Le monde moderne n’est pas mauvais : à certains égards, il est bien trop bon. Il est rempli de vertus féroces et gâchées. Lorsqu’un dispositif religieux est brisé (comme le fut le christianisme pendant la Réforme), ce ne sont pas seulement les vices qui sont libérés. Les vices sont en effet libérés, et ils errent de par le monde en faisant des ravages ; mais les vertus le sont aussi, et elles errent plus férocement encore en faisant des ravages plus terribles. Le monde moderne est saturé des vieilles vertus chrétiennes virant à la folie. G.K. Chesterton
Je suis avec vous : affermissez donc les croyants. Je vais jeter l’effroi dans les coeurs des mécréants. Frappez donc au-dessus des cous et frappez-les sur tous les bouts des doigts. Ce, parce qu’ils ont désobéi à Allah et à Son messager. Le Coran (sourate 8: 12-13)
Ramadan, mois de la conquête et du djihad. Préparez-vous, soyez prêts… pour en faire un mois de calamité partout pour les non-croyants … Surtout vous, les combattants et les soutiens du caliphat en Europe et en Amérique. Abou Mohammed al Adnani (porte-parole de l’Etat islamique, 22 mai 2016)
Le nom Ramadan a été le nom du neuvième mois dans le monde arabe bien avant l’arrivée de l’islam ; le mot lui-même est dérivé de la racine rmḍ, comme dans les mots ramiḍa ou ar-ramâḍ, dénotant une chaleur intense, un sol brûlant, le manque de rations. Dans le Coran, Dieu proclame que le jeûne a été prescrit aux musulmans, comme il le fut auparavant aux Juifs, se référant ainsi à la pratique du jeûne durant Yom Kippour. Wikipedia
L’opération Badr (عملية بدر ; Amaliyat Badr), ou le plan Badr (خطة بدر ; Khitat Badr), est une opération militaire lancée par l’Égypte le 6 octobre 1973 avec pour objectif la reconquête d’une partie du désert du Sinaï grâce à une traversée du canal de Suez et la prise des fortifications israéliennes de la ligne Bar-Lev. Elle est lancée en parallèle avec une offensive syrienne sur le plateau du Golan, et marque ainsi le début de la guerre israélo-arabe de 1973. (…) La date coïncide avec le Yom kippour, le jour du Grand Pardon pour les Juifs. C’est un des facteurs importants dans le choix de la date car les Juifs jeûnent durant la journée et s’abstiennent d’utiliser le feu ou l’électricité (ce qui veut dire que les transports sont à l’arrêt). De plus, une grande partie de l’armée israélienne est démobilisée. Octobre coïncide aussi avec le mois du Ramadan dans le calendrier musulman, ce qui signifie que les soldats musulmans engagés dans l’armée israélienne jeûnent aussi — c’est en effet pendant le Ramadan que les musulmans ont gagné leur première victoire à la bataille de Badr en l’an 634. Optant pour quelque chose de plus significatif que le mot « Minarets », les commandants égyptiens choisissent le nom d’« opération Badr » (pleine lune en arabe) pour nommer l’assaut sur le canal de Suez et le Sinaï. Wikipedia
Muhammad révéla à Médine des qualités insoupçonnées de dirigeant politique et de chef militaire. Il devait subvenir aux ressources de la nouvelle communauté (umma) que formaient les émigrés (muhadjirun) mekkois et les « auxiliaires » (ansar) médinois qui se joignaient à eux. Il recourut à la guerre privée, institution courante en Arabie où la notion d’État était inconnue. Muhammad envoya bientôt des petits groupes de ses partisans attaquer les caravanes mekkoises, punissant ainsi ses incrédules compatriotes et du même coup acquérant un riche butin. En mars 624, il remporta devant les puits de Badr une grande victoire sur une colonne mekkoise venue à la rescousse d’une caravane en danger. Cela parut à Muhammad une marque évidente de la faveur d’Allah. Elle l’encouragea sans doute à la rupture avec les juifs, qui se fit peu à peu. Le Prophète avait pensé trouver auprès d’eux un accueil sympathique, car sa doctrine monothéiste lui semblait très proche de la leur. La charte précisant les droits et devoirs de chacun à Médine, conclue au moment de son arrivée, accordait une place aux tribus juives dans la communauté médinoise. Les musulmans jeûnaient le jour de la fête juive de l’Expiation. Mais la plupart des juifs médinois ne se rallièrent pas. Ils critiquèrent au contraire les anachronismes du Coran, la façon dont il déformait les récits bibliques. Aussi Muhammad se détourna-t-il d’eux. Le jeûne fut fixé au mois de ramadan, le mois de la victoire de Badr, et l’on cessa de se tourner vers Jérusalem pour prier. Maxime Rodinson
Si quelqu’un ne veut pas travailler, qu’il ne mange pas non plus. Paul (2T hessaloniciens 3: 10)
On peut parler aujourd’hui d’invasion arabe. C’est un fait social. Combien d’invasions l’Europe a connu tout au long de son histoire ! Elle a toujours su se surmonter elle-même, aller de l’avant pour se trouver ensuite comme agrandie par l’échange entre les cultures. Pape François
Nous laissons derrière nous un Etat souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec une gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille filnale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour. C’est une réussite extraordinaire, qui a pris presque neuf ans. Et aujourd’hui nous nous souvenons de tout ce que vous avez fait pour le rendre possible. (…) Dur travail et sacrifice. Ces mots décrivent à peine le prix de cette guerre, et le courage des hommes et des femmes qui l’ont menée. Nous ne connaissons que trop bien le prix élevé de cette guerre. Plus d’1,5 million d’Américains ont servi en Irak. Plus de 30.000 Américains ont été blessés, et ce sont seulement les blessés dont les blessures sont visibles. Près de 4.500 Américains ont perdu la vie, dont 202 héros tombés au champ d’honneur venus d’ici, Fort Bragg. (…) Les dirigeants et les historiens continueront à analyser les leçons stratégiques de l’Irak. Et nos commandants prendront en compte des leçons durement apprises lors de campagnes militaires à l’avenir. Mais la leçon la plus importante que vous nous apprenez n’est pas une leçon en stratégie militaire, c’est une leçon sur le caractère de notre pays, car malgré toutes les difficultés auxquelles notre pays fait face, vous nous rappelez que rien n’est impossible pour les Américains lorsqu’ils sont solidaires. Obama (14.12.11)
Il y a un manuel de stratégie à Washington que les présidents sont censés utiliser. (…) Et le manuel de stratégie prescrit des réponses aux différents événements, et ces réponses ont tendance à être des réponses militarisées. (…) Au milieu d’un défi international comme la Syrie, vous êtes jugé sévèrement si vous ne suivez pas le manuel de stratégie, même s’il y a de bonnes raisons. (…) Je suis très fier de ce moment. Le poids écrasant de la sagesse conventionnelle et la machinerie de notre appareil de sécurité nationale était allés assez loin. La perception était que ma crédibilité était en jeu, que la crédibilité de l’Amérique était en jeu. Et donc pour moi d’appuyer sur le bouton arrêt à ce moment-là, je le savais, me coûterait cher politiquement. Le fait que je pouvais me débarrasser des pressions immédiates et réfléchir sur ce qui était dans l’intérêt de l’Amérique, non seulement à l’égard de la Syrie, mais aussi à l’égard de notre démocratie, a été une décision très difficile – et je crois que finalement, ce fut la bonne décision à prendre. (…) Je suppose que vous pourriez me qualifier de réaliste qui croit que nous ne pouvons pas soulager toute la misère du monde. Barack Hussein Obama
L’establishment républicain pense que Donald manque trop d’expérience en politique étrangère pour être président. Mais il faut rappeler qu’il a passé des années à rencontrer des dirigeants du monde entier : Miss Suède, Miss Argentine, Miss Azerbaïdjan… » [Donald Trump a présidé les concours Miss Univers pendant 20 ans] (…) Je ne voudrais pas en faire trop. Car on est d’accord que depuis le début, il [Trump] a reçu juste ce qu’il faut de couverture médiatique, une couverture adaptée au sérieux de cette candidature… [silence] Vous pouvez être fiers de vous. Le mec voulait juste donner un coup de pouce à son business immobilier, et maintenant tout le monde prie pour qu’il ne passe pas le mois de juillet ! » (…) Je voudrais ici rendre hommage à plusieurs journalistes récompensés présents ici ce soir : Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber… [les acteurs du film oscarisé « Spotlight »] Merci pour tout ce que vous avez fait. (…) Je plaisante. Comme vous le savez, ‘Spotlight’ est un film. Un film sur des journalistes d’investigation dont le talent et l’indépendance leur ont permis de traquer la vérité et de faire tomber des têtes… Meilleur film de science-fiction depuis « Star Wars ». Barack Hussein Obama
All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus. Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing. Ben Rhodes
There are sort of these force multipliers. We have our compadres, I will reach out to a couple people.(…) And I’ll give them some color, and the next thing I know, lots of these guys are in the dot-com publishing space, and have huge Twitter followings, and they’ll be putting this message out on their own. Ned Price (Rhodes’s assistant)
Rhodes’s innovative campaign to sell the Iran deal is likely to be a model for how future administrations explain foreign policy to Congress and the public. The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal. Even where the particulars of that story are true, the implications that readers and viewers are encouraged to take away from those particulars are often misleading or false. Obama’s closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of his presidency. David Samuels
C’est le mois sacré du ramadan, un moment où les mosquées ouvrent leurs portes, les centres communautaires accueillent leurs voisins, et même les églises et les synagogues offrent leurs espaces aux musulmans pour la rupture du jeûne et les gens de toutes les religions ainsi que ceux qui n’en ont pas sont souvent invités à s’y joindre […] Continuons de nous réunir pour l’iftar et les événements communautaires. Célébrons la fierté, la multi-race et la multi-foi de la démocratie ! David Cameron
A tous les citoyens musulmans, je souhaite un ramadan béni et paisible. Angela Merkel
A l’heure où les Américains musulmans célèbrent le mois sacré, je me rappelle que nous sommes une famille américaine. Comme les communautés musulmanes américaines, je rejette fermement les voix qui cherchent à nous diviser ou limiter nos libertés religieuses. Nous continuerons d’accueillir des immigrants et des réfugiés dans notre pays, y compris ceux qui sont musulmans. Barack Hussein Obama
Le ramadan nous rappelle à tous de témoigner de notre reconnaissance pour les innombrables bénédictions dont nous jouissons et de faire passer les besoins des autres avant les nôtres. Prenons le temps de reconnaître, et de montre notre gratitude pour les contributions inestimables de nos communautés musulmanes qui enrichissent notre tissu national chaque jour. La diversité culturelle du Canada est l’une de nos plus grandes forces et sources de fierté. Au nom de notre famille, Sophie et moi souhaitons à tous ceux qui observent ce mois sacré un ramadan béni et paisible. Justin Trudeau
« Commencé le 6 juin et s’achevant aux alentours du 5 juillet, le ramadan (période de jeûne annuel des musulmans) ne sera pas pratiqué par les Bleus durant leur parcours à l’Euro. La décision a été prise par le staff en accord avec les joueurs concernés (dont Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté, Bacary Sagna). En effet, les joueurs étant confrontés à une activité physique intense, leur alimentation doit être régulière, de même que l’hydratation. Ils pourront «rattraper» cette période après l’Euro » rapporte le site sport24.com. Rappelons que la jurisprudence musulmane qui a toujours fait montre d’une grande souplesse, permet des adaptations en autorisant la rupture du jeûne dans certaines situations. Dans une autre situation, le Conseil Théologique Musulman de France a émis récemment une fatwa (avis religieux) permettant la rupture du jeûne du mois de Ramadan aux élèves candidats aux différents examens, en été pour le rattraper plus tard. Oummah.com
Contrairement aux fausses idées, les joueurs des équipes nationales ne jeunent pas si les compétitions internationnales concident avec ramadan, c’est comme pour l’armée au front. Hassan Nejjar (Le Petit-Paris, France)
To the ayatollahs of Iran and every terrorist you enable: Listen up. You might have met our fresh-faced flower child president and his weak-kneed, Ivy League friends. But you haven’t met America… Charlie Daniels
En politique américaine, le terme ville sanctuaire désigne une ville des États-Unis appliquant une politique de protection des migrants sans-papiers. Ces pratiques peuvent être définie par la loi (de jure) ou simplement dans les fait (de facto). Dans la pratique, ces villes ne permettent pas que les fonds municipaux servent à faire respecter les lois fédérales sur l’immigration, ni que la police ou les employés municipaux interrogent une personne sur la légalité de sa présence sur le territoire national. En 1979, Los Angeles fut la première ville à empêcher la police d’enquêter sur le statut migratoire des personnes arrêtées. En 2012, une trentaine de ville sont qualifiées de sanctuaire : Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Santa Ana, San Diego, San Jose, Salt Lake City, El Paso, Houston, Détroit, Jersey City, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Baltimore, Seattle, Portland, New Haven, Somerville, Cambridge et Portland. Wikipedia
Just last year over 300 Mexicans died in their attempt to enter the United States, the vast majority if not all of them in search of a job. The Mexican government obviously has an obligation to take all actions possible in order to avoid the loss of life. It is a natural and fair response to consider this as an attempt to promote undocumented immigration, but that is absolutely not the intent of the Mexican government. Gerónimo Gutiérrez (Sous-secrétaire d’Etat mexicain pour les Affaires nord-américaines)
From a distance, Donald Trump and Barack Obama have very different outlooks on the world. The president is a hyper-rational « Spockian, » to borrow Jeffrey Goldberg’s phrase from his new Atlantic article on the president’s foreign policy. He calmly lectures on the limits of U.S. power and the importance of the American moral example. Trump is bombastic. He threatens the families of terrorists and only belatedly revoked his promise to bring back waterboarding and « much worse. » Obama regards his nuclear agreement with Iran as a great achievement. Trump calls it the dumbest deal in the history of deal-making. Obama has pushed for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal. Trump threatens to bring back tariffs. These differences are real. But Goldberg’s deeply reported essay shows that for all their differences, Trump and Obama share similar foreign policy instincts. Both men, for example don’t think much of America’s traditional alliances. Nor do they think much of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. Both also profess to have a soft spot for the bloodless foreign policy realism of George H.W. Bush. Obama is a fan of Bush’s national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Trump says he admires Richard Haass, a protégé of Scowcroft and currently the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. (…) Trump’s disdain for foreign policy eminences is less literate than Obama’s. While Obama could talk for hours, it seems, about the subtle distinctions between liberal internationalism and realpolitik, Trump can’t be bothered with such nuance. His campaign does not put out policy papers. When asked over the summer who he turns to for foreign policy advice, Trump said he watches the 24-hour news channels. And yet Trump, like Obama, is still opposing the last war. Obama sold his Iran deal by attacking its critics for supporting the Iraq invasion. Trump dismisses criticism from Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain by ridiculing their advocacy for the Iraq war. Trump and Obama also have similar approaches to Russia. Obama did nothing this summer as the Kremlin moved military personnel and equipment to Syria to begin its air war on the Islamic State. Trump has asked why the U.S. should object to this campaign that Obama’s inaction helped enable. Goldberg reports how Obama rejected Secretary of State John Kerry’s recommendations for air strikes against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Trump, too, has questioned why the U.S. should stand in the way of Assad’s war against what he sees as a dangerous opposition. (At the same time, he has mused that Obama’s reluctance to intervene earlier has been a cause of the current refugee crisis for Europe). Like Obama in 2008, Trump has proposed a reset with Russia. (…) Trump’s promise to start over with Putin must sting Obama. After all, the president has little to show in 2016 for the reset he enacted in 2009. Then again, Obama has little to show for most of his foreign policy: Despite his best intentions, the world has become more dangerous during Obama’s presidency. The state system in the Middle East is collapsing. Many of America’s traditional alliances have frayed. Jihadists have established more safe havens in ungoverned spaces. (…) Like demagogues before him, Trump is happy to be inconsistent. Obama, too, has been inconsistent. Goldberg concludes that the president today does not think the Middle East is worth much American blood and treasure. Despite the protests of allies and experts, Obama still doesn’t think the crisis in Syria is a more serious national security challenge than climate change. Obama made a point of saying how his decision to walk away from his own red line on Syria’s use of chemical weapons was one of the proudest moments of his presidency. And yet, Obama’s successor will inherit U.S. military campaigns in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, and possibly even Libya if Obama’s generals get their way. For all the talk of ending dumb wars, Obama is still fighting them. Trump promises that he would win them, but he never says how. Perhaps he should talk to some of the foreign policy experts and allies that he and Obama so disdain. Eli Lake
