Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Who Is Ben Rhodes?

As we await today’s Congressional hearings on Benghazi, we are drawn to Neo Neocon's recommendation that we focus close attention on a man who will not be there.

Following Stephen Hayes’ report on the Benghazi cover-up, Neo points at Ben Rhodes, the man who was in charge of the cover-up, and who bears responsibility for much, much more.

We don’t know the role Rhodes played during the Benghazi attack itself, but we do know that he was directly involved in managing the cover-up.

Specifically, Rhodes is the deputy national security adviser. He is charged with communicating the president’s views on foreign policy.

So far, so good. If you ask, as several have, what qualifies him to formulate a foreign policy message or to advise the president on policymaking, you, like the American Thinker, will come up with a blank.

Before getting into politics, Rhodes was an aspiring novelist. His background is in fiction. He has never studied anything remotely relevant to communicating or making foreign policy. And, he has no relevant experience in the field.

A president who came into office knowing next to nothing about foreign policy has taken, as a leading adviser someone who knows less. And, let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton had no relevant background in foreign policy before becoming Secretary of State.

Finding such an individual who knew less than he did about foreign policy was surely difficult, but Obama was up to the challenge.

Neo Neocon explains it well:

But what is clear is that Rhodes is one of Obama’s many advisors who lack anything remotely connected with expertise, except in the art of politics and speechwriting. Despite this, for Obama Rhodes doesn’t just write about foreign policy, he helps to make it.

Rhodes’ resume is singularly unimpressive, except after he was tapped by Obama to write for him and then to somehow be a foreign policy “expert.” Rhodes is hardly unique in the Obama administration for having this sort of background. The president seems to prefer to have people around him with even less experience and expertise than he has, which is saying something.

Other presidents have been inexperienced, but they have made efforts to choose experienced and knowledgeable people to make up for their own shortcomings. Obama does not believe he has any shortcomings, and so he does the opposite. For the most part, his advisors tend to have several characteristics in common besides their lack of substantive knowledge about their new fields: (1) they are good with words; (2) they are young; (3) they are focused on politics; (4) they revere Obama.

True, Obama does not believe that he has any shortcomings. When he is surrounded by the likes of Ben Rhodes he can feel that he is the smartest guy in the room.

Neo Neocon offers the best rational explanation for the debacle of Benghazi. It does not require us to impugn anyone’s motives. But it does force us to recognize the role of rank incompetence:

So it occurs to me that maybe the simplest way to describe what happened in Benghazi is that, from start to finish, nearly everyone in charge and everyone who was a close and trusted advisor to those in charge was a political operative. Everyone. This of course includes Obama and Hillary Clinton, and all the supposed national security advisors such as Rhodes.

So they are a bunch of rank amateurs who literally have no idea what they were doing except in the political sense. And then when things went bad, they lied about it—using their words to try to get out of a jam, with the help of their friends in the MSM. It’s worked for them in the past, and might well work again.

For some time now I have been suggesting that when a man who possesses very limited knowledge of foreign policy attempts to deal with foreign policy issues, his frame of reference cannot be reality. It has to be a fictional world.

It makes its own kind of warped sense that an aspiring novelist like Ben Rhodes would become a high level foreign policy adviser to President Obama. It makes sense that Rhodes would have authored Obama’s largely fictional version of Islam in his 2009 Cairo speech.

And then, there’s the Arab Spring. From the first days of the first protests I suggested that the Arab Spring was going to test the Obama administration’s ability to handle foreign policy. Considering the state of Egypt today, the Benghazi debacle and the ongoing slaughter in Syria its record is very poor, indeed.

No less an Obamaphile source than the New York Times outlines in detail the role Ben Rhodes played in the foreign policy disasters in the Middle East:

Normally, the anguish of a White House deputy would matter little to the direction of American foreign policy. But Mr. Rhodes has had a knack for making himself felt, not just in the way the president expresses his policies but in how he formulates them.

Two years ago, when protesters thronged Tahrir Square in Cairo, Mr. Rhodes urged Mr. Obama to withdraw three decades of American support for President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. A few months later, Mr. Rhodes was among those agitating for the president to back a NATO military intervention in Libya to head off a slaughter by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

“He became, first in the speechwriting process, and later, in the heat of the Arab Spring, a central figure,” said Michael A. McFaul, who worked with Mr. Rhodes in the National Security Council and is now the American ambassador to Russia.

Samantha Power, another former National Security Council colleague who joined him in advocating intervention in Libya, said: “He has a very high batting average in terms of prognostication. I don’t understand where Ben gets his ‘old man’ wisdom.”

Now we know that it was Ben Rhodes, fresh from his stint writing a bad novel, who recommended that we withdraw support from longtime ally Hosni Mubarak.

But why does Samantha Powers believe that Rhodes has great powers of prognostication? Did Rhodes predict that a Mubarak-free Egypt would be taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood? Did he understand the economic and social calamities that would befall that nation? Did he see that a liberated Libya would become a home base for al Qaeda?

And then, there’s the matter of Rhodes’ influence on the spectacular failure of the administration’s Syria policy.

It has nothing to do with “old man wisdom.” It’s about how someone lacking in background, education and experience can ever be considered to be wise.

The moral of the story is: don’t send a boy to do a man’s job.


Bobbye said...

So Ben Rhodes decided on Mubarek? CIA and/or the Pentagon had nothing. So Obama decides to do whatever he wants and there are no influential powers on earth that he need listen to? The Sgt. Shultz defense has been around forever and it is BS. Bernanke crashed the financials because he is incompetent, Corzine blew up MF Global because he is imcompetent, Enron is because of incompetence, Bush is incompetent, Obama is... The incompetence claim is just a coverup with the added incentive of making Mr. or Ms. incompetent into 'poor, poor pitiful me'.It's all BS.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I don't think that anyone is saying that Obama is not responsible for what happened. Certainly, if he chooses to allow his policy to be run by a Ben Rhodes then that is clearly a sign of ineptitude... but also a failure to do his job.

I was suggesting, following Neo Neocon that there was no conspiracy, no malevolent intentions. That does not mean that the results were not malevolent.

Bobbye said...

I believe that what happened at Bengazi is exactly what was intended to happen; intended by Obama, intended by Clinton, intended by the CIA. All of the intentions were malevolent. What happened to Amb. Stevens is the same thing King David did to Uriah. What is being covered up by the incompetence defense is WHY.

The Elephant's Child said...

The most notable characteristic of Obama's response to big events seems to be — Can't decide, need more information, need to wait, can't decide, mustn't act precipitously. Is that what went on in all the 'Stand Down' orders? We are told on the one hand that such orders can come only from Potus, yet on the other that Obama just said you take care of it and presumably went to bed.

He doesn't want to make decisions, does he? He didn't want to be president to make decisions, but just for the importance of it?

Anonymous said...

I know I'm a little late to the game here, but after reading Peggy Noonan's column this morning, I'm left asking one question that no one else seems to be: what connection does this all have to the Petraeus resignation? Am I the only one who found that whole episode strange?