Mixed emotions are what are left behind as Chuck Hagel departs from his post as Secretary of Defense. Speculation abounds as to who his successor will be. When his departure was announced Monday, three names worked their way through the rumor mill. Those were former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, and Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island. As the week progressed more names were added to the speculation including Jen Johnson, the current head of the Department of Homeland Security, and Bob Work, the current Deputy Secretary of Defense.
Current Vice President, Joe R. Biden, was reportedly upset with how the White House handled Hagel’s resignation. An administration official reported to Politico that Biden glowered in the State Dining Room as news was delivered close friend, Hagel, would not remain as part of the staff for the remainder of the administration. P.J. Crowley, State Department spokesman during Obama’s first term, compared it to a team owner changing the coach instead of making changes on the field just to please the fans in the bleachers.
He joins Leon Panetta and Robert Gates as the third defense secretary to leave under the Obama administration. Gates and Panetta have both criticized the White House’s strategy on handling the Islamic State after returning back to the private sector. California Republican Howard P. “Buck” McKeon alluded to Obama’s inefficiency stating that to go through three secretaries, the problem must lie in self.
Chuck Hagel’s departure has left behind mixed emotions overseas as well. Across the ocean, Beijing has thrown their sentiments into the ring praising him for his efforts while in office. The Chinese Defense Ministry issued a statement thanking him for contributing towards stronger ties between China and the United States. The statement is more significant due to rumors of his ouster after skirmishes with key Obama administration members.
Despite momentary tiffs, Hagel had harmonious moments with China. In August 2013, he hosted Chang Wanquan, Chinese Defense Minister, in the Pentagon, less than a year after he stepped into office. In April he was granted access for a U.S. official to China’s most impressive piece of hardware, a new aircraft carrier.
Under Hagel, the two defense ministries were able to cooperate and reach a consensus that was echoed by both leaders to build a different type of China-U.S. military tie. The praise was unexpected considering his brushes with China, especially when it came to China’s stance against its neighbors in the East and South China Seas. In May, he accused China of intentionally trying to destabilize the region by asserting its claim in the South China Sea. A Chinese government official responded back to Hagel, “I do appreciate your candor.”
As reported by The New York Times, he is resigning under pressure and administration officials believe that the he is not cut out for the job. They referred to various international crises including the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and the fight against ISIS as justification of his inability to execute the duties of his office. According to sources, a key point of contention was the war in Syria in which Hagel disagreed with National Security Advisor Susan Rice on strategy.
Senator John McCain stated that per his knowledge, Hagel became very frustrated with the Obama administration’s foreign policy. He didn’t agree with the notion that Hagel was not up for the job. McCain claimed that Hagel was never brought into the inner circle inside the White House which played a factor in the current state of affairs around the world. The departure of Chuck Hagel has left behind mixed emotions in the White House and among Americans.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by The U.S. Army – Flickr License