Thoughts on Hagel and Brennan?

BMG has been awfully quiet about these two picks. Wondering what everyone else thinks?

My quick take:


Still not sure what was gained by dumping Rice and picking the fight over Hagel. I like the guy, like his anti-war record, his neutrality on Israel and continuing the good tenure of Gates and Panetta. Not sure if Flournoy would’ve been any different, she is arguably more qualified and we would have a first female Defense Secretary who is a solid Democrat first. Clearly Hagel is not a bipartisan pick. But he should do good.


I think a lot of criticism directed at him is fair, I hope he gets grilled on drones and torture at the hearings, that said I suspect he will roll back the CIAs program and hopefully allow te executive program to die after the Afghan pullout.

Recommended by david, alexwill.


22 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Best spin I've heard

    Hagel: Like Jack Lew, he is being picked because Obama thinks the big fights in the second term will be about budget matters. Hagel, in his view, as a combat vet and lifelong Republican, will have the credibility it takes to cut defense spending, taking off pressure to cut everything else.

    Brennan: He’s been involved in some sketchy things, but heading the CIA is a sketchy job. Best cases is what you suggest: that he’ll roll back the worst stuff. But I really don’t know what to expect.

  2. that Republican opposition to Hagel is just another facet of their opposition to rationalism.

    Obama has supported Hael; the GOP therefore kant support Hagel.

    • That seems about right

      The only “defense” of the GOP’s view is that, to them, he’s a GOP apostate because he criticized Iraq. Sort of like Lieberman to Dems.

      In their public statements, they seem to be making the argument that a Democratic president can nominate only those who sufficiently agree with (discredited) GOP orthodoxy on foreign policy.

    • Good point

      And the other irony is a lot of liberals support a gay bashing, former Senator with an ACU rating of 89% because he is anti-war and neutral on Israel. Had Obama not backed marriage equality you’d be seeing a lot more LGBT pushback on this. There are also some pro-choice grumblings about his abortion record in regards to military abortions but I am 100% certain he will not focus on social issues. I respect Hagel tremendously, and believe he was the best choice to have credibility on budget cutting matters more so than Flournoy. I think first woman Defense Secretary and her experience inside the Pentagon burecracy made her an intersting choice though, its just weird that the card carrying liberal Democrat was backed by the weekly standard and conservative Hagel was backed by the liberal press. War and Israel make strange bedfellows I guess.

      • why do you like that he is "neutral on israel?"

        i’m just curious. not looking to litigate israel here.

        do you generally like neutrality in public officials and defense secretaries in particular?

        i.e., usually our officials are “pro-ally.” japan conflict w china? typically pro-japan. turkey conflict w syria? typically pro-turkey. you’d expect a secretary of defense to be “pro-japan” and “pro-turkey” without asking. not that it’s 100% in all cases, just that there’s a predisposition.

        are you arguing our secretaries of defense et al should not be inclined to be pro-ally? or just in this one case of israel…?

        • re: GGW

          You and I are probably two of the more pro-Israel posters on this blog. I remember the two of us defending Cast Lead awhile back from its critics on BMG. I in fact would call Hagel pro-Israel, based on his votes in the Senate and the fact that he and Obama will continue as Gates and Obama did to work on peacefully disarming Iran and creating a democratic Palestinian state-THE top two items most vital to Israel’s security. Neutrality was not the right term to use since to you it implies indifference to their status as an ally and friend of the US.
          I would argue he is a centrist on Israel, committed to its long term security and future in friendship with the US. With passions so high on this issue we need a level headed thinker who will take a realist, objective and balanced approach to Israel’s security needs and how to best achieve them. Thats what I meant to imply by neutral-not indifference. Hagel is neither a hawk or a dove.

          • thx for the response

            I do think we need a good decision-maker on Iran’s nukes. That decision probably will define Obama’s term.

            Without an ounce of insight into these guys, my impression (which I’d value only slightly higher than a tootsie roll) is not high confidence in Kerry and Hagel on that matter.

