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Liked a whipped dog trying to please its master, Democrats are always trying to prove their allegiance to the National Security State. There is no tag that inspires greater fear than being labeled weak on defense.  That’s why I’ve reluctantly concluded they can’t be trusted to run the Pentagon.

Democrats have gone to great lengths to show strength on national security from authorizing the use of military force in Iraq to our nearly endless commitment in Afghanistan. We have a defense budget that has nearly doubled since 2001 excluding the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Leon Panetta’s histrionics over the sequesters effect on military spending demonstrate what we can expect from a Democrat in the post.

Now, I was very disappointed when President Obama didn’t name a Democrat to serve as Secretary of Defense in his first cabinet. And I had little patience for those who said that Bob Gates would be able to make positive changes that a Democrat couldn’t. But given the Democrat alternatives this time I figure Chuck Hagel has a better shot of moderating the discourse on Israel and Iran.

(continued)

Let’s take the case of Michelle Flournoy, the leading alternative candidate for Defense Secretary, among Democrats. Flournoy served on the National Security teams of both President Clinton and Obama, rising to number 3 at the Pentagon, and served as President Obama’s principal campaign advisor on defense in 2008. From the LA Times.

According to "The Obamians," Flournoy wanted to take a more overtly political role: to develop centrist policies to help Democrats combat the perception their party was weak on national security.

Six years ago, she and another Pentagon alumnus founded the Center for a New American Security, which has grown into an influential player largely by promoting the doctrine of counterinsurgency, which calls for troops to develop close ties with local populations to help defeat militants.

The Institute for Policy Studies has collected a few other interesting tidbits.
In a December 2012 speech to the Atlantic Council, she warned against cutbacks to counterinsurgency planning as the war in Afghanistan winds down. “We have to be careful not to fall into the Vietnam Syndrome where we believe we’ll never do that again,” she said

Comparing her Atlantic Council speech to that of Chuck Hagel, one reporter wrote: “Flournoy spoke at an Atlantic Council forum a day after another possible choice for Pentagon boss, former Republican Senator and current Atlantic Council chairman Chuck Hagel, addressed the same group. The difference in approaches was illuminating. Hagel, a former member of the Senate committees on foreign relations and intelligence, emphasized a diplomatic approach to emerging global threats through ‘engagement.’ Flournoy, a former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, focused on the military.”[8]

Notably, in 2005, Flournoy supported an advocacy campaign aimed at increasing the size of the U.S. military that was spearheaded by a discredited neoconservative activist group called the Project for the New American Century(PNAC).

….Flournoy has warned against a preemptive U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran, calling it “a tactical step that undermines the strategic goal” of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. However, Flournoy has also allowed that military action remains a possibility in the future, telling the Jerusalem Post in August 2012 that “Israel can rely on Obama to stop a nuclear Iran. … [T]he policy is not containment and I think he is serious about that.”[10]

I just don’t see Flournoy or any other Democrat resisting the onslaught of charges of being weak particularly with regard to Iran. For that matter we’ll see how long it is before Hagel declares his fealty to the Likud Party and pledges to bomb Iran.

Now it is disheartening that President Obama would not automatically disqualify someone who has expressed repugnant views on abortion and made vile attacks on Ambassador Hormel's sexual identity. He must formally repudiate these views in the confirmation process and provide assurances that he will do the right thing on gay rights and women’s rights in the Department of Defense. But if he does that he is likely to be our best hope for a Pentagon led by someone who isn’t cavalier about a war with Iran.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy

    I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution. Barbara Jordan

    by Lcohen on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 09:23:36 AM PST

  •  The SecDef should be... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina

    ...competent in implementing the President's policies.

    That seems to cover it.

  •  Meh - who's monumentally naive enough (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lcohen

    these days to actually believe that voting for a Dem is going to result in the (once) expected Democratic policies and personnel being implemented?

    •  Wishful thinking is all I've got left n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy

      I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution. Barbara Jordan

      by Lcohen on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 09:50:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Obama's SC picks were way better than (0+ / 0-)

        what would have come from the GOPers.

        Other than that, however, it is indeed really difficult to find anything substantial where his administration is better/different than Reagan era republicanism.  Which he himself admits.

        •  Lisa Jackson was a big plus, too bad (0+ / 0-)

          she has decided to leave rather than preside over keystone pipeline approval.

          I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution. Barbara Jordan

          by Lcohen on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 09:58:48 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not a big fan (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Kickemout

            she was WAY too pro-coal.

            And did nothing to regulate fracking.

            Compared to those things, the Keystone pipeline is essentially irrelevant - it's projected to have contribute to something like a 0.06% increase in carbon emissions (yeah, it'd be better not to have that, but in the larger scheme of things it's negligible).

