Situation Report

Cabinet announcements: a big week for the Pentagon?

Who is Hagel?; Benghazi review to Congress; Still deadly: landmines in Afghanistan; “Hell no!” Why Panetta will never stop cursing, and more.

An announcement on Defense Secretary, and perhaps it’s Chuck Hagel, could come this week – or not. The NYT’s David Sanger reports this morning that although the White House is expected to announce new Cabinet appointments this week, the Connecticut shooting may delay it until later this week, or even after that. And, Sanger reports, with Susan Rice out, there is some discomfort over the Cabinet slate – which, with Kerry and Hagel, lacks diversity. Yet it still seems likely that the White House will give the nod to John Kerry for State, and it’s looking more and more like Chuck Hagel, the Republican contrarian who doesn’t like using the military for nation-building, will get the nod.

Obama may like him because the two established a relationship from when they were both in the Senate together, AP wrote this morning. "Wounded during the Vietnam War, Hagel backed the Iraq war, but later became a fierce and credible critic of the Bush administration’s war policies, making routine trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. He opposed President George W. Bush’s plan to send an additional 30,000 troops into Iraq – a move that has been credited with stabilizing the chaotic country – as ‘the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it’s carried out.’" Hagel supported the resolution for the Afghanistan war but "over time he has become more critical of the decade-plus conflict, with its complex nation-building effort."

NYT piece by Sanger: AP:

Welcome to Monday’s edition of Situation Report, where we know more about "preppers" than we did just a few days ago. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list. And if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

Stephen Walt’s five reasons Obama should pick Hagel: 1. He’s a Republican realist; 2. He thinks for himself; 3. He knows the subject; 4. He’s got good judgment; 5. He’s got the right enemies: "Hagel does have one political liability: unlike most of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill, he hasn’t been a complete doormat for the Israel lobby," Walt writes on FP. "For what it’s worth, I hope Obama nominates Hagel and that AIPAC and its allies go all-out to oppose him. If they lose, it might convince Obama to be less fearful of the lobby and encourage him to do what he thinks is best for the country (and incidentally, better for Israel) instead of toeing AIPAC’s line. But if the lobby takes Hagel down, it will provide even more evidence of its power, and the extent to which supine support for Israel has become a litmus test for high office in America."

Why Republicans hate Chuck Hagel: Jacob Heilbrunn on Hagel’s reputation as a bête noire within the Republican Party — which he would carry with him into the Pentagon.

Why the next Sec-Def should be more like Robert McNamara. Writing on FP, Larry Korb and Alex Rothman explain that the business and management acumen of the next defense secretary is critical to his success. McNamara, for example, came from Ford. "Not surprisingly, during the tenures of Wilson, McNamara, Laird, and Cheney, the Pentagon did not experience what Frank Kendall, the undersecretary for acquisitions to Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, called ‘acquisition malpractice,’" they write. "For the most part, weapon systems came in on time and within budget targets. Compare the F-4, which was developed by McNamara, and the F-16, which was started under Laird and Packard, with the grossly over-budget F-35."

But Panetta is still defense secretary. And in a new piece out by Esquire, "What I’ve Learned: Leon Panetta," the defense secretary answers questions on everything from having his golden retriever Bravo in the room during the debate on the bin Laden raid, to his frequent cursing, to why he takes comfort from President Obama and why it’s not necessarily about surrounding himself with A-students: "I got my share of A’s. But I like people who work for me to have a certain compassion for their fellow human beings that doesn’t necessarily come with an A, that comes based on your life and how you were raised."

And this: "Could I imagine a world without cursing? Hell, no! Every place I’ve ever gone, people have had to hold their ears. When I use those words, it helps make the point."

And this: "The one thing I make pretty good is gnocchi. People have commented on it. I do it for the holidays. So if I were inviting Kim Jong Un over for dinner, I’d make him a plate of gnocchi. We’d have a glass of wine. And basically I’d try to understand: What’s his thinking?"

What is a prepper? It’s emerged that Nancy Lanza, the mother of Connecticut shooter Adam Lanza, and apparently his first victim, was a survivalist known as a "doomsday prepper," or just "prepper," someone who believes economic collapse or other manner of doomsday scenarios mean they must adopt a more extreme form of survivalism.

Writing on FP, J.M. Berger explains what it is and why it could inform what Adam Lanza did. "Preppers go beyond the average household’s disaster preparedness regime of having a couple flashlights with batteries in them. Their precautions can include everything from keeping a supply of canned goods to stocking generators and building elaborate bunkers. Many preppers also keep guns and a supply of ammunition in anticipation of the breakdown of law and order, as well as for hunting after the local Whole Foods has been abandoned to looters."

This morning, State will deliver its report on Benghazi to Congress, and later this week, Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering, who are on State’s Accountability Review Board, are expected to testify in a closed session. This is the report requested by the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees that should have some weight and help to focus the Hill on how the government could have responded better to the Benghazi attack — absent some of the partisan rancor the incident caused. The findings of the independent panel, or at least some aspects of those findings, will likely be released publicly in some form later this week, by the time State reps testify in place of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is recovering from a concussion she suffered over the weekend.

Memo to Tom Ricks: why one Marine officer is leaving the Corps. (Worth the read even if it was posted Friday.) One Marine officer wrote to Ricks, anonymously, to explain why he’s leaving the Corps: he thinks it’s not big on ideas. "As the wars draw to a close, the Marine Corps is preaching a return to its roots. This is all well and good. But it seems as if everyone is holding up the 1990s as an idyllic time in the Marine Corps’s history, as if the past decade with all of its lessons and changes was an aberration. My fear is we will learn very little from it."

Allen mourns the loss of the 10 little girls killed in an explosion in Nangarhar when an old landmine exploded. Gen. John Allen, this morning: "Over three decades of conflict, Afghanistan became one of the most heavily mined countries on earth. The tragic and cruel fact about landmines is that they don’t discriminate. These precious children were innocent victims and I express my sincere sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of those affected."

Afghanistan has 10 million land mines, according to the U.N. and Kabul is "the most heavily mined capital city in the world," according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. And RAWA News said last year that more than 50 civilians died each month in 2010.

Video of weird tool that could be used to counter landmines on

About 500 Air Force volunteers are visiting more than 2,000 children living in about 20 orphanages in South Korea as part of "Operation Christmas Hope." From the Air Force: "The Operation Christmas Hope committee also hopes to raise enough money to buy general gifts for the orphanages in need…. Quality of life items including washing machines and tents for children to play outside are items the chapel is interested in giving but the chapel has yet to reach their goal."



 Twitter: @glubold

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola