According to one senior official, “He wasn’t up to the job.”
November 24, 2014 7:11 AM   Subscribe

 
And with some Republicans talking about blocking all nominations due to Obama's immigration executive order this seems like an especially bad time.
posted by rosswald at 7:15 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


And with some Republicans talking about blocking all nominations due to Obama's immigration executive order this seems like an especially bad time.

Oh, it sounds like a very good time to point out the silliness of blocking the President's picks for very important jobs.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:16 AM on November 24, 2014 [44 favorites]


Uhoh, the threat from Islamic State, however will the USA's $600,000,000,000 military budget cope?
posted by anthill at 7:17 AM on November 24, 2014 [21 favorites]


I've got no love for Hagel or any of the other ghouls in DoD brass, but he was more than "not vocal" about his support for Obama's plans for Syria et al.

With both parties' leadership squarely on board to oversell the threat posed by ISIS to help keep the US public frightened and quiescent, I'm guessing they'll have no trouble compromising to find a better team player.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:21 AM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


How can Republicans talk about being pro law and order and pro the troops if they block the administration's nominees? I mean they'll come up with some excuse anyway but at least this will highlight the hypocritical nature of their obstructionism.
posted by vuron at 7:21 AM on November 24, 2014


at least this will highlight the hypocritical nature of their obstructionism.

This sounds suspiciously like, "surely this..."
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:32 AM on November 24, 2014 [23 favorites]


Too bad. Hagel wasn't perfect but it was nice not having a raving neocon at Sec Def.

On the bright side, at least Hillary will be able to keep this next one on and have some continuity in her administration.
posted by resurrexit at 7:37 AM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I dunno. I'm Not looking forward to confirmation fights for both this and The AG. I would maybe hope for someone who will come down with appropriately intense fire and rage about military sexual assault, but...Republicans. :(

And I may not have been a huge Hagel fan, but it was good to see a former enlisted man in that spot.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:41 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


How can Republicans talk about being pro law and order and pro the troops if they block the administration's nominees?

They don't have to make sense. If fact, the less they make sense, the better for them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:42 AM on November 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


It's a basic damned rule of management: if every one of your former employees thinks you suck as a boss, the problem is probably the boss (or the job itself) and not the former employees. Either Obama is a total incompetent when it comes to choosing cabinet officials, or else he is demanding that his Secretaries of Defense put incoherent policies into effect and then blaming them for "failing" to carry out war policies that could not be successfully implemented by Alexander the Great high-fiving U.S. Grant.

I am starting to think that it's both of these.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:50 AM on November 24, 2014 [19 favorites]


I am of no fixed opinion in regards to this matter.
posted by y2karl at 7:52 AM on November 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


From ryanshepard's link:

"Looks like former cabinet officials aren’t the only ones criticizing President Obama’s foreign policy."

Looks like they are.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:55 AM on November 24, 2014


On the bright side, at least Hillary will be able to keep this next one on and have some continuity in her administration.

On the bright side, Jim Webb has formed an exploratory committee and is considering running against Hillary.
posted by mmiddle at 7:59 AM on November 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


WaPo article on Robert Gates' book.
posted by josher71 at 8:01 AM on November 24, 2014


1adam12: " if every one of your former employees thinks you suck as a boss, the problem is probably the boss (or the job itself) and not the former employees...I am starting to think that it's both of these."

...or your parenthetical aside is true. Enginer, petard.

Personally, I think Hagel would have been better in different times, both geopolitically and in light of the historic levels of domestic obstructionism. Any which way the job sucks.
posted by notsnot at 8:04 AM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


After this and the AG battle, Jack Lew should resign and force yet another high profile nomination fight. And then Burwell. Then Jeh Johnson. The more time the Teabaggers waste railing against lame duck nominations on the way out anyway is that much less time they'll have for the rest of their horrible agenda.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:04 AM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Maybe if he didn't keep putting Republicans in charge...
posted by dirigibleman at 8:08 AM on November 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


Obama's foreign policy is a complete clusterfuck. Either we're going to go to war in the middle east or we're not, but this one foot in, one foot out, hokey-pokey bullshit is a disaster.
posted by empath at 8:09 AM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Either we're going to go to war in the middle east or we're not

I have some bad news for you.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:10 AM on November 24, 2014 [25 favorites]


at least this will highlight the hypocritical nature of their obstructionism

Which is, evidently, a good thing in the eyes of quite a few citizens.
posted by juiceCake at 8:10 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


...the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ...

Frankly, we need a Sec Def who's willing to get his hands dirty. That's why our next Secretary will be Chief Petty Officer Casey Ryback, the best knife fighter in the service.
posted by Iridic at 8:13 AM on November 24, 2014 [22 favorites]


Either we're going to go to war in the middle east or we're not, but this one foot in, one foot out, hokey-pokey bullshit is a disaster.