In 2008 it was gauche to bring up the vicious racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose trite cast-off slogan “audacity of hope” inspired the title of Barack Obama’s campaign primer. In 2012, it would have apparently been rude for Mitt Romney to have fired back at Candy Crowley, “How dare you hijack a presidential debate!” Yes, Trump may be creepy, but the reluctance to challenge our present naked emperors is just as creepy. Is the so-called establishment going to warn us that Trump would be capable of running up $10 trillion in debt, socializing our medical system, unleashing the IRS and EPA on perceived enemies, and weakening friends and empowering enemies abroad, as he offers the world historically challenged pop riffs on Islam, Hiroshima, and global geography? For each take-down of NeverTrump, can we at least have commensurate analysis of how and why a monstrosity like the Clinton cash operation was allowed to thrive without audit; or how it is that the secretary of state and her minions snubbed the law and behaved in a fashion that would have put any other federal employees in jail (…) Turn on an evening cable show and ask which interviewer is married to which anchor on another channel, or which of the pundits are former politicos, or how many in the White House worked for Big News or are married or related to someone who does. How many pundits were advisers to political candidates or related to someone who was? How does Ben Rhodes do an interview on CBS News or George Stephanopoulos interview Hillary Clinton or a writer expound on the primaries when he is also an adviser to a particular campaign? The problem is not just that all this is incestuous or unethical, but that it blinds a tiny elite to what millions of quite different Americans value and experience. (…) I wish that the high IQs of the establishment class had taken Murray’s sage advice eight years ago and just listened to what Obama had said in denigration of the Pennsylvania working classes or the “typical white person” grandmother who raised him; or to his pseudo-macho references to guns and knives, and “get in their face”; or to the hokey promises to lower global temperatures and stop the seas from rising; and all the other Vero possumus tripe. Or that they had used their presumably formidable mental powers to review Obama’s public record as a state legislator and a U.S. senator — which presaged everything from Obamacare and the unconstitutional undermining of federal law to the apology tours and the near-destruction of 70 years of bipartisan foreign policy. (…) Did a high IQ prevent an infatuated David Brooks (whom he quotes approvingly) from fathoming presidential success as if he were a sartorial seancer, from the crease of Senator Obama pants leg? What was the IQ of the presidential historian who declared Obama the smartest man ever to be elevated to the White House? Or the Newsweek editor who envisioned an apotheosized Obama? Or the MSNBC host who motor-mouthed about the tingle in his leg at the sound of an Obama speech? Or, yes, the conservative policy analyst (and self-confessed “Starry-eyed Obama groupie”) who wrote approvingly (“flat-out plain brilliant”) of the Obama race speech in March 2008, in which Obama revealed to the world that his own grandmother — the sole steady working breadwinner of Obama’s extended family, whose labors sent him to prep school — was a supposedly “typical white person” in her prejudices, while he further contextualized the abject racism and anti-Semitism of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — a speech renounced by Obama himself when Wright later felt empowered to double down on his racism. Or perhaps the conservative wit who once wrote that Obama has a “first-class temperament and a first-class intellect,” and that he is the rare politician who “writes his own books,” which were “first rate”? Victor Davis Hanson
Many Middle Easterners want to relocate to Europe for its material and civilizational advantages over their homes in Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, or Syria. Yet many new arrivals are highly critical of Western popular culture, permissiveness, and religion — to the extent of not wanting to assimilate into the very culture into which they rushed. Apparently, like their ancient counterparts, modern migrants on the poorer or less stable side of a border are ambiguous about what they want. They seek out the security and bounty of mostly Western systems — whether European or American — but not necessarily to surrender their own cultural identities and values.(…) Mexico is often critical of the United States and yet encourages millions of its own people to emigrate to a supposedly unattractive America. Some protesters in turn wave the flag of the country that they do not wish to return to more often than the flag of the country they are terrified of being deported from. Signs at rallies trash the United States but praise Mexico (…) Rome worked when foreigners crossed through its borders to become Romans. It failed when newcomers fled into the empire and adhered to their own cultures, which were at odds with the Roman ones they had ostensibly chosen. (…) There were no walls between provinces of the Roman Empire — just as there are no walls between the individual states of America — because common language, values, and laws made them all similar. But fortifications gradually arose all over the outer ring of the Roman world, once Rome could no longer afford to homogenize societies antithetical to their own. Victor Davis Hanson
Trump stays in the news not just by taking extreme positions, but also by taking extreme positions on issues that are already extreme. When Mexico prints comic books advising its own citizens on how to enter the U.S. illegally, when the major illegal-alien lobbying group is called The National Council of La Raza (“The Race”), and when major U.S. cities, in Confederate-style, declare themselves “sanctuaries” in which U.S. federal immigration law does not apply, then we long ago entered zones of extremism. (…) Trump sounds crazy—and dangerous—in his idiotic idea to ban entry into the U.S. on the basis of religion. But is that inanity any less extreme than the administration’s European-style wish to welcome in tens of thousands of mostly young males from the war-torn Middle East without any proper method of identification and audit—at a time of spikes in radical Islamic terrorism in the West? Again, Trump cannot predicate immigration on the basis of religion, but he certainly could place a temporary moratorium of all immigration from particular Middle East countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya, in the way that we do not open our arms to mass influxes of Iranians and North Koreans. (…) Ignoring candidate Trump’s crude bombast for conservatives is analogous to liberals tuning out Obama’s campaign calls for supporters to take their knives to a gun fight or to get in their opponents’ faces, or his arrogant put-downs of lower middle-class Pennsylvanians or his flat-out prevarications about his relationship with mentor and personal pastor, the racist and anti-Semitic Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Trump’s memoirs are often vulgar; Obama’s largely fictional. Trump’s selfish womanizing was consensual; former President Bill Clinton’s often allegedly coerced. Victor Davis Hanson
Attention: un extrémisme peut en cacher un autre !
A l’heure où après avoir appelé à sa propre invasion par des migrants illégaux et leur avoir appris la position du missionnaire, l’Allemagne propose l‘exemption de taxes des commerces musulmans pour le ramadan …
Et où après la bénédiction papale de ladite invasion, c’est directement en haute mer que les flottes européennes vont prendre leurs livraisons desdits migrants illégaux que leur apportent quotidiennement les réseaux de passeurs turcs et pour lesquels Ankara encaisse les milliards censés les empêcher de partir …
Pendant qu’après la bénédiction Washington, Londres et Ottawa, les fidèles de Mahomet ouvrent, comme vient le rappeler l’Etat islamique, le « mois de la conquête et de la guerre sainte » avec des attaques sur Amman, Istanbul et Tel Aviv …
Et que sur fond de prise en otage des citoyens et de saccage des établissements bancaires par le premier militant ou syndicaliste venu et après le mariage et les enfants, nos belles âmes proposent rien de moins que le revenu garanti pour tous …
Comment encore s’étonner avec l’éditorialiste et historien militaire américain Victor Davis Hanson …
Et à un Etat mexicain qui il y a encore quelques années publiait un manuel du migrant illégal …
Pendant qu’au mépris des lois fédérales sur l’immigration illégale des villes entières se déclarent villes-sanctuaires …
Why Republicans Will Vote For Trump
Victor Davis Hanson
May 24, 2016
If Donald Trump manages to curb most of his more outrageous outbursts by November, most Republicans who would have preferred that he did not receive the nomination will probably hold their noses and vote for him.
How could that be when a profane Trump has boasted that he would limit Muslim immigration into the United States, talked cavalierly about torturing terrorist suspects and executing their relatives, promised to deport all eleven-million Mexican nationals who are residing illegally in the U.S., and threatened a trade war with China by slapping steep tariffs on their imports?
A number of reasons come to mind.
First, Trump stays in the news not just by taking extreme positions, but also by taking extreme positions on issues that are already extreme. When Mexico prints comic books advising its own citizens on how to enter the U.S. illegally, when the major illegal-alien lobbying group is called The National Council of La Raza (“The Race”), and when major U.S. cities, in Confederate-style, declare themselves “sanctuaries” in which U.S. federal immigration law does not apply, then we long ago entered zones of extremism.
Of course, Trump would be wiser to become both more specific and reasonable about solutions to illegal immigration. “Making Mexico pay for the wall” could be finessed not by a trade war, but perhaps by slapping surcharges on remittances sent to Mexico, at higher rates for those in the U.S. who could not prove legal residency. Deportation certainly sounds like a reasonable punishment for the likely more than 1 million illegal aliens who either have committed serious crimes inside the United States or who have no history of being employed—then, once the border is secure, he could propose granting green card status to the illegal aliens who are employed, long-time residents, without criminal convictions, and willing to pay a fine and learn English.
Trump sounds crazy—and dangerous—in his idiotic idea to ban entry into the U.S. on the basis of religion. But is that inanity any less extreme than the administration’s European-style wish to welcome in tens of thousands of mostly young males from the war-torn Middle East without any proper method of identification and audit—at a time of spikes in radical Islamic terrorism in the West? Again, Trump cannot predicate immigration on the basis of religion, but he certainly could place a temporary moratorium of all immigration from particular Middle East countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya, in the way that we do not open our arms to mass influxes of Iranians and North Koreans.
Trump was bashed for suggesting NATO’s tenure is nearing an end—again another ridiculous and dangerous idea. But that trial balloon remains an unhinged corrective to the present unhinged nature of the alliance, in which few members honor their contractual defense spending obligations, and the alliance has both expanded far beyond anything that its founders envisioned, and conducted optional and sometimes failed operations abroad that had nothing to do with trans-Atlantic security. During the Cold War, we sometimes forgot that NATO members occasionally allowed fly-over rights to Soviet Union air lifts headed to the Middle East, while denying fellow NATO member the United States the use of European NATO air space to resupply Israel.
Many conservatives tune out Trump’s adolescent solutions, but not necessarily the haywire issues he has raised. Most believe that he will back down from his original, headline-grabbing positions, and eventually offer more studied and reasonable solutions to an ignored problem that otherwise might not have been aired. And though the results may not be what his supporters have cheered on in rallies or what his critics have hoped for, they will, to many Republican voters, be preferable to President Obama’s current and Hillary Clinton’s future positions. Ignoring candidate Trump’s crude bombast for conservatives is analogous to liberals tuning out Obama’s campaign calls for supporters to take their knives to a gun fight or to get in their opponents’ faces, or his arrogant put-downs of lower middle-class Pennsylvanians or his flat-out prevarications about his relationship with mentor and personal pastor, the racist and anti-Semitic Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Trump’s memoirs are often vulgar; Obama’s largely fictional. Trump’s selfish womanizing was consensual; former President Bill Clinton’s often allegedly coerced.
A second reason why many conservatives will vote for Trump is that they, like everyone else, are cynical about what candidates say and what they, as presidents, actually do. In 2000, George W. Bush ran as the realist alternative to neocon interventionist John McCain. Obama in 2008 never uttered the word “transgendered.” Instead, he ran against gay marriage, outlined a health plan to the right of Hillary’s that protected patients’ existing coverage and physicians, predicted a new era of presidential transparency, promised post-racial reconciliation, insisted that he could not subvert immigration law or grant amnesties by executive orders, harked on balancing the budget and reducing the national debt, and, as a former law lecturer, vowed to confine the presidency within its constitutional limits.
