Hagel on ice; Panetta has left the building (only to return); Arming Syrian rebels wouldn’t be a good idea; DWM: What a “Spilled Coffee on Crotch Cup Device” would be; and more.
- By Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.
Hagel on ice. Chuck Hagel’s move to the Pentagon may still come, but after the political maneuverings of yesterday, it won’t happen for at least another 10 days. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempt to end debate on the nomination, which requires 60 votes, fell short, thus keeping the Senate’s consideration of Hagel in play until after the congressional recess next week. Reid decried Republican obstruction, saying, "This has gone to the absurd," and lamenting that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who remains Pentagon chief but who flew home to California last night, was "about as lame as a duck can be" in an effort to shame Republicans into confirming Hagel. The procedural move was, according to Republicans, an effort to extract more information from Hagel about his finances and from the administration about Benghazi. To Dems, the move amounted to a filibuster. Reid: "Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, it gets worse. I guess to be able to run for the Senate as a Republican in most places of the country, you need to have a résumé that says, ‘I helped filibuster one of the president’s nominees.’"
Though Hagel is expected to be confirmed, opposition to him remains great. Sen. John McCain said at one point yesterday: "He is the wrong person at the worst time for the job."
Assuming Hagel gets in, he’ll face a mountain of opposition to whatever it is he does, at least at first. Most believe Hagel would walk into the Pentagon wounded, but also that his street cred as a combat veteran and political fighter gives him the capacity to turn things around. There are those who think otherwise, though. "It’s clear Sen. Hagel lacks the kind of political capital he will need in the bank upon assuming office to cut deals and persuade Congress to do things members have little appetite to do right now, like close bases, cancel more weapons programs and absorb budget cuts across the force," the WSJ quoted Mackenzie Eaglen from American Enterprise Institute as saying this morning.
Standing ovation. At-Some-Point-Not-the–Defense-Secretary Leon Panetta and his wife Sylvia and dog Bravo departed through the Pentagon’s River Entrance Thursday evening to board a plane for California. Panetta, who travels home most weekends, had made a point of saying he would leave town Thursday to get back to the walnut farm, thus making a statement about the political theater across the Potomac. It’s clear now Panetta will have to return to Washington to make the trip to Brussels for the NATO ministerial next week. But that wasn’t yet clear earlier yesterday as the Panettas walked out the door. So members of Panetta’s close staff and other Pentagon well-wishers formed two lines out the big double wood doors, applauding Panetta as he walked to his black Suburban, many dabbing their eyes. As Irish setter, er, golden retriever Bravo stood patiently in the back seat of the truck, Panetta and his wife made their way down the line. "I don’t want to do this again!" he said with his characteristic chuckle. As the black Suburban drove off, someone yelled, "Now what?"
Panetta chief of staff Jeremy Bash, to hearty laughter: "Go call your senator!"
After the Panettas drove away, crackerjack photographer Erin Kirk-Cuomo, her own eyes red, wondered aloud if she’d captured any decent images: "I don’t even know if I got anything." But, she did: the Panettas’ departure, in pictures.
Welcome to Friday’s edition of Situation Report, where the next words you’ll read from us is "Welcome to Tuesday’s Situation Report," as we’ll be dark on Monday. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for Situation Report here or just shoot me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.
Odierno speaks on the future of the Army this morning at 11am at Brookings. Information here.
Syrian rebels say they almost control a strategic province. Rebels are claiming that they are close to controlling Hasaka – and its oil production facilities. Rebels already control Syria’s largest hydropower dam and have taken over a northern military base, according to the NYT this morning.
Arming the Syrian rebels would have been a bad idea, argues Marc Lynch on FP. Last week we learned during open testimony that Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey both supported a plan to arm Syrian rebels. Then SecState Hillary Clinton and other top officials also agreed with the idea. It was shot down by the White House, and the episode showed just how much the White House can go its own way on national security issues. But Lynch writes that he doesn’t think it was really ever a good idea: "The failure of American diplomacy to end Syria’s parade of horrors has rightfully driven the policy community to search for a useful alternative. But arming the rebels was always a classic ‘Option C.’ Every bureaucrat knows the trick of offering three options — one to do nothing, one so outlandish that it is easily rejected, and then one that takes the seemingly sensible middle ground, allowing the decision-maker the illusion that they are resolving the problem."
Lynch continues: "It’s difficult to produce a single example in modern history of a strategy of arming rebels actually succeeding. Please, please, don’t offer the example of U.S. support for the Afghan jihad in the 1980s — because I’ll just see that and raise you a collapsed state, warlordism, rise of the Taliban, and al Qaeda. Meanwhile, there are plenty of examples of the overt or covert provision of arms to a rebel group prolonging and intensifying conflicts, and lots of cases of rebel groups happily taking our money and guns to ‘fight communists’ (or whatever) and then doing whatever they like with them. That doesn’t mean that such a strategy couldn’t work in Syria, but history is most definitely not on its side."
Former Pentagon communications guru Brian Cullin is retiring today from the State Department, where he had moved to advise Tara Sonenshine, the under secretary for public diplomacy.
Making the inbox rounds at the Pentagon: a prototype for the new Distinguished Warfare Medal for drone pilots — a gold X-Box controller. OK, it’s a joke. But take a look. Also, as recognition grew around the Defense Department that the new DWM would occupy a higher precedence than a Bronze Star with a combat ‘V’ device, another list of proposed devices were making their way into inboxes yesterday. They include: Hemorrhoid Donut Device, a Boil Lance Device, a Carpal Tunnel Splint Device, a Rush Hour Traffic Monopoly Car Device, a Spilled Coffee on Crotch Cup Device, a Sports Page Paper Cut Band-Aid Device, a Cyberwar PacMan Device, a Direct Combat Pressure Tea-Pot Device, and a Flight Suit Looks Snazzy Mirror Device.
The Duffel Blog has this piece about what a Predator drone thinks about his human counterpart getting the DWM: "I hate to say it, but my human counterpart is a droneopotamus. He sits around in the Ground Control Station all day, eating Doritos, and posts a sticker on the door that says ‘Predator Pilot: Toughest Job in the Air Force.’"
- The Daily Beast: The Republicans ugly and shameful Chuck Hagel filibuster.
- Brookings: Thoughts on the Hagel filibuster and its political implications.
- AP: Hagel confirmation stalled, but still expected.
- USAT: Still no plans to send troops into Mali.
- State Department: Johnnie Carson testimony on Hill on U.S. interests in Mali.
- Horseed Media: al-Shabab say they executed Kenyan hostage.
- USIP: UN Special Representative calls for end of "scourge" of sexual violence.
- CSIS: Sen. James Inhofe talks the future of ground forces.
- Military Times: Two-star: Shooter knew he’d lose benefits.
- Danger Room: DARPA wants teeny tiny fluids to cool down next micro-chips.
- Small Wars: Everything I needed to know I learned from the Afghans.