The thing is, the region doesn't even universally agree on whether there's consensus there for the US to go to war. Plus circumstances change. We really should still be in Iraq cleaning up the fucking mess we made but the Iraqis (that ones that have some semblance of authority) don't agree so we're not. We should be in Iraq stopping ISIS but since the Iraqis have booted us out there's no boots on the ground but it's obvious they can't cope with the threat so there needs to be a different way of handling it at which point we have to figure out what, where, when who, why, how all over again.

This isn't some clean "does the US act unilaterally on a whim?" foreign policy that GWB was practicing in the first decade of this millennium. This is "do we exhaust other options before we go jumping headfirst into another clusterfuck?" and "will we make things worse by walking into another Iraq war clusterfuck?".

The correct answer we shouldn't have jumped into the clusterfuck in the first place. But since we don't have a time machine and GWB would have just gone ahead and done it anyway even if you did go back we now need to fix this mess. Complaining that we're being thoughtful and careful instead of bull in a china shop isn't going to help.
posted by Talez at 8:16 AM on November 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


Either we're going to go to war in the middle east or we're not

That's actually a pretty fair summary of our foreign policy for the 21st century.
posted by resurrexit at 8:18 AM on November 24, 2014 [18 favorites]


On the bright side, at least Hillary will be able to keep this next one on and have some continuity in her administration.
On the bright side, Jim Webb has formed an exploratory committee and is considering running against Hillary.


You're fooling yourself if you think the nominee is anyone but Hillary. She's not perfect, but she is smart enough not to make the same mistake twice.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:21 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


You're fooling yourself if you think the nominee is anyone but Hillary. She's not perfect, but she is smart enough not to make the same mistake twice.

Hillary was also the presumed nominee at this point for 2008. Let's wait and see what happens.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:21 AM on November 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


Complaining that we're being thoughtful and careful instead of bull in a china shop isn't going to help.

We ARE being a bull in the china shop, right now. If we're going to be thoughtful and careful, we wouldn't be there at all. Our presence is destabilizing the entire region. We should be out completely. Let the Iranians and Israelis fight ISIS. It's not our fight, it's theirs.
posted by empath at 8:28 AM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


We ARE being a bull in the china shop, right now. If we're going to be thoughtful and careful, we wouldn't be there at all. Our presence is destabilizing the entire region. We should be out completely. Let the Iranians and Israelis fight ISIS. It's not our fight, it's theirs.

They can't fight it. That much is obvious. Washing our hands of the whole mess that we created is just leaving the kurds to be slaughtered and the whole region to fall into chaos.
posted by Talez at 8:30 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


What would 'chaos' look like in comparison to now?
posted by empath at 8:34 AM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is the same horseshit that people have been using to sell wars for centuries in the US. We have to act now or it'll be even worse. Except we do act, and it somehow never gets better. It's almost like bombing people into peace doesn't work.
posted by empath at 8:35 AM on November 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


She's not perfect, but she is smart enough not to make the same mistake twice.

Keep telling yourself that.
posted by blucevalo at 8:36 AM on November 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


What would 'chaos' look like in comparison to now?

A well funded Islamic "caliphate" expanding its operations into most of the middle east throwing every almost country in the region into either insurrection or civil war?
posted by Talez at 8:37 AM on November 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


For those who are saying that Hillary will be the next Democratic nominee for President:

"Warren, Sanders beat Hillary in poll of liberal group’s members"
posted by I-baLL at 8:38 AM on November 24, 2014


I-baLL: "Warren, Sanders beat Hillary in poll of liberal group’s members"

Alternate headline: "Choir loves sermon."

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly hoping for the emergence of a credible NotHillary candidate, but a survey of former Deaniacs showing that they want someone other than Hillary is sort of a dog bites man story.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:42 AM on November 24, 2014 [18 favorites]


We ARE being a bull in the china shop, right now. If we're going to be thoughtful and careful, we wouldn't be there at all. Our presence is destabilizing the entire region. We should be out completely. Let the Iranians and Israelis fight ISIS. It's not our fight, it's theirs.

They can't fight it. That much is obvious. Washing our hands of the whole mess that we created is just leaving the kurds to be slaughtered and the whole region to fall into chaos.


I don't know. I can't imagine ISIS having much in the way of longevity. They're like a quick-burning fire; they look impressive, but are quickly using up all their oxygen. EVERYONE (Syria, Iran, Kurdistan, Iraq) in the region hates them. They're powered by foreign fighters with few local ties. They certainly can't govern. If left alone, they will expand until they overreach, they won't be able to control the territory, and they'll be snuffed out.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:44 AM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Could we maybe not have another tea-leaf reading session where we build castles in the sky for an election two years away and instead focus on this? I find it fascinating that administration wonks, even on background, are comfortable saying he wasn't up to the job. That's got to sting, and makes me wonder: is it payback for not supporting Obama? Something else?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:44 AM on November 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


Well, I'm sure we'll find out, since most of the other disgruntled former cabinet members haven't been shy about telling their story.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:46 AM on November 24, 2014


A well funded Islamic "caliphate" expanding its operations into most of the middle east throwing every almost country in the region into either insurrection or civil war?

