Small Wars Journal

A Stunning Profile of Ben Rhodes, the Asshole Who is the President’s Foreign Policy Guru

Sat, 05/07/2016 - 11:09pm

A Stunning Profile of Ben Rhodes, the Asshole Who is the President’s Foreign Policy Guru by Tom Ricks, Foreign Policy

… 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.”…

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…

Read on.

Also see:

The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru - New York Times Magazine

Official Says He Pushed a 'Narrative' to Media to Sell Iran Nuclear Deal - Washington Post

White House Admits it Played Us for Fools to Sell Iran Deal - New York Post

Why the Ben Rhodes Profile in the New York Times Magazine is Just Gross - Washington Post

A President Who Learned Nothing - Commentary Magazine

Let Us Now Psychoanalyze Young Ben Rhodes - Mother Jones

Rhodes to Perdition: An Exposé on Journalism in the Obama Era - Wall Street Journal

That Profile of Ben Rhodes? You Need to Read It Very Carefully - Mother Jones

Ben Rhodes, Liar - Washington Free Beacon

Ben Rhodes Admits Administration Lied to Sell Iran Deal - American Thinker

Obama Adviser Admits Lying to Media to Seal Iran Deal - Washington Times


Outlaw 09

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 3:42am

Frederic Hof: Obama refuses to complicate Assad's ability to commit mass-homicide for the sake of the IranDeal

May 9, 2016

Beating the Blob and Disentangling from Partners

By Frederic C. Hof

Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama's deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, is the subject of David Samuels' piece in the New York Times Magazine: “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama's Foreign Policy Guru”. If Jeffrey Goldberg's March 2016 on the "Obama doctrine" was not a sufficient foreign policy Rosetta Stone to decode an administration absolutely without precedent, the Samuels piece supplies the missing hieroglyphs. The Oval Office, it seems, circumvented the "American foreign policy establishment" ("the Blob") to pursue a nuclear deal with Iran that "would create the space for America to disentangle itself from its established system of alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, and Turkey."

The Samuels piece is not a hatchet job. It is a very sympathetic portrayal of a highly intelligent, disciplined, dedicated, and loyal official: someone who has faithfully and accurately channeled, transmitted, and explained the foreign policy desires of Barack Obama. The attitude of the author toward the subject makes the substance all the more extraordinary.

For those who believe that the bungled occupation of Iraq in 2003 sums up the past, present, and future of American behavior and capabilities in the Middle East, this article is cause for celebratory confirmation. For those who think that disaster in Iraq had specific causes and effects of its own (centering on the absence of stabilization planning) not universally applicable to all things at all times, this article will annoy. Regardless of the reactions it inspires, David Samuels and his subject deserve credit for explaining to the reading public what in the world has been going on for the past several years.

In terms of the administration's public information rationale for that which it has done and failed to do in the Middle East, it really does all boil down to Iraq: a foreign policy catastrophe that, for Barack Obama and Ben Rhodes, sums up America abroad and typifies the handiwork of the American foreign policy establishment: "the Blob." Per Samuels, "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." One could substitute the name "Trump" for "Rhodes" in the foregoing sentence without changing the meaning. Given the nature of campaign 2016 to date, Rhodes' characterization of the presumptive Democratic Party candidate hardly quickens the pulse.

Indeed, the personal attacks do not matter. Leave aside the fact that neither Gates nor Clinton was on the ground floor of what passed for war planning in 2002 and 2003: the expectation of a splendid little campaign that would culminate with the capture of Baghdad; what one wit described at the time as "Grenada with Goats." Leave aside that the Obama-Rhodes notion of the "Blob" probably includes the serving vice president and secretary of state in addition to at least one other former defense secretary (Leon Panetta) who served the Obama administration with great distinction. What is key here is the seeming belief that "Iraq 2003" epitomizes the sum total of what America stands for and what it brings to the table in the Middle East.

There is nothing at all remarkable about 'John Q. Citizen' looking back on invasion, occupation, and insurgency in Iraq and saying, in effect, "Don't touch it with a ten-foot pole; let the natives have at it and sort it out on their own." It is something else, however, for an official channeling the president of the United States to say, "I profoundly do not believe that the United States could make things better in Syria by being there. And we have an evidentiary record of what happens when we're there—nearly a decade in Iraq." This is the official alibi for not having protected, over the course of five years, one single Syrian civilian from the murderous assaults of Bashar al-Assad.

Yet the official alibi lacks one critical ingredient: the truth. A "decade in Iraq" did not dissuade the Obama administration from protecting Syrian Kurds from a massacre by the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) in Kobani. Disaster in Iraq did not deter American military forces from protecting Yazidis in Iraq itself. The Iraqi fiasco has not stopped the Obama administration from establishing an anti-ISIS American military presence in both Iraq and Syria: yes, boots on the ground. No: the Rhodes-Obama fear and dismissal of making things better in Syria "by being there" applies only to those parts of Syria experiencing mass murder and massive displacement at the hands of Bashar al-Assad. Why? Iran.

