticizing those reporters in that interview is immense.

In that same interview [emphasis mine]:

A May 2016 New York Times profile reported that Rhodes was, “according to the consensus of the two dozen current and former White House insiders…the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from [President Obama] himself; that according to Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough, the president and Rhodes communicated ‘regularly, several times a day’; and that ‘part of what accounts for Rhodes’s influence is his mind meld with the president.'”…

Like Obama, Rhodes is a storyteller who uses a writer’s tools to advance an agenda that is packaged as politics but is often quite personal. He is adept at constructing overarching plotlines with heroes and villains, their conflicts and motivations supported by flurries of carefully chosen adjectives, quotations and leaks from named and unnamed senior officials. He is the master shaper and retailer of Obama’s foreign-policy narratives, at a time when the killer wave of social media has washed away the sand castles of the traditional press. His ability to navigate and shape this new environment makes him a more effective and powerful extension of the president’s will than any number of policy advisers or diplomats or spies. 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.”

Yes, it is “still startling.” That’s why I’m still writing about it, in addition to the fact that our present world has been shaped by it, particularly our relations with Iran. But it makes perfect sense that Rhodes was chosen by Obama for such an influential position (and that for the most part, the MSM didn’t challenge that choice). Obama is and was all about the narrative, the smooth appearance, the words. Rhodes is and was all about the same thing; perhaps even more so.

No wonder they are so often described as having had a “mind-meld.” No wonder they led us into such a mess. And no wonder so many people were hypnotized by them.

That WaPo article I linked to at the outset goes on to detail how Rhodes’ fingerprints were on almost every bad decision that Obama made (well worth reading the whole thing)—including the Benghazi coverup. But let’s not blame Rhodes overly; Obama did what Rhodes said not because he liked to listen to someone else’s advice, but because Rhodes’ opinion was the same as Obama’s opinion (mind-meld). It was a reassuring Obama-echo that spoke in another’s voice.

One of Rhodes’ last official acts was to attend the funeral of Castro as Obama’s representative. How very fitting.

The mystery is not so much how Rhodes got to be Obama’s right-hand man: neither man had any respect for experience, both are interested in convincing through words, both have the foreign policy attitude of sophomores in college, and both think they are the smartest people in the room. The puzzle to me with Rhodes remains those first big jobs, the 9/11 report and then the Iraq Study Group authorship.

I’ll let that mystery rest for now and ask what is our boy wonder doing these days? After all, he’s not yet 40, and has all that great experience behind him. Well, for one thing, Rhodes is currently under Congressional investigation:

Ben Rhodes…is under scrutiny in the wake of disclosures he was declined interim clearance status by the FBI in 2008, when the administration was moving into the White House…

Lawmakers are now concerned that Rhodes’ access to the top levels of government—including its diplomacy with Iran—is inappropriate due to the FBI’s concerns about his past…

The FBI was to complete a full review into Rhodes after the transition. It remains unclear what they concluded…

Rhodes was granted full security clearance before Obama’s 2008 inauguration, [a] source disclosed…

“For the FBI to evidently find something in Mr. Rhodes’ background that led it to potentially deny him a security clearance only to have Mr. Rhodes work at the highest levels of the Obama administration shakes the entire clearance process to the core,” the lawmakers wrote. “Mr. Rhodes has working in the White House for the past seven years and is the architect of the Iran deal ‘echo chamber,’ as he recently described himself.”…

The lawmakers also are seeking to learn if the Obama administration applied political pressure to the FBI in order to obtain a security clearance for Rhodes.

With Rhodes, you never quite know whether what he’s saying is just shooting the breeze (as Holden Caulfield might say), or if he’s being sincere. But I think I’ve found a recent quote of Rhodes’ (from an interview he gave during the transition to the Trump administration) in which Rhodes tells why Obama hired him and put him in a position of such power, at least how Rhodes saw it. To me, this has the ring of truth:

Third, I guess I’m just young and a different profile and I know that that upsets people, but I always felt that I represented the people who elected President Obama, who were young people and they should have a voice and their worldview is our worldview. They think it’s stupid not to engage people. They don’t know why we wouldn’t make a deal with Iran.

I read that quote after I had already written that Rhodes and Obama share “the foreign policy attitudes of sophomores in college.” But that’s basically what Rhodes is saying here. Now, there’s nothing wrong with sophomores in college. But they’re still in college for a reason, not at the helm of the ship of state.