A caliphate that came into existence because an insurrection backed by Turkey and the US against an Iranian-backed dictator went badly. I'm failing to see how US intervention in the region has improved stability.
posted by empath at 8:46 AM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Get ready for the same Republicans who castigated Hagel during the nomination process to loudly defend this brave patriot's service to his country (and point out how Democrats always pick Republicans for the job of keeping our nation safe from the always-imminent threat of the terrorists next door).
posted by duffell at 8:49 AM on November 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: You're fooling yourself if you think the nominee is anyone but Hillary. She's not perfect, but she is smart enough not to make the same mistake twice.

Hillary was also the presumed nominee at this point for 2008. Let's wait and see what happens.
posted by


It's really not comparable. Clinton was never in the lead in the 2008 cycle the way she is now. She was not posting 49-point leads. "Warrenmentum" is not actually a thing.
posted by spaltavian at 8:52 AM on November 24, 2014


From this AP article:

Hagel has had his own frustrations with the White House. In recent weeks, he sent a letter to national security adviser Susan Rice in which he said Obama needed to articulate a clearer view of the administration's approach to dealing with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The letter is said to have angered White House officials.

I'd be curious what the letter said. It's frustrating that instead of having a meaningful dialogue within the administration they are "angered" at suggestions and commentary from the defense secretary. Who cares if they are angered? They should discuss the substantive criticisms in the letter and deal with it like grownups.
posted by freecellwizard at 8:54 AM on November 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


A caliphate that came into existence because an insurrection backed by Turkey and the US against an Iranian-backed dictator went badly. I'm failing to see how US intervention in the region has improved stability.

It hasn't. We shouldn't have been there in the first place. But since we don't have a magic wand to fix the fallout of GWB's family vengeance we have a giant fucking mess on our hands.
posted by Talez at 8:56 AM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


"It's a basic damned rule of management: if every one of your former employees thinks you suck as a boss, the problem is probably the boss (or the job itself) and not the former employees. Either Obama is a total incompetent when it comes to choosing cabinet officials, or else he is demanding that his Secretaries of Defense put incoherent policies into effect and then blaming them for "failing" to carry out war policies that could not be successfully implemented by Alexander the Great high-fiving U.S. Grant."

He appointed Hagel to be an independent voice, then tried to micromanage him into supporting an incoherent policy in a number of areas and was pissed when Hagel didn't jitterbug to the President's time. Gates was a holdover, not an Obama appointee. Hagel was the perfect guy to shrink the military, but Obama keeps trying to kick the Republican football on national security and he'll likely appoint either some empty suit or a Republican that will be more interventionist.
posted by klangklangston at 9:06 AM on November 24, 2014 [5 favorites]




Rand Paul drafts declaration of war on IS*.

See, I was ready to rip into Paul for being a hypocritical jackass, but...

“When Congress comes back into session in December, I will introduce a resolution to declare war against ISIS. I believe the president must come to Congress to begin a war and that Congress has a duty to act. Right now, this war is illegal until Congress acts pursuant to the Constitution and authorizes it,“ Paul said.

which, you know, I actually don't have a problem with. The Executive branch has abused the War Powers Act for over 40 years, and I really don't care who reins it in.

Rand Paul is still, in general, a hypocritical jackass, mind you.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:12 AM on November 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


I despair for the republic. There's not a dime's worth of difference between Dem and Rep flavors of foreign policy/war policy. At least back in the 80s I could hold out some slight hope that some powerful factions in the US would be more sympathetic to the Non-Aligned Movement. And as far as Clinton is concerned, her recent back-scratching of uber-asshole/war criminal Henry Kissinger cost her any chance I would cast a vote for her.
posted by CincyBlues at 9:17 AM on November 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


1adam12: "carry out war policies that could not be successfully implemented by Alexander the Great high-fiving U.S. Grant."

Why do I now have the purely made up "Eiffel Tower" sex position in my head, and with US Grant (*shudder*) of all people! (really no need to look it up if you don't know it, it's juvenile urban dictionary crap).
posted by symbioid at 9:24 AM on November 24, 2014


We shouldn't have been there in the first place. But since we don't have a magic wand to fix the fallout of GWB's family vengeance we have a giant fucking mess on our hands.

The mess in Syria is all Obama's.
posted by empath at 9:25 AM on November 24, 2014


Who cares if they are angered? They should discuss the substantive criticisms in the letter and deal with it like grownups.

Agreed, though this narrative is being read through the dramatic & institutional filters of the mainstream media. That's not to say people in the admin (or DOD) aren't acting inappropriately, but we're unlikely to get much in the way of substantive facts from the news organizations to whom these anonymous sources peddle their stories.

The Secretary of Defense is, to my thinking, the most unenviable cabinet post no matter the administration. The armed forces exist to use armed force, and they do so very effectively when given strategic goals well-suited to the use of force. But repeatedly the civilian leadership in the US has tried to use our military for purposes not suited to military force or has given objectives and then restricted the tactical means by which those objectives would be best achieved.
posted by audi alteram partem at 9:27 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Rand Paul drafts declaration of war on IS*.

