Saturday, February 02, 2013

Hagel Nomination

"Whoever helped former Senator Chuck Hagel prepare for today's hearings should retire from the hearing-preparation business. It is hard to imagine how Hagel could have walked into that hearing room without bulletproof (or at least confident-sounding) replies ready on three of the questions he was sure to be asked: about his opposition to the Iraq "surge," about his comments on "the Jewish lobby," and about his policy toward Iran. "

"But Hagel’s value proposition was supposed to be more than that – that he would be a commanding figure who could dominate the debate. The hearings cemented a buffoonish image Hagel will probably never shake and destroyed whatever value-over-replacement he could have brought as an advocate of Obama’s agenda. The Republicans are probably better off with a wounded Hagel in office than voting him down, and Obama can’t abandon him, either. The left-realists have lured Obama into a war that’s turned into a quagmire."

So having had bad Senate hearing because Hagel basically failed to do his homework - exactly as President Obama failed in his first debate with Mitt Romney - questions are:

- Oh, will he be able to pull off Obama Agenda of rationalizing America's Military and generally keep toning down aggressive military posture adopted during the 'war on terror'? Pentagon is full of smart and 'tough as nails' Admirals and multi-star Generals who know how to 'play' Secretary of Defenses to advance never ending power and resource grabs.  That is where President Obama needs a hard working Defense Secretary as 'no push over' Secretary.

- With a weak Secretary of Defense, is America likely to see omissions on national security or lack of decisive armed interventions when needed? (Like how General Tommy Franks foolishly outsourced the job of catching Osma Bin Laden and failed miserably to capture him in early days of Afghanistan Campaign after 9/11. Even though it was a tactical decision of the General on ground, Donald Rumsfeld had set the context of how to conduct the business of war - with a light footprint; as turned out too 'light footprint' to achieve core strategic goals of America.)

There is not much what nominee Hagel can do about  these doubts right now. (Don't go into the loop of 'public self-correction'; better to lie low for now.) You need a skilled politician in the first place for these types of sensitive cabinet positions precisely for reasons of having foresight to avoid adroitly these 'booby traps' of Washington Politics. Hagel failed out of the gate itself and this is just the start; kerfuffles like Senate Hearing are given in these types of jobs.

The good thing is, these problems are solvable for Hagel once he starts. Lay low, keep working on wheels; that is the approach needed for Defense Secretary as personified by Robert Gates. Over a period, once Hagel gets the hang of the place and time to sort out 'confusions in his intellectual outlook' (that is the  business where Gates never ventured whereas Donald Rumsfeld had maximum swagger in that area, unfortunately with bad consequences for America); Hagel can slowly start contributing to national security debates in Obama White House, the reason why President Obama would have wanted him in the first place.

Once President Obama fills his national security adviser, with John Kerry on board and Joe Biden still in his prime; President Obama is likely to get a good team in these critical matters; if not 'the dream team' of national security. It is also helpful to President that Janet Napolitano who is running Homeland Security like an well oiled machine, will be around in the second term. Finally, that is what it should be - commander-in-chief gets the people he thinks he needs to do the job well.

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