Situation Report

Friends of Chuck: the case for Hagel begins; Why the QDR may be significant; How Hollywood perpetuated the “myth” of torture; Gifts for wonks, and more.

The defense of Hagel for Defense begins. The attacks against Chuck Hagel for his views on Israel may be giving the White House pause — or perhaps it is just the shooting in Connecticut and the fiscal cliff negotiations that have delayed an announcement on new Cabinet appointments, including for Pentagon chief. But the delay ...

The defense of Hagel for Defense begins. The attacks against Chuck Hagel for his views on Israel may be giving the White House pause — or perhaps it is just the shooting in Connecticut and the fiscal cliff negotiations that have delayed an announcement on new Cabinet appointments, including for Pentagon chief. But the delay has given time for the criticisms against Hagel to take form. And now a number of Hagel’s friends are pushing back. Several former high-level diplomats have written an open letter defending the former senator against what some have called a smear campaign on his views on Israel. Hagel would be an "impeccable choice" for SecDef, they say. "Senator Hagel’s political courage has impressed us all. He has stood and argued publicly for what he believes is best for the United States. When he was attacked for opposing the war in Iraq as ‘unpatriotic,’ he replied, ‘to question your government is not unpatriotic — to not question your government is unpatriotic.’ Time and again he chose to take the path of standing up for our nation over political expediency."

And this: "Each of us has had the opportunity to work with Senator Hagel at one time or another on the issues of the Middle East. He has invariably demonstrated strong support for Israel and for a two-state solution and has been opposed to those who would undermine or threaten Israel’s security."
Who signed the letter: Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to NATO and Greece;
Ryan Crocker, former Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan;
Edward Djerejian, former Ambassador to Israel and Syria;
William Harrop, former Ambassador to Israel;
Daniel Kurtzer, former Ambassador to Israel and Egypt;
Sam Lewis, former Ambassador to Israel;
William H. Luers, former Ambassador to Venezuela and Czechoslovakia; Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to Israel and Russia;
Frank G. Wisner, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Ambassador to Egypt and India.

Another friend of Hagel’s writes that the anti-Semitic charges against him are "old and over-used." Clyde Prestowitz, writing on FP, says critics who point to things he said about Israel and the two-state notion are wrongheaded, but what would be more wrongheaded would be forcing Obama to ditch Hagel. "Hagel was a U.S. senator, not a member of the Israeli parliament. His job has been to think about what’s good for America. Interestingly, there are many who feel that in doing so he’s also been a good friend of Israel in the sense that friends don’t let friends drive drunk," he writes. Disagree with Hagel on policy grounds, but, he writes, "it would be an injustice, not only to Chuck Hagel, but also to the country if his nomination was blocked," he writes. "Hagel is an honorable person who has bled for his country and served it above and beyond the call of duty. We’d be lucky to have him as secretary of defense."

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The QDR kicks off next month — and this one could be big. The next Quadrennial Defense Review isn’t due until 2014, but the services are going to get serious about it in January. The QDR, the every-four year study of strategy, resources, and programs, oftentimes only amounts to a bureaucratic exercise, albeit an expensive and all-consuming one. But the 2014 edition could actually have some significance. The drastic changes to the budget (the extent of which is still unclear), the pivot to Asia, and a new defense secretary will all contribute to making the review a big focus of the new year.

"I think this year has the potential to be an important QDR because of the confluence of things going on," Todd Harrison of CSBA tells Situation Report. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said the current defense strategy, unveiled a year ago, would likely be thrown out if the Pentagon must confront additional cuts, which conventional wisdom dictates are likely. Enter the QDR. This one could actually be forged by men and women steeped in realism rather than military strategy dreamers, which is to say that this QDR will be perhaps more based on actual resources than any other.

"The timing is right, the stars are aligned, [this QDR] could be very consequential; this could be a very important and pivotal QDR," Harrison says. "That said, I’m not optimistic that that will actually happen." Read the Marines’ take on the QDR in a Situation Report soon.

The Benghazi report was a whitewash, according to Kori Schake. Writing on FP, Schake argues that the report on Benghazi, the result of an independent investigation by retired Amb. Thomas Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, nonetheless repeats many of the "well-known State Department refrains" — that the world is "newly complicated," that diplomacy is underfunded, and that Congress must change its approach. But beyond those "greatest hits" of State rhetoric, fundamental issues were ignored by State, and the report, Schake says: "What the State Department does not acknowledge — but what is at the core of its institutional failures — is that it sets priorities, and that those priorities have not adequately changed with the changing needs of American diplomacy or the changing demands of security for our diplomats."

Toys for wonks: great stocking stuffer ideas from FP! From a drone of your own to a copy of Paula Broadwell’s "All In," FP’s Elias Groll and Uri Friedman suggest some last minute gift ideas for that policy nerd in your life.

Killer Apps’ John Reed posted a pic of Northrop Grumman’s X-47B aboard the Truman at sunset.

Feinstein, Levin, and McCain sign a letter to the head of Sony Pictures about their "deep disappointment" in the movie "Zero Dark Thirty." The senators are taking pointed issue with the way the movie characterizes the role that torture played in the successful hunt for bin Laden, thus "perpetuating the myth that torture is effective," according to the letter, sent yesterday to Sony Pictures Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton. "We believe the film is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Usama bin Laden." The key information about bin Laden’s courier was not gleaned through torture. "Regardless of what message the filmmakers intended to convey, the movie clearly implies that the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques were effective in eliciting important information related to a courier for Usama Bin Laden. We have reviewed CIA records and know that this is incorrect." The letter:

"Zero Farce 30," or what a former FBI interrogator says about what’s wrong with the movie. FP’s Ty McCormick interviewed Ali Soufan, the lead FBI investigator into the USS Cole bombing, and the man who first discovered the identities of the 9/11 hijackers, about the way "Zero Dark Thirty" portrays the use of enhanced interrogation techniques and their effectiveness, drone warfare, and Gitmo. Ty asked Soufan if the way the EITs were portrayed in the movie was wrong or misleading. His answer in full: "It’s fiction. Based on all the information that I know, based on the 6,000-page report produced by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and based on what many of the experts that follow these things have said — at least one of whom actually served as an advisor on the film — this is not fact. This is Hollywood. The information that was used to get bin Laden did not come as a result of waterboarding or torture. And the Senate report that has been voted on in the committee — which included at least one Republican — made it very clear that enhanced interrogation techniques and waterboarding did not work. And that just confirms what the CIA inspector general said about that program, and what the Department of Justice said about it. The facts are there. I came to my opinion based on experience. I opposed enhanced interrogation techniques not really because of the moral issues. I opposed it from the efficacy perspective." Read more of the interview:

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