Note, his resolution also sunsets the declaration of war against Al Queada.
posted by empath at 9:28 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


And the expected character assassination of Chuck Hagel has begun. Gotta love politicians.
posted by RedShrek at 9:29 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Unless the American public wants war, wants another 100k+ dead civilians, and wants another couple trillion of debt funneled to arms dealers, this would be a great time for Republicans to do their obstructionism dance. A perfect time, in point of fact.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:31 AM on November 24, 2014


Who cares if they are angered?

Hagel should, as the White House is his boss. Well, was.

They should discuss the substantive criticisms in the letter and deal with it like grownups.

Looks like they did, by firing him. So there you go.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:32 AM on November 24, 2014


You can tell Obama is a lame duck when even a MeFi thread about him turns out to be all about George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:33 AM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


You can tell Obama is a lame duck when even a MeFi thread about him turns out to be all about George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton.

Ouch!

I voted for Obama twice, but administratively I've been repeatedly unimpressed. He's nothing like the full-fledged disaster that Bush was, but that's a pretty low bar to surpass. At least the three people the Times thinks are contenders for Hagel's job aren't Republicans.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:44 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know. I can't imagine ISIS having much in the way of longevity. They're like a quick-burning fire; they look impressive, but are quickly using up all their oxygen. EVERYONE (Syria, Iran, Kurdistan, Iraq) in the region hates them. They're powered by foreign fighters with few local ties. They certainly can't govern. If left alone, they will expand until they overreach, they won't be able to control the territory, and they'll be snuffed out.

Dunno. We haven't seen something like them for a few centuries - they currently control major cities in three countries, Syria, IRAQ and now Libya (So, no, they're no longer ISIS or ISIL). Their forces are diverse and international, yet govern with the acquiescence of the locals. It's looking a lot like an Islamic version of the 30 Years' War, with secular and religious powers, as well as sectarian grudges, about to come unwound into a dangerous tangle.

On the other hand, Kobani. IS aren't able to take down a handful of Kurdish irregulars equipped only with small arms and scant ammo supply and no way to resupply or call in re-enforcements, who were able to hang on until the western powers decided to help out with a few airstrikes (250 or so, very few, considering the US loves bombing runs). This probably says more about the Kurds than IS, and should give Turkey and Iran some sleepless nights... but it would be a PR disaster for IS, who relies on clever PR for recruitment and legitimacy in ruling what it's taken.

Forget Hagel, Kerry's failure to influence Turkey in even the slightest - from Edrogan's growing authoritarianism and corruption, to support of regional religious extremist forces to their refusal to co-operate in helping reign in same is the real story behind Obama's foreign policy failures in the Middle East. Turkey is starting to look a lot like Pakistan - an enemy we can't fight or even isolate because of their geopolitical importance.

If Kerry can't get the deal done with Iran, he needs to go, too. Normalizing relations with Iran fixes so many longstanding issues and recent crises, it can't be allowed to collapse.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:44 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


The mess in Syria is all Obama's.

Or maybe, you know, Assad's?
posted by LooseFilter at 9:53 AM on November 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


Either we're going to go to war in the middle east or we're not, but this one foot in, one foot out, hokey-pokey bullshit is a disaster.

This is the foreign policy equivalent of saying the US federal budget and debts should be managed like a middle-class family finances. I mean, why? The guys in the bar will make fun of us next Friday night? (Aside from the fact that only a certifiable crazy person would actually advocate for a a major war in the middle east.)

But the problem is that the US doesn't have a "middle east policy" it has a (bipartisan) policy towards Saudi Arabia. If endless conflict in the M.E. preserves the Saud family power wrt international oil markets then so be it.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:56 AM on November 24, 2014


I voted for Obama twice, but administratively I've been repeatedly unimpressed.

As have I, though I don't blame Obama for that, except maybe in the sense that he was too naive for the office he won.

I don't care what the policy is, or where the policy is to be executed, or what the person who would supposedly be executing the policy says they're going to do: if the policy runs counter to moneyed interests, it won't happen.
posted by Mooski at 9:57 AM on November 24, 2014


Well, this is funny:
Sneak diss from @Martin_Dempsey about the Hagel firing: "His insight into the nature of military service was both rare and welcome."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:11 AM on November 24, 2014


We need a Democrat in that position, anyway. The Republicans just aren't up to the task. I guess, if your whole MO is to shrink government enough so that you can drown it in the bathtub, you're gonna get what you wish for over time.
posted by Chuffy at 10:57 AM on November 24, 2014


At this point, given the way the red/blue map looks, it's the Democratic primary that will decide the winner of the 2016 election. Hillary is too damn hawkish for me but the alternative candidate would have to be very well organized and somewhat charismatic to beat her. I'm not seeing that yet in the field.

When, when, when will we learn that the Middle East is a clusterfuck without end and our interference in said clusterfuck only escalates the situation. What we need is president who thinks of intervention and bombing only as a last resort and a secretary of state that can convince the area to start acting like global citizens and stop resorting to fundamentalism and strong men. Good fucking luck with that.
posted by Ber at 11:01 AM on November 24, 2014


UPDATE: Only moments ago a White House source confirmed Hagel's replacement will be a bank of joysticks and monitors for operating a fleet of drones. The machine is to be set up in the lunchroom, right next to the soda machine.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:05 AM on November 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


My guess is that defense contractors felt like Hagel didn't fight hard enough for them during the budget squeeze, so he had to go. When you hear someone saying things like the quotes below, you know the ghouls from Halliburton et. al. are planning his demise.
[Obama's plan to send 30,000 troops into Afghanistan is] "not sustainable at all; I think we're marking time as we slaughter more young people.... I'm not sure we know what the hell we are doing in Afghanistan."

"The Defense Department, I think in many ways has been bloated.... We've taken dollars, we've taken programs, we've taken policies out of the State Department, out of a number of other departments and put them over in Defense.... The abuse and the waste and the fraud is astounding. It always is in war.... I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down. I think we need the Pentagon to look at their own priorities."
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:21 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't blame Obama for that, except maybe in the sense that he was too naive for the office he won.

This. It's why I'm for Hilary, even though she doesn't align nearly as far left for my tastes. Say what you will about the woman, she knows how the game is played, and would step into office with completely open eyes.
posted by rocketman at 11:28 AM on November 24, 2014


The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ.

"We hired him in 2013, but the world has changed since then!"
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:38 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd be curious what the letter said. It's frustrating that instead of having a meaningful dialogue within the administration they are "angered" at suggestions and commentary from the defense secretary.

The Sec of Defense has regular meetings with the President every week. You don't write a letter to have a dialogue. You write a letter when you want to undermine your boss by leaking it to the press.
posted by JackFlash at 11:56 AM on November 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


What is somewhat surprising to me is that Iran and Russia didn't factor into this. Sure, IS is a big deal, but there are other issues.

For awhile it looked like a deal between Iran and the six-party talks were almost certainly going to be successful, but lately the pendulum has swung the other way with people being pretty pessimistic. That plus NATO's revitalization under strained US-Russia relations which seems to be right out of past decades - and was what I thought Hagel was (supposedly) very capable of handling.
posted by rosswald at 11:59 AM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


My guess is that defense contractors felt like Hagel didn't fight hard enough for them during the budget squeeze, so he had to go.

Robert Gates spent an enormous amount of time and energy (and maybe political capital) fighting against purchases that the Pentagon didn't even want, but which Congress wanted to force upon the military. That sort of thing is business as usual, too.

A usual image for the military is one of an endless hunger for expensive weapons and other toys, but I honestly believe if we only bought the things the military actually wanted instead of what the industry wanted to sell (through manipulating Congress), we'd see the overall budget shrink.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:59 AM on November 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Obama having a Republican in his cabinet is like Netanyahu having a member of Hamas in his.
posted by Renoroc at 12:00 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Defenestration Of Chuck Hagel
posted by homunculus at 1:07 PM on November 24, 2014


UPDATE: Only moments ago a White House source confirmed Hagel's replacement will be a bank of joysticks and monitors for operating a fleet of drones. The machine is to be set up in the lunchroom, right next to the soda machine.

So Obama is giving the job to his best friend?
posted by homunculus at 1:10 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Sec of Defense has regular meetings with the President every week. You don't write a letter to have a dialogue. You write a letter when you want to undermine your boss by leaking it to the press.

Maybe. Or when you want to make sure there is a record of your opinion when the firing squad is loading up.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:14 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


"The mess in Syria is all Obama's."

LOL wut

No, and that kind of thinking is part of why we keep stepping in Middle East shit.

So, Syria had been wracked with a series of military coups and instability until about 1970, which the previous (Hafez) Assad took power out of the wreckage of Baathist infighting. Similar to Saddam (though Syria assisted in the '90 Gulf War), Assad ran a military dictatorship based on a quasi-socialist nationalist platform. He was a strongman, and had lined up a son to succeed him. That son died in a car crash, so Bashar (the current Assad) got pulled in from medical school to be the heir apparent. He came in after his father on promises of reform in 2000, but by 2004 was having reformers arrested and over-reacting (including assassinating Hariri) to changes in Lebanon that led to the Cedar Revolution and finally ended the Syrian Occupation of Lebanon. Because of this, the Assad regime is super brutal toward protestors. Seeing Mubarak on the outs, when protestors started up in Syria, Assad overreacted by cracking down hard, and because Syria was a mess of conflicting factions based on identity (like Assad being a minority Alawite), the protestors were able to organize more quickly into both geographic and ideological blocs and form irregular forces. From there, with a ton of foreign support by blocs that don't like the Alawites (many Shia consider them apostates, including IS and some of the Wahabi Saudi blocs) and a variety of other outside actors, a weak coalition of local folks got turned into the Free Syria Army. Because Syria is one of the few majority Sunni areas, the Alawites are working with Sunni factions like Iran and Hezbollah.