Third, we have become so inured to the outrageous, that many conservatives are not quite sure whether Trump is just a more in-your-face version of current politicians or if he truly is an outlier in his vulgarity. Consider, after all, the last month in politics. Recently, news stories noted that a White House guest rapper, paroled on a pending felony charge, had his ankle bracelet go off. The White House deputy national security advisor and senior speechwriter Ben Rhodes bragged about how he more or less lied and perpetuated a con to ram through the Iran deal without Senate oversight. Former Obama speechwriters joked on television about writing the lie, “If you like your insurance, you can keep it.” Obama himself threatened to cut off federal funds to states that did not share his reinterpretation of the 1972 Title IX Amendments to include bathroom access of their choice for the transgendered. Meanwhile, the FBI weighs a federal felony indictment against Hillary Clinton, just as stories have resurfaced of Bill Clinton’s frequent and unescorted flights on convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein notorious “Lolita Express.” If that is a typical month in the life of the current administration and ongoing presidential campaign, then what exactly are the norms by which we can judge Trump as a renegade? The proper critique of Trump is that he would not restore decorum to political discourse and behavior that long ago were debased.
Trump should release all his tax records, but probably will not because they would show he pays taxes at a low rate, is not quite the philanthropist he poses to be, and is certainly not worth $10-11 billion. Candidates do not release data that they know prove they are lying or hypocritical—including Hillary Clinton, who has not released thousands of her now deleted emails she claimed were personal and the transcripts of her Wall Street speeches that earned her millions of dollars in campaign quid-pro-quo donations. Obama was never going to release his college transcripts, his personal medical records, or a video clip of his encomium of Rashid Khalidi, former PLO advisor to Yasser Arafat—most likely because he was a lackadaisical B- student who would have never been accepted to law schools without affirmative action, could have been embarrassed about prior medical issues, and at one time might have sounded as if he were a rabid Palestinian supporter. In other words, the shady Trump is now caught gambling in Casablanca.
Fourth, most Republicans do not quite buy the #NeverTrump argument that Trump is running to the left of Hillary Clinton. His critique of Bush’s nation-building is not analogous to Obama’s outreach to Iran and Cuba, and it will not lead to another Benghazi or an apology tour. Rather, his opportunistic attacks on nation-building is more akin to Jacksonian realism—dangerous perhaps in the fragile U.S.-led postwar world and lacking in idealism, but a position to the right, not to the left, of George W. Bush. He is also a crude nationalist on trade and immigration, not a naïve utopian. Deporting some illegal aliens is seen as preferable to never deporting any or protecting criminals in sanctuary cities. Insisting, for example, that Japan treats imported California rice or beef in the manner that the U.S. handles Hondas, is not protectionism or inherently anti-free-trade.
On other issues, such as Supreme Country appointments, the military, abortion, or the budget, Trump will likely be judged as more conservative than Hillary Clinton. After the shock wears off for most Republicans that Trump is only half or two-thirds conservative, they will probably shrug and see him as preferable to Clinton, who has little to no conservative propensities whatsoever. Trump may have moved the Republican Party to the center, but Clinton moved the Democratic Party much farther from the center—and to the left. The campaign will be long, heated, and polarizing, and Clinton will be attacking conservative positions far more than will Trump. The #NeverTrump crowd will increasingly have nowhere to go, given that their criticism of the Republican nominee will only empower the liberal Clinton as the race grows close. As Republican fence-sitters and dissenters in the next five months watch conservative values serially trashed by the Clinton campaign, their patience will probably wear thin by November.
Finally, Republicans might embrace a democratic fatalism—or the opinion, in other words, that “if that’s what the people want, that’s what the people get.” They may well vote for Trump as loyal party members, but also retreat to the fallback position that they never wished him to win the nomination in the first place. Some Republicans who vow to stay home in November will—but the vast majority will bite their lip and likely vote Trump.
Class, Trump, and the Election
If the ‘high IQs’ of the establishment have let America down, where is a voter to turn?
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
May 31, 2016
Donald Trump seems to have offended almost every possible identity group. But the New York billionaire still also seems to appeal to the working classes (in part no doubt precisely because he has offended so many special-interest factions; in part because he was seen in the primaries as an outsider using his own money; in part because he seems a crude man of action who dislikes most of those of whom Middle America is tired). At this point, his best hope in November, to the extent such a hope exists, rests on turning 2016 into a referendum on class and a collective national interest that transcends race and gender — and on emphasizing the sad fact that America works now mostly for an elite, best epitomized by Clinton, Inc.
We should not underestimate the opportunities for approaching traditional issues from radically different perspectives. The National Rifle Association is running the most effective ads in its history, hitting elites who wish to curtail gun ownership on the part of those who are not afforded the security blankets of the wealthy. Why should not an inner-city resident wish to buy a legal weapon, when armed security guards patrol America’s far safer gated communities? For most of the Clintons’ adult lives, they have been accompanied by men and women with concealed weapons to ensure their safety — on the premise that firearms, not mace, not Tasers, not knives or clubs, alone would ultimately keep the two safe.
Fracking provides jobs and cheaper fuel; the elites of the Democratic party care about neither. Indeed, Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu proclaimed their desire for spiraling gas and electricity prices. Boutique environmentalism is a losing issue for the Democrats. The very wealthy can afford to be more concerned for a three-inch smelt than for irrigation water that will ensure that there are jobs for tractor drivers and affordable food for the less-well-off. When Hillary Clinton talks about putting miners out of work, she’s talking about people she has no desire to see unless she needs their votes.
Illegal immigration is another issue that offers class leverage. Middle-class Mexican-Americans cannot afford to put their kids in private schools when local districts are overwhelmed with non-English-speaking students. Trying to provide parity for 11 million or more illegal aliens naturally comes at the expense of fewer safety-net protections for minority citizens, just as driving down wages is good for the employer but hardly for the citizen who competes with illegal aliens for entry-level jobs. And what about lower-middle-class communities that are overwhelmed with foreign nationals whose backgrounds were never checked.
Outsourcing jobs affects predominantly the lower middle classes; no pundit, D.C. staffer, or New York lawyer is replaced by some cheaper English-speaker from the Punjab. Obamacare follows the same pattern. Elites who praise it to the skies either have the money or the Cadillac plans to navigate around it. I doubt that Rahm Emanuel and his brothers queue up at a surgery center, hoping to win five minutes with an ophthalmologist who now treats 70 patients a day to survive under Obamacare.
Donald Trump is unlikely to defeat Hillary Clinton unless he, an insider billionaire with little political knowledge, can appeal to the concerns of millions that cut across the Democratic firewalls of race and class. If a mom in Orange County thinks that Benghazi did make a difference and ISIS is a murderous Islamic terrorist enterprise, if an African-American youth believes that someone should try to hire him on a building site in preference to an illegal alien, and if a cosmetician believes that one violation of a federal law will land her in jail while many violations may land Hillary in the White House, then class trumps identity politics.
The entire establishments of both political parties are losing the illusion that they are clothed. The Clintons and their appendages famously became rich by monetizing their public positions through shakedowns of the international corporate set, under the patina of egalitarian progressivism. No one in the media for a decade has said a word about their criminal enterprise; commentators were more likely to donate to the Clinton Foundation as a sort of business investment or indemnity insurance. And how in the world does a middle-class ex-teacher and congressman with a 20-year tenure like Dennis Hastert end up with millions to pay hush money to the victims of his alleged pederastic assaults? How did a Harry Reid become a Nevada multimillionaire? How many middle-class workers’ annual incomes does Hillary Clinton trump in a single 20-minute Wall Street speech, whose content is vacuous? Where, then, is Occupy Wall Street?
Why the NeverTrump movement has so far failed is in part a matter of class as well, defined not so much in terms of cash, as of influence, education, and lifestyle. In 2008 it was gauche to bring up the vicious racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose trite cast-off slogan “audacity of hope” inspired the title of Barack Obama’s campaign primer. In 2012, it would have apparently been rude for Mitt Romney to have fired back at Candy Crowley, “How dare you hijack a presidential debate!” Yes, Trump may be creepy, but the reluctance to challenge our present naked emperors is just as creepy. Is the so-called establishment going to warn us that Trump would be capable of running up $10 trillion in debt, socializing our medical system, unleashing the IRS and EPA on perceived enemies, and weakening friends and empowering enemies abroad, as he offers the world historically challenged pop riffs on Islam, Hiroshima, and global geography? For each take-down of NeverTrump, can we at least have commensurate analysis of how and why a monstrosity like the Clinton cash operation was allowed to thrive without audit; or how it is that the secretary of state and her minions snubbed the law and behaved in a fashion that would have put any other federal employees in jail; or how it is that 155 years after the start of the Civil War over 300 cities, counties, and states have declared federal law null and void in their jurisdictions — and with complete impunity?
Turn on an evening cable show and ask which interviewer is married to which anchor on another channel, or which of the pundits are former politicos, or how many in the White House worked for Big News or are married or related to someone who does. How many pundits were advisers to political candidates or related to someone who was? How does Ben Rhodes do an interview on CBS News or George Stephanopoulos interview Hillary Clinton or a writer expound on the primaries when he is also an adviser to a particular campaign? The problem is not just that all this is incestuous or unethical, but that it blinds a tiny elite to what millions of quite different Americans value and experience.
Charles Murray recently wrote in anger, addressing those who would vote for Trump because “Hillary is even worse”: “I know that I am unlikely to persuade any of my fellow Establishmentarians to change their minds. But I cannot end without urging you to resist that sin to which people with high IQs (which most of you have) are unusually prone: Using your intellectual powers to convince yourself of something despite the evidence plainly before you. Just watch and listen to the man. Don’t concoct elaborate rationalizations. Just watch and listen.”
I wish that the high IQs of the establishment class had taken Murray’s sage advice eight years ago and just listened to what Obama had said in denigration of the Pennsylvania working classes or the “typical white person” grandmother who raised him; or to his pseudo-macho references to guns and knives, and “get in their face”; or to the hokey promises to lower global temperatures and stop the seas from rising; and all the other Vero possumus tripe. Or that they had used their presumably formidable mental powers to review Obama’s public record as a state legislator and a U.S. senator — which presaged everything from Obamacare and the unconstitutional undermining of federal law to the apology tours and the near-destruction of 70 years of bipartisan foreign policy.
Murray has a point that Trump’s crudity and buffoonery should be taken seriously, but when he says establishmentarians have “high IQs,” what exactly does he mean? Did a high IQ prevent an infatuated David Brooks (whom he quotes approvingly) from fathoming presidential success as if he were a sartorial seancer, from the crease of Senator Obama pants leg? What was the IQ of the presidential historian who declared Obama the smartest man ever to be elevated to the White House? Or the Newsweek editor who envisioned an apotheosized Obama? Or the MSNBC host who motor-mouthed about the tingle in his leg at the sound of an Obama speech? Or, yes, the conservative policy analyst (and self-confessed “Starry-eyed Obama groupie”) who wrote approvingly (“flat-out plain brilliant”) of the Obama race speech in March 2008, in which Obama revealed to the world that his own grandmother — the sole steady working breadwinner of Obama’s extended family, whose labors sent him to prep school — was a supposedly “typical white person” in her prejudices, while he further contextualized the abject racism and anti-Semitism of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — a speech renounced by Obama himself when Wright later felt empowered to double down on his racism. Or perhaps the conservative wit who once wrote that Obama has a “first-class temperament and a first-class intellect,” and that he is the rare politician who “writes his own books,” which were “first rate”?
Establishmentarian high IQs? The point is not to castigate past poor judgment, but to offer New Testament reminders about hubris and the casting of first stones — and why hoi polloi are skeptical of their supposed intellectual betters.
So how did a blond comb-over real-estate dealer destroy an impressive and decent Republican field and find himself near dead even with Hillary Clinton — to the complete astonishment, and later fury, of the Washington establishment?
Simply because lots of people have become exhausted by political and media elites who have thought very highly of themselves — but on what grounds it has become increasingly impossible to figure out.
A Mexican Manual for Illegal Migrants Upsets Some in U.S.
James C. Mckinley jr.
Jan. 6, 2005
MEXICO CITY, Jan. 5 – The Mexican government drew fire from American advocates of tighter borders on Wednesday for publishing a pamphlet that instructs migrants how to safely enter the United States illegally and live there without being detected.
Officials here say the small booklet, illustrated in comic-book style, is not intended to encourage illegal immigration, but to reduce the loss of life. Last year, more than 300 migrants died while crossing rivers and deserts to reach the United States.
The guidebook also advises would-be migrants to avoid hiring professional immigrant-smugglers and to refuse to carry packages for others. It also instructs people never to lie to border officials, carry false documents or resist arrest.
But groups favoring stricter immigration controls said the pamphlet amounted to a how-to manual for illegal immigrants. The booklet gives advice on what clothes to wear when fording a river and how to cross a desert without getting dehydrated.
It also counsels migrants to keep a low profile once in the United States, telling them, for instance, to stay away from loud parties or discos that might be raided by the police and to stay out of domestic disputes, which might lead to an arrest. Finally, it lists what rights migrants have if caught, among them safe transport home, medical care, food and water.
« This is not the action of a friendly neighbor, » said Representative Tom Tancredo, the Colorado Republican who chairs the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus. « What would the Mexican government say if we encouraged our citizens to violate Mexican law? »
Mexico’s Foreign Ministry, however, said its intent in publishing the « Guide for the Mexican Migrant » was to warn migrants of the dangers they might face if they choose to slip illegally into the United States.
Gerónimo Gutiérrez, Mexico’s under secretary for North American affairs, said the guide was written to dissuade people from making a clandestine journey or at least to warn them of the perils and legal risks should they decide to go. About 1.5 million copies of the guide were printed and distributed throughout the country in December.
« Just last year over 300 Mexicans died in their attempt to enter the United States, the vast majority if not all of them in search of a job, » Mr. Gutiérrez said. « The Mexican government obviously has an obligation to take all actions possible in order to avoid the loss of life. »
He added, « It is a natural and fair response to consider this as an attempt to promote undocumented immigration, but that is absolutely not the intent of the Mexican government. »
But groups seeking stricter immigration laws argued that Mexican officials were being disingenuous in asserting that the pamphlet does not encourage illegal migration. They say that Mexico wants to continue exporting unemployed people and reaping the benefits of money sent home to their families.