            •  The mercury standards on power plant emmissions (0+ / 0-)

              were no favor to coal. Nor was classifying carbon emissions as a health hazard. She could have been better on mountaintop removal but there were even a few victories in that department.

              I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution. Barbara Jordan

              by Lcohen on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 10:11:47 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Keystone. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lcohen

              The real issue with They Keystone XL pipeline is that it will be built over the largest aquifer in North America, potentially poisoning our largest source of water for our agricultural needs, not to mention drinking water...

  •  There were / are plenty of good Dem choices (0+ / 0-)

    In no particular order of qualification (and every one of these guys is more than qualified than either Hagel or Flournoy):

    Wes Clark
    Joe Sestak
    Eric Shinseki

    And certainly, there are more Dems that have the necessary credentials (and cred).  PBO did not have to go to the GOP well to find a Secretary of Defense.

    "Mitt who? That's an odd name. Like an oven mitt, you mean? Oh, yeah, I've got one of those. Used it at the Atlas Society BBQ last summer when I was flipping ribs."

    by Richard Cranium on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 10:07:42 AM PST

    •  I am particularly adverse to ranking officers (0+ / 0-)

      In general I don't think it bodes well for the idea of civillian control. Though it might be harder to bully these guys than other Democrats.

      I do like Sestak but the disgraceful conditions at the VA don't make much of an argument for Shinseki as leader of the world's largest bureaucracy.

      I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution. Barbara Jordan

      by Lcohen on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 10:19:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Were you involved w/the VA before Shinseki? (0+ / 0-)

        Believe me, he inherited a mountain of problems.  Many of these problems were a long time in the making, and Shinseki's group has made great strides in dealing with these issues.  There is no one else who could have been as committed to tackling the job (and plan for the future) like Shinseki.  I've been extremely impressed by both the commitment of those I deal with at the VA, and the progress I've seen in just a few years from a bureaucratic standpoint.  There's still a long way to go (the claims backlog is vexing problem), but the VA is an order of magnitude better as an agency than it was just a few short years ago. This change of attitude was almost exclusively top-down mandated from Shinseki himself.

        "Mitt who? That's an odd name. Like an oven mitt, you mean? Oh, yeah, I've got one of those. Used it at the Atlas Society BBQ last summer when I was flipping ribs."

        by Richard Cranium on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 10:31:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Don't have your personal experience (0+ / 0-)

          So I'm glad to hear it's improving.  But given he's had four years to address the claims backlog, a core mission of his agency with powerful constituencies driving accountability, it's hard to see how he would drive change at the DOD, a more unwieldy and far less accountable institution.

          I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution. Barbara Jordan

          by Lcohen on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 12:57:40 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  What if Barack Obama did not want these men? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mangusta

      Presumably if PBO wanted to work with any of these men he'd have nominated one of these men. Barack Obama is forming the team of people he want to work with on a daily basis. If the sitting President wants to work with a qualified individual, that is pretty much the end of the debate IMO.

  •  The best defense (0+ / 0-)

    I have seen of the Hagel pick is that, as a combat Vet and longtime GOP Senator, he will have more public credibility in pushing for defense cuts. The move toward slashing federal spending continues and I think all of us here agree that it's much better the cuts, if they are to come, come from unnecessary defense programs as opposed to social programs.

    But given that he's now persona non grata with the GOP, I don't know how much cover he'll actually have.

    Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

    by fenway49 on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 10:42:02 AM PST

    •  The cover comes from (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mangusta

      not caring what the R's think and not having to be defensive for being a Democrat

      I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution. Barbara Jordan

      by Lcohen on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 12:58:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think Chuck Hagel is a superb choice (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lcohen, mangusta, mindara

    for SOD!!  I don't always echo the latest White House talking points but I would like to go on record as giving a wholehearted thumbs up to this selection.  Mr. Hagel  is tough, independent, fair minded, unafraid of his critics, and most importantly understands the horrors of war.  Those who believe in a smaller Pentagon budget, a less interventionist foreign policy, and a more even handed approach to Israel and its neighbors should support his nomination.

  •  YES, Unless... (0+ / 0-)

    Unless the idea is that Obama wants Hagel to provide cover to cuts that should be made in defense anyways.  Panetta did him no favors by crying wolf over the proposed cuts to the Pentagon.  If he's putting an R in place to deflect any "weak on defense" charges when he implements sizable reductions in the military budget, then I think it's a great move.

    We get what we want - or what we fail to refuse. - Muhammad Yunus

    by nightsweat on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 02:00:23 PM PST

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