Right off the bat, Rhodes homes in on the Clintons’ mistaken belief that the 2008 Democratic nomination was theirs as a matter of right. Furthermore, it was careful not to indulge itself in a dry (in my opinion) blow-by-blow of foreign policy. … But his senior staff was in a different place.” Indeed, Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were all counseling caution: Don’t be so quick to oust the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Trump believes he too is entitled to a prize for merely marketing as a success his summit with North Korea while doing his best to undo Obama’s legacy. Obama’s job, coming to office, was to rectify relations with allies who had disapproved of the war and also with the Islamic world, which saw Iraq as the latest act of Western imperialism. President Obama with Ben Rhodes, right, and Cody Keenan, the director of speechwriting, Jan. 11, 2016. He drinks hard liquor, to the point of an occasional hangover. The impulse to prevent a massacre was noble, but it was speculative; the chaos was real. Obama’s succinct and colloquial corollary was, to paraphrase: “Don’t do stupid stuff.” His predecessor, George W. Bush, had made one of the worst blunders in American history, going to war in Iraq. By the time Bashar Assad dropped poison gas on his populace, both Obama and Rhodes were having second thoughts. But that’s not the whole story. His achievement is rare for a political memoir: He has written a humane and honorable book.”—Joe Klein, The New York Times Book Review “In The World as It Is, Rhodes shows no trace of the disillusionment that gave George Stephanopoulos’s tale of Bill Clinton its bitter, gossipy flavor, or of the light irony that came to inflect Peggy Noonan’s adoration of Ronald Reagan. Obama had established the use of chemical weapons as a “red line” and then chose not to respond militarily when Assad crossed it. Indeed, he has the tire marks on his back to prove it. Think Alabama’s Roy Moore, California’s Dana Rohrabacher and Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan. As to be expected, he gives a full-throated defense of the JCPOA and seeks to extricate himself from the Benghazi debacle. Ben Rhodes is a charming and humble guide through an unprecedented presidency. I wanted a hero,” writes Rhodes as he begins to explain why he left his creative writing education, instead turning his talent to speech writing. Instead, those decisions, as well as others, are firmly contextualised by the people making and influencing those decisions, the man and thought processes. There are some books which are relatively easy to close the back cover on. Rhodes tweaks Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s former president, as “spotlight loving” for initiating discussions of a no-fly zone in Libya. To blunt criticisms that the JCPOA represented a sudden policy reversal, he offers a chronology of sorts. Rhodes’s description of these deliberations — and most of the other real-time crises — is particularly illuminating, given Donald Trump’s subsequent missile strikes. This was not a glorification of the Obama administration, nor did it shy away from its shortcomings and it’s mistakes. Focusing primarily on foreign policy it was an enlightening look into the inner workings of the oval office, the frustrations and challenges unique to Obama and the groundbreaking election result of a black American, fighting against a highly defensive Republican-dominated Congress. The president is moderate, never the humanitarian firebrand that his younger staffers are — thoughtful, sane and cool. Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. The book also takes a swing at Vladimir Putin, and the affinity in some conservative circles for the Russian strongman. decision to junk the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. This is not one of those. Understandably, Obama and Rhodes are alarmed by Brexit, Trump and the erosion of the existing order. It did not blame others when it was clear that no other was to blame. It is not a heavy policy book. “We’d have to consider,” he advised in his new role as a deputy national security adviser, “what we would say if we choose not to do something.” A good point, especially with the Europeans and the Arab League (very briefly) urging action. Obama made mistakes of optimism. Others are harder to leave behind; this was one such book. Imagine, someone who is human. Rhodes encouraged these delusions — along with the White House advisers Samantha Power and Susan Rice, who professed a somewhat tortured liberal militarism, a faith in humanitarian intervention. To Rhodes’ credit, he also acknowledges that Obama’s “reset” with Russia did not work. on Book review: The world as it is by Ben Rhodes, Book review: The world as it is by Ben Rhodes, Book tag: The (bit later than) mid-year book freak out. He never quite loses his idealism; in a crass political era, he impressively avoids becoming a cynic. The dictator Muammar Qaddafi threatened to massacre his opponents in Benghazi. He eats Chinese takeout, to excess. And he grows. The former White House aide has written a memoir and a justification which is compelling but too much on Obama’s side, Tue 5 Jun 2018 05.01 BST Even Donald Trump — a politician who seems the omega to Obama’s alpha — is treated with horrified amazement rather than vitriol. Obama labels the foreign secretary as Britain’s Trump. Last modified on Wed 26 Feb 2020 17.58 GMT. Suffice to say, that did not improve an already toxic relationship. … You can’t stop people from killing each other like that.” This is the reality of “The World as It Is.” Sometimes there are no good choices. More than any other White House … “I was part of a cohort of younger staffers … who shared a distaste for the corrupt way in which the Middle East was ruled,” Rhodes writes. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Never did this become a saccharine profile of Obama. Others, such as the mental image of Obama singing Thrift shop by Macklemore in the ‘Beast’ on the way back from a presidential visit were so relatable that I couldn’t help but smile. They ignored the other half of his message, which gave it an elegant balance: “Islam has to recognize the contributions that the West has made to articulate certain principles that are universal.”. And there is something more: “The World as It Is” is a classic coming-of-age story, about the journey from idealism to realism, told with candor and immediacy. Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Trump, by contrast, seemed strong, but the effect of his strikes appears to have been negligible. Rhodes does his best to sell the Iran deal while hoping to give the administration cover. Five years ago, voices from the Pentagon derided Rhodes and others as jihadis in the White House after they opposed continued aid to Egypt in the aftermath of the military takeover. In a remarkable moment, in the midst of the deliberations over what to do about Syria, Obama completes his transition to realism by telling Rhodes: “Maybe we would never have done Rwanda. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. Last month, days before Donald Trump’s decision to junk the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Observer and Ronan Farrow reported on the efforts of Black Cube, an Israeli intelligence-gathering firm, to discredit Rhodes and other Obama administration officials – just as Black Cube abetted Harvey Weinstein in his attempt to silence his victims. There was no guarantee that democracy would ensue — and, in fact, democracy led to an electoral victory by the Muslim Brotherhood, which led to a military coup. Right now, no talks are ongoing. And there is something more: “The World as It Is” is a classic coming-of-age story, about the journey from idealism to realism, told with candor and immediacy. Ben Rhodes, who served Barack Obama as a foreign policy adviser and speechwriter from beginning to end, has written a book that reflects the president he served — intelligent, amiable, compelling and principled. I lingered over the last line, feeling unusually emotional about a non-fiction book and feeling unduly sad that The world as it is belonged to the library, not to me. Rhodes recounts how Obama was disturbed by a New York Times column which posited that tribalism undergirds our politics and that the Democrats’ message sounded awfully like John Lennon’s Imagine, a pastiche of gauzy cosmopolitan bromides. ( Log Out /  ( Log Out /  Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. Obama sided with the idealists early on, especially when protesters filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the first flush of the Arab Spring. Obama calculated that any military action that would have an actual impact on Assad’s behavior might lead to a wider war. What makes the book truly illuminating are its quotes, barbs and reflexive disdain for flyover country. Obama may have won a Nobel peace prize for simply succeeding George W Bush, but he left his infamous “red line” promise in Syria in tatters and the once vaunted Arab spring as a bloody memory. As for former vice-president Joe Biden, the one Democrat who could have defeated Trump, Rhodes tags him as an “unguided missile”, prone to press the flesh of those he met while walking the West Wing’s hallways. In The World As It Is, Rhodes tells his side of the story. July 22, 2018 by RachaelDewhurst 1 Comment. In The World As It Is, Rhodes tells his side of the story. Rhodes quotes Obama complaining that negotiating with Benjamin Netanyahu was like dealing with the Republicans. As someone whose interest is primarily in the people affected rather than the big global decisions in politics (my sister’s particular interest), I was relieved to find that the very readable tone of the prologue continued through the rest of the 400-page exploration. In describing the Republicans’ 2010 takeover of the House, Rhodes expresses his surprise at the magnitude of the loss, adding: “Our people stayed home, and [Sarah] Palin’s had turned out.” He lacks a serious discussion of the nexus between Obamacare and the Democrats’ rout. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. It … There is no retributive backbiting of internal opponents like Hillary Clinton or Stanley McChrystal. He assumed the old, autocratic order in the Middle East was about to change; he underestimated the power of tribalism, which provided identity amid amorphous globalism.

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