Basically, this is a conflict that's been going on for more than 40 years, with a myriad of local allegiances and power plays, and that was pretty well guaranteed to explode at some point or another — pretty much all of the repressive dictatorships in the Middle East are likely to explode at some point, as they're all full of a lot of poor, young and educated guys without effective political institutions to funnel off the desires for reform, and Bashar came in looking like Gorby only to flip over into a Saddam. While the US has a lot of interests in the region — beyond just the general care that any human on earth should have for other people getting fucked over horribly by their governments — they have very little direct leverage and a host of dirty, dubious allies who are all looking out for their own interests first.

There are pretty much zero ways to have direct intervention in Syria from the U.S. that don't make many things much worse in exchange for making a few things better, and it's weird to see some folks who were against Obama's limited involvement in Libya seeming to want more intervention in Syria. I really wish there were better ways to get involved, but outside of providing lots and lots and lots of humanitarian aid, the effective levers of power are not and should not be in the hands of the U.S.
posted by klangklangston at 1:14 PM on November 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


From there, with a ton of foreign support by blocs that don't like the Alawites (many Shia consider them apostates, including IS and some of the Wahabi Saudi blocs) and a variety of other outside actors, a weak coalition of local folks got turned into the Free Syria Army. Because Syria is one of the few majority Sunni areas, the Alawites are working with Sunni factions like Iran and Hezbollah.

You probably mistyped, but just for the record, IS and Wahabis are Sunni, not Shia, and Iran and Hezbollah are Shia and not Sunni.
posted by VikingSword at 1:23 PM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Obama having a Republican in his cabinet is like Netanyahu having a member of Hamas in his."

Not really. Hagel was a fairly decent, middle-of-the-road guy. He wasn't the General Smedley we're all hoping for, but he was a pretty stark counter-example to the snake-handling wing of the modern GOP, and they hated him for it. More like Netanyahu having a member of Labor in his cabinet.
posted by klangklangston at 1:24 PM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


There are pretty much zero ways to have direct intervention in Syria from the U.S. that don't make many things much worse in exchange for making a few things better, and it's weird to see some folks who were against Obama's limited involvement in Libya seeming to want more intervention in Syria.

Sorry, what. I'm against our involvement anywhere in the middle east, and if you don't think the US and our allies (Saudi Arabia and Turkey) weren't all over the uprising in Syria, you're being naive. ISIS and the Free Syrian army, etc, got their funding from somewhere.

Even if there was no direct support, we gave tacit encouragement through our support of the Libyan and Egyptian uprisings, but I think there was more to it than that.
posted by empath at 1:28 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


The State Department was funding opposition groups in Syria from prior to Obama taking office, and continued doing it well after he took office.

You had all these NGOs and so on training Syrian students on how to organize non-violent protests, there are successful revolutions in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, the US backs the revolution in Libya militarily . The Arab Spring in large part was a long-term state department project. The instability didn't 'just happen', it was designed.
posted by empath at 1:32 PM on November 24, 2014


There are pretty much zero ways to have direct intervention in Syria from the U.S. that don't make many things much worse in exchange for making a few things better, and it's weird to see some folks who were against Obama's limited involvement in Libya seeming to want more intervention in Syria. I really wish there were better ways to get involved, but outside of providing lots and lots and lots of humanitarian aid, the effective levers of power are not and should not be in the hands of the U.S.

Spot on, and agreed 100%.

"The mess in Syria is all Obama's."

I took this to mean Obama stepped into it and nobody made him do it, rather than meaning "Obama caused the messy civil war situation in Syria".

That said, the degree of responsibility for the civil war over there is a good question. Obama/US certainly did not directly cause the conflict, and there is a long history there, as you pointed out. But it is also true that had we not destabilized the ME through our Iraq atrocity, the current situation in Syria would not be nearly as dire. Furthermore, it is also indisputably true that we have armed and financed the FSA - which turned out to be a disaster - but more importantly, we directly encouraged our ME client states and "allies" to support the rebels with weapons, money, training and intelligence. More important than that, is the fact that we explicitly pushed for regime change - officially announcing that Assad should be replaced - through all means at our disposal short of putting troops on the ground (we did send the CIA into the border areas, Turkey, Jordan etc. to foment rebellion through the FSA etc.). We've put tremendous diplomatic pressures and military threats of bombing and rocketing on Assad's regime.

Therefore, while we certainly cannot be held accountable for the history over there, nor for the rebellion in its particulars, our fingerprints are all over the Syrian situation. This of course is not just Obama, but he was foolish enough not to stop it entirely and indeed he was foolish to listen to the war-mongers at all.
posted by VikingSword at 1:35 PM on November 24, 2014


"You probably mistyped, but just for the record, IS and Wahabis are Sunni, not Shia, and Iran and Hezbollah are Shia and not Sunni."

Sorry, yeah. Too many open tabs.

"Sorry, what. I'm against our involvement anywhere in the middle east, and if you don't think the US and our allies (Saudi Arabia and Turkey) weren't all over the uprising in Syria, you're being naive. ISIS and the Free Syrian army, etc, got their funding from somewhere."

