Chuck Hagel and Ashton Carter: profiles in irrelevancy

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Obama, having finished trolling conservatives with a rumor he was going to appoint Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson as Secretary of Defense, is almost certainly going to nominate Ashton Carter to that position. (This is not to be confused with Ashton Kutcher who was offered the job but decided it would take away from quality time with Mila Kunis.) The country has done much worse in that position, see, for instance, Chuck Hagel. Carter has an extensive history at Defense and its periphery.

Carter will be nominally involved in the war with ISIS, (or to quote a previous administration, this is the moral equivalent of war, abbreviated MEOW) but everyone knows that will be mismanaged by the clutch of biddies who run America’s foreign and defense policy under Obama. His real job will be gutting the US military and making it more friendly to various sexual perversions. But he is well acquainted with failure and irrelevancy, having been involved in the efforts to keep the North Koreans and Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons, and this experience will serve him in good stead in his new position.

In fact, the most damning thing I’ve seen on Carter is that during his time in college, in 1975 when he was a junior, he wrote some pieces for his college paper that were…. hang on to your hat… critical of the CIA. (I’m not providing a link because I don’t make a habit of encouraging the easily excited… you can find the article via Google if you want it…)

Ashton Carter wrote two anti-CIA articles for his college newspaper in 1975, Gotnews.com has learned.

Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense’s anti-CIA views are particularly relevant now that he may have control over the Defense Department, the nation’s largest intelligence gathering body.

Writing for the Yale Daily News, Carter argued that the CIA is “effectively, just the dirty tricks branch of our intelligence effort.”

Decrying “militarism” the future would be defense secretary concluded that the CIA’s covert, destabilizing “Dirty tricks have to go and the CIA must be reformed.”

“Most of the so-called ‘dirty tricks’–paramilitary operations, assassinations, coups, and other invidious invasions of the rights of foreign states–is left to the CIA,” Carter wrote.

If this is now disqualifying you need to basically ban anyone over the age of maybe 50 from public office. Hell, I’ll bet this guy smoked dope and maybe even got drunk, too. It has been known to happen.

No matter, Carter, at least, seems to have the basic tools needed by an effective caretaker waiting for the change of administration in 2016. The same can’t be said of Chuck Hagel. Hagel has always been an idiot. Even when he was nominally a Republican he did stupid stuff. The stupid rose to epic levels while he was SecDef. Via the odious Thomas Ricks in Foreign Policy.

First, Hagel was lazy. This may seem harsh, but the Secretary did not adequately prepare for meetings. Not even close. The 4-5 page briefing papers that Gates devoured, or the two-page memos that satisfied Panetta’s intellectual cravings, were replaced by Hagel’s preferred briefing material: an index card with 25 words on it. Policy papers were still drafted, but Hagel’s inner circle repeatedly made it clear they would never be read. As one official said during a moment of frustration, “How can we prepare the secretary to speak on this complex issue with only a sentence fragment?”

I was told, on good authority, that when he was a senator policy papers were limited to one page, double spaced, in 14-point type. So he seems to have been less intelligent at SecDef than he was as senator.

If As hire As and Bs hire Cs you can only imagine what Fs hire.

Second, Hagel filled his inner staff with real-life bobbleheads and poor managers. Loyalty is a cherished commodity in Washington, but Hagel’s E-Ring office suffered the same groupthink that reportedly occurs in the Oval Office.  Subject-matter experts were routinely denied entry into briefings. Deputy assistant secretaries — the Pentagon’s true regional and functional experts — often became meeting note-takers while a small army of “assistants to the secretary” took their seats at the table. Hagel’s former and current chiefs of staff (Mark Lippert and Rexon Ryu, respectively) were unable to supervise basic office functions such as managing Hagel’s official correspondence, calendar, or travel schedule.For example, a diplomatic incident occurred when Hagel’s office took four months to respond to a European defense minister’s invitation for Hagel to visit. Incidents like this were common during Hagel’s tenure. Such dysfunction hurt international defense relationships and enabled close advisors such as Elissa Slotkin to promote their own agendas on the sidelines. Slotkin convinced Hagel to quietly launch his climate change initiative in October to better align the Pentagon’s climate policy with the White House, while other issues — Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine — simmered in the background.

We should hope the Senate quickly confirms Carter. The Pentagon desperately needs someone there that has at least a vague knowledge of Defense policy. The clock is running down on this particular clown show and Carter seems like a good man to do that in the Pentagon.

In the end, Carter (or if not him then someone else) will share the same legacy as Chuck Hagel: irrelevancy.

Image via DOD news service: Ashton Carter, Stephanie Carer, Chuck Hagel, unidentified Naval officer who may or may not be married to Hagel. In today’s Pentagon you can’t tell.