Born in New York City in 1970, Rosa Brooks is the daughter of socialist author Barbara Ehrenreich and psychologist John Ehrenreich. Brooks, who was reportedly named after the communist radical Rosa Luxemburg, earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1991, a master’s degree from Oxford in 1993, and a J.D. from Yale in 1996. She went on to become a law professor at the University of Virginia, Yale, and the Georgetown University Law Center.
In 2004 Brooks served as a foreign policy advisor to the John Kerry–John Edwards presidential campaign. Her resume also includes stints as special counsel to the president at George Soros‘ Open Society Institute; consultant for Human Rights Watch; board member of Amnesty International USA; and senior advisor to Assistant Secretary Harold Koh at the U.S. State Department during the Bill Clinton administration.
From 2005 to 2009, Brooks was a regular op-ed columnist at the Los Angeles Times. She left this job in early 2009, when President Barack Obama tapped her to be an advisor to Michelle Fluornoy, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.
In April 2006, Brooks accused civilian White House and Pentagon officials in the George W. Bush administration of being “eager to embrace the values normally exemplified by military juntas.” Six months later, she likened the experience of being a citizen in President Bush’s America “to being a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver.” “Drunk on power,” she said, “the administration has spent years driving resolutely into brick walls.”
In a September 2006 L.A. Times column, Brooks referred to President Bush as America’s “torturer-in-chief,” and she suggested that Islamist terror attacks against the U.S. were manifestations of a backlash against America’s foreign transgressions. “Today, the chickens are coming home to roost,” she said.
Fiercely opposed to the Iraq War, in October 2006 Brooks characterized the Bush administration’s handling of the conflict as “desperate flailing.” “[W]ith so many thousands dead, and so many thousands more embittered, ‘winning’ isn’t really on the table anymore,” she wrote. “The only question now is whether we can mitigate the damage.”
In an October 2006 column, Brooks described the Bush administration as a “homegrown” authoritarian government, likening its practices to those of the “foreign authoritarians” who headed the regimes that ruled Iran and North Korea. In Brooks’ view, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were men who “should be treated like psychotics who need treatment.”
In 2007 Brooks portrayed al-Qaida as an organization that, prior to 9/11, had been “little more than an obscure group of extremist thugs, well financed and intermittently lethal but relatively limited in their global and regional political pull.” “On 9/11,” she continued, “they [al-Qaida] got lucky.… Thanks to U.S. policies, al-Qaida has become the vast global threat the [Bush] administration imagined it to be in 2001.”
Also in 2007, Brooks depicted the troop surge (where President Bush sent more than 20,000 additional military personnel to Iraq) as a “feckless plan” that was “too little, too late” and had “no realistic likelihood” of leading to “an enduring solution in Iraq.” Subsequent events would prove Brooks wrong; the surge turned the tide of the war dramatically in America’s favor.
In October 2008, as polls showed that Barack Obama was likely to win the U.S. presidency over Republican John McCain, Brooks gloated:
“Liberals haven’t had so much fun in decades…. Maybe most fun of all, we’re getting to watch a steady procession of rats leaving the sinking GOP ship…. [A]s the more respectable, literate conservatives distance themselves from the GOP, increasingly, the only ones left on the right are paranoid, rage-driven, xenophobic nuts. Bitter? You betcha! Twisted too!… But today, as the last few sober grown-ups leave the party, the visible face of the GOP increasingly looks like that of the people who shout ‘kill him!’ when Obama’s name comes up, who speak of black men they don’t like as ‘uppity’ or as ‘boys,’ who think you can’t trust a Muslim or an Arab,… who claim Obama ‘pals around with terrorists.'”
In March 2009 Brooks denigrated the legal memos wherein the Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel had advanced its arguments in favor of prosecuting the war on terrorism. According to Brooks, those memos were as replete with calculated deception as Hitler’s stated rationales for war had been in the 1930s and 1940s. Said Brooks:
“How did such dangerously bad legal memos ever get taken seriously in the first place? One answer is suggested by the so-called Big Lie theory of political propaganda, articulated most infamously by Adolf Hitler. Ordinary people ‘more readily fall victim to the big lie than the small lie,’ wrote Hitler.”
In April 2009 Brooks called for an added measure of “direct government support for public media,” and for the federal government to take control of journalism by means of an industry-wide financial bailout for failing newspapers. She wrote:
“If newspapers become mostly infotainment websites — if the number of well-trained investigative journalists dwindles still further — and if we’re soon left with nothing but the yapping heads who dominate cable ‘news’ and talk radio, how will we recognize, or hope to forestall, impending national and global crises?… It’s time for a government bailout of journalism. If we’re willing to use taxpayer money to build roads, pay teachers and maintain a military; if we’re willing to bail out banks and insurance companies and failing automakers, we should be willing to part with some public funds to keep journalism alive too.”
Toward that end, Brooks endorsed an idea advanced by John Nichols (a writer for The Nation) and former Monthly Review editor Robert McChesney, who had jointly recommended: (a) substantial increases in government funding for public broadcasting, and (b) a tax credit for the first $200 that any person spent on newspaper subscriptions each year.
Brooks also has been outspoken on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East, placing most of the blame for the ongoing hostility squarely on Israel. In January 2009, while Israel was engaged in a military operation aimed at dismantling the military capabilities of Hamas (which had been conducting a campaign of unceasing terrorist attacks against the Jewish state), Brooks wrote a column titled “Israel can’t bomb its way to peace.” She claimed that Israel’s actions were motivated by political rather than security considerations.