On Monday, Pentagon controlled Stars and Stripes said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned under pressure. Code language for sacking.
“(A)fter bruising midterm elections. (A)mid mounting criticism of (Obama’s) security and foreign policies.”
Hawks want more wars than already. Stepped up belligerence in ongoing ones. In February 2013, Hagel succeeded Leon Panetta.
The former Obama CIA director/Clinton White House chief of staff sees an ongoing “30-year war.” Beyond current theaters.
Obama erred, he said. He “lost his way.” By not maintaining more US troops in Iraq, he believes. A residual force able to confront internal opposition.
By rejecting advice from top aides. Including himself. By failing to sufficiently arm anti-Assad forces sooner. With heavier weapons.
By not acting (based on Big Lies claiming) Assad used chemical weapons.
Panetta barely stopped short of urging troops on the ground in Syria. He questioned Washington’s credibility.
Especially with Obama in charge. His determination “to stick this out.”
He has “to jump in the ring and fight it out for the next two years,” said Panetta.
Like other past and current Washington officials, he believes US imperial priorities matter most. Means justify ends.
Might justifies right. Regardless of harm to others. No matter the consequences. Hagel apparently wasn’t uber-hawk enough.
It remains to be seen who replaces him. Administration sources said removing him came after weeks of discussions.
The New York Times said he “often struggled to articulate a clear viewpoint…(W)as) widely viewed as…passive…”
Skeptical about Obama’s Iraq war. Brought in “to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestrations.”
Uncomfortable about stepped up war? Perhaps so. An unnamed administration official said “(t)he next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus.”
Code language for more war. In Iraq and Syria. Maybe Iran. Perhaps confronting Russia over Ukraine. Arming its puppet government with heavy weapons. Covertly and overtly.
Violating Geneva and Minsk agreements. Risking all-out regional conflict. Perhaps global war if not stopped in time.
Was Hagel sacked to pursue the unthinkable? Who’ll take the job to do what demands avoiding? According to The Times, possible replacements include:
Former Obama Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy. A key Panetta advisor. Highest ranking woman in Pentagon history.
Currently a Boston Consulting Group senior advisor. Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs senior fellow. Center for a New American Security (CNAS) board member.
Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter. Serving as DOD’s chief operating officer.
A former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. In five years of Pentagon service, he led two major national security strategy/budget reviews. Held its two key positions under the top job.
Senator Jack Reed (D. RI). A former House member. West Point graduate. His spokesman saying he’s not interested. He “loves his job and does not wish to be considered for secretary of defense or any other cabinet post,” he said.
Other names mentioned include current Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work. Former Navy Secretary. Former marine achieving the rank of colonel. Current Nuclear Deterrent Enterprise Review Group chairman.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. Army Secretary John McHugh. Former Senator Joe Lieberman.
The Times said “Hagel struggled to fit in with Mr. Obama’s close circle…(W)as viewed as never gaining traction…”
(A)ter a bruising confirmation fight (with) former Senate colleagues…(F)or seeming tentative in responding to sharp questions.”
Largely played number two to Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey. Critics said he failed to inspire confidence of Pentagon commanders.
Had a propensity to commit gaffes. Like calling Islamic State fighters a “threat not just to the United States, but to the civilized world.”
Confronting them “is a humanitarian issue of great consequence for all the world,” he said. “And I think great powers understand they have responsibilities in this area.”
In October, Hagel wrote a critical letter to National Security Advisor Susan Rice. On administration Syrian policy.
Warning it was in jeopardy. “(I)n danger” of unraveling. For failing to clarify intentions toward Assad.
Hagel was tight-lipped about his comments. Saying only:
“We owe the president and we owe the National Security Council our best thinking on this. And it has to be honest and it has to be direct.”
“(F)ighting (in Syria) can go on for years and years to what end,” he asked?
“It’s in our interest not to have an unstable Middle East.” Current threats must be managed while focusing on “longer-term strategies and objectives.”
Hagel was exactly the kind of defense secretary Obama wanted, said The Times. One who wouldn’t write a book criticizing administration policy after leaving office.
He “spent his time…largely carrying out” Obama’s wishes, said The Times. Including downsizing US Afghanistan forces. Waging Iraq war III. Bombing Syria.
His aides said he expected to serve throughout Obama’s second term. It remains to be seen what agenda his successor follows.
Hagel focused heavily on administration Asian/Pacific policies. Military downsizing plans. He opposed the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
As a senator, he rejected containing Iran. Called sanctions ineffective.
At the same time, said his “top priority” was planning military contingencies on Iran. Doing “whatever it takes” to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
In late August 2002, he confronted then Secretary of State Colin Powell, asking:
“What is going on here? You guys say you’re not going to war. You’re going to war! You’re going to have to occupy Iraq for years.”
“So why did we invade Iraq,” he asked? I believe it was the triumph of the so-called neo-conservative ideology, as well as the Bush administration’s arrogance and incompetence that took America into this war of choice.”
“This ideology presented a myopic vision of a democratic Middle East that would inject a large permanent American force presence in the region to act as the guarantor of a regional realignment.”
“They believed that by taking the relatively easy step of toppling Saddam, they could begin to realize this vision through the use of America’s unequaled military power, thereby establishing America’s preeminence in the Middle East and bolstering the defense of Israel.”
“They obviously made a convincing case to a president with very limited national security and foreign policy experience, who keenly felt the burden of leading the nation in the wake of the deadliest terrorist attack ever on American soil.”
“It is shocking how little Congress or the media challenged the Bush administration.”
He favored engaging Iran and Syria. Let their people decide their future.
Policymakers “took (their) eye off the ball on Afghanistan,” he said. Overextended America’s military presence.
He voted no on designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as terrorists. Said Iraq under Saddam wasn’t developing nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
Had no connection to Al-Qaeda. Was developing missiles. “(B)ut not to reach the US,” he said.
He opposed military escalation in Iraq. Thought his job was ending ongoing wars. Not escalating them. Or launching new ones.
Perhaps that best explains his sacking. Obama continues multiple direct and proxy wars.
After “agree(ing) (with allies and Kabul) that this is the year we will conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan,” he authorized business as usual.
Through at least through 2015. Likely throughout his second term. Perhaps for another 13 years. Under presidents succeeding him.
America’s longest war looks like its forever one. Other regional conflicts rage without end. Perhaps Hagel wanted none of it.
Voicing opposition to administration policy. Assuring he had to go. It remains to be seen who replaces him.
What agenda will be followed. Whether rhetoric straightaway will explain. Odds favor more wars, not less.
At a time most Americans want them ended. Not with Obama in charge. Or whoever succeeds him.
Permanent war is longstanding US policy. No end of conflicts loom.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.