In that same interview, Rhodes answers another question of mine—what he plans to do now. The mind-meld continues:

I’ll write some form of a memoir, one that will also be an argument on behalf of what we were doing. And I’m going to be a senior adviser to the president on his international work, including at his foundation.

Ben—go forth, be happy, write your memoir, leave us alone. Please.

[NOTE: Those who criticize Donald Trump for lack of experience probably didn’t have any problem with Rhodes at the time. I must say in Trump’s favor that, despite Trump’s inexperience, he certainly hasn’t chosen people with a similar lack of experience in foreign affairs.]

41 Responses to “How we got here: Ben Rhodes on callow youth”

  1. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Follow the chain:

    Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser was Ben Rhodes.

    “Rhodes concluded most foreign policy decision makers were ‘morons.’”

    Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster is the new National Security Adviser to Pres. Trump.

    “President Trump’s newly appointed national security adviser has told his staff that Muslims who commit terrorist acts are perverting their religion, rejecting a key ideological view of other senior Trump advisers and signaling a potentially more moderate approach to the Islamic world.

    The adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, told the staff of the National Security Council on Thursday, in his first “all hands” staff meeting, that the label “radical Islamic terrorism” was not helpful because terrorists are “un-Islamic,” according to people who were in the meeting.”

    And the idiocy continues…

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    Does it ever occur to you that you might be being manipulated by the NY Times?

    It occurs to me, anyway.

    It’s not that it’s impossible that he said it or that he believes it; it’s possible. But I no longer believe that the Times is reporting truthfully on the matter or on what he said in a private meeting where we have no video, no recording, and no transcript. Particularly when what he is reported to have said is something that will make a lot of people on the right turn against him.

    I find that the Times and other MSM sources often troll the right this way, particularly in its reporting of what someone said at a meeting where there’s no record. I don’t trust them on this.

    Again, it’s certainly possible that McMaster said that. It doesn’t mean that Trump will follow—in fact, I doubt he will. Nor does it mean that McMaster won’t be knowledgeable and effective at what he needs to do.

  3. Cornhead Says:

    “They don’t know why we wouldn’t make a deal with Iran.”

    Try this Bennie boy. Because Iran is run by Shia supremacist mullahs who want to blow Israel off the map. They put it on their missles. The same crowd who chants, “Death to America” and funds the IEDs that killed our soldiers. Obviously this guy doesn’t understand evil and Islam. Or maybe he is getting paid off. Val Jarrett and Ben Rhodes are stooges, naifs or traitors in my book.

    Obama should have stepped on Iran’s throat when he had a chance. Why he didn’t is a question that should be investigated. The foreign policy error of the century.

  4. OM Says:

    Geoffrey has jumped the shark on McMaster.

  5. Cornhead Says:

    Interview below by Tommy Vietor (yeah, that guy) of Ben Rhodes. My impression of Rhodes? A not very smart and immature leftist who is extremely naive. I can now see why Obama liked him so much. Very hard to believe such clowns were at the highest levels.

    Two items:

    1. Rhodes claimed Obama had great accomplishments in foreign policy.

    2. Both denied they originated the phrase “leading from behind.” Lie.

    Hard to listen to Ben. He uses the word “like” incorrectly in the manner of a Valley girl.

  6. Cornhead Says:


  7. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    I got that quote from the American Thinker blog not the NYT. The link they provide to their source is broken. I distrust the NYT on all things and it certainly is possible that it was misreported.

    However, McMaster is on record twice previously saying the exact same thing and I have seen no retractions or amending of his prior views. Which leads me to consider the quote to have a high probability of being accurate.


    Since when is two documented statements and a third claimed statement fully concurrent with the two prior statements… ‘jumping the shark’? When two fires are followed by another sighting of smoke, how is it unreasonable to assume that fire is again present?

  8. Cornhead Says:

    The Iranians and Cubans carved Rhodes up and he didn’t even realize it. Loser.

    And, of course, Tommy and Bennie hate Trump and think he is an idiot.

    Give me Steve Bannon any day.

  9. Eric Says:

    “Why he didn’t is a question that should be investigated.”

    See http://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2015/02/obamas-secret-iran-strategy/

  10. Tom Murin Says:

    Gen Xers think that writing about something is the same as actually doing something. They believe their own BS – like Obama. They like to think that O was Josiah Barlett in The West Wing.