Our "allies" aren't puppets. They do plenty of meddling both for our interests and theirs. The Saudis and Turkey have both played weird power games within the Syrian civil war, and their meddling has not consistently followed the line that the U.S. would like. There's a weird perception of America as having literal superpowers in how it deals with the actions of its allies, but not only is U.S. influence diminishing, regional politics is always going to be more important than U.S. interests.

"The Arab Spring in large part was a long-term state department project. The instability didn't 'just happen', it was designed."

I certainly prefer a fantasy where Chelsea Manning was acting under orders and is now enjoying Mai Tais on a tropic beach, but the Middle East has been unstable for pretty much ever in foreign policy terms. Like, Sykes-Picot on down, failed colonial project… pretty much since the Ottoman started wheezing. In modern history, it was all propped up as proxy bullshit between the U.S., Soviets and Non-Aligned Pact folks, and even then, it's a lot more local than it looks from outside.

"But it is also true that had we not destabilized the ME through our Iraq atrocity, the current situation in Syria would not be nearly as dire."

Yeah, and that was intentional. It's part of the insane neo-con program to destabilize the region in the hopes of it magically becoming pro-democracy and pro-capitalism.

"Therefore, while we certainly cannot be held accountable for the history over there, nor for the rebellion in its particulars, our fingerprints are all over the Syrian situation. This of course is not just Obama, but he was foolish enough not to stop it entirely and indeed he was foolish to listen to the war-mongers at all."

I think that's entirely fair.
posted by klangklangston at 2:09 PM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


With Hagel's departure, Obama will be the first president since Harry Truman to have four defense secretaries. Hagel's two predecessors, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, complained after leaving the administration about White House micromanagement and political interference in policy decisions.

---

In some ways, Hagel was seen as an attempt by the White House to install a Pentagon chief who would be less likely than Gates and Panetta to pitch policy fights with the West Wing. Some foreign policy experts noted the irony in the White House ousting a defense secretary who largely played the role the president appeared to have been seeking.

"The White House picked him because they wanted somebody they could control and would be a policy nonentity and they got a policy nonentity," said Rosa Brooks, who served at the Pentagon during Obama's first term. "It seems unfair to make him a fall guy for White House policy failures."

AP: Hagel resigning as Defense secretary

I generally consider myself a pretty ardent Obama supporter, but I am really baffled on this one.
posted by rosswald at 3:04 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I generally consider myself a pretty ardent Obama supporter, but I am really baffled on this one.

By leaking his letter, Hagel was making a pure power play right of House of Cards. He was bypassing the chain of command and making a political appeal directly to Congress in an effort to force out his rival, Susan Rice. It was a risky all-or-nothing move. He failed to realize that he would get no support from his former Republican colleagues. He played badly and lost badly and was forced to resign.
posted by JackFlash at 3:21 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


As have I, though I don't blame Obama for that, except maybe in the sense that he was too naive for the office he won.

Political naifs don't win two presidential elections, much less an election to the senate.

I don't have any idea what's going on in the white house, and neither does just about anyone else here. We won't really know until years later. One thing I can assure you is that everyone being quoted in the media, anonymous or not, is pushing an agenda of their own.

I'm also totally baffled by the perspective we get on Obama's foreign policy. If anything that's been the strongest area of his presidency. He's done a decent job of not fucking everything up completely (like his predecessor did) even though he was dealt a completely fucked up hand. It was on the home front that he got his ass kicked. But the Congress, and the Senate in particular, has tremendous power, much more power than the President, if it wants to, and god damn did it want to for the past 6 years.
posted by dis_integration at 3:52 PM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Saudis and Turkey have both played weird power games within the Syrian civil war, and their meddling has not consistently followed the line that the U.S. would like.

Rafic Hariri was a Saudi citizen and dervied his fortune from his close ties with King Khaled, It's entirely accurate to describe the Hariri government in Lebanon as acting as a proxy for the Saud family. So, the house of Saud is not playing "weird" power games in Syria/Lebanon. They are fighting a proxy battle with their most feared opponent: Iran. The point is that the US, to one extent or another, was aware of and if not supported, certainly never opposed Saudi efforts to destabilize Syria. The root is of course drought and economic collapse in Syria, but the Saudis jumped right in and we didn't stop them. So...

Basically, this is a conflict that's been going on for more than 40 years, with a myriad of local allegiances and power plays...

this is a line which get's pushed to Americans: an ancient mysterious conflict in inscrutable foreign lands in which we must do the best we can. But the proximate causes of the Syrian civil war were perfectly understood by the participants, which at this point includes us. And, we have followed a policy of encouraging an "Arab spring" but then mowing the flowers when we don't like their look, see Egypt. This policy has been sold on the chimera of "moderate" Sunni reform politics, which time and time again has been shown to be an illusion: see Egypt and Libya. So, it should be no surprise to anyone that these moderates failed to show up in strength in Syria. Certainly no surprise to the Saudis who hate anything which isn't Wahhabism. As stupid as we Americans seem to be, I don't think the people in the Obama administration who pushed our current direction were entirely ignorant either.

