Sunday, May 08, 2016

The clock doesn't stop when we're not in the game

There are many quotes and anecdotes in the New York Times Magazine profile by David Samuels of White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. One is this --

[Leon Panetta] He understands the president’s pivot toward Iran as the logical result of a deeply held premise about the negative effects of use of American military force on a scale much larger than drone strikes or Special Forces raids. “I think the whole legacy that he was working on was, ‘I’m the guy who’s going to bring these wars to an end, and the last goddamn thing I need is to start another war,’ ” he explains of Obama. “If you ratchet up sanctions, it could cause a war. If you start opposing their interest in Syria, well, that could start a war, too.”

Did we know that Barack Obama thinks that opposing Iran in Syria might cause a war with Iran, and therefore should be avoided? That would explain the ease with which Iran has been able to backstop Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, but is problematic for John Kerry's repeated claim that Iran's adverse behaviour on matters other than the nuclear program don't matter for the purposes of the nuclear deal because they can be countered by other means. If the President really thinks that countering Iran in other arenas could cause a war, then those other means are not operative.

The Rhodes article is also inspiring lots of trawling through the online media space to figure out who he considered to be in his echo chamber. Here's one New York Times article (by Gardiner Harris) from the Iran nuclear debate era last year for which Rhodes is clearly the key unnamed source (note its tone of transformative potential of the Iran deal). The article of course uses the classic misdirect of attributing one quote to Rhodes, as if to imply that the numerous unsourced quotes are not from him. 

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