  11. OM Says:

    Why put credence in McMaster’s positive actions when you can find two quotes that confirm your negative assessment? Just askin’

  12. The Other Gary Says:

    The depth of the irony of this man criticizing those reporters in that interview is immense.

    Look on the bright side and relish the unintentional satire in the public performances of these self-important, irony-proof characters. There’s plenty more to come…

    Neo wrote:

    In that same interview [emphasis mine]:

    A May 2016 New York Times profile reported that Rhodes was, … the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from [President Obama] himself; … the president and Rhodes communicated ‘regularly, several times a day’; and that ‘part of what accounts for Rhodes’s influence is his mind meld with the president.’”

    An alternate interpretation is that Rhodes had no real influence whatsoever. The narcissistic King Barack used Rhodes as a mirror and saw his own reflection, the perfect yes-man to parrot and validate whatever opinions Obama already had. Being an ass-kissing toady is quite different from being an influential advisor.

  13. AesopFan Says:

    In the Oscar category of “small world” – although I wasn’t aware of these facts until this post:
    My oldest son was born in 1977, as was Rhodes; and applied to my alma mater, Rice University, as did Rhodes. I minored in PoliSci, as did Rhodes (however, my BA is in engineering because that was where they stashed what was then being taught as Computer Programming, and took an MA in Government at UT-Austin; English majors were for sissies, although I was very active in the Rice theater community).
    My son was not accepted by Rice (despite very good grades and high SAT, I must say), but Rhodes was.
    At the time, I was very disappointed.
    Now, not so much.
    At least they never had the opportunity to become friends.

  14. AesopFan Says:

    Thought I had read about Rhodes recently:

    Even Time isn’t buying all of Ben’s self-hagiography.
    “As America gets ready to elect a new president, it’s worth remembering that there is a difference between making decisions and selling them to the public. Which is why it matters that a fight has broken out in Washington over the role of Barack Obama’s top national security communications aide, Ben Rhodes.
    A recent article offered the ambitious thesis that Rhodes has become “the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from [Obama] himself.” For those who have covered the Obama White House that assertion is ambiguous: Is Rhodes supposedly making important decisions or just shaping how they are sold?”

    Of course, that’s probably because they don’t want to dim the luster of the Smartest President Ever.

    I think they should foist off responsibility for as many WH decisions as possible to the second-stringers to SAVE his reputation.

  15. FOAF Says:

    “Being an ass-kissing toady is quite different from being an influential advisor.”

    If your advisors are all ass-kissing toadies then it’s the same thing.

  16. Lizzy Says:

    Ugh, I remember that Ben Rhodes interview. Unbelievable arrogance and inexperience. He was part of a trend, not an anomaly.

    The Muslim gal, Rumana Ahmed, who wrote a column in The Atlantic about how she only worked 8 days for the Trump administration is another example. She joined the WH straight out of GW in 2011, and was hired by Ben Rhodes to work on the National Security Council in 2014. Imagine all the people with applicable experience who could have been hired instead of a fairly recent graduate whose experience consisted on community outreach. So glad Obama is gone, and the his political appointments are leaving as well!


  17. neo-neocon Says:

    The Other Gary:

    You wrote, “An alternate interpretation is that Rhodes had no real influence whatsoever. The narcissistic King Barack used Rhodes as a mirror and saw his own reflection, the perfect yes-man…”

    That’s pretty much exactly what I was getting at when I wrote:

    But let’s not blame Rhodes overly; Obama did what Rhodes said not because he liked to listen to someone else’s advice, but because Rhodes’ opinion was the same as Obama’s opinion (mind-meld). It was a reassuring Obama-echo that spoke in another’s voice.

    Same idea as what you said. Basically, Obama didn’t take advice from anyone, but he liked to hear what he already thought, stated by another person.

  18. Paul in Boston Says:

    Another point that is overlooked is that Obama is incapable of writing. There are no examples of his work from his time as a lecturer at Chicago, Harvard Law, or earlier. Dreams is definitely ghostwritten as well(a friend of mine is a professional ghostwriter and turned it down as not enough money). He’s also incapable of off the cuff remarks without stumbling. Rhodes was simply Obama’s ghostwriter doing what one should do, making the client look good and sound educated. Ghostwriters don’t and can’t add substance that isn’t there. Not that Rhodes could do much more than parrot O.

