Ben Rhodes Sees America’s Evils Everywhere and His Own Mistakes Nowhere

June 24, 2021 | James Kirchick
About the author: James Kirchick is the assistant editor of The New Republic and a Phillips Foundation journalism fellow.

For the duration of the Obama administration, Ben Rhodes served in the newly created position of deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, in which capacity he was the president’s key confidant and speechwriter on foreign policy. In that role he, in his own words, “created an echo chamber” in the media to promote the nuclear deal with Iran. Since leaving office, he has traveled the globe and, based on those travels, written Being American in the World We’ve Made, in which he laments the current state of affairs at home and abroad. James Kirchick writes in his review:

How comforting it must be to see the world as does Ben Rhodes: everyone who disagrees with him is either a fascist, an idiot, or both.

If Rhodes encountered a single individual during these travels who disagreed with him, he leaves no record of it. The same goes for criticism from his interlocutors about the policies of the administration he served. In his chapters on Russia, for instance, Rhodes manages to avoid any mention of the “reset” policy that was prelude to President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Conspicuously absent from the “international community of underdogs” Rhodes interviews are any Syrians, whom Barack Obama abandoned to the tender mercies of Bashar al-Assad after refusing to enforce his own red line against the dictator’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. Rhodes makes up for this elision with a chapter that essentially argues the case for the Middle East’s “axis of Resistance” (comprising Iran and its proxies) and bashes America’s traditional Sunni Arab allies, who along with Israel opposed the administration’s ill-fated nuclear deal with Tehran.

In his embittered recitation of the standard left-wing litany of American crimes and transgressions, Rhodes sounds an awful lot like Bernie Sanders, with whose fundamental appraisal, Rhodes reveals, Obama essentially agreed. “The occasional hawkish language on terrorism” that appeared in the speeches Rhodes wrote for Obama, along with “the critiques of capitalism that had to be carefully worded to avoid charges of socialism,” were “compromises to political reality.”

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