Friday, May 06, 2016

The audience for the image is the same audience for official claims that US policy is predicated on  the defense of democracy: back and forth, unreflecting, unthinking. It was the header on Ben Rhodes' twitter account.
Picture him as a young man, standing on the waterfront in North Williamsburg, at a polling site, on Sept. 11, 2001, which was Election Day in New York City. He saw the planes hit the towers, an unforgettable moment of sheer disbelief followed by panic and shock and lasting horror, a scene that eerily reminded him, in the aftermath, of the cover of the Don DeLillo novel “Underworld.”

Everything changed that day. But the way it changed Ben Rhodes’s life is still unique, and perhaps not strictly believable, even as fiction. He was in the second year of the M.F.A. program at N.Y.U., writing short stories about losers in garden apartments and imagining that soon he would be published in literary magazines, acquire an agent and produce a novel by the time he turned 26. He saw the first tower go down, and after that he walked around for a while, until he ran into someone he knew, and they went back to her shared Williamsburg apartment and tried to find a television that worked, and when he came back outside, everyone was taking pictures of the towers in flames. He saw an Arab guy sobbing on the subway. “That image has always stayed with me,” he says. “Because I think he knew more than we did about what was going to happen.” Writing Frederick Barthelme knockoffs suddenly seemed like a waste of time.

“I immediately developed this idea that, you know, maybe I want to try to write about international affairs,” he explained. “In retrospect, I had no idea what that meant.” His mother’s closest friend growing up ran the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which then published Foreign Policy. He sent her a letter and included what would wind up being his only piece of published fiction, a short story that appeared in The Beloit Fiction Journal. It was titled “The Goldfish Smiles, You Smile Back.” The story still haunts him, he says, because “it foreshadowed my entire life.”
"The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru". Art in the age of neoliberalism; he went into advertising. But he's working with Robert Malley and the Iran deal got done.
For those in need of more traditional-seeming forms of validation, handpicked Beltway insiders like Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Laura Rozen of Al-Monitor helped retail the administration’s narrative. “Laura Rozen was my RSS feed,” Somanader offered. “She would just find everything and retweet it.”
Things have changed since Rozen used State Dept. experts to mock the social changes in Iran as a meaningless "lipstick revolution"

Tom Ricks is pissed
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.

...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 don't give a shit about Biden but Kerry had to fight keep Clinton in check.
But the behind-the-scenes story of Mrs. Clinton’s role is more complicated than her public account of it. Interviews with more than a dozen current and former administration officials paint a portrait of a highly cautious, ambivalent diplomat, less willing than Mr. Obama to take risks to open a dialogue with Iran and increasingly wary of Mr. Kerry’s freelance diplomacy. Her decision to send her own team, some officials said, was driven as much by her desire to corral Mr. Kerry as to engage the Iranians.
Link from Phil Weiss, who adds more.

I barely read beyond the beginning of the piece on Rhodes.  I looked for the Rozen reference because she's been defending herself from critics. The author's tone is obsequious, backstabbing voyeurism. Ricks is an asshole. And Rhodes' bother is the president of CBS News. The whole thing's fucking joke.

If Ricks is a fan of Gates maybe he should stop being dismissive of Seymour Hersh.
Gates, as you know, in his book, was—had a very critical thing to say about the White House, about going public so early. And he said it’s because they named the SEALs. That wasn’t what his concern was. His concern is we violated an agreement we made with Pasha and Kayani to protect them. And the agreement was we wouldn’t let it be known that he was there, that the ISI was protecting him. They didn’t want their public to know it. And so, we were going to have it—as I said on air, he was going to have it done—we were going to announce it happened in the Hindu Kush and pretend that we did a strike with a drone, and there was an after-action report, etc. Only problem with that story, of course, is drones have—the Hellfires we have have 500—you know, a KT of napalm, enriched fire stuff. I don’t know if they’d have any survivors. The whole story they did, from what they call operational security, was a joke. They changed their mind at the last minute, not because a chopper went down—one of the two crashed. And if you remember, it crashed, and they had to blow it up because it had very advanced avionics and security—

[...T]he bottom line is Obama changed his mind because of politics, because the boys got to him. And Gates was enraged about that. He thought you do not double-cross the two guys that control the bomb. That’s the real story. 
jumping forward. Ben Rhodes again

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