            They seem overly risk-averse in the short term. I.e., the results of a nuclear Iran, should it come to pass, arise way after these guys have left office.

            And while I appreciate their cordial relationship, and generally am a fan of teamwork, perhaps the “Team of Rivals” approach would be better in this instance, giving Obama the best chance to himself make the right call.

            • Very high indeed

              only slightly higher than a tootsie roll

              I love Tootsie Rolls

            • What exactly can we do to stop a Nuclear Iran that we haven't already?

              -Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated so often, they’re an endangered species.

              -We created a computer virus that set that program back for years.

              -Has there ever been such strong economic sanctions against a country in my lifetime?

              Even if we decided to bomb Iran, which would be a terrible idea, they’d just speed up their efforts to build their nuclear program underground where we can’t get it.

              The only way to get Iran to stop building a bomb is through diplomatic channels, but all of the efforts we’ve made above to stop Iran in the short term haven’t exactly made diplomatic channels any easier an option.

              RyansTake   @   Fri 11 Jan 3:58 PM
              • tend to agree

                I agree that Osirak-like attack on the nuclear facilities unlikely to succeed.

                [Though who knows. I assume I read the same stuff you read (Times, New Yorker, WSJ, et al) and I'm hoping USA has capabilities that don't make into the press.]

                Somewhat more plausible is the “Go big then go home” — regime change military effort. But not that much more.

                In any case, the chances of diplomatic resolution tend to be higher when there’s a credible military threat. Cuban Missile Crisis. I.e., Iran’s calculations on whether to cave rest in part on their intelligence estimate of whether Obama, Kerry, and Hagel will act.

                • Therein lies the real failure

                  of the Iraq war; it decreased, rather than increased, the credibility of the military threat, and by weakening a Sunni power, increased the power of Iran.

                  • AMEN!

                    This really was the utter lunacy of the absurd invasion of Iraq. This was what Saddam Hussein could not believe, even when he was interviewed just prior to his execution — that America would really ACT on what he viewed as simple posturing.

                • We need to accept the inevitable

                  Iran WILL, sooner or later, have nuclear weapons. It is inevitable.

                  The best we can hope to achieve is a real diplomatic understanding between Israel and Iran not to annihilate each other. I know it’s heresy to admit this, but the best way to accomplish that understanding is for the two parties to have nuclear parity. Unless we can persuade Israel to give up their existing nuclear capability, we must accept that a diplomatic solution requires Iran to have a comparable capability.

                  The cold war ended without a nuclear exchange because the chief adversaries (China, Soviet Union, USA) each had nuclear weaponry. The ONLY time nuclear devices have been used in warfare was when the US used them against an adversary that had no countermeasure.

                  A sad reality that we learned from the cold war is that the best way to prevent a nuclear attack is a devastating nuclear response — Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).

                  Preserving the nuclear superiority of Israel over its mid-East neighbors — including Iran — is a prescription for nuclear apocalypse, not peace.

                  • Rationality in question

                    Proliferation becomes an issue when irrational actors gain access to material. This is why Iran and North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons is a big problem. China, while not aligned with the US, is highly unlikely to take the risk in launching the first strike-ditto the old USSR or current Putin regime. But any of these central Asian dictatorships, Pakistan if it fell to Islamists, or Iran and North Korea are highly irrational regimes. The only reason I’m slightly more comfortable with NK having the bomb is that their regime is focused purely on survival and its provocations with the North are focused on ramping up internal security and cohesion and extorting better short term trade deals so it can survive and prolong the agony it wroughts on its people.

                    The Iranians are a much tougher nut to crack, I used to think the Ayatollah was a more rational actor until he rigged that election and crushed the opposition. That act to me showed he cares more about the purity of implementing his vision for Islam than maintaining internal control.

                    CMD is totally right though, I doubt they would have accelerated their efforts if we did not invade their neighbor. Invading Libya was also a bad signal to send that even when you do cooperate with the West and the NPT regime we could still go after you. Iran will seek the bomb and if it gets it will be drawn into a devastating war with Israel or at least the closest we come to the brink since the Missile Crisis.

