Ben Rhodes was one of President Obama’s longest-serving aides, and is a frequent contributor to various Crooked Media podcasts — in particularly, Pod Save the World. He is also the author of the excellent The World As It Is, his memoir of government service and also examination of foreign policy during the Obama years. In 2021, he has a new book coming out, which I am very eager to read: After The Fall: Being American in the World We Made.
Why is the world turning away from liberal democracy? And what can we do about it? The former deputy national security advisor to President Barack Obama and New York Times bestselling author of The World as It Is travels the globe in a deeply personal, beautifully observed quest for answers.
In 2017, as Ben Rhodes was helping former president Barack Obama begin his next chapter, the legacy they worked to build for eight years was being taken apart. To understand what was happening in his own country, Rhodes decided to look outward, at the wider world. Over the next three years, he traveled to dozens of countries, meeting with politicians, dissidents, and activists confronting the same forces that produced the Trump presidency: spreading nationalism, authoritarianism, and disinformation. Along the way, he was spied on by former Mossad operatives and the Chinese government, met with Hong Kong protesters and Russian oppositionists, and found people from Europe to Asia to the United States struggling to reconcile their own identities with the crude nationalism of their leaders — all while pursuing new strategies to fight back.
Equal parts memoir and reporting, After the Fall is an ambitious and essential work of discovery. Throughout, Rhodes reflects on how the 2008 financial crisis completed a collapse of public confidence in America, globalization, and democracy itself, opening a door to the wave of strongman leaders who have transformed our world — men like Viktor Orban in Hungary, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Xi Jinping in China. He wrestles with how peoples’ yearning for identity and belonging has been weaponized by nationalists. And he learns from a diverse set of characters — from Obama to rebels to rising politicians–how we can choose a more hopeful story going forward.
Ben Rhodes’s After the Fall is due to be published by Random House in North America, on June 1st, 2021. (I couldn’t find any details of a UK edition at the time of writing.)