« If the Mexican government were really very concerned about their citizens dying in the desert, why doesn’t it use its army and police to prevent people from crossing in those areas? » said Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors tighter borders.
Others said the pamphlet only highlighted the need to revamp the American immigration system, which seems to have no effective response to the yearly flood of Mexican migrants seeking jobs. « The publication is nothing more than another symptom of a broken immigration system, » said Paul L. Zulkie, president of American Immigration Lawyers Association.
How Ben Rhodes rewrote the rules of diplomacy for the digital age.
May 5, 2016
Picture him as a young man, standing on the waterfront in North Williamsburg, at a polling site, on Sept. 11, 2001, which was Election Day in New York City. He saw the planes hit the towers, an unforgettable moment of sheer disbelief followed by panic and shock and lasting horror, a scene that eerily reminded him, in the aftermath, of the cover of the Don DeLillo novel “Underworld.”
Everything changed that day. But the way it changed Ben Rhodes’s life is still unique, and perhaps not strictly believable, even as fiction. He was in the second year of the M.F.A. program at N.Y.U., writing short stories about losers in garden apartments and imagining that soon he would be published in literary magazines, acquire an agent and produce a novel by the time he turned 26. He saw the first tower go down, and after that he walked around for a while, until he ran into someone he knew, and they went back to her shared Williamsburg apartment and tried to find a television that worked, and when he came back outside, everyone was taking pictures of the towers in flames. He saw an Arab guy sobbing on the subway. “That image has always stayed with me,” he says. “Because I think he knew more than we did about what was going to happen.” Writing Frederick Barthelme knockoffs suddenly seemed like a waste of time.
“I immediately developed this idea that, you know, maybe I want to try to write about international affairs,” he explained. “In retrospect, I had no idea what that meant.” His mother’s closest friend growing up ran the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which then published Foreign Policy. He sent her a letter and included what would wind up being his only piece of published fiction, a short story that appeared in The Beloit Fiction Journal. It was titled “The Goldfish Smiles, You Smile Back.” The story still haunts him, he says, because “it foreshadowed my entire life.”
It’s the day of President Obama’s final State of the Union address, Jan. 12, and the news inside the White House is not good. Luckily, the reporters on the couch in the West Wing waiting room don’t know it yet. The cream of the crop are here this early p.m. for a private, off-the-record lunch with the president, who will preview his annual remarks to Congress over a meal that is reported to be among the best in the White House chef’s repertoire.
“Blitzer!” a man calls out. A small figure in a long navy cashmere overcoat turns around, in mock surprise.
“You don’t write, you don’t call,” Wolf Blitzer, the CNN anchorman, parries.
“Well, you can call,” shoots back his former colleague Roland Martin. Their repartee thus concluded, they move on to the mutually fascinating subject of Washington traffic jams. “I used to have a 9:30 hit on CNN,” Martin reminisces. “The office was 8.2 miles from my home. It took me 45 minutes.” The CBS News anchor Scott Pelley tells a story about how members of the press destroyed the lawn during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and were told that they would be allowed back once the grass was replanted. The National Park Service replanted the grass outside the White House, but the journalists weren’t allowed back on the lawn.
Unnoticed by the reporters, Ben Rhodes walks through the room, a half-beat behind a woman in leopard-print heels. He is holding a phone to his ear, repeating his mantra: “I’m not important. You’re important.”
The Boy Wonder of the Obama White House is now 38. He heads downstairs to his windowless basement office, which is divided into two parts. In the front office, his assistant, Rumana Ahmed, and his deputy, Ned Price, are squeezed behind desks, which face a large television screen, from which CNN blares nonstop. Large pictures of Obama adorn the walls. Here is the president adjusting Rhodes’s tie; presenting his darling baby daughter, Ella, with a flower; and smiling wide while playing with Ella on a giant rug that says “E Pluribus Unum.”
For much of the past five weeks, Rhodes has been channeling the president’s consciousness into what was imagined as an optimistic, forward-looking final State of the Union. Now, from the flat screens, a challenge to that narrative arises: Iran has seized two small boats containing 10 American sailors. Rhodes found out about the Iranian action earlier that morning but was trying to keep it out of the news until after the president’s speech. “They can’t keep a secret for two hours,” Rhodes says, with a tone of mild exasperation at the break in message discipline.
As the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, Rhodes writes the president’s speeches, plans his trips abroad and runs communications strategy across the White House, tasks that, taken individually, give little sense of the importance of his role. He is, according to the consensus of the two dozen current and former White House insiders I talked to, the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from Potus himself. The president and Rhodes communicate “regularly, several times a day,” according to Denis McDonough, Obama’s chief of staff, who is known for captaining a tight ship. “I see it throughout the day in person,” he says, adding that he is sure that in addition to the two to three hours that Rhodes might spend with Obama daily, the two men communicate remotely throughout the day via email and phone calls. Rhodes strategized and ran the successful Iran-deal messaging campaign, helped negotiate the opening of American relations with Cuba after a hiatus of more than 50 years and has been a co-writer of all of Obama’s major foreign-policy speeches. “Every day he does 12 jobs, and he does them better than the other people who have those jobs,” Terry Szuplat, the longest-tenured member of the National Security Council speechwriting corps, told me. On the largest and smallest questions alike, the voice in which America speaks to the world is that of Ben Rhodes.
Like Obama, Rhodes is a storyteller who uses a writer’s tools to advance an agenda that is packaged as politics but is often quite personal. He is adept at constructing overarching plotlines with heroes and villains, their conflicts and motivations supported by flurries of carefully chosen adjectives, quotations and leaks from named and unnamed senior officials. He is the master shaper and retailer of Obama’s foreign-policy narratives, at a time when the killer wave of social media has washed away the sand castles of the traditional press. His ability to navigate and shape this new environment makes him a more effective and powerful extension of the president’s will than any number of policy advisers or diplomats or spies. His lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing — is still startling.
Part of what accounts for Rhodes’s influence is his “mind meld” with the president. Nearly everyone I spoke to about Rhodes used the phrase “mind meld” verbatim, some with casual assurance and others in the hushed tones that are usually reserved for special insights. He doesn’t think for the president, but he knows what the president is thinking, which is a source of tremendous power. One day, when Rhodes and I were sitting in his boiler-room office, he confessed, with a touch of bafflement, “I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends.”
Standing in his front office before the State of the Union, Rhodes quickly does the political math on the breaking Iran story. “Now they’ll show scary pictures of people praying to the supreme leader,” he predicts, looking at the screen. Three beats more, and his brain has spun a story line to stanch the bleeding. He turns to Price. “We’re resolving this, because we have relationships,” he says.
Price turns to his computer and begins tapping away at the administration’s well-cultivated network of officials, talking heads, columnists and newspaper reporters, web jockeys and outside advocates who can tweet at critics and tweak their stories backed up by quotations from “senior White House officials” and “spokespeople.” I watch the message bounce from Rhodes’s brain to Price’s keyboard to the three big briefing podiums — the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon — and across the Twitterverse, where it springs to life in dozens of insta-stories, which over the next five hours don formal dress for mainstream outlets. It’s a tutorial in the making of a digital news microclimate — a storm that is easy to mistake these days for a fact of nature, but whose author is sitting next to me right now.
Rhodes logs into his computer. “It’s the middle of the [expletive] night in Iran,” he grumbles. Price looks up from his keyboard to provide a messaging update: “Considering that they have 10 of our guys in custody, we’re doing O.K.”
With three hours to go until the president’s address to Congress, Rhodes grabs a big Gatorade and starts combing through the text of the State of the Union address. I peek over his shoulder, to get a sense of the meta-narrative that will shape dozens of thumb-suckers in the days and weeks to follow. One sentence reads: “But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.” He retypes a word, then changes it back, before continuing with his edit. “Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages — they pose an enormous danger to civilians; they have to be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence.”
Watching Rhodes work, I remember that he is still, chiefly, a writer, who is using a new set of tools — along with the traditional arts of narrative and spin — to create stories of great consequence on the biggest page imaginable. The narratives he frames, the voices of senior officials, the columnists and reporters whose work he skillfully shapes and ventriloquizes, and even the president’s own speeches and talking points, are the only dots of color in a much larger vision about who Americans are and where we are going that Rhodes and the president have been formulating together over the past seven years. When I asked Jon Favreau, Obama’s lead speechwriter in the 2008 campaign, and a close friend of Rhodes’s, whether he or Rhodes or the president had ever thought of their individual speeches and bits of policy making as part of some larger restructuring of the American narrative, he replied, “We saw that as our entire job.”
Having recently spent time working in Hollywood, I realize during our conversations that the role Rhodes plays in the White House bears less resemblance to any specific character on Beltway-insider TV shows like “The West Wing” or “House of Cards” than it does to the people who create those shows. And like most TV writers, Rhodes clearly prefers to imagine himself in the company of novelists.
“What novel is this that you are living in now and will exit from in eight months and be like, ‘Oh, my God’?” I ask him.
“Who would be the author of this novel?” he asks.
“The one you are a character in now?”
“Don DeLillo, I think,” Rhodes answers. “I don’t know how you feel about Don DeLillo.”
“I love Don DeLillo,” I answer.
“Yeah,” Rhodes answers. “That’s the only person I can think of who has confronted these questions of, you know, the individual who finds himself negotiating both vast currents of history and a very specific kind of power dynamics. That’s his milieu. And that’s what it’s like to work in the U.S. foreign-policy apparatus in 2016.”
It has been rare to find Ben Rhodes’s name in news stories about the large events of the past seven years, unless you are looking for the quotation from an unnamed senior official in Paragraph 9. He is invisible because he is not an egotist, and because he is devoted to the president. But once you are attuned to the distinctive qualities of Rhodes’s voice — which is often laced with aggressive contempt for anyone or anything that stands in the president’s way — you can hear him everywhere.
Rhodes’s mother and father are not interested in talking about Rhodes. Neither is his older brother, David, who is president of CBS News, an organization that recently revived the effort to declassify the contents of the redacted 28 pages of the Sept. 11 report on the eve of Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia, on which Rhodes, as usual, accompanied the president. The brothers are close, but they often go months without seeing each other. “He was like the kid who carried the briefcase to school,” Ben says of his brother, who worked at Fox News and Bloomberg before moving to CBS. “I actually didn’t do that great in high school because I was drinking and smoking pot and hanging out in Central Park.”
Rhodes’s impassioned yet depressive vibe, which I feel in his stray remarks and in the strangeness of his decision to allow me to roam around the White House, stems in part from feeling overloaded; he wishes he had more time to think and write. His mother is Jewish from the Upper East Side, and worships John Updike, and reads The New Yorker. His father is a Texan lawyer who took his sons to St. Thomas Episcopal Church once a month, where Rhodes felt like the Jewish kid in church, the same way he felt like a “Jewish Christian” at Passover Seders. His New York City prep-school-kid combination of vulnerability, brattiness and passionate hatred for phonies suggests an only slightly updated version of what Holden Caulfield might have been like if he grew up to work in the West Wing.
Rhodes at a nuclear-security summit meeting in March, where President Obama met with President Xi Jinping of China. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times
Rhodes’s windowless back office, which doesn’t have a TV screen, is an oasis of late-night calm in a building devoted to the performance of power. The walls are painted a soft creamy color, which gives it the feel of an upscale hotel room with the drapes closed. He arrives here every morning between 8 and 9 from a modest two-bedroom apartment in a grad-student-type building in an unpretentious Washington neighborhood around the corner from his favorite post-collegiate bar. Before coming to work, he walks his 1-year-old daughter to day care. Then he drives to work in his Beamer, which appears to be the one grown-up luxury he and his wife, Ann Norris, who works in the State Department and longs to return to her childhood home of California, can afford. When his wife takes the car, he rides the bus, which offers him a touch of the anonymity he craves. His days at the White House start with the president’s daily briefing, which usually includes the vice president, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Adviser Avril Haines and Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco.
The books on his shelves are a mix of DeLillo novels, history books, recondite tomes on Cuba and Burma and adventure-wonk stuff like Mark Mazzetti’s “The Way of the Knife.” C. S. Lewis makes an appearance here, alongside a volume of Lincoln speeches (Obama tells all his speechwriters to read Lincoln) and George Orwell’s “All Art Is Propaganda.” I have seen the same books on the shelves of plenty of Brooklyn apartments. Yet some large part of the recent history of America and its role in the world turns on the fact that the entirely familiar person sitting at the desk in front of me, who seems not unlike other weed-smokers I know who write Frederick Barthelme-type short stories, has achieved a “mind meld” with President Obama and used his skills to help execute a radical shift in American foreign policy.
So I wonder: How did he get from there to here?
The story that Rhodes published in The Beloit Fiction Journal is a good place to start.
The goldfish idea, I’m told, had been Ms. Wellberg’s.
“Why?” I ask. She is dyed blond, slim, petite, attractive.
“You take meticulous notes,” she slurs.
The editor at Foreign Policy who read “Goldfish,” which Rhodes attached with his query letter, said that the young M.F.A. would be bored with fact-checking. Instead, he suggested that he apply for a job with Lee Hamilton, the onetime congressman from Indiana, who was looking for a speechwriter.
“I was surprised,” Hamilton remembered. “What the hell does a guy who wanted to write fiction come to me for?” But he had always found writers useful, and Rhodes’s writing sample was the best in the pile. So he hired him on at the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan think tank. Though Rhodes never said a word in meetings, Hamilton says, he had a keen understanding of what was going on and a talent for putting the positions of distinguished participants down on paper. “I immediately understood that it’s a very important quality for a staffer,” Hamilton explained, “that he could come into a meeting and decide what was decided.” I suggested that the phrase “decide what was decided” is suggestive of the enormous power that might accrue to someone with Rhodes’s gifts. Hamilton nodded. “Absolutely,” he said.
The notes go on and on. They have ideas with subsets of ideas and reactions to ideas indented beneath the original ideas. The handwriting is perfect. The representation of what happened in the meetings immaculate, like a mirror’s reflection after it has been scrubbed clean. I have a reputation for my notes.