  19. Ann Says:

    Reminds me of Ted Sorensen’s role in the JFK White House:

    Sorensen was President Kennedy’s special counsel, adviser, and primary speechwriter, the role for which he is remembered best. …

    After the Bay of Pigs debacle, Kennedy asked Sorensen to participate with foreign policy discussions as well. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Sorensen served as a member of ExComm and was named by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara as one of the “true inner circle” members who advised the president, the others being Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, General Maxwell D. Taylor (chairman of the Joint Chiefs), former ambassador to the USSR Llewellyn Thompson, and McNamara himself.

  20. parker Says:

    What makes my skin crawl is that Obama and Rhodes are not going to keep their yaps shut and be content with making lots of money.

  21. Ymarsakar Says:

    Parker, the demon that gave power to Hitler and the angels that gave knowledge to Hitler, weren’t satisfied with just money after all. Makes sense that they have grander plans these days.

    Has anyone looked up the number of assassinations Hitler survived? It’s almost like a supernatural power protected him. And the occult, Nazis had a strong occult basis, they even had UFO research. Why does that matter? Because Grays and UFOs can be interpreted to be evil spirits, demonic or otherwise, and grays look like serpents.

  22. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    Yes, you got it from American Thinker. And where did American Thinker get it from? The New York Times.

    Before I wrote this post, I tried to track the report down to some source other than the Times. I saw a ton of articles about it and looked at many of them, but every single one just linked back to that single source, the Times. I read that American Thinker piece, too, before I even wrote the post, and there’s no link there at all (except the dead one that you mentioned). But it’s a simple matter to find out who the author’s source is. Just Google all the quotes he has in the article. Guess what? The New York Times.

    In other words, the NY Times appears to be the only source for the American Thinker article and indeed for the entire story about what he said to that group.

    You also write, “McMaster is on record twice previously saying the exact same thing and I have seen no retractions or amending of his prior views.”

    When you make a statement like that, it would be very helpful to include a link. Without a link it’s meaningless, because no one reading your comment has any idea what your source is, and no way to check what McMaster actually said and who has reported him as saying it. Just now, I looked to see if I could see what you’re referring to. I couldn’t find anything except this sort of thing, which reports McMaster as having said the following in a speech to the Virginia Military Institute in November of 2016:

    We are engaged today, as General George C. Marshall’s generation was engaged, against enemies who pose a great threat to all civilized peoples. As our World War II generation defeated Nazi Fascism and Japanese imperialism, and as later generations defeated Communist totalitarianism, we will defeat today’s enemies, including terrorist organizations like Daesh, who cynically use a perverted interpretation of religion to incite hatred and justify horrific cruelty against innocents.

    The website that offers that quote (Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch) adds another similar quote from May 05 2016 in which McMaster says:

    …groups like ISIL, who use this irreligious ideology, this perverted interpretation of religion to justify violence. They depend on ignorance, and the ability to recruit vulnerable segments of populations to foment hatred, and then use that hatred to justify violence against innocents.

    Spencer writes that “This could be Barack Obama or John Kerry speaking.” He adds that this might mean that McMaster “holds the view that the Islamic State is not Islamic” and “will continue the willful ignorance of the Obama administration, hamstringing efforts to understand, and counter effectively, the motives and goals of the enemy.”

    You know what I say? I say this is an incredible over-reaction on Spencer’s part. Nor does McMaster anywhere in those quotes take on the question of whether the word “Islamic” should be used. Taken as a whole, McMaster’s statements are ones with which I have no quarrel. “Perverted religion” or “religion”—who cares, really? McMaster’s deeds are fighting deeds. His words are fighting words, too—he says the enemy we are fighting “pose[s] a great threat to all civilized peoples.” And yes, they DO use a “perverted interpretation of religion to justify violence.”

    What’s more, it is my understanding that when McMaster made those remarks he was acting under policies established by Obama, who was still commander-in-chief. I’m not sure how much liberty he had to speak his own mind on the subject for public consumption.

    Put it all together and you get two fairly non-objectionable (to my way of thinking) quotes during the Obama administration, plus the recent report in the Times that McMaster made just the kind of remarks that would get the right to turn on him. Personally, until proven otherwise, I’ll go with the theory that the Times is twisting a story in order to inflame the right against McMaster.