For an American president and his principal subordinates to avert their gazes from mass homicide and from doing anything at all to mitigate or complicate it is far from unprecedented. In this day and age, however, knowing what we know about twentieth century failures to protect civilians thanks to the research and writings of Samantha Power and others, it is stunningly remarkable and regrettable. For a man of Barack Obama's evident humanity and values, surely there has been something of transcendent importance that has stayed his hand from protecting Syrian civilians; something of paramount national security significance that has stopped him from acting in support of American friends and allies trying desperately to deal with the hemorrhage of humanity from Syria. Thanks to Ben Rhodes and his chronicler we know now what it has been: pursuit of a nuclear agreement with Assad's premier long-term enabler and partner in mass murder: Iran.

The following passage from the Samuels piece clarifies why it was important for President Obama to protect no one in Syria, to risk his own reputation in the red-line climb down, and even to assure Iran's Supreme Leader in writing that the Ayatollah's murderous Syrian subordinate would not be touched by (anti-ISIS) American military intervention in Syria:

"By eliminating the fuss about Iran's nuclear program, the administration hoped to eliminate a source of structural tension between the two countries, which would create the space for America to disentangle itself from its established system of alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, and Turkey. With one bold move, the administration would effectively begin the process of large-scale disentanglement from the Middle East."

To complicate the ability of Iran's man in Syria to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity would have placed at risk nuclear negotiations aimed ultimately at dissolving American relationships of trust and confidence with key regional powers. Yes, the Blob—the foreign policy establishment—would have had a problem with this. Hence an information operation headed by Rhodes aimed at avoiding head-on debates with the Blob or, for that matter, the representatives of the American people in Congress.

Were it not for their enormous suffering, millions of Syrian civilians might find humor in the reason for their abandonment: a desire by the American president to disentangle the United States from long-term cooperative regional relationships. Were it not for the tens of thousands of rockets and missiles pointed at them by Iran's Lebanese militia, Israelis might enjoy the irony of it all. The only players in this drama who need neither humor nor irony to appreciate the importance and value of what is being undertaken are Iran and Russia.

President Obama and his assistant get high marks for, in the end, spelling it all out. They probably sincerely believe that Iraq 2003 sums up the wisdom and contribution of what they politely call "the foreign policy establishment." The view here is that their successors will need thoughtful (if fallible) and experienced (if imperfect) foreign policy practitioners—yes, the thoroughly disrespected "Blob"—to undo the damage they have done.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 05/10/2016 - 2:31pm

All that spin effort by Rhode's and now the Iran Deal unravels........

Iran Atomic Energy chief Salehi: Plan to send heavy-water nuclear material to US under #nuke deal stopped after US froze more of our assets.

Why does this shock and anger so many? What did Mr. Obama's supporters expect would happen in his administration? Didn't they agree with him that America was too big and rambunctious, and ought not to hog the middle-front of the world's stage?

Given Mr. Obama's paper-thin political resume and non-existent foreign policy experience, the only certainty was uncertainty: in geopolitical affairs in particular.

Mr. Obama was always a Rohrschard Ink Blot Test, in which all saw what they wanted to see. He promised "change," and he has delivered. Our positions on and influence in China, Russia, Iran, Cuba Venezuela, etc have all changed dramatically.

It was hoped by many that this POTUS would learn on the job. Sadly, after 8 years of OJT, it appears that he got only one month of training, repeated over and over.


Sun, 05/22/2016 - 11:44am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Saudi Arabia: not so much a country/government as a Wahhabi gumba family reunion, minus the keggers.

There's no love lost between Persians and Arabs; Iran has the demographics. The Saudis ought to be concerned---they've been sowing the wind for a long time.

How long before they reap a whirlwind or two?

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 05/10/2016 - 10:47am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

The old guard in DC is really panicking, it's not just pivoting, it's the fact that new experts are needed and the old foreign policy guard does not want to give up its money making and careerist ambitions. It doesn't matter if there is a Clinton presidency, it will still be a last gasp for the DC consensus in some ways.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 05/10/2016 - 10:44am

All Ben Rhodes did is call out the Emperor and say it out loud: "the Emperor has no clothes."

The Washington Consensus is a failure and its most precious schemes since the end of the Cold War have been a disaster for the American people and many innocent people abroad.

The Saudis are really pushing back, aren't they? Why we care is beyond me.


Wed, 05/11/2016 - 11:27pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw wrote;

‘ keep mentioning Germany and I mentioned they are far more concerned about Russia as that is an existential threat to them and the closet direct military threat to them.....IS is not....nor will ever be even with off and on terror attacks.....the same goes for the entire EU.’

The Russians are struggling to penetrate more than 200 km into the Ukraine. The suggestion that a Russian Army will somehow go thru the Ukraine, Poland and threaten Germany is somewhat unlikely if you don’t mind me saying so.