Rhodes served as Hamilton’s staff member on the 9/11 Commission, where he met Denis McDonough, another Hamilton protégé, who had gone on to work for Tom Daschle in the Senate. Rhodes then became the chief note-taker for the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan commission that excoriated George Bush’s war in Iraq. He accompanied Hamilton and his Republican counterpart on the group, former secretary of state and Bush family intimate James Baker, to their meetings with Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, David Petraeus and many others (Vice President Dick Cheney met with the group but didn’t say a word). According to both Hamilton and Edward Djerejian, Baker’s second on the I.S.G., Rhodes’s opinions were helpful in shaping the group’s conclusions — a scathing indictment of the policy makers responsible for invading Iraq. For Rhodes, who wrote much of the I.S.G. report, the Iraq war was proof, in black and white, not of the complexity of international affairs or the many perils attendant on political decision-making but of the fact that the decision-makers were morons.
One result of this experience was that when Rhodes joined the Obama campaign in 2007, he arguably knew more about the Iraq war than the candidate himself, or any of his advisers. He had also developed a healthy contempt for the American foreign-policy establishment, including editors and reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and elsewhere, who at first applauded the Iraq war and then sought to pin all the blame on Bush and his merry band of neocons when it quickly turned sour. If anything, that anger has grown fiercer during Rhodes’s time in the White House. He referred to the American foreign-policy establishment as the Blob. According to Rhodes, the Blob includes Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and other Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East.
Boost thinks very highly of me. My notes are so impressive that they have taken on the form of ideas, he feels. I capture other people’s words in a manner that not only organizes them, but inserts a clarity and purpose that was not present in the original idea. Connections are made between two opposing ideas that were not apparent in the meeting. I have gotten at not only the representation of things, but the way that the mind actually works.
Jon Favreau, then the campaign’s lead speechwriter, felt as if he could use a foreign-affairs expert who could write. “Foreign-policy advisers kept changing all the language that made Obama sound like he wasn’t part of the Democratic foreign-policy establishment,” he remembers. “The idea of someone with a masters in fiction who had also co-authored the Iraq Study Group and 9/11 Commission reports seemed perfect for a candidate who put so much emphasis on storytelling.” The two young speechwriters quickly found themselves to be in sync. “He truly gives zero [expletive] about what most people in Washington think,” Favreau says admiringly of Rhodes. “I think he’s always seen his time there as temporary and won’t care if he’s never again invited to a cocktail party, or asked to appear on ‘Morning Joe,’ or inducted into the Council on Foreign Relations hall of fame or whatever the hell they do there.”
I sit next to Boost in the meetings. The ideas fly like radio waves. I am silent in these meetings, taking notes.
“He was easily underestimatable,” Samantha Power recalls, of Rhodes’s arrival on the Obama campaign in 2007. Herself a writer, whose history of America’s responses to genocide, “A Problem From Hell,” won the Pulitzer Prize, Power went to work in Obama’s Senate office in 2005. Power is now the American ambassador to the United Nations. Her attire suggests a disingenuous ambivalence about her role in government that appears to be common among her cohort in the Obama administration, with a cardigan made of thick, expensive-looking cashmere worn over a simple frock, along with silver spray-painted rock ’n’ roll sneakers. See, I’m sympatico, the sneakers proclaim.
Early on, what struck her about Rhodes was how strategic he was. “He was leading quietly, initially, and mainly just through track changes, like what to accept and reject,” she says. When I ask her where Rhodes’s control over drafts of the candidate’s speeches came from, she immediately answers, “Obama,” but then qualifies her answer. “But it was Hobbesian,” she adds. “He had the pen. And he understood intuitively that having the pen gave him that control.” His judgment was superior to that of his rivals, and he refused to ever back down. “He was just defiant,” she recalls. “He was like: ‘No, I’m not. That’s bad. Obama wouldn’t want that.’ ”
Obama relies on Rhodes for “an unvarnished take,” in part, she says, because “Ben just has no poker face,” and so it’s easy to see when he is feeling uncomfortable. “The president will be like, ‘Ben, something on your mind?’ And then Ben will have this incredibly precise lay-down of why the previous half-hour has been an utter waste of time, because there’s a structural flaw to the entire direction of the conversation.”
The literary character that Rhodes most closely resembles, Power volunteers, is Holden Caulfield. “He hates the idea of being phony, and he’s impetuous, and he has very strong views.”
In Afghanistan the Taliban dynamites enormous statues of Buddha, the ancient material imploding and crumbling to the ground, small specks of men can be seen watching in the foreground. This is somewhere else. Far away.
On his first day in the West Wing, Rhodes remembers thinking how remarkably small the space was, and noticing that the same few dozen people he worked with at campaign headquarters in Chicago were now wearing suits instead of jeans. The enormousness of the endeavor sank in on that first day, and he realized that for all the prep work, there was no manual for how to be on the staff of the person who is running the country, particularly at a time when the global economy was in free fall and 180,000 Americans were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. He became aware of two things at once: the weight of the issues that the president was confronted with, and the intense global interest in even the most mundane presidential communications.
‘He truly gives zero [expletive] about what most people in Washington think. I think he’s always seen his time there as temporary and won’t care if he’s never again invited to a cocktail party.’
The job he was hired to do, namely to help the president of the United States communicate with the public, was changing in equally significant ways, thanks to the impact of digital technologies that people in Washington were just beginning to wrap their minds around. It is hard for many to absorb the true magnitude of the change in the news business — 40 percent of newspaper-industry professionals have lost their jobs over the past decade — in part because readers can absorb all the news they want from social-media platforms like Facebook, which are valued in the tens and hundreds of billions of dollars and pay nothing for the “content” they provide to their readers. You have to have skin in the game — to be in the news business, or depend in a life-or-death way on its products — to understand the radical and qualitative ways in which words that appear in familiar typefaces have changed. Rhodes singled out a key example to me one day, laced with the brutal contempt that is a hallmark of his private utterances. “All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus,” he said. “Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
In this environment, Rhodes has become adept at ventriloquizing many people at once. Ned Price, Rhodes’s assistant, gave me a primer on how it’s done. The easiest way for the White House to shape the news, he explained, is from the briefing podiums, each of which has its own dedicated press corps. “But then there are sort of these force multipliers,” he said, adding, “We have our compadres, I will reach out to a couple people, and you know I wouldn’t want to name them — ”
“I can name them,” I said, ticking off a few names of prominent Washington reporters and columnists who often tweet in sync with White House messaging.
Price laughed. “I’ll say, ‘Hey, look, some people are spinning this narrative that this is a sign of American weakness,’ ” he continued, “but — ”
“In fact it’s a sign of strength!” I said, chuckling.
“And I’ll give them some color,” Price continued, “and the next thing I know, lots of these guys are in the dot-com publishing space, and have huge Twitter followings, and they’ll be putting this message out on their own.”
This is something different from old-fashioned spin, which tended to be an art best practiced in person. In a world where experienced reporters competed for scoops and where carrying water for the White House was a cause for shame, no matter which party was in power, it was much harder to sustain a “narrative” over any serious period of time. Now the most effectively weaponized 140-character idea or quote will almost always carry the day, and it is very difficult for even good reporters to necessarily know where the spin is coming from or why.
When I later visited Obama’s former campaign mastermind David Axelrod in Chicago, I brought up the soft Orwellian vibe of an information space where old media structures and hierarchies have been erased by Silicon Valley billionaires who convinced the suckers that information was “free” and everyone with access to Google was now a reporter. Axelrod, a former newspaperman, sighed. “It’s not as easy as standing in front of a press conference and speaking to 70 million people like past presidents have been able to do,” he said. The bully pulpit by and large doesn’t exist anymore, he explained. “So more and more, over the last couple of years, there’s been an investment in alternative means of communication: using digital more effectively, going to nontraditional sources, understanding where on each issue your constituencies are going to be found,” he said. “I think they’ve approached these major foreign-policy challenges as campaign challenges, and they’ve run campaigns, and those campaigns have been very sophisticated.”
Rhodes’s innovative campaign to sell the Iran deal is likely to be a model for how future administrations explain foreign policy to Congress and the public. The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal. Even where the particulars of that story are true, the implications that readers and viewers are encouraged to take away from those particulars are often misleading or false. Obama’s closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of his presidency. “It’s the center of the arc,” Rhodes explained to me two days after the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was implemented. He then checked off the ways in which the administration’s foreign-policy aims and priorities converged on Iran. “We don’t have to kind of be in cycles of conflict if we can find other ways to resolve these issues,” he said. “We can do things that challenge the conventional thinking that, you know, ‘AIPAC doesn’t like this,’ or ‘the Israeli government doesn’t like this,’ or ‘the gulf countries don’t like it.’ It’s the possibility of improved relations with adversaries. It’s nonproliferation. So all these threads that the president’s been spinning — and I mean that not in the press sense — for almost a decade, they kind of all converged around Iran.”
In the narrative that Rhodes shaped, the “story” of the Iran deal began in 2013, when a “moderate” faction inside the Iranian regime led by Hassan Rouhani beat regime “hard-liners” in an election and then began to pursue a policy of “openness,” which included a newfound willingness to negotiate the dismantling of its illicit nuclear-weapons program. The president set out the timeline himself in his speech announcing the nuclear deal on July 14, 2015: “Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not.” While the president’s statement was technically accurate — there had in fact been two years of formal negotiations leading up to the signing of the J.C.P.O.A. — it was also actively misleading, because the most meaningful part of the negotiations with Iran had begun in mid-2012, many months before Rouhani and the “moderate” camp were chosen in an election among candidates handpicked by Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The idea that there was a new reality in Iran was politically useful to the Obama administration. By obtaining broad public currency for the thought that there was a significant split in the regime, and that the administration was reaching out to moderate-minded Iranians who wanted peaceful relations with their neighbors and with America, Obama was able to evade what might have otherwise been a divisive but clarifying debate over the actual policy choices that his administration was making. By eliminating the fuss about Iran’s nuclear program, the administration hoped to eliminate a source of structural tension between the two countries, which would create the space for America to disentangle itself from its established system of alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and Turkey. With one bold move, the administration would effectively begin the process of a large-scale disengagement from the Middle East.
The nerve center for the selling of the Iran deal to Congress, which took place in a concentrated three-month period between July and September of last year, was located inside the White House, and is referred to by its former denizens as “the war room.” Chad Kreikemeier, a Nebraskan who had worked in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, helped run the team, which included three to six people from each of several agencies, he says, which were the State Department, Treasury, the American delegation to the United Nations (i.e., Samantha Power), “at times D.O.D.” (the Department of Defense) and also the Department of Energy and the National Security Council. Rhodes “was kind of like the quarterback,” running the daily video conferences and coming up with lines of attack and parry. “He was extremely good about immediately getting to a phrase or a way of getting the message out that just made more sense,” Kreikemeier remembers. Framing the deal as a choice between peace and war was Rhodes’s go-to move — and proved to be a winning argument.
The person whom Kreikemeier credits with running the digital side of the campaign was Tanya Somanader, 31, the director of digital response for the White House Office of Digital Strategy, who became known in the war room and on Twitter as @TheIranDeal. Early on, Rhodes asked her to create a rapid-response account that fact-checked everything related to the Iran deal. “So, we developed a plan that was like: The Iran deal is literally going to be the tip of everything that we stand up online,” Somanader says. “And we’re going to map it onto what we know about the different audiences we’re dealing with: the public, pundits, experts, the right wing, Congress.” By applying 21st-century data and networking tools to the white-glove world of foreign affairs, the White House was able to track what United States senators and the people who worked for them, and influenced them, were seeing online — and make sure that no potential negative comment passed without a tweet.
Rhodes (center) and Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, listening as President Obama spoke to reporters during an off-the-record discussion. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
As she explained how the process worked, I was struck by how naïve the assumption of a “state of nature” must seem in an information environment that is mediated less and less by experienced editors and reporters with any real prior knowledge of the subjects they write about. “People construct their own sense of source and credibility now,” she said. “They elect who they’re going to believe.” For those in need of more traditional-seeming forms of validation, handpicked Beltway insiders like Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Laura Rozen of Al-Monitor helped retail the administration’s narrative. “Laura Rozen was my RSS feed,” Somanader offered. “She would just find everything and retweet it.”
Rhodes’s messaging campaign was so effective not simply because it was a perfectly planned and executed example of digital strategy, but also because he was personally involved in guiding the deal itself. In July 2012, Jake Sullivan, a close aide to Hillary Clinton, traveled to Muscat, Oman, for the first meeting with the Iranians, taking a message from the White House. “It was, ‘We’re prepared to open a direct channel to resolve the nuclear agreement if you are prepared to do the same thing and authorize it at the highest levels and engage in a serious discussion on these issues,’ ” Sullivan remembers. “Once that was agreed to, it was quickly decided that we resolve the nuclear agreement in two steps, the interim agreement and the final agreement.” Subsequent meetings with the Iranians followed, during which he was joined by Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns. “Bill and I had a huge amount of license to explore what the terms would look like, within the negotiating parameters,” Sullivan says. “What the precise trade-offs would be, between forms of sanctions relief and forms of restraints on their programs, that was left to us to feel out.”
The fact that the president largely let his surrogates do the talking and the selling of the Iran deal — and even now, rarely talks about it in public — does not reflect his level of direct engagement. Sullivan and Burns spent hours before and after every session in Oman with the president and his closest advisers in the White House. When the president wasn’t present, Rhodes always was. “Ben and I, in particular, the two of us, spent a lot of time thinking through all the angles,” Sullivan says. “We spent three, four, five hours together in Washington talking things through before the meetings.” In March 2013, a full three months before the elections that elevated Hassan Rouhani to the office of president, Sullivan and Burns finalized their proposal for an interim agreement, which became the basis for the J.C.P.O.A.
The White House point person during the later stage of the negotiations was Rob Malley, a favored troubleshooter who is currently running negotiations that could keep the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in power. During the course of the Iran talks, Malley told me, he always kept in close contact with Rhodes. “I would often just call him and say, ‘Give me a reality check,’ ” Malley explained. “He could say, ‘Here is where I think the president is, and here is where I think he will be.’ ” He continued, “Ben would try to anticipate: Does it make sense policywise? But then he would also ask himself: How do we sell it to Congress? How do we sell it to the public? What is it going to do to our narrative?”
