Situation Report

Room for two? Hagel defines his role with Carter; In Egypt, U.S. influence waning and allies undermine interests, “Some is and some isn’t:” U.S.-China militaries agree to work together; Were the Chinese questions planted?; and a bit more.

Room for two? Hagel defines his role with Carter; In Egypt, U.S. influence waning and allies undermine interests, “Some is and some isn’t:” U.S.-China militaries agree to work together; Were the Chinese questions planted?; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

The new boss ain’t the old boss: Hagel is quietly defining his role vis-a-vis his Deputy, Ash Carter, in the E-Ring. As Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel settles into his job at the Pentagon, he and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, the man who was also considered in line for the top job, are figuring out who does what. As Hagel establishes his own bona fides as Secretary, he will seek to be more "hands on" than his predecessor, Leon Panetta. That means Carter, who had had a freer hand at the Pentagon under Panetta, will begin to see his role changed – though not diminished, senior defense officials say. Hagel will rely heavily on Carter’s deep institutional knowledge of the building but at the same time seek to re-establish the Secretary’s role as the one in charge.

Our story: "For Ash Carter, it was a commanding performance. With a view of the Rocky Mountains in the airy conference center of the Aspen Security Forum last month, the deputy secretary of defense astutely addressed some of the thorniest issues confronting the Pentagon: the budget, cyberwarfare and something the trained physicist knows well — nuclear weapons. There was just one thing missing: Carter seemed to forget who he was. To some in the audience, it seemed like Carter, the Pentagon’s Number Two, was talking as if he didn’t know where exactly he was positioned on the Defense Department’s org chart. And he never once mentioned his boss, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — the man with whom he had just competed for the job of Pentagon chief… Carter, said one senior defense official privately but who was reflecting the growing sentiment, needed to be more careful…

"Now Hagel has begun, gently, to recalibrate Carter’s role to reflect the fact that Hagel is looking to be a more "hands-on" secretary. And while Hagel isn’t limiting Carter’s mission, he is in the middle of changing the dynamic in the E-Ring for his #2 to focus on the budget battles at home — freeing Hagel up to manage the conflicts overseas. But Hagel must tread carefully. Carter is uniquely qualified in the deputy slot. And he has the president’s backing.

A senior defense official: "There is a sense of major budgetary uncertainty, and that the deputy needs to be a hands-on manager. Ash Carter is not driving policy for the department… Hagel views that as his purview."

Hagel issued a statement to FP on Carter: "Hagel said that Carter is a ‘trusted, experienced and respected leader’ and that he relies upon Carter to help him make decisions on national security, the well-being of the military, and on a number of internal matters. ‘The American people are fortunate to have him as one of their most senior public servants.’"

And: "Informed by the Pentagon of this story, a steady stream of senior military officers and defense officials provided Foreign Policy with unsolicited input about the value Carter brings to the Defense Department’s leadership. The statements and calls came from luminaries of the security establishment such as former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey, and former Congresswoman Jane Harman. All of them expressed their extremely, deeply, profoundly positive views about this ‘most talented’ (Panetta) ‘universally respected’ (Dempsey) man with an ‘intellect, leadership, and ability to get things done’ (Harman). Another was Winnefeld, who volunteered his analysis of the different leadership styles of Panetta and Hagel — and how Carter figured into both. ‘Panetta’s style was that of big Italian family… Hagel’s style is that of an independent Midwesterner,’ Winnefeld wrote in an e-mail. For both men, Carter has been ‘an extremely good partner, incredibly hard working, collegial, inclusive and stunningly effective.’"

Read the rest here.

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American allies are undercutting the U.S. over Egypt. The WSJ’s Adam Entous, Charles Levinson and Ellen Knickmeyer: "The U.S.’s closest Middle East allies are undercutting American policy in Egypt, encouraging the military to confront the Muslim Brotherhood rather than reconcile, U.S. and Arab officials said. The parallel efforts by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have blunted U.S. influence with Egypt’s military leadership and underscored how the chaos there has pulled Israel into ever-closer alignment with those Gulf states, officials said. A senior Israeli official called the anti-Muslim Brotherhood nations ‘the axis of reason.’" Read the rest here.

