Hagel’s Dismissal A Reflection Of Contradictory Policy

The abrupt departure of Chuck Hagel says much more about Administration policy than it does about Chuck Hagel.

Chuck Hagel

James Joyner’s piece on the abrupt resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, titled Hagel’s Fate Was Sealed Long Ago, has been posted at The National Interest:

Before leaving for my present position last August, I spent six years at the Atlantic Council, where Hagel served ably as chairman until taking over the Defense Department. His predecessor, General Jim Jones, had been picked to join Obama’s “team of rivals” as National Security Advisor. Both men were highly accomplished public servants, widely respected by Republicans and Democrats alike for their competence, intellect, and integrity. Indeed, Jones may very well have been selected as National Security Advisor or another prominent role had John McCain prevailed in 2008. (Interestingly, Hagel was followed by Jon Huntsman, the erstwhile Republican governor or Utah and presidential candidate who’d alienated his base by serving as Obama’s ambassador to China.)

In both instances, the qualities that got them chosen made them poor fits. In an administration that sees foreign policy as an extension of domestic policy, simply asking “What’s in the US national security interest?” isn’t enough. In case after case, the administration chose half measures that would appease the Democratic base while minimizing criticism from Republicans on the “weakness” front.  So, they announced a military surge in Afghanistan that was far less than requested by the commanding general while simultaneously announcing a premature deadline for withdrawal. They authorized military action against the Gaddafi regime in Libya, the Assad regime in Syria, and against ISIS in Iraq and Syria but without any obvious consideration of the strategic consequences.

It didn’t help that Jones and Hagel were outside the inner circle of foreign policy advisors that Obama had brought with him from the campaign and the Senate. Their willingness to work across the aisle may have won them plaudits from the broader foreign policy community but it meant that they would never be trusted team players. They were constantly being sniped at by anonymous staffers in the press and were ready scapegoats for failed or unpopular policies. Meanwhile, the president has shown steadfast loyalty and infinite patience with Susan Rice and others.

As always, much more at the links.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Military Affairs, National Security, Published Elsewhere, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    an administration that sees foreign policy as an extension of domestic policy,

    Evidence for this assertion?

  2. M13 says:

    yawn…change the names and this is the exact same story written about every senior official who is either fired or who resigns from an administration, any administration, every administration.

    I have no doubt we will see this exact same story written about whoever’s administration follows the Obama administration and whoever’s follows that one and on and on.

    What it all comes down to is people are hired to do a job and if the boss is unsatisfied with your performance you’re liable to find yourself fired or forced to resign.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: Read pretty much any insider account. See in particular the views of Bob Gates and Leon Panetta. Every decision is about managing domestic reactions first and foremost.

  4. arthropod says:

    I read Gates’ memoir and don’t recall him expressing that opinion. Rather, I seem to recall that he thought highly of Obama (though not of Biden).

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    So Libya was about gaining domestic support? Or the drone war? Or calling Bibi chickenshit? Or extending Afghanistan? Or fighting ISIS?

    Which of those made Mr. Obama’s base happy? Not one. Which of them gained him broader support beyond his base? Not one.

    Those insiders may not have been so inside. It sounds like the decision was already made by the time they got involved in discussing domestic effects.

  6. Eric Florack says:

    Chuck Hagel is an abject idiot. But even he had more sense than obama,at least as regards the folly of Obama foreign policy and the role of the military.

    which is precisely why he’s out of a job.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Do tell. Please give us some examples of Obama’s folly in foreign policy, and explain.

  8. anjin-san says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Chuck Hagel is an abject idiot.

    Let’s see. Hagel is a war hero, a very high level public servant with a distinguished record of service who is known as a man who is both very bright and hard working. He is also a self-made multi millionaire.

    You are a truck driver who thinks he is the only person around with a dedicated music server.

    Someone is an idiot, but you are wrong about who it is.

  9. anjin-san says:

    @Eric Florack:

    the folly of Obama foreign policy

    I know! Tell us about Benghazi! Tell us about the stand down order, and how Obama watched Ambassador Stevens pleading for help via live streaming and ignored him. Tell us everything.

  10. Eric Florack says:

    @anjin-san: you seem to be doing a fair enough job of it.

    I Drive truck these days as a direct result of Obama policy. I spent about 20 years of my life supporting computers for a living. End user support was a specialty. For the last 10 of that 20 years, I was attached to the home equity division of a bank.very shortly after the 2008 election, the guy who runs the bank a guy by the name of Jamie Dimon, decided that the economy was going to hit the crapper based on the election results, and he seems to have gotten that one right. But as a consequence of that decision he decided also that home equity wasn’t going to be the big deal with it once was, and the 400 people that I was supporting alone with myself, were on the street looking up where our office used to be.