Malley is a particularly keen observer of the changing art of political communication; his father, Simon Malley, who was born in Cairo, edited the politics magazine Afrique Asie and proudly provided a platform for Fidel Castro and Yasir Arafat, in the days when the leaders’ words might take weeks to travel from Cuba or Cairo to Paris. “The Iran experience was the place where I saw firsthand how policy, politics and messaging all had to be brought together, and I think that Ben is really at the intersection of all three,” Malley says. “He reflects and he shapes at the same time.”
As Malley and representatives of the State Department, including Wendy Sherman and Secretary of State John Kerry, engaged in formal negotiations with the Iranians, to ratify details of a framework that had already been agreed upon, Rhodes’s war room did its work on Capitol Hill and with reporters. In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. “We created an echo chamber,” he admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”
When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over America’s future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,” he said. “We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked.” He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal. “We drove them crazy,” he said of the deal’s opponents.
Yet Rhodes bridled at the suggestion that there has been anything deceptive about the way that the agreement itself was sold. “Look, with Iran, in a weird way, these are state-to-state issues. They’re agreements between governments. Yes, I would prefer that it turns out that Rouhani and Zarif” — Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister — “are real reformers who are going to be steering this country into the direction that I believe it can go in, because their public is educated and, in some respects, pro-American. But we are not betting on that.”
In fact, Rhodes’s passion seems to derive not from any investment in the technical specifics of sanctions or centrifuge arrays, or any particular optimism about the future course of Iranian politics and society. Those are matters for the negotiators and area specialists. Rather, it derived from his own sense of the urgency of radically reorienting American policy in the Middle East in order to make the prospect of American involvement in the region’s future wars a lot less likely. When I asked whether the prospect of this same kind of far-reaching spin campaign being run by a different administration is something that scares him, he admitted that it does. “I mean, I’d prefer a sober, reasoned public debate, after which members of Congress reflect and take a vote,” he said, shrugging. “But that’s impossible.”
Getting Rhodes to speak directly about the man whose gestalt he channels is a bit like asking someone to look into a mirror while describing someone else’s face. The Obama he talks about in public is, in part, a character that he has helped to create — based on a real person, of course — and is embedded in story lines that he personally constructs and manages. At the same time, he believes very deeply in Obama, the man and the president, and in the policies that he has helped to structure and sell on his behalf.
Obama’s particular revulsion against a certain kind of global power politics is a product, Rhodes suggests, of his having been raised in Southeast Asia. “Indonesia was a place where your interaction at that time with power was very intimate, right?” Rhodes asks. “Tens or hundreds of thousands of people had just been killed. Power was not some abstract thing,” he muses. “When we sit in Washington and debate foreign policy, it’s like a Risk game, or it’s all about us, or the human beings disappear from the decisions. But he lived in a place where he was surrounded by people who had either perpetrated those acts — and by the way, may not have felt great about that — or else knew someone who was a victim. I don’t think there’s ever been an American president who had an experience like that at a young age of what power is.”
The parts of Obama’s foreign policy that disturb some of his friends on the left, like drone strikes, Rhodes says, are a result of Obama’s particular kind of globalism, which understands the hard and at times absolute necessity of killing. Yet, at the same time, they are also ways of avoiding more deadly uses of force — a kind of low-body-count spin move.
‘We created an echo chamber,’ he admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. ‘They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.’
He leans back and opens a drawer in the file cabinet behind his desk, and removes a folder. “I was going to show you something,” he says, removing a sheaf of yellow legal paper covered in longhand. “Just to confirm for you that he really is a writer.” He shows me the president’s copy of his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, a revision of an original draft by Favreau and Rhodes whose defining tension was accepting a prize awarded before he had actually accomplished anything. In his longhand notes, Obama relocated the speech’s tension in the fact that he was accepting a peace prize a week after ordering 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. King and Gandhi were the author’s heroes, yet he couldn’t act as they did, because he runs a state. The reason that the author had to exercise power was because not everyone in the world is rational.
We sit for a while, and I examine the president’s thoughts unfolding on the page, and the lawyerly, abstract nature of his writing process. “Moral imagination, spheres of identity, but also move beyond cheap lazy pronouncements,” one note reads. Here was the new American self — rational, moral, not self-indulgent. No longer one thing but multiple overlapping spheres or circles. Who is described here? As usual, the author is describing himself.
Valerie Jarrett has been called the president’s work wife and is the only member of the West Wing staff who knew Obama before he began contemplating a run for the presidency. What I want to understand better, I tell her, are the swirls of the president’s emotional fingerprint, which I saw in the longhand draft of his Nobel speech. We talk for a while about being American and at the same time being from somewhere else, and the split-screen experience of reality that experience allows. Jarrett was born in Iran and spent her early childhood there.
“Was it a point of connection between you and the president that you had each spent some substantial part of your childhoods living in another country?” I ask. Her face lights up.
“Absolutely,” she answers. The question is important to her. “The first conversation we had over dinner, when we first met, was about what it was like for both of us to live in countries that were predominantly Muslim countries at formative parts of our childhood and the perspective it gave us about the United States and how uniquely excellent it is,” she says. “We talked about what it was like to be children, and how we played with children who had totally different backgrounds than our own but you would find something in common.” She recalls her very first dinner together with the new fiancé of her protégée Michelle Robinson. “I remember him asking me questions that I felt like no one else has ever asked me before,” she says, “and he asked me from a perspective of someone who knew the same experience that I had. So it felt really good. I was like, ‘Oh, finally someone who gets it.’ ”
Barack Obama is not a standard-issue liberal Democrat. He openly shares Rhodes’s contempt for the groupthink of the American foreign-policy establishment and its hangers-on in the press. Yet one problem with the new script that Obama and Rhodes have written is that the Blob may have finally caught on.
“He is a brilliant guy, but he has a real problem with what I call the assignment of bad faith,” one former senior official told me of the president. “He regards everyone on the other side at this point as being a bunch of bloodthirsty know-nothings from a different era who play by the old book. He hears arguments like, ‘We should be punching Iran in the nose on its shipments of arms, and do it publicly,’ or ‘We should sanction the crap out of them for their ballistic-missile test and tell them that if they do it again we’re going to do this or we’re going to do that,’ and he hears Dick Cheney in those arguments.”
Another official I spoke to put the same point more succinctly: “Clearly the world has disappointed him.” When I asked whether he believed that the Oval Office debate over Syria policy in 2012 — resulting in a decision not to support the uprising against Assad in any meaningful way — had been an honest and open one, he said that he had believed that it was, but has since changed his mind. “Instead of adjusting his policies to the reality, and adjusting his perception of reality to the changing realities on the ground, the conclusions he draws are exactly the same, no matter what the costs have been to our strategic interests,” he says. “In an odd way, he reminds me of Bush.” The comparison is a startling one — and yet, questions of tone aside, it is uncomfortably easy to see the similarities between the two men, American presidents who projected their own ideas of the good onto an indifferent world.
One of the few charter members of the Blob willing to speak on the record is Leon Panetta, who was Obama’s head of the C.I.A. and secretary of defense and also enough of a product of a different culture to give honest answers to what he understands to be questions of consequence. At his institute at the old Fort Ord in Seaside, Calif., where, in the days before he wore Mr. Rogers sweaters, he served as a young Army intelligence officer, I ask him about a crucial component of the administration’s public narrative on Iran: whether it was ever a salient feature of the C.I.A.’s analysis when he ran the agency that the Iranian regime was meaningfully divided between “hard-line” and “moderate” camps.
“No,” Panetta answers. “There was not much question that the Quds Force and the supreme leader ran that country with a strong arm, and there was not much question that this kind of opposing view could somehow gain any traction.”
I ask Panetta whether, as head of the C.I.A., or later on, as secretary of defense, he ever saw the letters that Obama covertly sent to Khamenei, in 2009 and in 2012, which were only reported on by the press weeks later.
“No,” he answers, before saying he would “like to believe” that Tom Donilon, national security adviser since 2010, and Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, had a chance to work on the offer they presented.
Rhodes in his White House office. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times
As secretary of defense, he tells me, one of his most important jobs was keeping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, from launching a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They were both interested in the answer to the question, ‘Is the president serious?’ ” Panetta recalls. “And you know my view, talking with the president, was: If brought to the point where we had evidence that they’re developing an atomic weapon, I think the president is serious that he is not going to allow that to happen.”
“But would you make that same assessment now?” I ask him.
“Would I make that same assessment now?” he asks. “Probably not.”
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.”
In Panetta’s telling, his own experience at the Pentagon under Obama sometimes resembled being installed in the driver’s seat of a car and finding that the steering wheel and brakes had been disconnected from the engine. Obama and his aides used political elders like him, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton as cover to end the Iraq war, and then decided to steer their own course, he suggests. While Panetta pointedly never mentions Rhodes’s name, it is clear whom he is talking about.
“There were staff people who put themselves in a position where they kind of assumed where the president’s head was on a particular issue, and they thought their job was not to go through this open process of having people present all these different options, but to try to force the process to where they thought the president wanted to be,” he says. “They’d say, ‘Well, this is where we want you to come out.’ And I’d say ‘[expletive], that’s not the way it works. We’ll present a plan, and then the president can make a decision.’ I mean, Jesus Christ, it is the president of the United States, you’re making some big decisions here, he ought to be entitled to hear all of those viewpoints and not to be driven down a certain path.”
But that can’t be true, I tell Panetta, because the aides he is talking about had no independent power aside from the authority that the president himself gave them.
“Well, that’s a good question,” Panetta allows. “He’s a smart guy, he’s not dumb.” It’s all part of the Washington blame game. Just as Panetta can blame young aides in order to avoid blaming the president for his actual choices, the president used his aides to tell Panetta to take a hike. Perhaps the president and his aides were continually unable to predict the consequences of their actions in Syria, and made mistake after mistake, while imagining that it was going to come out right the next time. “Another read, which isn’t necessarily opposed to that,” I continue, “is that their actual picture is entirely coherent. But if they put it in blunt, unnuanced terms — ”
Panetta completes my sentence: “ — they’d get the [expletive] kicked out of them.” He looks at me curiously. “Let me ask you something,” he says. “Did you present this theory to Ben Rhodes?”
“Oh, God,” Rhodes says. “The reason the president has bucked a lot of establishment thinking is because he does not agree with establishment thinking. Not because I or Denis McDonough are sitting here.” He pushes back in his chair. “The complete lack of governance in huge swaths of the Middle East, that is the project of the American establishment,” he declares. “That as much as Iraq is what angered me.”
There is something dangerously naïve about this kind of talk, in which words like “balance,” “stakeholders” and “interests” are endlessly reshuffled like word tiles in a magnetic-poetry set, with little regard for the immutable contingencies that shaped America’s role in the world. But that’s hardly fair. Ben Rhodes wanted to do right, and maybe, when the arc of history lands, it will turn out that he did. At least, he tried. Something scared him, and made him feel as if the grown-ups in Washington didn’t know what they were talking about, and it’s hard to argue that he was wrong.
What has interested me most about watching him and his cohort in the White House over the past seven years, I tell him, is the evolution of their ability to get comfortable with tragedy. I am thinking specifically about Syria, I add, where more than 450,000 people have been slaughtered.
“Yeah, I admit very much to that reality,” he says. “There’s a numbing element to Syria in particular. But I will tell you this,” he continues. “I profoundly do not believe that the United States could make things better in Syria by being there. And we have an evidentiary record of what happens when we’re there — nearly a decade in Iraq.”
Iraq is his one-word answer to any and all criticism. I was against the Iraq war from the beginning, I tell Rhodes, so I understand why he perpetually returns to it. I also understand why Obama pulled the plug on America’s engagement with the Middle East, I say, but it was also true as a result that more people are dying there on his watch than died during the Bush presidency, even if very few of them are Americans. What I don’t understand is why, if America is getting out of the Middle East, we are apparently spending so much time and energy trying to strong-arm Syrian rebels into surrendering to the dictator who murdered their families, or why it is so important for Iran to maintain its supply lines to Hezbollah. He mutters something about John Kerry, and then goes off the record, to suggest, in effect, that the world of the Sunni Arabs that the American establishment built has collapsed. The buck stops with the establishment, not with Obama, who was left to clean up their mess.
It is clearly time for me to go. Rhodes walks me out into the sunlight of the West Wing parking lot, where we are treated to the sight of the aged Henry Kissinger, who has come to pay a visit. I ask Rhodes if he has ever met the famous diplomat before, and he tells me about the time they were seated together at a state dinner for the president of China. It was an interesting encounter to imagine, between Kissinger, who made peace with Mao’s China while bombing Laos to bits, and Rhodes, who helped effect a similar diplomatic volte-face with Iran but kept the United States out of a civil war in Syria, which has caused more than four million people to become refugees. I ask Rhodes how it felt being seated next to the embodiment of American realpolitik. “It was surreal,” he says, looking off into the middle distance. “I told him I was going to Laos,” he continues. “He got a weird look in his eye.”
There is nothing snarky about his delivery. Rhodes just was bothered by seeing legless kids and unexploded cluster bombs in the jungle. He is not Henry Kissinger, or so his logic runs, even as the underlying realist suspicion — or contempt — for the idea of America as a moral actor is eerily similar. He is torn. As the president himself once asked, how are we supposed to weigh the tens of thousands who have died in Syria against the tens of thousands who have died in Congo? What power means is that the choice is yours, no matter who is telling the story.
David Samuels last wrote for the magazine about Susan Lindauer, an activist who tried to stop the Iraq war by serving as an intermediary between Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush.
Non massif à un revenu minimum garanti en Suisse
5 juin 2016
Une grande majorité des électeurs suisses ont rejeté dimanche l’idée d’imposer un revenu minimum garanti, un concept d’aide sociale étudié par de nombreux pays.
Radio-Canada avec Agence France-Presse et Reuters
Quelque 76,9 % des citoyens ont voté non, selon les résultats définitifs d’un référendum au taux de participation de 46 %.
