A Hagelian Dialectic

Via Shane Harris, on the resignation of defense secretary Chuck Hagel:

“Hagel wasn’t brought in to tackle these crises, and some defense sources say he simply wasn’t up to it. The presumption at the beginning of his tenure was that he would be a drawdown defense secretary—something that world events ultimately wouldn’t allow.”

These last seven words give me pause. Are we actually in a drawdown for the United States, or do you think things are about to heat up?

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18 thoughts on “A Hagelian Dialectic

  1. . Are we actually in a drawdown for the United States, or do you think things are about to heat up?

    Arguably neither, just a status quo of regional conflicts our presidents think we’re compelled to be involved in.

    Signing on also to Damon’s claim of BS about being compelled by world events. This is choice, and foolish choice.

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    • Signing on also to Damon’s claim of BS about being compelled by world events.

      Oh, I dunno about that. I high school cheeleader or varsity starting QB has a *brand* they need to, are compelled to, honor and reinforce. Or all hell breaks loose. For them, anyway.

      I think this is part and parcel of the idea that external values like power (in all it’s myriad forms!) equates to merit. The problem is that the powerful think the equation is self-evidently obvious and hence obviously worth defending. Sometimes at all costs.

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  2. Eh. Obama’s general cautiousness is escalating to even greater caution. I’m not convinced he’s not just laying down cover for business as usual in the Middle East instead of an Iraq War redux. Isis seems to have arrested its forward momentum as well which makes me even less inclined to believe we’re really going to go back into that mire with our waders.

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  3. So, things would be different if Obama had a wartime consigliere, a Siciclan?

    Color me skeptical. I am especially skeptical knowing the extent to which contemporary POTUSs run their foreign policy out of the NSS and especially knowing the extent to which this administration in particular has to some extent sidelined its cabinet secretaries in favor of the White House inner circle.

    Here is the thing: whether we draw down or scale up will almost certainly be a reaction to what happens. If the administration can get away with quietly pulling back and out of the Middle East it will. If things happen that capture the public’s attention, we will scale back up. That is it. There is no grand plan.

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  4. Unless the US is going to withdraw from NATO, its other security arrangements, and the UN, I can see why “something that world events ultimately wouldn’t allow.” makes sense.

    Given the various collective security arrangements the US is party to, the US has interests in the Middle East’s weak and failing states, in nonproliferation and the potential for a nuclear arms race in that region, in attempting to mediate between Palestinians and Israelis, in Russian not changing European borders through force, and in peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea. And of course, the US has an interest in curbing the power of malign non-state actors (terror groups, organized criminals, etc.).

    A drawdown does not make sense given the context of recent cold and hot disputes, China-Japan, China-Philippines, Russia-Ukraine, ISIL-Iraq, and so on.

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  5. Are we actually in a drawdown for the United States, or do you think things are about to heat up?

    Not an either/or. Some believe that the former leads inevitably to the latter, and in fact has done so. As Creon Critic points out, but as reflexive critics of “meddling” tend to discount, the US of A has a role in an existing world system or system of world governance or system of laws and institutions in the place of world governance. The system does not exist independently of our lives and aspirations, and not just of American’s live and aspirations, of course, but is interwoven with them. Doesn’t mean we can’t seek to adjust our role, or even attempt to withdraw, but strongly implies that either will be a complex and highly consequential process – involving, among other things, significant distribution of “heat” formerly held within the increasingly disordered (entropically cooling) system.

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  6. “Despite being a yes-man for his first year in the administration, he had begun to push back against the president’s defense policies,” a senior aide to a Republican senator who opposed Hagel’s nomination told The Daily Beast. “When your party loses an election, there are consequences—he’s a scapegoat, [and targeted] because he was beginning to push back against what the president was doing at the Department of Defense.”

    Ok, first of all, this is a terrible source. This person is in no way ‘inside’ on whatever the heck the administration and the DOD is thinking. Harris is peddling fan-fiction. (or perhaps, anti-fan-fiction)

    (btw, Biden only has two expressions in public – and when his normal one of a shit-eating grin is not appropriate, as in this case, his face folds into a scowl)

    Are we actually in a drawdown for the United States, or do you think things are about to heat up?

    We are in a ‘drawdown’ compared to the level of effort expended (on a particular theater) from 2003-2012. ISI* is not going to elicit the same response as Al Qaeda attacks at the turn of the century did. (it’s going to get folded into that effort, which is right now sustained at a level that can continue indefinitely).

    Every other trouble spot in the world has been ebbing and flowing since the end of the Cold War, with US military presence being quantitatively different, but not *qualitatively* different from then to now. The only extent that a ‘drawdown’ is a real thing is that the DOD is finally getting some pushback from both left and right on its budget, and at the same time has been negligent in managing the resources it was given, because there was always money in the banana stand supplementals. (and for that matter, in the base budget)

    Hagel’s hiring was always a bit odd to me. He’s nominally qualified as a long serving Senator on the appropriate oversight committee, but what the Defense Department needs, and has needed for a while, is someone to break through the sclerosis of the system that is still largely holds to Cold War paradigms. I never saw Hagel as being that guy. Ironically enough, Rumsfeld may have been able to be that guy, but the real world interfered. Hopefully the next guy or gal will be able to actually do something.

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  7. Remember the Khorasan Group?

    Reputedly an organization that is, according to James Clapper, “in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State.”

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