    I spent most of the year looking for another job in the same pay class and the same general territory that I was in, and all I could find was entry level positions taking a pay cut of about 50% which I couldn’t afford. I had to do something to keep food on the table. So here I am.

    now perhaps you have a better understanding of what I mean when I say that the follow ups of Obama policy, are affecting real people.

    and I’ll say it again, Hegel was an abject idiot, as is John McCain, as is John Kerry. War heroes they may be, and they are all owed a debt of gratitude for whatever service they provided. But that doesn’t provide them any shelter for what damage they’re doing now.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:
    Wow. So your boss decides that Obama will tank the economy and fires you. And like an idiot you buy that. You didn’t notice I guess that the economy in fact had already tanked? And the banking industry was in particular trouble?

    And all your ranting hate for Obama is because you’re so dumb you bought this a-hole’s pretext for firing you?

    Jesus H.

  12. Eric Florack says:

    actually, until such time as November rolled around, our business was up. Rather substantially.

    and his reason for letting people go, was pretty much universal.were that not the case, it seems rather obvious to me that most of the people that I work with would have been able to find other jobs in the field. They were not.my comment to them at the time was, welcome to hope and change. He, unlike you, was able to learn from history.

    in the meantime, I noticed with amusement your tone as regards people who drive truck.the derogatory note in your response tells me all I need to know about you.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Bullsh-t. You don’t notice even a hint of condescension from me about any job. I waited tables for 10 years, cleaned toilets for two.

    Also, your story is BS. The crash came on Mr. Bush’s watch. That is reality. It’s asinine to pretend that the Great Recession – which started officially in December of 2007 – was somehow the fault of Barack Obama who was inaugurated January 20, 2009.

    13 months later. More than a year. And of course Mr. Obama’s policies did not take effect the instant he was inaugurated. The Bush stimulus bill was enacted in February of 2008, the Obama stimulus (ARRA) was enacted almost exactly a year later, in February 2009.

    The earliest Mr. Obama could have affected your boss’ business was about two years after the recession began.

    You were played. Your boss fed you a load of bull and you swallowed it whole.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:

    As a matter of fact, since you were in the tech sector, why don’t you take a look at stock performance in that sector over the last six years. A hell of a lot more winners than losers there, billions of dollars profit being banked. So as a simple matter of prediction, your boss was wrong.

    At least insofar as profits which are what drive stocks. Now, if your company made a bunch of money after you were laid off, then you share the fate of a lot of folks. The rich keep getting richer, the working man gets screwed. You’re getting squeezed out so that the big boys can get bigger. There’s that free market you love.

    You know what would be helpful in cases like this? Unions. Duh.

    No doubt your lovely boss would have advised strongly against a union. Billionaires hate them some unions, and aren’t they lucky to have a whole bunch of clueless dumb-ass workers who buy their b.s.?Working out great for them.

  15. anjin-san says:

    @Eric Florack:

    the guy who runs the bank a guy by the name of Jamie Dimon, decided that the economy was going to hit the crapper based on the election results

    There is no amount of spin on the planet that can lay the 2008 crash at Obama’s doorstep. On Sept. 24th, President Bush addressed the nation and announced that “the entire economy is in danger”

    Here we see the timing of the stock market crash.

    Here is a look at the timing that goes beyond the market.

    Banks today are sitting on top of mountains of cash, and they certainly need IT staffing. Perhaps you need to look beyond you fantasy about Obama tanking the economy.

    Oh, and Jamie Dimon? He received a huge increase in compensation in 2013 that brought him up to 20 million a year. The Obama economy seems to have worked out OK for him.

  16. Eric Florack says:

    @michael reynolds: it’s been pointed out often enough that the stock market is no indication of what’s going on on Main Street. It’s interesting that since Obama has gotten into office now suddenly the left is fond of pointing at the stock market.

  17. Eric Florack says:

    @michael reynolds: you exud kind of sunshine every time you open an editor. Who the hell do you think you’re kidding?

  18. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    You apparently don’t understand that Obama is such a disaster that he was able to tank the economy before he was elected. It’s sort of like how he managed to bungle the response to Katrina and got us involved in Iraq.

  19. anjin-san says:


    he was able to tank the economy before he was elected

    This might be another instance of his time travel hijinks…

  20. anjin-san says:

    @Eric Florack:

    what’s going on on Main Street

    So there are no average folks that have been winners under Obama? Nobody is benefiting from the fact that their 401k had thrived under Obama after tanking under Bush? Average folks are not benefiting from a housing recovery that means their home’s value and hence net worth is growing as opposed to vast numbers losing their homes or ending up underwater in the Bush crash?

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Go back and read what I wrote. If what you took from it was that I am a fan of Wall Street, you need to work on your comprehension skills.