Whether by design or chance Russia’s input into Syria has impacted German political stability. The sudden appearance of millions of Syrian refugees on the move is causing political fissures to open up across all of Europe and has already jumped the English Channel and boosted the Britexit campaign in the British referendum to leave the EU.

Germany having accepted over a million already is only now beginning to appreciate the political time-bomb the genuine needs of so many disadvantaged folks impacts housing, health-care, education and jobs.

IMHO black-shirted skin-heads marching down the high-street is just how unemployable dead-beats get to make a spectacle of themselves and present almost zero political danger and can be handled by local LE with ease. It is when the native working class start getting pushed out of jobs, houses, hospital beds etc, that the real damage starts to take it’s toll on peaceful, law-abiding society. It doesn’t take much imagination to envisage ‘Juden Raus!’ morphing into ‘Araber Raus!’.

We both know the amount of KGB funding and recruitment that went into the European ‘peace’ movement and I don’t suppose for a moment the potential is any less potential among the 5 million refugees who are desperate to leave the camps in and around Syria. As opposed to a few thousand skin-heads the flood of humanity from Syria poses a serious strategic effect.

IMHO the only way this strategic threat can be neutralized is for the Syrians to remain in Syria. The US is unwilling to take the lead when there is a zero threat to the homeland and clear and present danger to the whole of the EU. Already with only Germany taking in meaningful numbers of refugees EU unity is literally falling apart.

You are our man on the ground in Germany so I’m interested in your take on how they interpret the threat to their country. The MSM are completely unreliable when it comes to military insight and it has always been thus and I'm afraid that will never change .

So once again why aren’t the Germans taking the lead in raising a EU/Turk Army? The Germans have a solid history of training and commanding Turkish troops which includes no less a Turkish soldier than Ataturk himself. I keep asking the German leadership question as your language skills and distinguished service puts you in a extraordinary position to cut thru the bullshit whether it be in German,Russian or English. And as an advocate of Mission Command, and how it can overcome our own chain of command trust issues, you’re in the place where MC was invented.


Outlaw 09

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 2:14am

In reply to by RantCorp you are agreeing that the US civil society has had say roughly 16 years of info warfare driven against is simply amazing that MSM has not wanted to write about it but remember all of US MSM is corporate owned and has their own agenda.

What is equally amazing is that while one might have a strong opinion against social media...there is a growing presence of strong investigative journalism growing there that indeed speaks truth to power...the core problem is that a majority of Americans do not follow it and thus what they do never gets read and MSM certainly ignores it.

Right now there is far more accurate reporting on eastern Ukraine and Syria coming out of social media regardless of what political viewpoint one has.

I am old me multiple reporting even on the same topic and then allow me the reader to make my own decisions.....

Again you are right...the "cynicism" by Rhodes represents I think the tip of the iceberg in DC from the last two Presidents....."cynicism" against the US civil society regardless of political stripes.

And that is extremely damaging to a so called "democracy".....

But here is the it any different than the current Russian info warfare driven against it's own civil society and the world in general?


Tue, 05/10/2016 - 3:27pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M,

I read the much longer NYTM article which avoided the personal attacks. In Rick’s case – it takes one to know one - me thinks. I believe the writer was a friend of Ben Rhodes – that’s my impression at least. . He certainly had a free-range of the WH, so one imagines he was a confidant of sorts. Having said that in my experience taking any journalist’s word for anything can be a serious mistake.

From the writer's POV there appeared to be a considerable degree of Power Point Rangerism going on within the WH. It was more 'being on the mind-mended message' kind rather than PPRs obsessing over color co-ordination, getting the right fonts, seating arrangements, the General’s favorite cookies on the front table etc. - but the philosophical intent reads the same to my jaundiced eye.

Interestingly the NYT reporter broached the central message of his op-ed with Ben Rhodes whilst wandering around the WH. The notion of the article, as far as I could tell, was that a logical argument or message that was not based on ground-truth was more damaging than a clumsy one purporting the same ill-founded logical fallacy. Ben was candid enough to admit it made no difference to him. In other words if the POTUS and his Executive got it wrong, don’t shoot the messenger.

Surprisingly Ben had the balls to admit (if the writer is to be believed) that the influence of a moderate Mad Mullah faction had to be fabricated in order to sell the Treaty to numerous useful idiots on the Hill and the WH Press Corps!

Extraordinarily the Deputy NSA seemed oblivious to the possibility that without the moderate influence he had forwarded, the lifting of sanctions would be boosting terrorism and an Iranian government that openly seeks the annihilation of Israel - among other such bleeding diplomatic sores.

