Friday, December 05, 2014


"Occasionally top jobs go to the best qualified people. Ashton Carter’s likely nomination to replace Chuck Hagel as President Obama’s next Pentagon chief would be a stellar choice. In Donald Rumsfeld’s terminology, Carter is a known unknown. Carter “is the most important man in Washington nobody has heard of”, as Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, put it. Having been deputy defence secretary and previously head of acquisitions, Carter knows the Pentagon inside out. In spite of never having worn the uniform — and in contrast to the twice decorated Mr Hagel — Carter is highly regarded by the military. He also has a detailed grasp of the situation on the ground in Syria and Iraq, where his urgent focus will be needed. Moreover, he has the respect of John McCain, incoming chairman of the Senate armed services committee, which means his confirmation would probably be smooth".
Edward Luce, "Obama’s Pentagon favourite will lack the autonomy he needs." The Financial Times. 4 December 2014 in
"At a superficial level, President Obama's firing of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary conforms to this pattern. With 54% of the public disapproving of the president's foreign policy, which has produced disasters in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine, among other places, someone had to pay the price. The problem is not that Hagel shouldn't have been fired — he was pretty much a nonentity as defense secretary. The problem is that firing him is not going to change much, if anything. Indeed, the reason he was jettisoned is precisely because he had so little influence on real decision-making, which is tightly controlled by a small coterie of White House aides such as national security advisor Susan Rice, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, deputy national security advisors Ben Rhodes and Tony Blinken and senior advisor Valerie Jarrett. That crew is responsible for steering the Good Ship Obama onto the rocks, but because they are so tight with the skipper, they remain at the helm. Even when there were strong defense secretaries in charge, they found themselves endlessly frustrated by their dealings with imperious White House aides who mistook themselves for field marshals. Just read the memoirs of Bob Gates and Leon Panetta. Gates, for example, complained that the White House staff had “a presence and a role in national security decision making that I had not previously experienced.” That extended to White House staffers directly calling field commanders — an action that “would have been unthinkable when I worked at the White House,” Gates wrote, 'and probably cause for dismissal'."
Max Boot, "Chuck Hagel's firing won't help U.S. foreign policy ". The Council on Foreign Relations. 24 November 2014, in
Mr. Edward Luce of the bien-pensant Financial Times is for once correct: American Secretary of Defence designate Ashton Carter is indeed all things considered (AKA political allegiances) by far the very best man to run the Pentagon. A position which requires more the talents and skills of a Chief Financial Officer and or Permanent Secretary of the State at the Treasury (in the United Kingdom of course), then a global strategist. It has been the singular misfortune of the Americans that almost every appointee to run the Pentagon, regardless of their prior career pattern and experience chooses to ignore the voluminous managerial challenges involved in running the Department of Defence, to indulge in bureaucratic infighting with the State Department and or the National Security Advisor. One merely needs to remember the names of Robert McNamara, James Schlesinger, Donald Rumsfeld (twice!), Caspar Weinberger, among others. Insofar as Mr. Carter, takes as his model former Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, then all will be well. As Secretary Gates, was exemplary in avoiding needless and wasteful bureaucratic battles. As per the real source of the problems relating to overall American strategy in the war against ISIS, which are evident to anyone who cares to examine the matter, it is foolhardy to expect that even in the unlikely event of a 21st century Field-Marshal Graf von Moltke the Elder, occupying the post of Pentagon chief would be able to plot a coherent strategy, if he is faced with remorseless opposition from the White House. If not in fact the Commander-in-Chief himself, sotto voce. The place to 'fix' the problems with current American strategy, both world-wide and especially in the Near and Middle East, is in the White House and not in the Pentagon. A perhaps unfortunate, or even annoying fact, but true just the very same.


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