Avec le « revenu de base inconditionnel », le gouvernement aurait versé un montant mensuel à tous les Suisses et à tous les étrangers vivant au pays depuis au moins 5 ans. Les adultes auraient reçu chaque mois 2500 francs suisses (3309 $) et les mineurs, 625 francs (827 $), dans un pays où le salaire médian est de 6000 francs (7941 $).
Le revenu de base inconditionnel avait suscité de vifs débats en Suisse, où, en 2012, les électeurs ont rejeté l’idée de faire passer leurs congés payés de 4 à 6 semaines. Le projet, d’initiative populaire, était uniquement soutenu par le parti des Verts. Les autres formations, dont le gouvernement, y voyaient un projet utopique et trop coûteux.
Les organisateurs de la consultation ont célébré ce qu’ils ont vu comme une « demi-victoire. » Seuls quelques communes et certains quartiers de Genève et de Zurich ont appuyé la proposition.
En Finlande et au Canada
La Suisse est le premier pays à tenir un référendum national sur l’idée d’avoir un revenu minimum garanti pour tous.
D’autres pays, comme la Finlande, étudient des projets de ce genre. Au Canada, un projet-pilote a eu lieu dans les années 1970 à Dauphin, au Manitoba. L’Ontario a promis dans son budget de février dernier d’en lancer un. Le Québec entend étudier la question.
Demandes d’asile et sélection d’embryons
D’autres sujets faisaient aussi l’objet d’une consultation populaire dimanche, dont l’idée d’accélérer les procédures d’asile et celle d’autoriser le « diagnostic préimplantatoire ». Il s’agit d’une technique de sélection et de congélation d’embryons réservée aux couples porteurs de maladies héréditaires graves ou incapables d’enfanter par voie naturelle.
Les électeurs ont appuyé à 66,8 % le projet de loi qui propose d’achever les procédures d’asile en 140 jours maximum, au lieu de 400 actuellement. Ils ont aussi dit oui à 62,4 % au diagnostic préimplantatoire, une loi qualifiée d’eugéniste par ses adversaires.
Grâce à leur système de démocratie directe, les Suisses se prononcent trois à quatre fois l’an sur diverses questions. Celles-ci sont proposées par le gouvernement, ou à travers des initiatives populaires qui ont cumulé un minimum de 100 000 signatures.
Voir de même:
7 juin 2016
Alors que l’on a vainement tendu l’oreille pour percevoir, depuis l’Elysée, les vœux de Bon Ramadan du président Hollande, et que l’on a cherché en pure perte le moindre communiqué ou encore vidéo qui aurait illustré en images cette scène en tout point mémorable, à Londres, Berlin, Washington ou encore Ottawa, les homologues de notre chef de l’Etat ne se sont pas fait prier pour saluer l’arrivée de ce mois béni dans leur contrée respective.
Cette singulière posture, laïque à l’extrême, de notre monarchie républicaine n’est pas du meilleur effet à l’échelle internationale, et tandis que David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Barack Obama et Justin Trudeau, pour ne citer que ceux-là, ont rivalisé de paroles bienveillantes, François Hollande s’est muré dans un silence assourdissant des plus éloquents…
« C’est le mois sacré du ramadan, un moment où les mosquées ouvrent leurs portes, les centres communautaires accueillent leurs voisins, et même les églises et les synagogues offrent leurs espaces aux musulmans pour la rupture du jeûne et les gens de toutes les religions ainsi que ceux qui n’en ont pas sont souvent invités à s’y joindre […] Continuons de nous réunir pour l’iftar et les événements communautaires. Célébrons la fierté, la multi-race et la multi-foi de la démocratie ! », a déclaré le Premier ministre britannique, pendant qu’au même moment la chancelière allemande tweetait « A tous les citoyens musulmans, je souhaite un ramadan béni et paisible », après avoir annoncé sa décision d’exempter les propriétaires des marchés et des restaurants islamiques des impôts tout au long du mois sacré.
Depuis son bureau ovale et alors qu’il amorce la dernière ligne droite de son mandat, Barack Obama s’est fait un devoir de perpétuer la grande tradition des voeux adressés à ses concitoyens musulmans, en ces termes : « A l’heure où les Américains musulmans célèbrent le mois sacré, je me rappelle que nous sommes une famille américaine. Comme les communautés musulmanes américaines, je rejette fermement les voix qui cherchent à nous diviser ou limiter nos libertés religieuses. Nous continuerons d’accueillir des immigrants et des réfugiés dans notre pays, y compris ceux qui sont musulmans », a-t-il insisté, en soulignant qu’avec son épouse, ils ont « hâte d’ouvrir les portes de la Maison Blanche pour les Américains musulmans pendant cette occasion spéciale ».
Propulsé au sommet du pays de l’érable depuis un an, Justin Trudeau, le Premier ministre canadien qui s’inscrit dans la lignée des autres dirigeants cités précédemment, s’est empressé de renouveler par écrit les vœux formulés l’année dernière, en y apportant sa touche toute personnelle : « Le ramadan nous rappelle à tous de témoigner de notre reconnaissance pour les innombrables bénédictions dont nous jouissons et de faire passer les besoins des autres avant les nôtres. Prenons le temps de reconnaître, et de montre notre gratitude pour les contributions inestimables de nos communautés musulmanes qui enrichissent notre tissu national chaque jour. La diversité culturelle du Canada est l’une de nos plus grandes forces et sources de fierté », a-t-il assuré, avant d’ajouter : « Au nom de notre famille, Sophie et moi souhaitons à tous ceux qui observent ce mois sacré un ramadan béni et paisible ».
Dans ce désert de souhaits ramadaniens si typiquement français, le seul et unique communiqué officiel ayant trait au mois béni a pris la forme d’une plainte contre X signée Alain Juppé ! En effet, le maire de Bordeaux, outré par la diffusion d’un faux tweet (voir ci-dessous) dans lequel on lui a prêté des vœux qu’il n’a jamais formulés, a réagi promptement en saisissant la justice de ce « piratage », tout en rassurant le bon peuple sur son inclination spirituelle : « Je vous confirme que je suis toujours catholique, même si je ne suis pas très pratiquant ! », a-t-il affirmé avec une pointe d’ironie.
Ce sont bien là les seuls mots de la langue Molière qui auront rompu le vœu de silence officiel à l’égard du Ramadan, et il n’y a vraiment pas de quoi pavoiser à la lueur des vœux présentés dans toutes les langues et depuis différents centres névralgiques du pouvoir politique, aux quatre coins du globe !
From a distance, Donald Trump and Barack Obama have very different outlooks on the world. The president is a hyper-rational « Spockian, » to borrow Jeffrey Goldberg’s phrase from his new Atlantic article on the president’s foreign policy. He calmly lectures on the limits of U.S. power and the importance of the American moral example.
Trump is bombastic. He threatens the families of terrorists and only belatedly revoked his promise to bring back waterboarding and « much worse. »
Obama regards his nuclear agreement with Iran as a great achievement. Trump calls it the dumbest deal in the history of deal-making. Obama has pushed for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal. Trump threatens to bring back tariffs.
These differences are real. But Goldberg’s deeply reported essay shows that for all their differences, Trump and Obama share similar foreign policy instincts. Both men, for example don’t think much of America’s traditional alliances. Nor do they think much of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. Both also profess to have a soft spot for the bloodless foreign policy realism of George H.W. Bush. Obama is a fan of Bush’s national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Trump says he admires Richard Haass, a protégé of Scowcroft and currently the president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Let’s start with freeloading allies. Speaking of the U.K.’s cuts to its military budget, the president told Goldberg, « free riders bother me. » It’s a theme for Obama: Longtime U.S. allies, particularly in the Middle East, take advantage of their superpower friend and try to enlist the U.S. to support their narrow sectarian agendas. He says, for example, that Saudi Arabia needs to learn how to share the Middle East with Iran. He was angry that King Abdullah of Jordan allegedly told members of Congress that he had more faith in U.S. power than Obama does.
On Libya, the president has reflected on the U.S. intervention and concluded his mistake was in trusting European and Gulf allies to do more to rebuild the country after Muammar Qaddafi’s regime was toppled. « When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong,” the president told Goldberg. « There’s room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up. »
Trump would also like America’s allies to pay their fair financial share. He has proposed making Japan pay the U.S. more for the privilege of hosting its military in Okinawa. He promises at nearly every campaign appearance that Mexico will pay for a wall along America’s southern border. In the first debate after Super Tuesday, Trump said he would get U.S. Gulf allies to pay for a combat force to stop the Islamic State.
Trump and Obama also share a similar disdain for the expert class. Goldberg recounts that one White House official refers to Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, where most of the major think tanks are, as « Arab-occupied territory, » because of the money Gulf states have invested in these institutions.
Critics of his foreign policy bewilder Obama. When pressed about the view that his decision to back away from his red line on Syria’s use of chemical weapons may have persuaded Putin that he would pay no real price for invading Ukraine, Obama sounded petulant. « Look, this theory is so easily disposed of that I’m always puzzled by how people make the argument, » he said, recounting how Russia invaded Georgia in George W. Bush’s last year in office, while the U.S. was surging troops in Iraq.
Trump’s disdain for foreign policy eminences is less literate than Obama’s. While Obama could talk for hours, it seems, about the subtle distinctions between liberal internationalism and realpolitik, Trump can’t be bothered with such nuance. His campaign does not put out policy papers. When asked over the summer who he turns to for foreign policy advice, Trump said he watches the 24-hour news channels.
And yet Trump, like Obama, is still opposing the last war. Obama sold his Iran deal by attacking its critics for supporting the Iraq invasion. Trump dismisses criticism from Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain by ridiculing their advocacy for the Iraq war.
Trump and Obama also have similar approaches to Russia. Obama did nothing this summer as the Kremlin moved military personnel and equipment to Syria to begin its air war on the Islamic State. Trump has asked why the U.S. should object to this campaign that Obama’s inaction helped enable.
Goldberg reports how Obama rejected Secretary of State John Kerry’s recommendations for air strikes against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Trump, too, has questioned why the U.S. should stand in the way of Assad’s war against what he sees as a dangerous opposition. (At the same time, he has mused that Obama’s reluctance to intervene earlier has been a cause of the current refugee crisis for Europe).
Like Obama in 2008, Trump has proposed a reset with Russia. In a debate in September, he promised that when he was president, « We won’t have the kind of problems our country has right now with Russia and many other nations. »
Trump’s promise to start over with Putin must sting Obama. After all, the president has little to show in 2016 for the reset he enacted in 2009. Then again, Obama has little to show for most of his foreign policy: Despite his best intentions, the world has become more dangerous during Obama’s presidency. The state system in the Middle East is collapsing. Many of America’s traditional alliances have frayed. Jihadists have established more safe havens in ungoverned spaces.
This will be Trump’s problem if his campaign for the presidency succeeds. And it’s hard to know exactly what Trump would do about it. In the last month, he has reversed himself on torture, on visas for highly skilled workers and on ground troops for Syria. Like demagogues before him, Trump is happy to be inconsistent.
Obama, too, has been inconsistent. Goldberg concludes that the president today does not think the Middle East is worth much American blood and treasure. Despite the protests of allies and experts, Obama still doesn’t think the crisis in Syria is a more serious national security challenge than climate change. Obama made a point of saying how his decision to walk away from his own red line on Syria’s use of chemical weapons was one of the proudest moments of his presidency.
And yet, Obama’s successor will inherit U.S. military campaigns in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, and possibly even Libya if Obama’s generals get their way. For all the talk of ending dumb wars, Obama is still fighting them. Trump promises that he would win them, but he never says how. Perhaps he should talk to some of the foreign policy experts and allies that he and Obama so disdain.
Voir par ailleurs:
Le gouvernement mexicain a publié un guide illustré à l’usage des migrants illégaux !…
« Le but de ce guide est de te donner quelques conseils pratiques qui pourraient être utiles au cas où tu aurais pris la décision difficile de rechercher de nouvelles opportunités d’emploi hors de ton pays”
Certains mouvements politiques modernes parlent d’un système qui serait plus proche de ce que l’on appelle le “sens commun” ou le “pragmatisme”. En effet, on pourrait se demander pourquoi tout doit toujours être compliqué lorsqu’on en vient à la politique. L’Afrique a besoin de nourriture, nous en avons trop, le problème devrait être simple, mais il ne l’est pas. La première fois que j’ai été confrontée au « Guide du migrant », publié en 2004 par le gouvernement Mexicain, j’ai pensé qu’il pourrait être le résultat d’une nouvelle sorte de politique pragmatique qui aiderait les citoyens à arriver sains et saufs dans un autre pays et non pas à essayer de les garder à tout prix, quand ils veulent partir. Il m’a semblé qu’il pourrait s’agir d’une tentative assez intelligente. Les citoyens Mexicains essaient toujours de passer la frontière américaine, presque dix ans après la publication de ce guide…donc, peut être que leur fuite est inévitable ? Cela pourrait être un acte courageux, une confrontation à la dure vérité.
Mais après une lecture plus attentive, j’ai été frappée par le fait que ce guide était en fait un acte d’abandon, le signe d’un gouvernement qui ne se concentre pas sur la bonne question. Le gouvernement ne devrait pas s’intéresser au “comment” les mexicains quittent le pays, mais à la question de savoir pourquoi ils fuient. Là devrait être leur attention. Ce document inspire donc deux sentiments contradictoires. Quoiqu’il en soit, il possède indéniablement une qualité unique et en dit beaucoup sur l’Amérique Latine d’aujourd’hui. Le guide du migrant est symbolique de ces gens dépourvus de mobilité économique, des différences grandissantes entre les riches et les pauvres en Amérique Latine. Le néo-libéralisme, la globalisation, le libre échange, ont certes été bénéfiques dans une certaine mesure à l’Amérique Latine, mais ils sont surtout synonymes d’une répartition inégale de la richesse.
La première étape de la destruction des communautés agricoles qui est à l’origine de la fuite des sud-américains aux Etats Unis sont les accords sur le libre échange. La signature du NAFTA ( North American Free Trade Agreements) le 1er Janvier 1994 a promis beaucoup de choses à l’Amérique Latine, mais l’ égalité et une distribution égale de la richesse n’était certainement pas l’une d’entre elle. Après l’implantation du NAFTA et la crise économique, les agriculteurs mexicains ne pouvaient plus vivre de manière stable et se contentaient de survivre dans les villages . L’introduction du NAFTA et du néolibéralisme au Mexique a été une catastrophe économique pour un grand nombre des habitants des zone rurales. L’urbanisation et l’industrialisation ont aussi contribué à affaiblir la capacité économique des fermiers ruraux. C’est ainsi que les paysans et les fermiers mexicains sont partis au Nord en quête d’une vie meilleure. Cela n’est pas arrivé seulement au Mexique mais dans une grande partie de l’Amérique centrale également. Les effets du NAFTA ont complètement déstabilisé le système économique de l’Amérique Latine et il est indispensable de comprendre le rôle qu’il a joué sur la communauté agricole et les communautés rurales qui ont été forcées de migrer vers le Nord. Pour bien appréhender ce guide, il faut également comprendre que si 10,6 millions de mexicains n’avaient pas tenté de migrer aux Etats Unis, la situation économique du Mexique aurait été catastrophique.
Le guide du Migrant est écrit en forme d’historieta, une forme bon marché de bande dessinée souvent destinée à une population pauvre et illettrée. D’une certaine façon, ce guide pourrait être compris comme un autoportrait social du Mexique et peut-être d’une partie de l’Amérique Latine. Les migrants mexicains sont représentés de façon très sexuée, ce qui témoigne d’une vision encore très traditionnelle des genres. Les hommes sont des caricatures, forts, musclés, larges, traversant de dangereuses rivières, comme dans les contes héroïques. Les femmes sont représentées cambrées, avec des courbes et des chemises échancrées révélant leurs poitrines et leurs fesses saillantes. Il me semble que c’est assez révélateur de la culture populaire latine. En outre, tout est mis en oeuvre par le gouvernement mexicain pour faire apparaitre favorablement cette quête du pays nouveau . La traversée est présentée comme excitante, presque amusante, un conte, une aventure dans laquelle le migrant se bat pour une vie pleine de succès et d’argent. Le ton infantilisant du guide (“ traverser la rivière peut être dangereux”) me semble complètement déplacé. Des Mexicains meurent tous les jours en traversant la frontière, ce n’est pas une aventure. La mort peut être le prix à payer du départ.
L’histoire du guide du migrant, c’est l’histoire d’un peuple qui fait face à l’incapacité de son gouvernement de lui fournir assez d’espoir en un lendemain meilleur et en des conditions matérielles meilleures. C’est ce que révèle vraiment ce guide. Un gouvernement dos au mur, incapable de fournir les moyens matériels nécessaires à ces situations. Le fait qu’il se concentre sur le “comment” n’a en fait rien à voir avec le pragmatisme. C’est une mesure désespérée, qui montre l’abandon du gouvernement, qui préfère envoyer ses citoyens à l’abattoir. Face à cette réalité, ils n’ont en effet plus qu’ à imprimer ce petit guide pour espérer que certains survivent dans l’illégalité aux Etats-Unis. Voeux pieux pour un Etat, qui connait parfaitement les risques encourus par les candidats à la traversée.
“Pour entrer dans un autre pays en toute sécurité, tu devras obtenir ton passeport qui est émis par les Délégations du Secrétariat des Relations Etrangères, ainsi que ton visa, que tu pourras demander à l’Ambassade ou au Consulat du pays où tu désireras te rendre ». Pourtant, nombre de Mexicains essaient de franchir la frontière nord sans les papiers nécessaires, en passant par des zones extrêmement dangereuses, particulièrement dans les régions désertiques ou encore en traversant des rivières avec des courants forts, difficiles à repérer.
Le gouvernement mexicain est en effet parfaitement au courant que le filet de sécurité américain est très dangereux. Et si je devais trouver une image, ce serait celle du mouvement que font les parents quand ils veulent dire quelque chose d’important à leur jeune enfant : ils se mettent à leur hauteur et leur parle dans les yeux et de très près. Le guide du migrant montre que le gouvernement mexicain tente désespérément de se mettre à la hauteur du peuple pour aider le plus possible, à la manière d’une figure patriarcale. Cela montre que L’Amérique Latine a encore beaucoup à faire. Traiter ses citoyens comme des enfants ne semble pas être une solution intelligente et efficace. En fait, cela sonne plus comme une attitude lâche et populiste.
On pourrait donc dire que ce guide est pertinent dans la mesure où il indique à quel point le NAFTA a entamé la souveraineté du Mexique sur ses propres ressortissants et a créé une forte immigration illégale. Puisque comme le dit clairement le guide, l’immigration légale n’est pas une option viable. Ce traité a poussé un gouvernement à promouvoir en quelque sorte l’immigration illégale et cela en dit beaucoup sur la réalité économique de L’Amérique latine moderne et de sa dépendance aux Etats Unis. Ce guide du migrant raconte l’histoire d’un abandon de l’Etat.
Violette Soriano est étudiante en 5ème année de Sciences Politiques à Paris
Translation into English from Spanish provided by INFOMUNDO.US as a public service.
Original document GUIA DEL MIGRANTE MEXICANO, accessible on the website http://www.sre.gob.mx/tramites/consulares/guiamigrante/default.htm
Audio (Windows Media)
Track 1: Mexican Consulates
Track 2: Services of Mexican Consulates
Track 3: Rights of Migrants
INTRODUCTION, PAGES 0 – 1
Dear fellow citizen:
This guide tries to provide you with some practical advice that may be useful to you in case you have made the difficult decision to seek new work opportunities outside of your own country.
The safe way to enter another country is by first obtaining your passport, which is issued by the Delegations of the Secretariat of Foreign Relations, and your visa, which you request at the Embassy or Consulate of the country to where you wish to travel.
However, we actually see many cases of Mexicans who try to cross the northern border without the necessary documentation, crossing high-risk zones that are very dangerous, especially in desert areas or rivers with strong and not always noticeable currents.
INTRODUCTION, PAGES 2 – 3
As you read this guide you can also learn some basic questions about legal consequences of your stay in the United States of America without appropriate immigration documents, as well as the rights you have in that country once you are there, independent of your immigration status.
Always keep in mind that there are mechanisms for you to enter the United States of America legally.
In any case, if you encounter problems or difficulties, remember that Mexico has 45 Consulates at its disposal in that country, whose contact information you also can find in this publication.
Identify your Consulate and go to it.
RISKS, PAGES 4 – 5
DANGERS OF CROSSING IN HIGH-RISK ZONES
Crossing the river can be very risky, especially if you cross alone and at night..
Thick clothing weighs you down when it’s wet and makes it hard to swim or float.
RISKS, PAGES 6 – 7
If you cross in the desert, try to travel when the heat is not so intense.
Highways and towns are very far apart, so that it could take you several days to find roads and you will not be able to carry food or water for that long. You could even get lost.
Salted water helps you retain body fluids. Although you get more thirsty, if you drink salted water the risk of dehydration is lessened.
Dehydration symptoms are:
- Little or no perspiration
- Dryness of eyes and mouth
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Difficulty in walking and reasoning
- Hallucinations and mirages
If you get lost follow utility poles, railroad tracks or furrows.
BE CAREFUL OF ALIEN SMUGGLERS, PAGES 8 – 09
BE CAREFUL OF “POLLEROS”, “COYOTES” OR “PATEROS” [Various names for alien smugglers)
They can deceive you by assuring you they’ll cross you [smuggle you across the border] at certain times over mountains or through deserts. This is not true! They can put your life in danger leading you through rivers, irrigation canals, desert areas, along railroad tracks or freeways. This has caused the death of hundreds of people.
If you decide to use the services of a “pollero”, “coyote” or “patero” to cross the border, consider the following precautions to take:
Don’t let him out of your sight; remember that he’s the only one that knows the terrain and therefore is the only one that can guide you safely.
Do not trust anyone who offers to cross you over to the “other side” and asks you to drive a vehicle or carry a package for him. Regularly those…
BE CAREFUL OF ALIEN SMUGGLERS, PAGES 10 – 11
…packages contain drugs or other prohibited substances. For that reason many people have ended up in jail.
If you transport other people you can be confused with an alien smuggler and be accused of alien smuggling yourself or even vehicle theft.
Don’t hand over your minor children to strangers that offer to cross them to the United States.
DO NOT USE FALSE DOCUMENTS, PAGES 12 – 13
DO NOT USE FALSE DOCUMENTS OR DOCUMENTS OF OTHER PEOPLE, NOR DECLARE A FALSE NATIONALITY
If you try to cross with documents that are false or that belong to someone else, keep the following in mind:
The use of documents that are false or that belong to someone else is a Federal crime in the United States, for which you can be criminally prosecuted and end up in jail; the same as if you give a false name or say you are a U.S. citizen when you are not.
Do not lie to U.S. border crossing or inspection booth agents.
IF YOU ARE DETAINED, PAGES 14 – 15
Do not resist arrest.
Do not assault or insult the officer.
Do not throw stones or other objects at the officers nor at the patrol cars, because this is considered a form of provocation.
If the officers feel they’ve been assaulted they will probably use force to detain you.
Raise your hands slowly for them to see you’re unarmed.
Do not carry or hold any objects that could be construed as weapons, such as: lanterns, screwdrivers, blades, knives or stones.
IF YOU ARE DETAINED, PAGE 16 / YOUR RIGHTS, PAGE 17
IF YOU ARE DETAINED
Don’t run or try to escape.
Don’t hide in dangerous places.
Don’t cross freeways.
It’s better for you to be detained for a few hours and be repatriated to Mexico than to get lost in the desert.
IF YOU ARE ARRESTED, YOU HAVE RIGHTS!
Give your true name.
If you are a minor and are accompanied by an adult, tell the authorities so they do not separate you.
YOUR RIGHTS / YOUR RIGHTS, PAGES 18 – 19
Your rights are:
To know where you are.
To request to speak to the nearest Mexican Consulate representative in order to receive help.
To not make statements or sign documents, especially if they are in English, without the aid of a defense attorney or Mexican Government Consulate representative.
To receive medical attention if you are injured or in poor health.
To receive respectful treatment regardless of your immigration status.
To be transported safely.
To have water and food when you need it.
You are not obligated to disclose your immigration status when you are detained.
YOUR RIGHTS, PAGES 20 – 21
To not be hit or insulted.
To not be held incommunicado.
In case they take away your personal effects, request a voucher in order to claim them when you are released.
If there is any violation of these rights, it’s important for you to inform your attorney or Mexican Consulate representative that visits you or even the nearest Delegation of the Secretariat of Foreign Relations within Mexico.
If you wish more information and you live in Texas or in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, tune in to “The Powerful Station” at AM 1570.
IF YOU ARE ARRESTED / DETAINED, PAGES 22 – 23
IF YOU ARE ARRESTED / DETAINED
If you have already been sentenced for some crime or you are in jail facing criminal prosecution, you have the following rights:
To not be discriminated against by the police, the courts or prison authorities.
To receive visits from consular officials and family members.
To receive appropriate legal counsel without conditions or obstructions.
If you being criminally prosecuted and have not yet been sentenced, ask your attorney or consular representative what the “Plea Agreement” consists of.
Do not plead guilty without first consulting your attorney about the possibilities of winning your case if you go to trial.
It’s important they you know the laws of the American state where you live and work, since each state’s laws are different. Bear in mind the following information:
If you drink don’t drive, since if you do not have papers you can be detained and deported [a bit of INFOMUNDO editorializing here: no word about maiming or killing yourself or others as a drunk driver!].
If a legal resident is cited more than two times for drunk driving, he can be deported.
Do not drive without a driver’s license.
Observe traffic signs and signals and use your seatbelt.
Do not drive without auto insurance nor drive an unknown vehicle.
[THINGS TO] AVOID, PAGES 24 – 25
Do not pick up strangers.
If you commit some traffic violation and are detained by the police, place your hands on the steering wheel and do not get out of the car until the officer requests you to do so.
Avoid calling attention to yourself, at least while you are arranging your residence papers to live in the United States.
The best formula is not to alter your routine of going between work and home.
Avoid noisy parties because the neighbors can get upset and call the police, and you could be arrested.
If you go to a bar or night club and a fight starts, leave immediately, since in the confusion you could be arrested even if you did not do anything wrong.
Avoid family or domestic violence. As in Mexico, it is a crime in the United States.
[THINGS TO] AVOID, PAGES 26 – 27
Domestic violence does not consist solely of hitting others but also can be threats, shouting or mistreatment.
If you are accused of domestic violence against your children, your mate or someone else who lives with toy, you could go to jail. In addition, Child Protective Services authorities could take away your children.
Do not carry firearms, bladed weapons or other dangerous objects.
Keep in mind that many Mexicans have died or are in prison because of these things.
If the police enter your house or apartment, do not resist, but ask to see a search warrant. It’s better to cooperate with them and ask to speak to the nearest Mexican Consulate.
CONSULATES, PAGES 28 – 29
The Secretariat of Foreign Relations has 45 consular representatives within the U.S and on its southern border, which are designed to help you. Remember: if you have been detained or are serving a sentence, you have the right to speak with the nearest Mexican Consulate. Always carry your “Guide to Consular Protection” with you at all times.
Get Near to the Consulate…
It’s your home, fellow countryman!
- Secretariat of Foreign Relations
- General Administration of Protection and Consular Matters.
CONSULATES OF MEXICO IN THE UNITED STATES, PAGES 29 – 30
List of U.S. Cities and phone numbers.
STATES – [MEXICAN] STATE GOVERNMENT OFFICES – DIRECTORY OF OFFICES GIVING ATTENTION TO MIGRANTS IN THE REPUBLIC OF MEXICO, PAGES 31 – END
List of Mexican cities and phone numbers.
BOX ON LAST PAGE:
This consular protection guide is not promoting the crossing [of the border] of Mexicans without legal documentation required by the government of the United States; its objective is to make known the risks implied and to inform about the rights of migrants regardless of their legal residence.