One of the big takeaways from that New York Times Magazine profile of Ben Rhodes earlier this month was Rhodes’s description of the DC foreign policy establishment, which he called “The Blob”:
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.
I talked a little bit about The Blob when I appeared on the Chapo Trap House podcast last week (BTW, they’ve got a new episode with Matt Taibbi up, you should check it out). I said I thought the main defining characteristic of The Blob was a resolute belief in the ability of American military power to do great things around the world, despite an increasing amount of evidence that it can also do a great deal of harm when used improperly. “The Blob,” if you like that term, encompasses the pro-intervention establishment and crosses the party line from Republican old-school hawks and neoconservatives to Democratic old-school hawks and liberal interventionists.
The Center for a New American Security recently published a report, “Extending American Power,” by a team co-chaired by James Rubin, an assistant Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, and Brookings Senior Fellow Robert Kagan, one of the most important figures (matched only by Bill Kristol) in the past three decades of neoconservative thought. Given the preponderance of people with connections to Hillary Clinton who were involved with this report, it may very well serve as a preview of what her foreign policy will look like should she be elected. It also, as it turns out, serves as a fantastic primer on what The Blob is and what its members believe. Jim Lobe read the report and digested some of its key sections for LobeLog, and I would encourage you to check out his piece there. You’ll get a crash-course in Blobology, from The Blob’s focus on military might:
Although the report consistently gives lip service to “strengthening all the elements of American power: diplomatic, economic, and military,” it’s abundantly clear that building up the military worldwide is Priority Number One. And it’s not a question of available financial or budgetary resources, according to the group. It’s a matter of political “will”— a neocon obsession for the last 40 years.
Its desire for a confrontational approach to Russia and China:
Although Russia is depicted as an irredeemable adversary that must be confronted on virtually every front—from the Baltics to Ukraine to Syria—the report repeatedly insists that Washington should encourage China’s “peaceful rise” and “facilitate [its] continued integration with the international economy so as to blunt its historical fears of ‘containment.’” Nonetheless, Washington should substantially increase its military capabilities and presence around China—by, for example, forging “new defense partnerships with the Philippines or Vietnam” and India (which the authors see as a major new geopolitical trump card for Washington) as “the best way to demonstrate its determination to continue enforcing a rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific region.” How this may blunt China’s historical fears of containment is not explained other than to assert that “[h]istory suggests” that rising powers will be deterred from challenging the reigning hegemon when confronted with decisive military power and the “will” to use it.
And its dogmatic view that the Islamic Republic of Iran is and will always and forever be The One True Destabilizing Force in the Middle East:
But it’s clear that the overriding concern of the task force in the region is Iran, which is generally depicted as just as irredeemable as Russia if not more so. On the positive side, the task force doesn’t propose tearing up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) but instead argues for a “hard-nosed enforcement strategy” combined with “stronger efforts to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities throughout the region, from its support to terrorist groups like Hezbollah to its efforts to sow instability in the Sunni Arab states.” From there, the authors’ undisguised hostility toward Tehran pours forth with specific policy recommendations that, frankly, could have been written as a joint paper submitted by Saudi Arabia and Israel with the overriding goal of “defeating Iran’s determined effort to dominate the Greater Middle East.”
The Saudis, of course, are forgiven any past transgressions and our alliance with Riyadh is deemed sacrosanct.