Hagel’s Leaves

Hagel’s Leaves

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Some of the results of the departure of Chuck Hagel from the Obama Administration are obvious. The White House loses its most visible Republican; the most hawkish member of a not very hawkish national security team; and the President loses a colleague from their days together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. At the same time, the President insures complete loyalty from his national security team; he reasserts that the Chicago cronies are back in control; and he eliminates any possible dissenting voice emerging from the White House. While it is not clear what exactly Hagel brought to the decision-making process which was unique or so exemplary, he apparently was respected throughout the Pentagon from the top brass down.

If the suggestion being discussed is correct then U.S. policy in the Middle East may lose at least one of the major skeptical voices within the Administration. Specifically, U.S. policy towards ISIS; the renewed Iraq campaign; the static non-withdrawal from Afghanistan; and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may all be in for a shake-up. If Hagel’s replacement is another “yes” person, then national security policy will be much more clearly articulated but may be significantly less aggressive or engaged; this within a team that had been already largely in a withdrawal mode.

With respect to Israel, the strong bi-lateral relationship that exists between the military officials in both the U.S. and Israel will undoubtedly continue. The recent visit of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, to the region certainly reinforced a mutual respect. It also indicated a close working and learning relationship between the two militaries. As for the security policies and politics, it is likely that Hagel was not very involved in the White House deliberations, unlike Secretary Kerry. His replacement will probably be expected to toe the Administration’s line. What is definitely clear is that Senate confirmation of Hagel’s replacement will not be a walk in the park; not that Hagel himself had such an easy time from his own former colleagues when he was confirmed in February 2013.  

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