- By David RothkopfDavid Rothkopf is CEO and Editor of the FP Group. His latest book, National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear was published in October.
Where’s Donald Rumsfeld when you need him? Once upon a time, the irrepressible former Defense Secretary insured his enshrinement in Barclay’s Familiar Quotations with the line:
There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know."
It was hilariously convoluted. As it happens, it also made some sense if you parsed it. Which puts it leagues ahead of the clarification offered by the White House’s Ben Rhodes today concerning what America’s policy in Libya actually is. In short, what he said was: "I know we said we were for regime change but we’re actually not for it except of course for the fact that it is our primary objective."
But let me let him say it for you because the painful, verbose, circular logorrhea of it all really needs to be experienced to be understood.
Given the fact that there has been some reporting off of a quote from the gaggle, the quote that says ‘they underscored their shared commitment of helping provide the people of Libya the opportunity to transform their country by installing a system of government that is democratic and responsive to the will of the people,’ we’re clarifying, as we’ve said repeatedly, that the effort of our military operation is not regime change, that as we actually say in this READOUT, it’s the Libyan people who are going to make their determinations about the future. We support their aspirations, their democratic aspirations, and have stated that Gaddafi should go because he’s lost their confidence.
So, let’s go to the chalk board and break that down, shall we? What had been said was that the administration was seeking to help the people of Libya "transform their country" by installing a new system of government. Now, Rhodes was explaining that the "effort" of the intervention … by which he presumably meant the goal of the effort … was definitely not regime change. That’s not something we would do. In fact, noted Rhodes, we’ve been saying it over and over again. No, really, seriously, we would never support regime change. But just so we all would understand better, he went on to "clarify" that our effort is instead to support them in realizing their democratic objectives. The core objective of which is to replace the country’s government. Which is why we have repeatedly stated that Qaddafi has got to go.
Oh, now I see. Regime change is not our goal. We are just intervening with the collective firepower of NATO in order to help the Libyans get rid of Qaddafi. Who really has to go. That’s much clearer. Thank you very much.
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |