Obama adviser explains why Clinton's Syria plan won't work

Story highlights

  • Ben Rhodes is President Barack Obama's deputy national adviser
  • Rhodes was appearing on the "Axe Files" podcast

The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works at the institute.

Chicago (CNN)The no-fly zone in Syria proposed by Democratic front-runner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be both ineffective and a poor use of resources, according to White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes.

"A no fly zone in Syria would not solve the problem," Rhodes told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. "If you had an area of geography in Syria where planes couldn't fly over it, people would still be killing each other on the ground. ISIL doesn't have planes, so that doesn't solve the ISIL problem. They would still be able to massacre people on the ground. And we would have to devote an enormous amount of our resources -- which are currently devoted to finding ISIL and killing them wherever they are -- to maintaining this no-fly zone. So it's just not a good use of resources."
    Clinton, who served under President Obama as Secretary of State, has argued in favor of a no-fly zone. At a CNN/NY1 Democratic debate last Thursday, with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton reiterated her support for such a move.
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    Ben Rhodes in August
    "I do still support a no-fly zone because I think we need to put in safe havens for those poor Syrians who are fleeing both Assad and ISIS and so they have some place they can be safe," she said.
    In an hour-long interview with Axelrod, Rhodes reiterated the administration's opposition to Clinton's stance.
    "How would it be safe if there is no ground force? If you have a no fly zone, yes, there's not a risk of air attack, but there are many different forces fighting on the ground in Syria, including extremist forces that would still be able to carry out attacks on the ground," he said. "And the fact is we have the ability to target them and to bomb them already. A no fly zone might create some additional ability to manage some of the refugee flows and brush back some of the Syrian regime's air attacks on civilians, but frankly that violence could just manifest itself in different ways on the ground or migrate to different areas."
    Rhodes, who worked with Clinton in the Obama administration, did offer praise for her work at the State Department.
    "She is someone who has been open to military solutions in general, and in debates that we had in the Situation Room she supported taking military action on a lot of the questions that emerged," he said. "However, she is also a real internationalist. She is someone who values alliances. And so I don't think she would subscribe to kind of the rash, neoconservative interventionism where we are doing things by ourselves. I think she would be more someone who's trying to build coalitions."
    Despite taking the reins at State following her bitter defeat to Obama in the 2008 election, Rhodes described Clinton as "warm" and "gracious" during her time in the administration, noting that she "became close" with Obama.
    "She totally threw herself into the job from the second she accepted it, so that made it much easier to leave that past behind," he said.
    To hear the whole interview with Rhodes, which also touched on Saudi Arabia's role in the September 11 attacks, the proposed lifting of the U.S. embargo on Cuba and the White House reaction to recent criticism from former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, and more, click on http://podcast.cnn.com.
    To get "The Axe Files" podcast every week, subscribe at http://itunes.com/theaxefiles.