As we are all painfully aware this obsession with form over substance is a universal problem wherein the structure of the narrative, and how it is presented, becomes the primary driver and the intellectual substance of the message becomes secondary or worse. Senior leadership who are not as adept at 'getting their message across' are easily impressed by the PPR-wallah’s ability to literally speak/message anyone at any time. ‘Yes Sir, we can even communicate with the enemy whilst you’re shooting at him. No problem Sir!’ But for preventing nuclear war I would have expected a somewhat different approach.

The problem to this approach; when you are attempting to shape any agreement with the Byzantine leadership of the KSA, Iran and Pakistan, is nobody expects the message to be a serious offer and will invariably be dismissed as a clumsy ploy. Furthermore any genuine conciliatory response to such an infantile presentation would be considered extremely dangerous for any Byzantine ‘Prince’ so foolishly inclined.

In other words in a liberal democracy the leadership are forced to adhere to any Treaty heralded with such pomp and ceremony whereas those ruled by the Byzantine court have no qualms to ignore the message entirely and in fact feel a moral duty to undermine such crassness.

In the case of our agreement with Iran, the deputy NSA's astute network targeting, consensus from 'those who matter most' on the Hill, the articulate and media savvy format etc. are hallmarks a Western audience finds familiar, reassuring, durable, reasonable and 'solid'. Whereas in a Byzantine court (and among their hapless subjects) all that message 'packaging' is the hallmark of the hopelessly naive and dim-witted.

Put simply, the 'strong', ‘robust’ and ‘vigorous’ character of Ben’s approach - that a Western audience finds so convincing in their day to day economic, social, political, spiritual interactions is viewed as an inherent weakness by those who's day to day existence is shaped by the Machiavellian and the Byzantine.

I personally believe when it comes to politically motivated mass violence I would rely on the virtues and versatility of Machiavelli and the Byzantine rather than Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. No doubt the numerous incarnations of the digital universe have their charms and no end of meaningful and life-enriching properties are evident, but I seriously doubt their utility when you are dealing with fascist regimes who collectively control most of the world’s oil supply, most of the world’s heroin supply, hate each other with a vengeance and those who currently don't possess nuclear weapons are hell-bent on acquiring them.

If indeed the article is genuine it explains to me many inexplicable things we have done over the last 15 years. Once again you couldn't have made this shit up.

God help us,



Sun, 05/22/2016 - 12:07pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


MSM seems too far gone, as every story is filtered through the prism of: does this news help or hurt the Party with which I agree? Facebook newsfeed is also censoring stories and writers through an ideological sieve.

Who/what/where/when/why? C'mon, man, get with it. I'm a reporter, and I "literally know nothing" about what I am reporting on. But, I know who I agree with, and who I do not.

"Good night and good luck."

Outlaw 09

Tue, 05/10/2016 - 7:04am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill...totally and absolutely 500% agree that the fourth estate is not serving the American people at all.

When I see social media self checking itself and politely correcting each other on a statement or article or link and I see them engaging each other and driving more investigation of an wonder MSM is losing money and readers.

MSM can compete but they must get back to fact checking and thinking they have to race to keep up with their own imposed news cycles....take a little more time and do the due diligence would serve them well these days....AND learn again to "speak truth to power".....that's all most Americans really want from MSM...information, and speaking truth to an easy to read format.

BTW....a number of individuals on the social media side did in fact bring up their suspicions of Rhodes during the Iran Deal and on Syria/IS....BUT MSM never accepted their comments and or analysis.

Bill M.

Tue, 05/10/2016 - 12:58am

In reply to by Outlaw 09


I cannot defend this clown, but referencing your quote the Republican administration did spin a whopper on Iraq. The difference is the media challenged this spin, while mainstream media today simply accepts the current administration's rhetoric at face value. America is not being well served the fourth estate.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 3:28pm

Congress: Time to hold Ben Rhodes to account - The Washington Post

Had President George W. Bush’s national security advisers Condoleezza Rice or Stephen Hadley bragged to a journalist that the administration constructed a phony narrative to justify an unpopular foreign policy initiative, using intellectually corrupt members of the press to spread disinformation, surely the Democrats would be calling for impeachment and would drag the braggarts to Capitol Hill to testify under oath. The reporters involved in the deception would be fired, shunned and disgraced. But that’s the standard for a Republican president. The left falsely accused the administration of doing just that in the Iraq War yet when the real thing — a blatant deception in pursuit of a rotten foreign policy decision — comes along there is a collective yawn.

That’s what has occurred with national security aide Ben Rhodes, who, dripping with contempt for those he deceived, told the New York Times magazine that the administration constructed a phony timeline so as to con Americans into believing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was the result of “moderate” Hassan Rouhani’s election. Rhodes did so by creating an “echo chamber” of willing journalists who essentially took dictation from the administration.

As Lee Smith put it, “For the last seven years the American public has been living through a postmodern narrative crafted by an extremely gifted and unspeakably cynical political operative whose job is to wage digital information campaigns designed to dismantle a several-decade old security architecture while lying about the nature of the Iranian regime. No wonder Americans feel less safe—they are.”

