Posts Tagged ‘Hagel’

Christopher Lee

February 22, 2013

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An Honorable Man Would Fall On His Sword And Give Everyone (Including Obama) A Break

22 February 2013

Some one explain: What’s with this Hagel thing?  Why can’t the Senate wipe their noses and just nod through Chuck Hagel as President Obama’s candidate for Secretary of Defense.

The answer is they can but a few of them would like to see Hagel harried until he’s an embarrassment to Obama and bravely asks Obama permission to withdraw from the nomination.

At this week’s NATO defense ministers meeting at Alliance HQ there was plenty smirking and sneering when the news arrived that Hagel would not be – arriving that is.  Instead the super-efficient Leon Panetta who has been forced to stay on a Secretary arrived.  Almost every  NATO minister would prefer to have Panetta representing the US.  But Panetta needs to move on and Obama needs to prove that he can have his nominee in place.

The President has to wait.  Reason?  The problem is that Chuck The Mouth misspeaks.  He said damn foolish things about Jewish lobbies in Washington.  

Now, if you want to be one of The President’s Men, then you don’t say anything about Jewish Lobby groups.  Best to pretend they do not exist – even a “friendly” one like the National Jewish Democratic Committee who is sensitive enough to have denounced Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio for not mentioning Israel in his State of the Union response.  

Daft? Pathetic? Of course it is.  But that Washington for you.

The Jewish lobby (which of course does not exist) is one of the major influences on the floor of the HOuse, the Senate and in the thinking of any would-be and incumbent tenant of the White House.

To understand that influence and how the sensitivity has made a mockery of the President’s imagined power to get his man through the confirmation system, just understand that the case against Hagel is laid after remarks he supposedly made in 2007.  

Up at Rutgers University he apparently said that Iran (Israel’s most feared enemy this day) was in collaboration with the US on Afghanistan to establish a new government. He also is alleged to have remarked that the US State Department is controlled by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.  Explosive stuff.  But it was five years ago. To misquote McCarthy: “Senator, are you or have you ever been a big mouth?”

And the next question for Obama: why are you wanting this man to run your Pentagon in which the ranking subject is what to do about Israeli anxieties about Iran.

Now, the folk on the Hill have had their day in the court of accusations and although it’s an apparently mindless exercise, it also happens to be true that they may have revealed a man who truly should not have the Pentagon.

One by one, the legislators are backing off.  Yet in spite of the fact that there is a clear majority in the Senate for Hagel to be confirmed, there remain some who would remind the White House how little true power it has considering the way the Congress sits at this time.  When the mid term elections are done in  two years from now, the President will have even less power.

So now what happens? Minority Whip, Republican Texas Senator John Cornyn has written with more than a dozen colleagues to the President asking him to find another candidate.  Some of those signatories want a trade. They have issues which they are willing to trade for nodding Hagel through.  But not yet. Would the President back down?  Probably not.  But Hagel just might, to save the President and the himself from more embarrassment.

Meanwhile in Brussels, the Alliance wait for the name of the man they have to deal with over big issues such a coalition of the willing response to the disaster that is Afghanistan, the decisions over Syria, co-operation over Western African counter-Radical planning, defense spending, what to do about North Korea and of course, Iran.  

Today, Iran has gone the next stage towards nuclear power development. If we wonder what will be Israel’s response and that of the US we would expect to ask Chuck Hagel. That for the moment, maybe for all time, is not possible.

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Christopher Lee

February 3, 2013

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How Come Hagel Goofed On The Simplest Question: Can the US Do Anything About a Nuclear Armed Iran?

2nd February 2013
Sometimes you could think Donald Duck or maybe just Goofy by himself is running the White House. Must be the dog, the duck would be smarter because take Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing: what’s the biggest and scariest question in foreign policy-defense?  Iran!!!!   The duck knows that.  Goofy? Maybe not Goofy.  Maybe that’s why no one briefed and rehearsed Chuck Hagel on Iran?

Chuck Hagel has just gone through the Senate confirmation hearing as President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense.

On Iran, the recognized big one in What Does America Do If questions, Hagel goofed.  He stumbled around for answer to the apparently simple question: supposing Iran ignores every threat and builds a nuclear weapon, could a nuclear-warhead Iran be contained just as America apparently was able to contain the USSR during nearly half a century of Cold War?

The answer is very simple. The doctrine of containment was developed in 1946 and was the only way to deal with post World War II Soviet Communism and what followed – a Soviet controlled Eastern Europe and from 1957 a superpower building a capability for intercontinental ballistic and nuclear warfare. From this simplification, containment was Plan A and, as truth came to tell it, Plan 2-100 as well. In other words there was nothing else for it.

But Iran isn’t a superpower capable of magic mushrooming for real 100 American cities in one sunny afternoon.

So, when this notion is understood in the Senate (and as Hagel’s predecessor would know, the Senate grasped this four years ago) the question gets simpler: would the US attack Iran or help Israel attack Iran, if all else failed?  Sounds an easy one to ask.  As Goofy would know, you can scratch hard and never come with an answer that you would want to put on the Senate record and more importantly, on the front page of the Washington Post where they understand the significance of these affairs.