    Trump will call it “Islamic terrorism,” quite incessantly. McMaster will help him fight it. The problem with Obama and Kerry was not merely what they called it or didn’t call it, it was their failure to show resolve in fighting it and their verbal apologies for it and absolute refusal to use the world “Islamic” in connection with it. Their words wouldn’t have mattered much if their actions had been stronger. Trump will provide the words, and McMaster the actions.

  23. OM Says:

    And when the Ruskies came knocking in Berlin, he blew his brains out. Guess those GRAYS and UFOs didn’t protect him all that well after all.

  24. J.J. Says:

    I’m hoping McMaster is taking the path that I have been advocating for some time now. That would be taking on the Wahhabi/Salafi version of Islam as an enemy of Muslims who refuse to adhere to that version of Islam – just as they are the enemies of all infidels. Their goal is a worldwide religious theocracy. We must ally ourselves with all who oppose such a worldwide theocracy. Many of those people are Muslims. I am in favor of helping them attack the Wahhabi/Salafi version of their religion to root it out as anything but a counterfeit death cult that, because it wants worldwide theocracy, can never co-exist with other religions.

    We need to get real moderate Muslim leaders out in front of this issue and support them fully.

    I know many don’t accept this idea, but the alternative is killing or subjugating 1.5 billion people who call themselves Muslims. The vast majority of whom do not know what is in the Quran except what their imams tell them. Indeed vast numbers of them can scarcely read. Moderate imams and modern communications are the key to challenging the Wahhabi/Salafi doctrine. Combine that with financial warfare, kinetic strikes where necessary, and a long term view of the end goal – the marginalization of the Wahhabi/Salafi beliefs. Unlike WWII, it will be more like the Cold War and may take 40 years.

    Do we have the patience and will? Ah, that is the question.

    I do know one thing from reading “Dereliction of Duty” by McMaster. He blames the Vietnam War debacle on the fact that Kennedy and Johnson along with their advisers Ted Sorensen Robert F. Kennedy, McGeorge Bundy, Dean Rusk, Llewellyn Thompson, and Robert McNamara as people who refused to take the advice of their military advisers, the Joint Chiefs. Even though Maxwell Taylor was the Chairman of the JCS, he was enthralled by Kennedy and McNamara and tended to side with them against his military service chiefs. I believe we will see Trump pay much more attention to his military advisers than Obama or Kennedy/Johnson did.

  25. parker Says:

    Personally, neoneocon is my source of last resort. No, I am not joking. Time after time she has satisfied me that what she posts behind the apple is as close to the truth as possible, I may at times disagreed with her conclusions, but I have never doubted her deep research into anything she posts. OMG, I do not want to sound like a lap dog, but when I dig deeper into her opinions, I end up barking. Well, mostly.

  26. Barry Meislin Says:

    Ben Rhodes: from creative writing to creating “reality”.

    But it looks like a whole lot of “morons” weren’t buying what he was selling.

    Hence the current state of the Democratic party….which is still insisting that its view of “reality” is absolutelycorrect; and anyone who dares to disagree is either a moron or an ogre.

    Or both.

  27. Eric Says:

    “What’s more, it is my understanding that when McMaster made those remarks he was acting under policies established by Obama, who was still commander-in-chief.”

    I believe McMaster’s remarks are more influenced by his immersed experience acting under policies established by President Bush – particularly the counterinsurgency “Surge” with Iraq. In fact, in McMaster’s case, his Iraq experience can’t be reduced to simply following orders, since he’s credited as a progenitor of the Petraeus-led COIN strategy.

    “Do we have the patience and will? Ah, that is the question.”

    That is the question, because we already have the basic method. The peace operations with Iraq built on the COIN Surge were succeeding before Obama’s (and Rhodes’s) radical deviation.

    The question related to your question is whether Trump has what it takes to restore US foreign policy to the status quo ante before Obama, circa 2007-2008.

    In other words, whether President Trump will prove to have what it takes to measure up to President Bush’s exemplary leadership as Commander in Chief.

  28. neo-neocon Says:


    Thanks [blushes].

