Ben Rhodes’ Old Team Has a New Name
The Obama Administration called and wants its foreign policy back.
A respected national security professional I follow on Twitter retweeted the announcement of something calling itself “National Security Action—a new organization committed to restoring principled American leadership at home and abroad.” As one in favor of principled American leadership but skeptical of new organizations with bland names, I clicked over to their website and its Who We Are page. It turns out that they’re not so much new as a reunion of the Obama Administration’s natsec team, under the august leadership of none other than everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Ben Rhodes.
There are many names that I respect and admire along with a few who I don’t much care for. But, despite the promising epigraph, the remaining tweets in their stream make it clear that they’re simply going to be a voice for the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party to issue talking points against Trump Administration policies. That’s fine insofar as it goes. But, frankly, this was a missed opportunity to put together a principled, bipartisan group to advocate for a sane foreign policy we can all get behind. As it stands, their views will be much easier to dismiss.
I counted 64 names. That’s a lot of intellect to keep track of.
If you could select an appropriate number of thinkers including yourself that would be “a principled, bipartisan group to advocate for a sane foreign policy we can all get behind.”, where would you take your findings and recommendations?
To Kelly? To Jared? To Daughter in Chief?
Rex Tillerson? “Here Mister Fuking Moron President. Let’s consider what these citizens think is in the best interest of the United States.”
The problem is the Washington Consensus and it’s bipartisan. There’s nothing new or principled as long as the Natsec establishment keeps playing the same tune it’s been playing since the Cold War ended. The vast majority of disagreement in national security circles is over relative priorities and means – they operate in a narrow lane.
I’m trying to think of a non-arts profession that doesn’t operate within relatively narrow constraints. Within natsec, I think the consensus is simply that there aren’t a lot of good options for dealing with a whole variety of issues–Russian and Chinese gray zone activities, Iran and North Korea thumbing their nose at the rules on nukes, Middle East peace, Syria, etc. Nobody worth listening to thinks trade wars, however satisfying, are smart.
My only real frustration with the Consensus is how much what Don Snow called the “Do-Something Syndrome” is baked in. Even on those issues where the Consensus understands that there are no good options, there’s extreme pressure to choose one because, as the world’s sole remaining superpower, we have a responsibility to try.
James, I was going to draft a response, but then this dropped on my feed. I think it describes the major problem with the Natsec community of the last 1/4 century or more:
@Andy: That’s one long-winded essay! That the natsec elite hasn’t done a great job of persuading the masses is almost certainly true. It doesn’t make them wrong.