And what did Super Chuck say? Well, here comes the troublesome day’s work.  Knowing there would be such a curve ball in the day long hearing, the White House and he prepared an answer that was sent out in advance of the question.  Good news management. It read:

“My policy has always been the same as the president’s, one of prevention, not of containment. And the president has made clear that is the policy of our government.’’

That would have been good if Mr Hagel in the hearing hadn’t have added:  “I support the president’s strong position on containment.”  Wow Goofy!  That suggests Obama and Hagel believe it’s possible to contain a nuclear weapon armed Iran. This is, as the duck would have said, quackery.  Why? Because Obama knows that if Iran is allowed to get the bomb, then everyone else in the region, including the Saudis will be ordering one for themselves.

There was a silence in the Senate.  Then an aide slipped a piece of paper to Hagel’s elbow. He looked.  Looked again. Then he said:  “By the way, I’ve just been handed a note that I misspoke and said I supported the president’s position on containment. If I said that, it meant to say that obviously — on his position on containment — we don’t have a position on containment.”

The Armed Services Committee, chairman, Senator Carl Levin was in a good and helpful mood. He said, gravely, to Hagel “Just to make sure your correction is clear, we do have a position on containment: which is we do not favor containment.’’

This Hagel is the man to succeed Leon E Panetta.  What a crazy idea Goofy. How could this man be let out on his own?  He has just told Iran’s President Ahmadinejad to go ahead with the nuclear weapons program because there’s about nothing that America will do about it.  He has just told the North Korean Official Basket Case, Kim Jong Un he can do the same and for the same reasons.

Could it be that someone in the White House, in the Defense Department and maybe even, someone at Disney should get a grip of this man and tell him that laying the foundation of a nuclear war was not in the script. Maybe they should give the duck the job.

Christopher Lee

January 8, 2013

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Obama Wants Chuck Hagel On His Second Term Team – But Does Congress?  That’s The Big Test For The Would-be Defense Secretary And Obama Credibility

7th January 2013

President Obama has nominated Chuck Hagel, a one time soldier and then Republican senator from Nebraska to be secretary of defense.

 

Hagel comes from the no-prisoners school of politics and has a tough Vietnam rep’s history as his starting point.  Famously, Hagel, then Sergeant Hagel, single handedly rescued  his brother in bad shape after hitting a landmine.

 

As President Obama put it Monday, “More than most, Chuck understands that war is not just an abstraction.”

Hagel’s nomination completes the trio of would-be appointments of a nation at war.  He joins Obama’s special security adviser John O Brennan in line as Director CIA and Senator John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat proposed to replace Hilary Clinton at the State Department.

The three suggest a formidable security team with practical experience in the field, in the Executive and on the Hill.  Trying times are ahead as the United States begins its Afghanistan partial withdrawal, sensitive decisions over Syria and maybe Iran plus assaults from the Department of the Treasury.

Brennan and Kerry are safe choices.  Hagel is a tougher second guess. He is the one Congress will take apart during Confirmation hearings.

Republican senators in particular are wary of his views on Iran, Islamic militants and Israel – all subjects that can split Congressional views anyway.

In Washington even apparently innocent at the time long ago remarks are pulled out of the record to confront those going for the big jobs. Moreover, remarks or definitions that would not necessarily excite Georgetown diners are used as ammunition to shoot down public ambitions.

For example, Jewish support organizations suggest that he is vulnerable because he once called pro-Israel groups “the Jewish lobby.”

More politically vulnerable say the same people is Hagel’s past doubts about American sanctions on Iran. There are two issues here: what to do about Iran’s nuclear program and secondly, does a vote against sanctions reflect a lack of support for the Israelis.

Hagel appears unconcerned about Israeli sensitivities. He has also suggested the possible peace advantages of opening even backstairs talks with Hamas and Hezbollah.

The Obama team is totally aware that some in Congress stack against the Hagel nomination.  Yet it is not clear how powerful the anti-Hagel lobby has to be to stop him.  Instead he may run through a barbed wire of questioning in the hope that his present mood and view will ease concerns if not totally satisfy their holders.

The Iranian sanction issue – designed to punish Iran for going ahead with its suspected nuclear weapons programme – remains the most vulnerable area for Chuck Hagel.  It does so because he voted against them when they were debated in the Senate.

The word is that this issue in particular has been dealt with in the White House. Hagel as Secretary of Defense has no vote anywhere, but Obama would not expect him to sound off, even in private, on any subject that could embarrass the White House.  In theory, but only in theory Hagel would not frighten the Oval Office horses.

The Congressional hearings will therefore seek to “clarify” Hagel’s views on about everything. If there’s to be a quiet route to his nomination, Hagel has to clean up his act. Hagel is not by nature, an act cleaner. So Obama is taking a risk with these three men because he trusts them. In his second term with big issues such as Afghanistan, Syria and the Arab Spring plus relations with China and Russia on the table, that trust has to be well placed..

Can Obama trust Hagel.  He should know the answer to that. Hagel was one of the men who escorted Obama to Afghanistan back in 2008 in attempt to put street cred on Obama’s foreign policy ticket. It worked. It’s now up Congress to allow the double-act to get back on stage.