Strange bedfellows: AIPAC and Egypt. The Cable’s John Hudson: "As pressure mounts on Washington to cut off U.S. military aid to Egypt, Cairo has found an awkward ally in the form of AIPAC, the influential pro-Israel lobby firm that is actively pushing for continued U.S. aid to Egypt. Long considered an incentive for Cairo to maintain peaceful ties with Israel, America’s $1.3 billion package in annual U.S. military assistance to Egypt has come under global criticism as Egypt’s military continues its bloody crackdown against anti-government protesters with U.S.-funded tanks and tear gas.  AIPAC, which was credited with helping kill an amendment to cut Egyptian aid in July, is now operating behind the scenes in private meetings with lawmakers to keep alive Cairo’s funding, congressional aides from both political parties said.  A Congressional aide to Hudson: "They made and continue to make their views known on this issue… But on an issue like aid to an Arab country, my experience with They feel strongly about keeping the aid flowing." Read the rest here.

Hagel, on American influence in Egypt, during the Pentagon presser yesterday: "Our ability to influence the outcome in Egypt is limited.  It’s up to the Egyptian people.  And they are a large, great, sovereign nation.  And it will be their responsibility to sort — to sort this out.  All nations are limited in their influence in another nation’s internal issues.  I don’t think the United States is without influence, but that has to be a collaborative effort focused on what the Egyptian people want, supporting the Egyptian people."

Former WH-er  Steven Simon, writing in the NYT under the headline, "America Has no Leverage in Egypt:" "Egypt has entered a dark tunnel, and it is difficult to say when, and in what condition, it will emerge. Many Americans, in the meantime, are outraged that the Obama administration has not exerted its supposed leverage, in the form of military aid, to pressure the Egyptian army to restore a democratic form of government. But it is time for some realism about that leverage. A yearly sum of $1.3 billion may seem persuasive, but this money has always been intended to secure foreign policy outcomes, not domestic political arrangements that the United States favors. (The State Department has announced that it will put "on hold" $250 million in civilian economic aid to Egypt; the annual military aid expenditure will remain untouched.) Simon’s piece, here.

NYT Editorial Board today: False choices on Egypt. "A surprising number of world leaders and foreign policy experts have effectively acquiesced in the continued brutality of Egypt’s generals, arguing that support for the military is the only way to restore stability in the Arab world’s most populous state and limit wider regional turmoil. But this is just one of several false choices misinforming the debate and one that is certain to ensure more unrest, not less…" Read the rest here.

The U.S. and Chinese militaries agreed to work together. Hagel and Chinese Defense Chief Gen. Chang Wanquan met yesterday for a number of meetings about U.S.-Chinese mil-to-mil relations. They talked cybersecurity, domain issues and the Asian pivot. They agreed to a series of new engagements between both militaries, a cyber working group and Hagel was invited to visit China next year.

"The U.S. officials said they were heartened by their Chinese counterparts’ openness toward concrete steps to improve cooperation between the two countries, including exchanges between the two defense departments’ planning staffs, as well as increased cooperation on humanitarian and counter-piracy exercises," wrote the WSJ’s Julian Barnes.

At the Pentagon presser after it was re-scheduled from 10:45 until noon, and then beginning at 12:30, Wanquan, on the Pivot: "It’s always the Chinese position to welcome the U.S. to play a constructive role in the Asia Pacific.  And we also noted the U.S. statement many times, that the U.S. rebalancing strategy is a comprehensive one, incorporating areas such as economics and social and also including military. It is also worth to be noted that certain Asia Pacific nations have noted that the military aspect has been highlighted in this comprehensive strategy, including to strengthen the military deployment in the region, enhancing the U.S. alignments in this region by conducting military cooperations and military — joint military exercises. We also noticed that the frequency and intensity of such kind of joint military exercises are increasing upon the recent time.  From certain degree, this kind of intensified military activities further complicated the situation in the region. China is a peace-loving nation.  And we hope that this strategy does not target a specific country in the region."

Wanquan’s Five Points for the new, working model between the two countries, based on President Xi’s summary of no confrontation, no antagonism and mutual respect "towards win-win cooperation."

Wanquan: "Firstly, it is a relationship in which both sides respect the other side.  It is not a relationship dominated by either side alone…Secondly, it is a relationship of cooperation and win-win… Thirdly, it’s a relationship of mutual trust…Fourthly, it is a relationship featuring exchanges and cooperation in many areas…Finally, it is a relationship of openness and inclusiveness."

Fave line from Wanquan: "We believe as a new model of military relationship in accordance with the new model of bilateral relations, there are some is and some isn’t in this concept."

But were the questions from the Chinese side planted? Unclear. But in the press room yesterday, each time Wanquan spoke, appearing to read his own answers from a briefing book, one of the two translators essentially read the same statement from beside the podiums, suggesting the answers to the questions asked, at least by the Chinese side, had been thoroughly prepared in advance. When Hagel spoke, on the other hand, the translator scribbled notes the entire time, as Hagel was clearly speaking extemporaneously.