Rhodes’s deception is deeply disturbing in at least several ways. “First, he ignored a CIA assessment that determined that Rouhani was not a moderate. Former Undersecretary of State and chief Iran deal negotiator Wendy Sherman reflected this assessment when she said recently that Rouhani was not a moderate and that the choice in the Iranian parliamentary election was between hardliners and hard-hardliners,” explains sanctions expert Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Second, the JCPOA itself makes no sense unless there is an evolution in the nature of the regime over the next decade. As a result of sunset clauses in the deal that see most of the key restrictions disappearing over an eight to 15 year period, Iran will be left with an industrial-size nuclear program with near-zero nuclear breakout, easier advance centrifuge-powered clandestine sneak out, an ICBM program and a more powerful economy increasingly immunized against sanctions”

The latter is key, for the essence of the JCPOA rests on the assumption that by the time key sanctions are lifted the West need not fear Iran. Moreover, substantial compromises before that (e.g. lifting sanctions up front, delivering less than anytime/everywhere inspections) were premised on the notion that Iran was, unlike decades of past conduct, willing to abide by an agreement and cooperate with the IAEA. As soon as the deal was inked however it became clear that Iran was not changed at all — grabbing U.S. sailors (much to Rhodes’ annoyance according to the Times story since it revealed the regime’s true nature) and conducting illegal tests. Rhodes may have used the press, but the Iranians used Rhodes, President Obama and the rest of the hapless administration to get what it wanted: sanctions relief with no irreversible changes to its nuclear program or moderation in its non-nuclear conduct.

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If Iran’s moderation is a fairytale at the point Iran reaches nuclear breakout, “the United States will be facing a much more formidable and dangerous enemy and may have little choice but to use military force (as sanctions power will be severely degraded) to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon,” says Duboswitz. ” At that point, Iran will be stronger and the consequences of military action more devastating. In selling the Iran deal on a lie, Rhodes may have made war with Iran more not less likely.”

The entire democratic process in this country was usurped. Senate Democrats were bullied and cajoled into going along with the deal and critics discredited based on a lie. “At the very least, Rhodes’s mendacity prevented a proper debate on what will we do in ten years if the Iranian regime is the same regime,” Dubowitz remarks. “Of course that was his intention in spinning the false Rouhani is a moderate story: To head off this debate to prevent a focus on the fatal flaw of the deal.”

Many Senate Democrats, having realized how weak the deal is and how unwilling is the administration to check Iran’s non-nuclear behavior (another misrepresentation, this one by Secretary of State John Kerry who vowed to go after missile tests, human rights violations and regional aggression) may have been embarrassed by their spinelessness. They claim to be “profoundly” concerned about post-JCPOA events. They should now be outraged; they were lied to in order to obtain votes on the deal in contravention of their own deep concerns. (We know how concerned they were; they said so in speeches that were often more critical of the deal than opponents.)

What to do about this now?” First, Congress should conduct hearings and call Rhodes to testify under oath. Any executive privilege he might have had was waived when he went blabbing to the press. Since he claimed to enjoy a “mind meld” with the president it’s critical to understand the degree to which the president and other officials participated in the deceit. (While Rhodes is there they can ask about his role as author of the infamous “talking points” in the Benghazi fiasco.) Second, if Congress concludes members were scammed, then resolutions of condemnation are in order. (Unfortunately it cannot impeach members of the president’s staff.) Moreover, Congress should by legislative enactment return to the status quo prior to the JCPOA, which was obtained in essence by fraud. Sanctions due to expire should be reauthorized (with no executive waiver authority for now) and re-implemented. New sanctions should be passed to address Iran’s human rights violations, support for terrorism, regional aggression and illegal missile tests.

In this year’s Senate elections this issue should be front and center. Any Republican challenger should castigate his incumbent opponent as a gullible victim of a scam. And frankly, if Senate Democrats do not respond to the latest revelation now they know they were scammed, they can rightly be dubbed as willing victims. This debacle (both the process and substance of the JCPOA), by the way, is yet one more reason for a third candidate: a qualified, fit president who understands the fatal flaws in the deal and is willing to reverse the damage to our national security and democratic process is sorely needed. It’s also a reminder why we cannot elect a “pathological liar” (as Sen. Ted Cruz described Donald Trump) to the presidency.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 2:19pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Hassan Hassan ‏@hxhassan

AQ's 'Geneva Communique', if you like: this is the basis for negotiations with Nusra. Work it out. Don't just ask it to break its AQ ties.

He said AQ would waver Nusra's bayat obligation if the latter agreed with the rest of groups/individuals to establish a form of Islamic govt

In addition to the above, Zawahiri did something important. He threw the ball in the court of those calling on Nusra to break away from AQ:

Arabic media have conflicting (inaccurate) headlines about Zawahiri statement: he OKs Nusra breaking ties with AQ; he Oks Nusra's emirate.