                    • I strongly disagree with your final sentence

                      Israel already has the nuclear weapons that Iran seeks. This is the plain reality, whatever public officials and government press releases say to the contrary.

                      As I wrote earlier, my read of history is just the opposite of yours. We have only one example of nuclear weapons being used against an enemy, and that was when that enemy could not respond in kind. I further predict that if there is a devastating war between Israel and Iran, the first nuclear weapons will be used by Israel. When Iranian possession of nuclear weapons becomes an immediate threat, I suggest that the government of Israel will face immense pressure to mount a “preemptive” strike in an attempt to wipe out Iran before it can effectively respond.

                      Further, the behavior of the Israelis — most especially, the Netanyahu government — is as much or more irrational than anything you cite concerning Iran. The most recent wave of settlements is a case in point. These are the actions of an Israeli government consumed by racial animosity and religious fervor. The fact that this Israeli government already has nuclear weapons is far more concerning to me than the prospect of Iran acquiring them.

                      The Cuban Missile crisis was defused because each player had an arsenal that the other respected. Had there been the kind of nuclear imbalance in 1963 that we see today, whichever side had the advantage would have used it.

        • Because...

          i.e., usually our officials are “pro-ally.” japan conflict w china? typically pro-japan. turkey conflict w syria? typically pro-turkey. you’d expect a secretary of defense to be “pro-japan” and “pro-turkey” without asking. not that it’s 100% in all cases, just that there’s a predisposition.

          … when someone expresses dismay or disappointment with particular policies of Japan one is not automatically labelled pro-China. A criticism wrt to Turkey does not earn a particular pro-Syrian sobriquet.

          This is a feature distinctly missing from any and all conversations regarding Israel: “pro-Israel” -ity is, in actuality, an assumed orthodoxy and is strictly enforced with allegations of bias directed at any and all criticism, even, perhaps especially, at valid criticisms of Israeli

          Or, put another way, “neutral on Isreal” is a… diplomatic… manner of saying “I’m all for protecting Israel, even from the Israelis…”

        • what a whackadoodle post

          Of course he’s “pro-ally” but maybe not “pro-ally should be allowed to do anything they want and not have to suffer any push back from us, even though we make it possible for them to exist.”

          Posts like yours do NOT contribute to rational discussions on the very real problem of Bibi’s ever growing levels of insanity in Israel. We can support Israel without supporting its continued system of apartheid or refusal to engage in any meaningful solution that would lead to a viable Palestinian state.

          RyansTake   @   Fri 11 Jan 3:53 PM
  3. Thinking about why Hagel and not Rice

    Rice confirmation hearings would be all-Benghazi, all the time. Hagel confirmation hearings leave the GOP in disarray, looking extreme enough to reject a Republican for not supporting Iraq. I’m sure Obama would prefer the talk be about Bush in Iraq rather than Benghazi. That she had nothing to do with Benghazi beyond a couple of talk show appearances does not matter.

    • that could be it

      but I have wondered if there was more than meets the eye with Rice. I tremendously doubt the Republicans would have been able to stop her nomination, particularly if Obama put his weight behind filibuster reform. It really makes me think there was something ‘there’ beyond the ridiculous assertions Republicans were making about her re: Benghazi, which were not playing out well at all for the GOP in the press.

      RyansTake   @   Fri 11 Jan 4:02 PM
      • Agreed

        I said at the time and will say it again here that a lot of Holbrooke and Hillary allies would’ve come out of the woodwork to torpedo her. She didn’t even attend his funeral, thats how spiteful she was towards her former mentor, who was the Keenan or Acheson of his age in terms of his connections to the Democratic foreign policy etablishment. Kind of like Powell knifed Bolton you might have seen Holbrooke associates come out with their knives. Glad it didn’t happen. Rice was also an inferior choice to Kerry on policy and experience grounds.

      • There were things

        progressives didn’t like but I’m not too sure that was the reason.

« Blue Mass Group Front Page

Add Your Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Sat 29 Apr 11:28 AM