Monday, November 24, 2014

Chuck Hagel, Gone Who is Next?


Hagel Resigns Under Pressure as Global Crises Test Pentagon

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and President Obama at a White House news conference announcing Mr. Hagel's resignation on Monday. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel handed in his resignation under pressure on Monday, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and the struggles of his national security team to respond to an onslaught of global crises.
In announcing Mr. Hagel’s resignation from the State Dining Room on Monday, the president, flanked by Mr. Hagel and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., called Mr. Hagel critical to ushering the military “through a significant period of transition” and lauded “a young Army sergeant from Vietnam who rose to serve as America’s 24th secretary of defense.”
Mr. Obama called Mr. Hagel “no ordinary secretary of defense,” adding that he had “been in the dirt” of combat like no other defense chief. He said that Mr. Hagel would remain in the job until his successor is confirmed by the Senate.
Administration officials said that Mr. Obama made the decision to remove Mr. Hagel, the sole Republican on his national security team, last Friday after a series of meetings between the two men over the past two weeks.
Continue reading the main story Video
Play Video|0:34

Obama Praises Hagel at Resignation

President Obama called Chuck Hagel “no ordinary secretary of defense” during a news conference at which Mr. Hagel announced his resignation.
Video by Associated Press on Publish Date November 24, 2014. Photo by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.
The officials characterized the decision as a recognition that the threat from the militant group Islamic State will require different skills from those that Mr. Hagel, who often struggled to articulate a clear viewpoint and was widely viewed as a passive defense secretary, was brought in to employ.
Mr. Hagel, a combat veteran who was skeptical about the Iraq war, came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestrations.
Now, however, the American military is back on a war footing, although it is a modified one. Some 3,000 American troops are being deployed in Iraq to help the Iraqi military fight the Sunni militants of the Islamic State, even as the administration struggles to come up with, and articulate, a coherent strategy to defeat the group in both Iraq and Syria.
“The next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus,” one administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He insisted that Mr. Hagel was not fired, saying that the defense secretary initiated discussions about his future two weeks ago with the president, and that the two men mutually agreed that it was time for him to leave.
But Mr. Hagel’s aides had maintained in recent weeks that he expected to serve the full four years as defense secretary. His removal appears to be an effort by the White House to show that it is sensitive to critics who have pointed to stumbles in the government’s early response to several national security issues, including the Ebola crisis and the threat posed by the Islamic State.
Even before the announcement of Mr. Hagel’s removal, Obama officials were speculating on his possible replacement. At the top of the list were Michèle A. Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense, and Ashton B. Carter, a former deputy secretary of defense.
Continue reading the main story Video
Play Video|0:30

Hagel Resigning as Defense Secretary

Chuck Hagel, whose resignation as defense secretary was announced Monday, said he would stay in the job and support the president until his successor was confirmed.
Video by Associated Press on Publish Date November 24, 2014. Photo by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.
Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island and a former officer with the Army’s 82nd Airborne, was also considered to be a contender, but a spokesman said that the senator was not in the running. “Senator Reed loves his job and does not wish to be considered for secretary of defense or any other cabinet post,” the spokesman said.

Mr. Hagel, a respected former senator who struck a friendship with Mr. Obama when they were both critics of the Iraq war from positions on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has nonetheless had trouble penetrating the tight team of former campaign aides and advisers who form Mr. Obama’s closely knit set of loyalists. Senior administration officials have characterized him as quiet during cabinet meetings; Mr. Hagel’s defenders said that he waited until he was alone with the president before sharing his views, the better to avoid leaks.
Whatever the case, Mr. Hagel struggled to fit in with Mr. Obama’s close circle and was viewed as never gaining traction in the administration after a bruising confirmation fight among his old Senate colleagues, during which he was criticized for seeming tentative in his responses to sharp questions.
He never really shed that pall after arriving at the Pentagon, and in the past few months he has largely ceded the stage to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who officials said initially won the confidence of Mr. Obama with his recommendation of military action against the Islamic State.
In Mr. Hagel’s less than two years on the job, his detractors said he struggled to inspire confidence at the Pentagon in the manner of his predecessors, especially Robert M. Gates. But several of Mr. Obama’s top advisers over the past few months have also acknowledged privately that the president did not want another high-profile defense secretary in the mold of Mr. Gates, who went on to write a memoir of his years with Mr. Obama in which he sharply criticized the president. Mr. Hagel, they said, in many ways was exactly the kind of defense secretary whom the president, after battling the military during his first term, wanted.
Mr. Hagel, for his part, spent his time on the job largely carrying out Mr. Obama’s stated wishes on matters like bringing back American troops from Afghanistan and trimming the Pentagon budget, with little pushback. He did manage to inspire loyalty among enlisted soldiers and often seemed at his most confident when talking to troops or sharing wartime experiences as a Vietnam veteran.
But Mr. Hagel has often had problems articulating his thoughts — or administration policy — in an effective manner, and has sometimes left reporters struggling to describe what he has said in news conferences. In his side-by-side appearances with both General Dempsey and Secretary of State John Kerry, Mr. Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran and the first former enlisted combat soldier to be defense secretary, has often been upstaged.
He raised the ire of the White House in August as the administration was ramping up its strategy to fight the Islamic State, directly contradicting the president, who months before had likened the Sunni militant group to a junior varsity basketball squad. Mr. Hagel, facing reporters in his now-familiar role next to General Dempsey, called the Islamic State an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” adding, “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” White House officials later said they viewed those comments as unhelpful, although the administration still appears to be struggling to define just how large is the threat posed by the Islamic State.


