Team Obama is disgraceful for bashing the great Henry Kissinger after the admin’s epic failures in foreign policy
A favorite phrase from the late Charles Krauthammer comes to mind: “moral preening.”
That perfectly describes the disgraceful Ben Rhodes hit piece on Henry Kissinger published by The New York Times.
Calling a brilliant, 100-year-old man who served America faithfully for decades a “hypocrite” upon his death and accusing him of being obsessed with power is distasteful enough, but Rhodes doesn’t have the decency to stop there.
He compounds the insults with his silly insistence the Obama administration, in which he served, pursued far more ethical policies than Kissinger and was thus more faithful to American ideals.
Oh, please, this isn’t even a close call.
Rhodes’ version is true only if you view the Constitution as a suicide pact, which is pretty much what Barack Obama’s foreign policies added up to.
A silver-spoon kid from Manhattan, a failed novelist and a junior speech-writer, Rhodes was inexplicably elevated to deputy national security adviser by Obama in his early 30s. The litmus test was his complete subscription to the belief Obama would redeem America from its sins.
From the way he piles on the praise to his boss, Rhodes must actually believe Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize he got months after his election, notwithstanding it was the equivalent of a participation trophy.
In the place of results, the Obama White House offered virtue signaling and a pledge to lead America away from an addiction to bigotry and ignorance. As Obama put it when working-class voters in Pennsylvania failed to see him as their savior, it meant they “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”
The politics came together for Obama, but the policies never did. Instead, his benighted view of history and power produced a string of enormously consequential failures.
Just as Rhodes’ hubris prevents him from appreciating the significance of Kissinger’s achievements, such as arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and the opening to China, it also blinds him to the disasters created by Obama’s dreamy “Kumbaya” approach.
As just one example, America, Israel and much of the Mideast are still living with Obama’s deadly mistake of trying to bribe Iran into being a good neighbor.
A less arrogant president might have paid attention to the issue of whether Iran saw itself as a cause or a country.
Kissinger asked that question in 2008, yet Obama, et al., never understood the distinction and plunged into waters way over their heads.
Their policies helped Iran become a terror superpower, with Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis feasting off the Islamist agenda and the billions of dollars filling its coffers. The money came in a gusher because Obama eased sanctions on Iranian oil, a mistake Joe Biden continues.
Yet reflecting Obama’s distaste for Israel, Rhodes is also slamming Biden for supporting the Jewish state in its Hamas war.
More broadly, eight years of Obama’s foreign policy, combined with Biden’s mini-me version for the last three, has brought the world to the brink of global conflict.
If this is success to Rhodes, what would failure look like?
He conveniently doesn’t mention Obama’s aborted “red line” threats in Syria, no doubt because tens of thousands died when Obama lost his nerve after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons.
A comparison on Russia is also revealing. Kissinger, after getting President Richard Nixon to resupply Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and brokering the peace agreement with Arabs, persuaded Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to move away from the Soviet Union and closer to the United States.
Kissinger called Egypt’s switch to the American column one of his most important achievements.
But under Obama, Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. It became an ally of Assad and Hezbollah during the Syrian civil war, gaining a major Mideast foothold for the first time in 50 years.
In Egypt, Obama helped push out President Hosni Mubarak during the brief Arab Spring and demanded its leaders accept the Muslim Brotherhood, which ended with the Islamist group gaining power before it was ousted in a coup.
Rhodes played a significant role in the administration’s biggest failures. He has been credited with writing Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo that spelled out Obama’s grandiose vision for himself.
“I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear,” he declared.
Later, when the failures piled up, I wrote that Obama forgot to pack his patriotism for his travels abroad and that “The president of the United States cannot be a broker between his countrymen and a foreign enemy that has declared war on us.”
Rhodes also helped Obama re-establish relations with Cuba, another virtue signaling dud that brought no gains to America or ordinary Cubans.
Rhodes’ most notorious role was to mislead the media on details in talks with Iran about a nuclear deal. He boasted of using inexperienced reporters to create an “echo chamber” that helped sway public opinion in favor of the deal.
Rhodes called this tactic creating a “narrative” and faults Kissinger for not properly telling America’s “story” to the world.
See, it’s all about the narrative, not the results.
None of this is to suggest Kissinger’s record is spotless. He and Nixon inherited the Vietnam War and although he shared the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the accords that led to our withdrawal, a strong case has been made he could have ended the war sooner. And the secret war in Cambodia led to a bloodbath.
He also helped engineer the 1973 military coup that deposed Chile’s elected president and led to 17 years of dictatorship.
Kissinger, like nearly the entire foreign policy establishment of both parties, viewed the Soviet Union as a permanent fixture that could only be contained. Fortunately, Ronald Reagan hated that view and famously described his vision of the cold war as “We win, they lose.”
Three years after Reagan left office, the Soviet system collapsed.
Still, Kissinger stayed on top for eight important years under Nixon and Gerald Ford, serving first as national security adviser, then as secretary of state, and sometimes both at once.
Gallup found he was the most admired man in America in 1972 and in 1973. He was also an unlikely bachelor about town, and the AP reports that in a poll of Playboy Club bunnies, he finished first as “the man I would most like to go out on a date with.”
Kissinger’s response: “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”
Historian Robert Dallek cited as Kissinger’s most important achievement the effort to create “a set of conditions that could reduce the prospect of nuclear war.”
Kissinger was hardly a modest man, but his belief in realpolitik wisely recognized limits on ideological pursuits.
“I try to understand, without pessimism or optimism, the world in which I find myself,” he told the Times in 2011.
If only Obama had understood as much, today’s world would be a safer place.