NOW notice how the linked article ties into the Zawahiri "Geneva Communique"....

EXCLUSIVE: US drone strike in Syria killed mediator trying to rein in al-Qaeda -

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 2:02pm

There have been some who have proposed something similar to a Syrian and IS strategy largely ignored by the Obama WH.......NOTICE that these individuals had often attempted to engage the Obama WH and nothing came back.

Ever wonder why??????

EXCLUSIVE: US drone strike in Syria killed mediator trying to rein in al-Qaeda -

TWO key portions of a long article well worth reading and asking why did this not come from the NSC and or WH......

Empowering hardliners

Similar efforts to rein in al-Qaeda’s Syria branch through co-opting "moderate" members was suggested last year by retired US Army general and former CIA director David Petraeus.

In 2006, Petraeus was in charge of US military operations in Iraq when Americans started paying Sunni groups, some of whom had previously fought the US, to cut ties with and fight al-Qaeda in Iraq as part of the "Anbar awakening".

Two years later, Petraeus told politicians in Washington that the strategy had reduced US casualties, increased security and saved money.

The question in Syria, he told CNN in September, was “whether it might be possible at some point to peel off so-called 'reconcilables' who would be willing to renounce Nusra and align with the moderate opposition (supported by the US and the coalition) to fight against Nusra, ISIL, and Assad”.

Both Nusra and Gamaa al-Islamiyya's designations by the US as terrorist groups would make it difficult – if not impossible - for the US to engage or use someone like Taha directly as a go-between.

But Robert Ford, the former US ambassador to Syria and a senior fellow with the Middle East Institute in Washington, says the US should be talking with Islamist groups who are not on the list, including Ahrar, which advocate that Syrians should decide how their country is ruled in the future.

Ford, who wrote about this strategy last year, said he had given this advice to high-level policy makers, including US President Barack Obama, repeatedly.

“The smart American policy is to engage with groups like Ahrar and Jaish al-Islam that, in turn, are able to peel people away from Nusra and bring them into groups that accept that there must ultimately a political process to decide the future of Syria’s political governance,” Ford told MEE.

MEE contacted the US State Department, Department of Defence and the Centcom military command to comment on Taha’s death and ask whether the US should be considering a strategy similar to that advocated by Petraeus and Ford.

The State Department referred questions to the Department of Defence which did not respond, nor did Centcom.

Distrust of Islamists

Ford said he believes the Obama administration, including policy makers and some analysts advising them, has not attempted this approach because it has “an instinctual distrust of Islamists".

“They have an inability to understand what is a jihadi versus what is a Salafi versus what is a Muslim brother,” he said.

“They don’t see any way for Assad to be removed and so their inclination - if forced to choose between Assad and Islamists – they’ll just go with something secular like Assad, mainly out of instinct.”

And while the US may have listed Nusra and Gamaa al-Islamiyya as terrorist organisations, Hassan, the Chatham House fellow, said regional backers of the groups are interested in supporting the kind of work Taha attempted to accomplish.

“The Americans are not on the same page,” he said.

“[The US military] doesn’t think about what Petraeus thinks. That’s not their strategy. Their strategy is to kill as many of these people as possible, disrupt the leadership, and prevent any sort of coalitions.

"They want to just basically disperse jihadists whenever and wherever they find them.”

Meanwhile, the lack of nuanced understanding, at least publicly, of the differences between Islamists in Syria drives militants to further extremes, said the sources familiar with Taha’s trip. His killing, they said, is an example of the exact ramifications of this broadbrush policy.

"Now after this air strike," said one of the sources, "basically we empowered the hardliners. I am not even sure the US knew who exactly was in the car."

"I’m sure [Taha] was not a friend of the US and the US was not a friend of him,” said the fighter. But with Taha’s mission in Syria "there were common interests".

“What would you like to face – an Islamist group that believes in a national project and a Syria after the war, or do you want to face a group with a global ideology?”

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 1:00pm are correct...speech writers are a speech writers BUT and here is the BIG but...but when they cross the line into spin deliberate 300% spin in order to effect a decision making process....ARE you any different from the Putin info warriors.....??

In the U.S., Strategic Communication is defined as: Focused United States Government efforts to understand and engage key audiences to create, strengthen, or preserve conditions favorable for the advancement of United States Government interests, policies, and objectives through the use of coordinated programs, plans, themes, messages, and products synchronized with the actions of all instruments of national power.

Strategic communication management could be defined as the systematic planning and realization of information flow, communication, media development and image care in a long-term horizon. It conveys deliberate message(s) through the most suitable media to the designated audience(s) at the appropriate time to contribute to and achieve the desired long-term effect. Communication management is process creation. It has to bring three factors into balance: the message(s), the media channel(s) and the audience(s).

100% SPIN my friend...100% it not the same for the Putin info warriors??

Not really AND Rhode's admitted to spinning the Iran Deal to get it through Congress.

Controlling the "narrative" is the core hallmark of propaganda..simple as that....and there is no discussion on that point.

I keep pointing you and others back to the WaPo article posted here at SWJ where after the Paris attacks when Obama WH stated that they could not understand why Europeans did not realize his Syrian and IS strategy was totally working.....

WHAT was then the Obama WH summation of the problem and how to fix it....
MORE "messaging".

WHAT do you summize what the term "messaging" meant in that article?

So the "speechwriter" comes full circle and moves easily into propaganda IE "spin".

If you were tracking as I do the Syria developments you would have seen an immediate barrage of DoD comments-speeches-press statements led off by the SecDef and then onto CENTCOM on the highly successful IS campaign.

Now you are out of the realm of "speech writing" and into the world of spinning a influence and coverup a total lack of a strategy.

I will give you another exampkle of Rhode's work...remember the massive debate in DC as to "who was and is a Syrian moderate".....check who positioned the talking points and who on the MSM side was fed those talking points.....

It deflected nicely allowing Obama to simply not make any decisions....

Russian propaganda is composed of SIX Ds.....Deflect, Distract, Dismay, Distort all designed to create Doubt and Distrust.

Recognize a similarity in Rhode's admitted "speech writing" and Russian propaganda...easily seen is it not????

Bill C.

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 12:03pm


From Tom Rick's referenced New York Times Magazine article re: Ben Rhodes:

"As the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, Rhodes writes the president’s speeches, plans his trips abroad and runs communications strategy across the White House ... "

For a comparison, let's look at President Reagan's speechwriter:

Anthony R. Dolan was the primary speechwriter for President Reagan during both of his terms. He also appears to have had no foreign policy, etc., experience. (Born in July 1948 so, at the time of his appointment in March 1981, Dolan would have been an ancient 32 years of age.)

And yet he (Dolan) is credited with, among other things I believe, writing both the "Ash Heap of History" speech in 1982 and the "Evil Empire" speech of 1983.

As a speechwriter/communications director, etc., it appears that a clear understanding who you are writing/communicating for, what this person stands for and what he wants to get across; this may have more bearing on these matters than does foreign policy and/or other experience; as both the Anthony R. Dolan example re: President Reagan, and the Ben Rhodes example re: President Obama, seems to confirm/indicate?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 9:02am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill..the following might sound harsh but here goes.

Let's see Rhode's is 38 so born in 1978......

No VN, no Desert Storm, no Dom Rep, no Panama, no Iraq, no AFG, no Wall coming down, no Cold War, no experience in watching the recovery of eastern and central Europe, no understanding of the terror scene in the 70/80s, missed the breakup of the Soviet Union and no deep experience on the KGB/now FSB, no deep experience in AQ/IS/and the entire Sunni insurgency, never served at the tip of the spear having to carry out guidance from the National Command Authority, never served a single day in any service, never lived and or worked in a foreign country/culture, evidently does not speak a foreign language, no advanced education in the areas of IR, PS, diplomacy.....never travelled to Iraq and or AFG..or for that matter to Europe or the ME.......

I could go on and on ....balanced against;

Trained as a writer ie "novelist" which is really a story teller perfect for spin, did work but mostly in DC, as writer probably did the proof reading and rewrites of 9/11 Commission Study and the ISG the analysis work was done by others, rubbed elbows with some who had power and probably learned the DC power game of name dropping/great resume recommenation to move up.

So what do we know...he spun the Iran Deal, and if we really look at his role over the last five years....he has been spinning the Obama messaging strategy for Iraq, Syria and that famous war against IS.

BUT did he go with the Naval Death Notification team to the family of the last killed Seal in Iraq recently and tell them...sorry I spun the IS and Iraq history but at least I am a foreign policy "guru"????

That is my heartburn with spinning ...there is no difference to the current Putin info warfare...and spinning is a serious threat to a right now no one believes a word out of DC as they believe it is all lies....and they are probably right....

AND we wonder why we have a Trump as the GOP nominee.......

Outlaw 09

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 2:38am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill...but this is the really BIG But........when a sitting President has to resort to spin, lies and deceit in order to get the Iran Deal through Congress then we have left the realm of democracy and entered the Putin zone of info warfare against your own civil society.

IF the Obama WH had indeed felt that the Iran Deal was that important then fight for it using the truth not deception......fight tooth and nail but fight in the open and convince people via sound solid arguments and if you loss so be it....

BUT see I do not buy into Rhode's explanations simply because it is not only on the Iran Deal that we are being spun it is also in the so called "Obama fight against IS" that he is still spinning for this President and that I think is where Ricks sets his argument.

If one takes the WaPo article that SWJ posted here where the Obama WH is blaming you and me for not "getting it" meaning his Syrian and IS strategy is actually working and it talks about nothing more or less THAN "messaging" followed by the Goldberg interview then followed by Rhode's own interview.

The spin plan is fully laid out for everyone to see...AND that is what amazes me...that they feel confident enough to actually lay it out knowing in the end it "will be bought" and US MSM will move on...WHICH BTW they have largely moved on.

BUT this from the Syrian 2016 thread begs to differ with the Obama Syrian/IS strategy being fact it seems to indicate that it is really just one BIG failure that is being spun into "truth" for you and me.

CrowBat...confirms your thoughts on Obama driving the FSA into JaN.......

You know, eventually, I don't even care if I'm right or wrong: I'm simply collecting data. Result of studying data is statistics, and statistics is speaking clear language.

Look: roughly 500 Saudis and about 300 Bosnians, Macedonians, Kosovars, perhaps even few Moslem Serbs (from Sandzak, southern Serbia) were routed into Syria to join the JAN the last few weeks.

I have no clue how they eventually reached their destination - nor time to try finding out. But they all turned up in Idlib and were trained there too. That's 800 people. It doesn't matter whether it's actually 500 or 1000, or really 800. What matters is that somebody issued a call for them to come, and nothing was undertaken against that person. Somebody then transported, fed, and trained them too. And nobody stopped them underway, nobody attacked their training camp, nobody interrupted the supply chain keeping them fed, and dressed, and getting potable water. Nobody at least attempted to hit their HQ.

Instead, Russians are bombing hospitals; Assadists are bombing IDP camps or IRGC troops (the latter by mistake), only to get visited by various parliamentaries from the EU and congratulated for 'fighting Daesh'; Americans are either flying their UAVs in circles over Incirlik, or playing 'we can't find Daesh' in northern Syria, or explaining everybody that it's more important to respect Iranian and Kurdish interests in Syria than help Turks avert Daesh killing 30+ of their citizens (in Kilis and in the last week alone); French are massacring entire families in Abu Kamal (but who cares: that's Daesh-held territory, 'nothing is confirmed', besides, Russians did the same even more often)... and, what a surprise then, anybody else trying to mix there is just finding him/her-self neck-deep in BS...

...and nobody of all of them actually gives a damn about the very people this all is about: Syrians.

Think about all of this and draw your own conclusions, everybody.

My conclusion happens to be that that somebody there was so endlessly dumb, so idiotically stupid as to think about himself as some kind of giant statesman that's in a position to sell Syria and its population of 24+ million to a combination of a high-class thief and his hodgepodge of genocidal sectarian murderers, a gang of quasi-religious-fanatics declaring themselves representatives of God on Earth, and a megalomaniac that's trying to heal his inferiority complex by ruining whatever was left of his own country and half the Europe.

And when that didn't quite work... oh hell: then force them (Syrians) into making their choice - a choice fitting solely the Western primitive prejudice: either Assad or extremists. After all, 'they do not understand any other language but that of violence'... isn't that what we've all been taught about Syria and Syrians for the last 70+ years...?

Well... Oblabla can be sure about one thing: he's going to be remembered for a very, very, very long time. That's guaranteed. At least a century is going to pass before the mess he - partially - left to happen and - partially - created intentionally, is going to be sorted out again.

CrowBat is offline

Think about it.....have we all be basically spun over Syria, IS and yes spun even about AQ??

BTW some ME specialists with a long history of the ME would in fact say to the face of this Obama WH you are lying about IS and AQ and especially what is ongoing in Syria....BUT their voices are not being heard.... only that of Rhode's spin and that is dangerous for a democracy.

Sounds like Ben spun a yarn that Tom Ricks bought into, and now he is seeking revenge with his poison pen. Reading other articles that Tom didn't suggest paints a different picture. As for no experience, I'm sorry Tom, a graduate degree in international affairs does not equate to experience, it equates to getting indoctrinating with legacy policy doctrines that are increasingly falling short. Does muddy boots policy experience count? He did work with Rep Lee Hamilton for 5 years, a highly respected Congressman. During that time Ben participated in and wrote a large part of the 9/11 Commission Study and the Iraq Study Group paper, so with access like that to real world challenges and America's top minds working those issues, one could argue that experience trumped any formal education he may have missed in international relations.

For Outlaw, Ben is one of the few voices that advocated giving more support to the resistance in Syria, and opposing Assad. He also is the one who pushed the administration to engage with Burma/Myanmar, and that is important from a strategic view for a number of reasons.

I'm not supporting the Obama team's foreign policy, but these one sided attacks that Ricks is well known for leveling against individuals need to be challenged with views that balance his reporting. In the end, he may be everything Ricks accused him of, but there is still more to the story.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 05/08/2016 - 2:28pm

Many have said I have had been a harsh critic of the total lack of an Obama foreign policy and or any strategy other than messaging since Crimea......

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.

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.

AND people think I am harsh...just check the long list of articles saying virtually the same thing.

I am actually mild compared to Tom Ricks and the long listed articles....

BLUF...this has been one of the weakest Presidents and an even sadder NSC in over 70 odd years......