Point being, there's nothing mysterious or unpredictable about what is happening in Syria and Iraq right now.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:27 PM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


My theory: he understood that a tactical alliance with Assad was the only realistic way to beat IS, and was kicked out for that reason.
posted by moorooka at 4:58 PM on November 24, 2014


"So, the house of Saud is not playing "weird" power games in Syria/Lebanon. They are fighting a proxy battle with their most feared opponent: Iran. "

They're also fighting internal struggles for succession, with Prince Bandar supporting more radical Muslim ideologues, Prince Ahmed trying to cement a more modern foreign policy, Prince Salman trying to hold on to power as Bandar tries to have Prince Murqin replace him as the crowned prince, and both Bandar and Ahmed factions trying to woo Turkey back from Turkey's recent increased diplomatic contact with Iran. Then there's Prince Talal, who supports a more liberal vision of the Middle East, who has also been linked to Syrian politics.

There are the other regional struggles for influence between Qatar, UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain.

So, yeah, since "weird power games" means using proxy factions in an internal political dispute, there are weird power games from the House of Saud.

"Point being, there's nothing mysterious or unpredictable about what is happening in Syria and Iraq right now."

Hmm. Pretty much all of the parties directly involved have different explanations for the causes, desired outcomes and strategies to achieve them, but this time the Middle East is easy to read, honest!
posted by klangklangston at 5:03 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Alternate theory: he understood that the only way to beat IS without an alliance with Assad would be to get Turkish boots on the ground, which Turkey wouldn't do unless the U.S. helped them also take out Assad.

So two choices: ally with Assad or take him out to get Turkey on board. Neither of which Obama is prepared to do. Hence the letter. What a fucking mess.
posted by moorooka at 5:15 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm always surprised when I see people saying that the foreign policy of the Obama administration has been a disaster, because it runs completely opposite of my memory of the last several years. Watching it has been like watching a man walk a tight-rope over the grand canyon in a high wind. If pretty much any of the alternatives from either party were in office right now we'd probably be fighting three or four different wars.

It's weird that I find myself defensive of Obama so often when reading threads on Mefi, considering my politics are about as far left as they get in the US.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:15 PM on November 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


Well I guess the idea that you can beat IS while simultaneously getting rid of their biggest opponent (Assad) looks like a recipe for failure, no matter how much worse Bush would have been. Obama wanted Syrian regime change. He played with neocon fire and got burned.
posted by moorooka at 7:16 PM on November 24, 2014


Why do I have the feeling Carl Levins' phone will ring...DONT ANSWER THE PHONE SENATOR.

"So two choices: ally with Assad or take him out to get Turkey on board. Neither of which Obama is prepared to do."

He has a plan alright...fire chuck!

No, ice-ice crazy will be driven out of Iraq then, when we have them, Iran will have the bomb!
posted by clavdivs at 7:20 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Goddammit, how many crackerjack generals and leaders does Obama have to go through before he realizes that them criticizing him is evidence of their competence, not of some nefarious treason?
posted by corb at 8:16 PM on November 24, 2014


I think the issue is not that the criticism was being made, but that it was being made via the media. If your job is a rung in a military heirarchy then you need to at least pretend to respect your leader's authority when out in public. That is, if you want to keep the job.
posted by moorooka at 8:27 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


If Bandar (bush🙀) wheedles himself towards the throne, he would be like the 5th monarch to be fighter jock.
Sorry, like 4. Assad was not a monarch.
posted by clavdivs at 8:42 PM on November 24, 2014


Civilian control of the military in the United States: still a thing.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:54 PM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Goddammit, how many crackerjack generals and leaders does Obama have to go through before he realizes that them criticizing him is evidence of their competence, not of some nefarious treason?

How many military officers do you know who furthered their careers after talking dirt to the press about their direct superiors?
posted by JackFlash at 10:15 PM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Either we're going to go to war in the middle east or we're not

The Middle East has been at war all of my life.
The Middle East has been at war since the beginning of time. There's no place in the world that has hosted so many empires that are completely gone and forgotten, and learned -nothing-

Anybody DUMB ENOUGH to get involved in the Middle East deserves the Darwin Award.
posted by Twang at 11:12 PM on November 24, 2014




Goddammit, how many crackerjack generals and leaders does Obama have to go through before he realizes that them criticizing him is evidence of their competence, not of some nefarious treason?

Hagel was brought in to convince Congress it was time to make cuts at the Pentagon. That's not going to happen now. Hagel isn't a strategy expert, so this has nothing to do with Obama not recognizing his "competence". Leaking internal disagreements within the administration to the press is also a problem.

Other then Hagel and McCrystal, who the hell are you even talking about? You think McCrystal was about competence?
posted by spaltavian at 10:48 AM on December 2, 2014




« Older "Some things belonged to both of us from day one"   |   On Japanese Farewell Ceremonies for Things Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments