It was announced this week that Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel would be stepping down after less than two years holding the post. Much speculation began to come to light immediately after the announcement as to why Hagel resigned after such a short period of time. Some claim that the resignation was the idea of the Defense Secretary himself, but others say that he was forced out by the president himself. Many sources are pointing to the latter.
Apparently, President Obama has been disappointed in the work of Secretary Hagel, a Republican and former Senator who served along with then-Senator Obama. Hagel was reportedly quiet and unproductive in Cabinet and Situation Room meetings. He also has been scolded by administration officials for some of his public comments that often went against public statements or policy positions held by the White House and the president himself. Ultimately, the president has been increasingly dissatisfied with the performance of Mr. Hagel and felt the need to replace him with someone more compatible with his policy positions and someone more capable of handling the current conflict in the Middle East against the Islamic State.
In all of the speculation, the president’s micromanagement of Pentagon affairs have been criticized and his leadership called into question. Many point to President Obama’s previous two Defense Secretaries, Leon Panetta (a Democrat) and Bob Gates (a Republican) have publicly criticized the president in books they have written and in interviews they have given.
Now, the Real Talk…
In theory, Chuck Hagel would have been a great Defense Secretary for the Obama Administration. Even though Hagel was a Republican, he was an ardent critic of the Bush Iraq war and against the surge in 2006. He had the same line of thinking when being nominated for the post in 2013 and was thought to become a great asset to an administration during a time when the war in Iraq had ended (for the time) and the war in Afghanistan was winding down.
However, there were early signs that Hagel was a little off. This started with disastrous confirmation hearing where Hagel seemed very aloof and not very knowledgeable. I wondered if he wasn’t prepared for a Senate confirmation hearing, how was he prepared to be Defense Secretary? Nonetheless, he went on to gain the support of the Senate and was confirmed. Still, Hagel has always had a goofy look on his face when dealing with these very important issues of national security, almost as if he didn’t know what he was doing. This, tied with the reports that Hagel rarely spoke up during high level meetings with the White House somewhat makes it clear that Hagel was not only unprepared for the job, but he had no idea what his job was and what he was supposed to do. I think a new Defense Secretary is necessary and hopefully someone who is adequately prepared and up for the job able to step forward and take on the post.
In regards to the criticism that President Obama micromanages the Pentagon – my response, GOOD. We need someone to work closely to oversee the Pentagon so we are not swept into more irresponsible conflicts. The President has pledged to organize a coalition against the threat of the Islamic State and to only commit air support for airstrikes. No ground troops has been committed thus far and I hope and believe that he will continue to handle this war responsibly. I believe that part of the problem the two wars under President Bush got so far out of hand is because he handed the reigns to Vice President Dick Cheney and Pentagon officials. Hopefully, the new Defense Secretary will be more willing to work with the President to make sure that our national security interests are met with the seriousness and the responsibility that it deserves, especially when the lives of Americans and American troops are on the line.
This new Defense Secretary needs to be knowledgeable but also sensitive to the fact that the American people don’t want to be in a prolonged conflict that commits ground troops to a combat role. Listening to the news, it appears that the post will be hard to fill because people don’t want the job. However, whoever takes on that role should be someone who wants the role and one that can do the job in the most respectable and responsible way possible.
Other Headlines – In the News
AP / Yahoo News – For Obama and the Pentagon, an uneasy relationship
New York Times – Hagel’s Departure Bears Little Likeness to Rumsfeld’s Removal