Wed Dec 26, 2012, 04:40 PM
flpoljunkie (26,125 posts)
Much prefer war wary Chuck Hagel to 'leading counterinsurgency supporter' Michele Flournoy
How the Top 2 Candidates for Defense Secretary Differ
Chuck Hagel and Michele Flournoy, both haunted by the ghosts of Vietnam, represent a stark choice for Obama.
By Michael Hirsh
Updated: December 14, 2012 | 2:28 p.m.
Chuck Hagel is, by his own admission, haunted by Vietnam. When asked to explain his early opposition to George W. Bush’s 2003 Iraq invasion in an interview in 2011, the former Nebraska senator harked back to his experience as an Army private fighting the Tet offensive in 1968. That maverick stance cost Hagel his reputation as a leading Republican, and it may be one reason why President Obama is now considering him as his next Defense secretary, with Leon Panetta set to retire. “We sent home almost 16,000 body bags that year," Hagel told me. "And I always thought to myself, ‘If I get through this, if I have the opportunity to influence anyone, I owe it to those guys to never let this happen again to the country.’ ”
When Obama mounted a Bush-like “surge” in Afghanistan in 2009, Hagel wasn’t happy either. “I’m not sure we know what the hell we are doing in Afghanistan,” Hagel told me in 2010. “It’s not sustainable at all. I think we’re marking time as we slaughter more young people.” Hagel had also opposed the surge in Iraq. In a dramatic moment on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007, Hagel implored his fellow Republicans to stop avoiding the truth about what he called the futile “grinder” of Iraq, and asked them not to send in more troops. “Don't hide anymore; none of us!” Hagel declared, raising his voice. Although several Republicans expressed misgivings, in the end only Hagel voted in favor of the nonbinding resolution.
Michele Flournoy, the former under secretary of Defense who is also a leading candidate to replace Panetta, is also somewhat haunted by the ghosts of Vietnam, by her own account, but in a very different way. Though far too young (she turned 52 on Friday) to have served there with the 66-year-old Hagel, Flournoy warned in a speech this week that military planners might still be too “risk-averse” because of the Vietnam experience. She said the military was endangered by a new "Vietnam syndrome" in which planners might seek to avoid the lessons of counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare simply because the last decade of this kind of conflict has been so costly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At a time when Hagel was worried about the cost of the Afghan surge in body bags, Flournoy was promoting the idea as a leading supporter of counterinsurgency strategy in 2009. During this period, a fierce debate occurred inside the Obama administration over whether to pare down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan to mere “counterterror operations”—the position taken by Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime Hagel ally—or whether to mount a larger counterinsurgency or “hearts-and-minds,” nation-building-type war. After leaving the Pentagon, Flournoy took over the Center for a New American Security, a think tank known for its work in counterinsurgency policy.
5 replies, 1087 views
Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Much prefer war wary Chuck Hagel to 'leading counterinsurgency supporter' Michele Flournoy (Original post)
Response to flpoljunkie (Original post)
Fri Dec 28, 2012, 05:14 AM
MBS (5,827 posts)
4. Chuck Hagel is a good and interesting choice
Also, Hagel and Kerry would make a synergistic and productive team, given their shared Vietnam experiences, their years of working together in the Senate, and the "out-of-the-box" thinking of both. I really like this idea, and definitely prefer Hagel to the alternatives that are currently being floated.
Response to flpoljunkie (Original post)
Fri Dec 28, 2012, 10:39 AM
Carolina (6,272 posts)
5. I agree
Would rather have Hagel as well... a real veteran who can stand up to those chickenhawks who lust for war so long as their lives, limbs and offspring remain comfortably out of harm's way.
I have often wished that we could return to the days where those who led the charge, so to speak, became the leaders. Washington, Grant, Eisenhower Kennedy