  • All 995
  • Readers’ Picks 645
  • NYT Picks 33
NYT Pick


NJ 9 hours ago
This is just another example of silencing your critics. Chuck Hagel called 'em as he saw 'em.
NYT Pick

Usa Lover

Detroit,Mi. 9 hours ago
I am Republican. - This is fine with me. Hagel just wasn't a good fit for that Job. He always looked like a deer in the headlights to me. And never exuded much confidence.
NYT Pick

Reality Based

Flyover Country 9 hours ago
This is no time for piling on one of the few decent remaining Republicans, Chuck Hagel.. But there were always far more qualified candidates for DefSec. Former NATO commander and top-of-his-class at West Point Wesley Clark, who is no neo-con, comes to mind. Sure, Republicans hate him, but they will assassinate the character of any Obama appointee.
NYT Pick


is a trusted commenter NY 9 hours ago
Chuck Hagel didn't always present well, often appearing muddled and sleepy, but when he spoke about Vietnam Veterans, he was brilliant and came alive. There was no doubt about his commitment to them. I hope he continues to work on their behalf.
NYT Pick

Bert Gold

Frederick, Maryland 9 hours ago
I am truly surprised that Barack Obama took a stand on something. It must be that Hagel violated his loyalty oath to the President. My take is that it is way too little, way too late to change the dismal course of events. But, at least, when the history of this era is written, we can say that Obama was a stronger President as a lame duck, than anticipated.
NYT Pick


Cincinnati, Ohio 8 hours ago
It's been painfully apparent for months, if not years, that the Obama Administration operates out of the Oval Office and the West Wing, with little input or gravitas from Cabinet officials, agency heads and Congress. In theory, this might work if the staff around the President were both dedicated and independent. But this group is most notable for its insularity, its excessive loyalty (to the point of blindness), and its total lack of public profile or accountability.

Ultimately, it reflects the President's severe management limitations. That a rather inarticulate former Senator would even be considered for Defense Secretary says less about him and much much more about a in-bred weakness at the top of the federal government pyramid.
NYT Pick


egmont key 8 hours ago
saw his interview on charlie rose. seemed like he was hanging onto a branch at the shore of a raging river. no straight answers either
NYT Pick


Germany 8 hours ago
Chuck Hagel seemed to me to be a good choice after Gates. although it sometimes felt as if he had trouble trying to keep a straight back while melting his position with that of the administration - maybe that's why some think he wasn't always clear enough with what he said.
Especially during this month's hearing on fighting ISIS, answering the same kind of questions over and over again, trying to keep calm. I admired him there. Some of the politicians wanted nothing but to hammer away or use the few minutes to state their position.
I wish Chuck Hagel the best. The balancing act (him/administration) might have destroyed him sooner or later. Being forced time and again to try and sell watered down versions of what you think is right ultimately always gets to you. No matter how tough you are, or what a master diplomat.
NYT Pick

Arthur Silen

Davis California 8 hours ago
Cabinet appointees reflect the times and circumstances of when they were appointed. One need only look back to the Vietnam era when Robert S. McNamara, a Kennedy appointee and former Ford executive, became the emblematic figure of the military buildup and deployment of American combat troops to Southeast Asia. McNamara was perhaps the most visible member of that group of American cabinet level officials who were tagged with the sobriquet, "the best and the brightest". McNamara was the consummate bean counter, a soulless bureaucrat whose claim to fame rested entirely on his ability to manipulate numbers. We all know what happened after that.