  29. Frog Says:

    Trump is but a start. We all know the Ship of State has been steered in the wrong direction for several generations.
    What we must not now do is to cede ground to the enemy. The enemy among us. Whether they are polite, likable and friendly, as Neo reports most of her lib friends are, or are frankly adversarial and hostile.
    We must fight for total victory in a committed, durable, long-lasting war. We cannot reach across the aisle. The enemy must do so, and abjectly, unreservedly, and apologetically come aboard. Like the Japanese after the A-bombs. Unfortunately, I think it will require a great tragedy, much bigger than 9/11, for them to do so. Thus the analogy to nuclear bombs over Japan is appropriate. The Left has the same degree of obedience as pre-Nagasaki Japanese had to their emperor.

  30. neo-neocon Says:


    Do not confuse the left with the ordinary liberal. Do not confuse the doctrinaire activist with the reasonable person who’s merely trying to live his/her life as a decent person in the world. My friends are the latter. And I was that sort of liberal, too. These people are not The Enemy. Every one of them represents an opportunity for getting your own point of view across. Some are even ripe for political change.

    What’s more, there are tyrants, potential tyrants, and those who approve of tyranny, on both sides. They are the ones who need to be watched out for.

  31. OM Says:


    To equate what was required to defeat the Japanese in conventional battle (for the Pacific) at Siapan, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima before dropping the atomic bombs (read The Fleet at Full Tide for example) with what will be necessary to stop the far left in this country. Well you must like blood, guts, and carnage, that (warfare in the Pacific theater) was worse than our civil war.

  32. OM Says:


    Banzai charges for LGBTQ bathrooms? Mass suicide (Siapan) if another conservative is appointed to the Supreme Court? Who will protect your precious bodily fluids from them?

  33. OM Says:


    Correction: The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945 Hardcover – October 25, 2016
    by James D. Hornfischer

  34. Eric Says:

    “Do not confuse the doctrinaire activist with the reasonable person … Every one of them represents an opportunity for getting your own point of view across. Some are even ripe for political change.”

    Which is only socially meaningful if there’s a viable social-political polar Center so changers can gravitate to their like in order to form a critical mass. Which will require reasonable people – displaced center-right conservatives and center-left liberals – to band together and compete as activists in the social arena head-to-head versus the doctrinaire activists on both sides.

    “What’s more, there are tyrants, potential tyrants, and those who approve of tyranny, on both sides. They are the ones who need to be watched out for.”

    And competed against, both simultaneously, as though they’re complements essentially on the same side.

  35. Richard Saunders Says:

    If it makes our “allies” (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the Emirates) feel better to have McMaster make a distinction between “radical Islam” and plain old regular vanilla Islam, fine. I have no doubt he is perfectly aware of what the Koran says about killing infidels and about the Dar al-Islam and the Dar al-Harb.

  36. TommyJay Says:

    Not to slobber, but I liked Neo’s use of the word “valence” at the end of para 12, (I think). I thought I was reasonably well read, but I had not seen it used outside of chemistry/physics. Also, that it references “experience” and not a thing or person.

    Anyhoo, I really liked this post as well as the “the Truth is hard” one.

    Couple of points: 1) In the realm of complete conjecture, I wonder if the Obama-Rhodes relationship is one of Obama using or nudging Rhodes to be a yes-man, or if Rhodes is literally a mirror or Zelig type personality using Obama.

    2) One of Bill Clinton’s closest aids in the area of national security and foreign policy was Sandy Berger. He was mainly a political hack helping Clinton make a hash of US foreign policy for political gain, though I see that he had a few years in the Carter State Dept. under his belt at the time.

    I didn’t think much of Condi Rice, but at least she was not an experienced political operator and was supposed to be knowledgeable of foreign affairs. And I don’t think she lived in the oval office like Berger and Rhodes did.

  37. gracepc Says:

    Excellent. Nailed Ben Rhodes.

  38. Ymarsakar Says:

    No matter how many gods you worship, OM, it won’t save you from your own hypocrisy and weaknesses.

    Your self righteous intolerance of other people, cultures, ideas, and formats, won’t get you a raise except here on Earth and in your own man made Deus ex hierarchy.

  39. Ymarsakar Says:

    Some are even ripe for political change.

    The only change that would be true would be a religious change of heart.

    The people who only needed a change of mind, have already changed for the most part.

  40. OM Says:


    Keep walking, turn that CPU of yours on once in a while before you post. Genius? Not so much.

  41. Ymarsakar Says:

    We all see that Zero is a self proclaimed ‘Christian’ that doesn’t have any belief in demons. What else does this self proclaimed ‘Christian’ not believe in.

    Take a hike, your ishtar is calling.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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