Mon Jan 14, 2013, 02:04 PM
DonViejo (17,539 posts)
Why Obama wanted an improbable fellow traveler at the pentagon
The Logic of Hagel
by Daniel Klaidman Jan 14, 2013 12:00 AM EST
Why Obama wanted an improbable fellow traveler at the pentagon.
In the lingo of Capitol Hill they’re known as “codels.” Members of Congress go on congressional delegations to war zones and foreign capitals to burnish their national-security credentials and try their hand at personal diplomacy. The public often hears about them when congressmen are caught on TV playing golf or sipping a Mai Tai poolside, their trip exposed as a taxpayer-funded boondoggle. But sometimes they serve an important purpose, allowing politicians to grasp the nuances of a complicated foreign-policy issue or giving members a respite from the poisonous partisan climate in Washington
One such time was July 2008, when Sens. Barack Obama, Chuck Hagel, and Jack Reed traveled together to Afghanistan and Iraq. Perhaps not a great premise for a buddy movie, but it was an intense bonding experience nonetheless. They delved deeply into policy discussions—“wonkfests,” as one former aide called them; shared personal stories from their vastly different backgrounds; and ribbed each other to pass the time on cramped military planes. (Obama teased Hagel for traveling to the battle zone in polished penny loafers.)
For Obama it was an opportunity to see Hagel, with whom he’d developed a kinship on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in action. As people on the trip remember it, the future president was struck by Hagel’s rapport with the enlisted men and women they met throughout the trip. Hagel, a decorated Vietnam vet, mingled with the soldiers with ease and authenticity. “The troops knew he’d been in the line of fire,” recalls Reed. “He connected with them not on an intellectual level but on a deep emotional basis.”
Obama, said Reed and others, noticed something else about Hagel, too: for all of his empathy toward the grunts, he could be a hard-ass with their commanders. In Baghdad, the senators were briefed by Gen. David Petraeus, then the commanding officer of all U.S. forces in Iraq. A virtuoso briefer, Petraeus poured it on with elaborate charts and slides, all aimed at showing that the “surge” of troops in Iraq was working. Violence was down and stability up. But it was too soon to begin a rapid drawdown of troops, the general warned, bolstering his case with a blizzard of stats and metrics.
6 replies, 1120 views
Why Obama wanted an improbable fellow traveler at the pentagon (Original post)
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Response to DonViejo (Original post)
Mon Jan 14, 2013, 02:33 PM
Sekhmets Daughter (7,488 posts)
1. Stanley McCrystal
was on Andrea Mitchell few minutes go. While he said he doesn't endorse anyone, he likes the fact that Hagel has been "down in the mud" (his words). He went on to say that he thinks it is very important for the president to have someone he trusts as Sec't of Defense as these will be very difficult times re: downsizing the Pentagon...
Response to Sekhmets Daughter (Reply #1)
Mon Jan 14, 2013, 09:05 PM
Cha (182,465 posts)
4. Is it my imagination or has McChrystal done an about
Last edited Tue Jan 15, 2013, 04:12 PM - Edit history (1)
face since he was fired by President Obama?
In the end, it was Obama’s only move. Keeping General Stanley McChrystal in place would have shattered the chain of command, obliterated the authority Obama had with the military, and undermined any hope of waging a successful counterinsurgency in Afghanistan.
I saw something from McChrystal the other day(which I can't remember exactly what) that seemed more supportive of the President than I would have expected.
Response to Cha (Reply #4)
Tue Jan 15, 2013, 09:37 AM
Sekhmets Daughter (7,488 posts)
5. I think McCrystal understood better than anyone
that the Rolling Stone story had ended his military career. He came back to the US to tender his resignation. That Obama didn't strip him of a star or two probably softened the blow somewhat. His interview with Andrea Mitchell was briefer than I would have liked, I think I'll read his book, but he came across as very intelligent and very savvy.