Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Ben Rhodes Update on the World Worth Reading

Ben was one of Barrack Obama's closest confidants and got a good view of the world when the Democrats were in power.  As Trump took over, Ben got to see the world more as an outsider.  Fortunately for us who would like to better understand the world he is very articulate.  He is cynical, but analytical.  Recommended by Fareed Zakaria, but also by a few of my acquaintances.

Part of his book is based on conversations with dissidents, primarily in Hungary, Russia and Hong Kong.   Ben feels that the world seems to be tilting towards authoritarianism

While reading about his Hungarian conversations with dissident,  Sandor Lederer coincidenttally Fox news highlighted by Tucker Carlson have been praising Hungary.  Many of Victor Orban's priorities to gain and maintain power are familiar.  Careful to pick compatible judges,  coerce media to co-operate, seek wealthy donors for campaign, rant about immigrants and although there is a a tinge of anti semitism become  friends with Israel and Natanyahu. 

At a memorial event for the Normandy invasion Ben became aware that the Russians actually suffered more from World War II and are not credited enough for their role in defeating the Nazis.  Putin is something like Trump in that he is obsessed with the lost glory of Russia.  Russia is actually weak and are not the danger they were once.

Ben had a few conversations with Alexey Navalny, a dissident who shared felt Russia should be nationalistic.  His biggest concern was the lack of truth.  As you may know Alexey survived what some assume is a poisoning effort on the orders of Putin and is now in prison.  A quote from Alexander Solzhnitsen " Violence can only be concealed by a lie and the lie can only be maintained by violence."

China is the real game changer.  They not only have developed into an economic juggernaut, but also perhaps the most controlled population in history.  While visiting China Ben and Obama were warned about their unannounced visit to the "Tibetan separatist" revealing government sensitivity regarding the Dalai Lama..  Talking with dissident  Bao Pu on different occasions Ben learned of the Chinese government ability to know what any one person was thinking.  Hong Kong is being treated much more harshly than promised.  They have developed protesting on a massive scale and support other protest movements such as mentioned for Belarus.

Xi Jinping was more interesting than I had thought.  He married a pop singer.  More astounding was that his parents had offending authorities and suffered.  Xi in fact has not only worked to more controlling, but also projecting China more globally than his predecessors.   

 The Uighurs are an oppressed group in China with over one million under detention.  Xi dismisses all complaints as none of your business.  During the sweep looking for terrorists the Americans scooped up a few Uighurs that ended up at Guantanamo.  During Obama's administration it was assessed that the Uighurs posed no threat to America. The Chinese authorities were interested, but it was decided the best option was to release them in America.  Republicans kicked up such a fuss that that was blocked and made it impossible to close Guantanamo.

I am reminded that during the Olympics, the Chinese government has successfully demanded that Taiwan be known as Chinese Taipei and be denied their national anthem and flag.

Obama felt one way to deal with China was to develop a trade group to compete against China.  That was the Trans Pacific Partnership which eventually he was forced to cut American participation while the remaining nations tried to scrap it together.

A theme of the book is summed up by one Obama quote:  "Power doesn't give up without a fight."  

The last section of the book Ben offers his thoughts on what has happened to America.  Austan Goolsbee , Democratic advisor pointed back to Clinton who broke barriers for financing, while George W. Bush reduced taxes for the wealthy and Obama was forced to do a partial stimulus due to Republican resistance.  Then Trump compounded the debt problem that will take an immense effort to counter the accumulative moves. The Republicans are very quick to criticize, even if it involves reversing their own policy claims.  The base problem is that the Republicans in reality are catering to their financial base of wealthy donors. 

Ben realizes that many parts of the world have legitimate grievances that have been ignored by Americans  and that policies have too often been tied to short term economic priorities.  He feels the Trump administration made a bad situation worse.

While reading this book I heard some remarks by Admiral Michael Mullen regarding the fall of the Afghan government.  He attributes it to corruption of the Afghan government as people see Americans supporting that.  This had been predicted years ago. http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/07/thieves-of-state.html

Although the book makes for depressing reading, it does hold out some hope and is well worth the effort to understand better forces that are shaping our world. 

Ben's book, "The World as It Is" mainly about his years working with Barrack Obama is reviewed: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/06/the-world-as-it-is.html  

No comments:

Post a Comment