Mr. Hagel, the current Defense Secretary, appears to be caught in a similar bind. He, too, served during the Vietnam era, but as a front-line soldier and noncommissioned officer. Regardless of Mr. Hagel's future prominence in politics and government, his personal experience as a combat infantryman fighting a costly, losing war in the jungles of Southeast Asia, must inevitably have colored his vision and understanding of what his job as Defense Secretary is all about. When the external threats we now face were on a distant horizon, and which nobody really understood, Mr. Hagel was an excellent choice for the job he was given. But circumstances change. We now need someone who is savvy about the conflict we are now about to face, and can deal with it effectively. Better that Mr. Hagel leave now before the killing begins in earnest.
NYT Pick

Al Neuman

Reality 8 hours ago
Chuck Hagel is a pioneer who initiated discussion on lifting the military's ban on transgender soldiers. The Obama administration and Chelsea Mannings of the world will miss him.
NYT Pick


San Francisco 7 hours ago
Hagel was a poor choice, but not because of his views. His efforts to shrink a grossly bloated and inefficient defense budget should be applauded, as should his skepticism about rushing into war. Don't mistake a reluctance to get involved in another pointless war--and let's face it, Iraq and Afghanistan are largely failures--with weakness. (It actually takes more guts to do nothing in circumstances like this). No, Hagel's problem, and this is mentioned in the article, is that he is not a great communicator, and that is a critical deficit in a DOD chief.
NYT Pick


Detroit 7 hours ago
This is an opportunity for compromise. Republicans have already threatened to stall on any appointments proffered by Obama, including Loretta Lynn (US Attorney). With Hagel's untimely resignation, Obama will likely use this as an opportunity to bargain for Lynn's appointment, with the agreement to name as next Secretary of Defense, someone much, much more aggressive in the Middle East.
NYT Pick

expat from L.A.

Los Angeles, CA 7 hours ago
I admire Chuck Hagel for who he is and what he has done in his life. He deserves our congratulations for his service, and for putting country ahead of party. I wish him well.
NYT Pick


florida 7 hours ago
Its time this job is filled by an intelligent military strategist and not a politician from any party. We will be fighting a permanent war against endemic islamo-terrorism and we need a Defense secretary who knows the region and its politics and history well. We will prevail with a consistent strategy of intimidation, targeted attacks and assassination (yes that's what we do now with drones), employment of special forces as needed, and supplemental consolidation with traditional land-force military tactics as needed. The task can be managed on a lean budget by the right candidate executing a relentless and consistent strategy. We need to win the war long-term and keep it off the front pages. We can do it.
NYT Pick


By the Sea 7 hours ago
I echo the comments of those who assert that Hagel was the right person for the job when the focus was on Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, we need an expert on broader Middle Eastern foreign policy.

It really is that pragmatic.

Is the GOP really so simple that it must have an apocalyptic meltdown over everything?

NYT Pick


Cleveland 7 hours ago
The right-wingers attacked Hagel, and now Obama casts him aside. Not too many people cared for him much. No swagger. No presentation, little hard-nosed strength like Gates. Hagel did not shine in front of the camera. But anyone who has actually been in war on the ground as a common soldier understands Hagel immediately and respects him. Gates is to be respected because he cared about what he was doing and he was not joking. Hagel too.
NYT Pick


New York 7 hours ago
The "war party" has won. I think it an ominous sign that Hagel is being kicked out, presumably in favor of someone more belligerent. We are now set for all out war in Ukraine and the Middle East.
NYT Pick


Melbourne Florida 7 hours ago
As a former career military man, I am surprised that Hagel lasted this long. A former combat enlisted soldier had to have been looked down on by the Congress he had to deal with. And probably by General Officers whom he now controlled and far outranked. I can only say that we need more combat-boot-experience by our government officials, such as Rand Paul, who is now recommending we declare war on ISIS. A war in which he knows he will never have to participate. My thanks to Chuck Hagel and I wish him well. He did a good job.
NYT Pick


Queens, NY 7 hours ago
A tragedy indeed, Hagel is a good man, and Obama fought so hard to get him appointed. SecDef is a job almost no one can succeed at today, maybe not even Dwight Eisenhower.

To my mind, however, Obama should have picked a younger person, someone on the way up, not retired and tired, as Hagel clearly was.
NYT Pick

Adrian O

State College, PA 6 hours ago
"He raised the ire of the White House ... directly contradicting the president, who months before had likened the Sunni militant group to a junior varsity basketball squad.

Mr. Hagel... called the Islamic State an “imminent threat to every interest we have, this is beyond anything that we’ve seen.”

White House officials later said they viewed those comments as unhelpful."
So basically Hagel had to resign because he was right...
NYT Pick


Maine 6 hours ago
As a lefty lucy liberal, I say, Chuck Hagel is a good guy; one of the few conservatives I respect and can tolerate.

As such, I'm really sad to see him go. As much as I support the president, I wonder if Hagel's own deliberate manner is something we should discard.

I hope Hagel appears elsewhere in the political arena. He is too reasoned and rational to lose.
NYT Pick

Uga Muga

Miami 6 hours ago
It doesn't matter who's Secretary of Defense. As a chef once said in a college cooking class "if the meat is rotten, no sauce can improve the dish" (use good materials to formulate a good result). Hegemony or no hegemony, America's foreign policy has been a disaster for decades upon decades. Instead of speak softly and carry a big stick, we've had speak loudly and carry a big schtick.

If not for the overwhelming economic and military power, the US would not have survived its dismal performance in that arena that brings us to where we are today.
NYT Pick

Ed Winter

Montclair, NJ 6 hours ago
It's been known for some time that the president is calling the military shots, right down to approving individual actions on the ground. If he's going to run military actions out of the White House a la Lyndon Johnson, then he certainly needs an insider, someone known and trusted on his side of the moat. A political loyalist with some veneer of military respectability will best serve the president's interests and get him through the next two years.
NYT Pick

Marie Claire

Scottsdale 6 hours ago
We will soon see the real reason why Hagel was removed by the replacement and the actions taken after the replacement takes office.
NYT Pick


Boston, MA 6 hours ago
Mr. Hagel became, since he was appointed some short time ago, a liability to the President, and had the temerity of criticizing and weakening the President's hand by providing fodder to his critics.

Mr. Hagel is, of course, entitled to his own opinions, and should voice them internally --or in a book, after a few years of reflection. Yet, at the same time, it is clear that Mr. Hagel should have never been appointed to Mr. Obama's cabinet --nor should any other Republicans such as Ray LaHood and Robert Gates. Mr. Obama expected to somehow have these overtures result in bipartisan cooperation --a naive dream that resulted instead in backstabbing, lack of coordination, and lackluster support for the President and his policies. Time is running out, but it seems that Mr. Obama has decided to make the best of his time in office by improving on his team --and this is a positive.

Where did it go wrong for US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel?

US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel bows his head alongside US President Barack Obama after announcing his resignation in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington in November 2014 President Barack Obama confirmed Chuck Hagel's resignation and paid tribute to his "class and integrity"

Related Stories

Chuck Hagel, a former enlisted soldier, Vietnam veteran and moderate Republican senator, appeared to be an ideal candidate for the post of defence secretary.
But his less than impressive performance during his confirmation hearings back in February 2013 - he had a decidedly bumpy ride from his fellow senators - was a clear indication of potential problems ahead.
Mr Hagel may not have been fired, but he certainly appears to have been pushed; realising himself before the mid-term congressional elections that his position was becoming increasingly uncomfortable.
In the wake of those elections, with the Republicans ascendant on Capitol Hill, it is clear that the Pentagon and President Barack Obama's foreign policy in general, is going to come under concerted scrutiny from the Republican chairmen of the powerful oversight committees.
The White House appears to have concluded that it needs a stronger, less diffident hand on the tiller.
'Imminent threat' Mr Hagel is the first casualty of what many of Mr Obama's critics see as a struggling national security policy.
He came on board to oversee the US draw-down in Afghanistan and to manage a defence establishment with a much smaller budget.
Defence Secretary Chuck Hage and Gen Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September 2014 The world has changed since Mr Hagel was appointed as President Obama's defence secretary in 2013
But the world has changed since then.
Worsening relations with Russia, the response to the Ebola crisis and above all the rise of the so-called Islamic State (IS) movement in Syria and Iraq have put the defence department in the spotlight.
Mr Hagel often seemed uncomfortable or at variance with aspects of the administration's policies.
Describing the threat from IS in August he said that it was " an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it's in Iraq or anywhere else… this is beyond anything that we've seen."
This dramatic elevation of the IS challenge seemed to many analysts to be out of proportion to the real threat that the organisation poses.
Withering criticism Mr Hagel was also known to be uneasy with the administration's focus largely on Iraq, with Syria seen as a secondary front.
Quite apart from being overshadowed by other members of the administration, he was frequently upstaged by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey who has often spoken out clearly and eloquently very much in the vanguard of stated administration policy.
But if there has been confusion and uncertainty in the administration's approach to IS it is hardly Mr Hagel's fault alone.
Mr Obama's handling of foreign policy has come in for some withering criticism from well-placed analysts.
His own lack of foreign policy experience and lack of a real strategic sense is seen as a large part of the problem.
President Barack Obama and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel embrace after speaking about Hage's resignation during an event in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on 24 November 2014 Mr Hagel's successor has yet to be decided
So too his willingness to make policy in the White House surrounded by a small group of loyal aides.
Mr Hagel may be as much a casualty of Mr Obama's shortcomings as he is of his own.
Chuck Hagel will continue to head the Pentagon until his successor is nominated and confirmed.
Those confirmation hearings promise to provide an opportunity for the President's Republican critics to mount a forensic critique of Mr Obama's approach to the world.

...and I am Sid Harth

No comments:

Post a Comment