Will dovish Hagel make US less trigger-happy?

24.01.2013

 

I look at the appointment if Mr. Hagel to the position of the Secretary of Defense definitely as at a positive sign for the global affairs and for the global security. Chuck Hagel is a person who thinks very creatively of building on international relations. He is very different from the previous series of the US secretaries of defense. He is definitely very anti-interventionist in his approach, both based on his own experience when he fought effort in Vietnam, and also through his thinking as a Senator.

All this means that the combination and the new team in the White House of John Carry and Senator Hagel would mean a shift and a global US approach towards behavior and the most sensitive areas in the world from emphasizing interventionist style to more diplomacy, of finding solutions not in war operations but in different kinds of approaches which would be nonmilitary, which is very interesting exactly for the position of the Secretary of Defense.

I know Mr. Hagel for a few years. We have met with him about 6 years ago and I was very positively impressed by him, both as a very knowledgeable person, as a Senator who definitely was a senator by himself. He was not part of any grouping, he was definitely a very unusual Republican. He definitely could fight the positions of the Democrats. So, he has had his own views. He behaved more like expert rather than as a legislator.

So, I can say this impressed me a lot, but also as a human being he has a very interesting and very bright personality and a very vibrant personality, very easy going person. And this is my impression, but I know many people share this impression also in the US. I know the media corps of the US who just find Chuck Hagel that kind of person whom media likes to talk to.

So, this is a very good combination of a person who is widely liked, although of course we know he has strong enemies, but also of a person who has expertise and knowledge. He not only shows off with some of his positions but he has a deep understanding of situations. We can just take Iran and the ME. Chuck Hagel now is very sharply criticized by some, most of them are his fellow Republicans, for his views on Israel, his views on Iran. But what I was impressed with, already quite a few years ago, that he had very-very good and deep understanding and analysis of the situation there.

So, his views are not based on his emotions. His views are definitely not based on his party association. But his views are based on his analysis, his expertise, his very wide spectrum of reading and meeting people, both from the region and outside to better understand the situation, whether it was Iraq at some point, whether it is Iran, whether it is Israel, whether it is the whole situation in the ME.

It is true that the major policy is decided in the US by its President and he is the director of the orchestra for sure, and Barack Obama remains so in his second term. He is very strongly involved in all shaping of the foreign, defense and security policies of the US. On the other hand I definitely would disagree with those who say that – well, Chuck Hagel or John Carry – it really doesn’t matter because it is all in Obama’s hands. It is just practically not true because both the Secretary of State and for the Secretary of Defense, they have huge responsibilities.

Again, it maybe orchestrated by Obama, but Obama is also well known as a good listener. So, it is interaction. And the fact that Obama chose people who are very strong independent players, very knowledgeable of respectively foreign, defense and security policies, like Carry and Hagel definitely are, this shows that Obama himself feels very strong to bring strong people, stronger difference to his team. On the other hand, both Chuck Hagel and John Cary are known as team players. This means that of course there is Obama’s team but Obama’s team is very interestingly reshaped, very significantly strengthened both intellectually and also with very strong human personalities.

So, when or if John Carry and Chuck Hagel are confirmed on their positions by the Senate, it will be easy for Carry, it will be not as easy for Hagel, then of course I would say – wow, Obama probably made one of the strongest teams with the right individuals inside, with their own independent positions which of course will be correlated with Obama’s views but Obama, as I just said, will also take all the ideas by John Carry and Chuck Hagel.

Looking from the Russian lens, this kind of administration is very interesting to work with. It is an intellectual challenge to work with which probably is different from the previous composition

It is true that some find them controversial in the US and also in Israel. I think his views on Iran are well shaped. His views on Iran are a result of his analysis and his own thoughts, and not thoughts of some groups who are pressing him, which is by itself remarkable. It is true that even Obama as the President and as the Chief Commander stated before that all options should be taken on Iran and if one needs – one should use military action as well. It is curious and paradoxical and you are right in that, that Chuck Hagel has opposed a military action against Iran even as one of the possibilities.

Even more, he has opposed the unilateral US sanctions against Iran which definitely is against the mainstream. The majority of the Senate, the majority of the decision making community in the US have been very supportive of unilateral US sanctions against Iran. The fact that this person is nominated for the Secretary of Defense sends a very-very strong signal that the US tools on the international arena are changing. Whether it would be radical and immediate change – I’m not sure.

This is not that one should expect the US will immediately jump from its interventionist policy, whether it was on Iraq, whether it was on Afghanistan and whether it can be on Syria for instance, to a very different kind of policy. It will not be a onetime change, but it will be a gradual and strategic change, of course if Obama, Hagel and Carry will start working at that troika of decision makers on foreign security and defense policy. This also would mean that the Pentagon would think more not on how to prepare a military intervention or military action in countries like Iran, but they would think of different approaches.

When I say different approaches, it is not necessarily only diplomacy which would be John Carry’s major responsibility of course. This would mean the different kinds of pressures on countries. I would say things like cyber pressure, cyber interventions, cyber attacks, which already was a case against Iran, may even increase. But don’t think only of Iran. Think of Syria. The US now faces a dilemma, a very difficult dilemma for them. On the one hand Obama declared – Assad should go. Assad is still there, he doesn’t want to leave. So, whether the US should be involved in another military conflict directly in Syria or should it abstain.

I think the nomination of Chuck Hagel, again, if it is confirmed by the Senate, would send a very clear signal – the US would fight diplomatically against Assad but would not be involved militarily there. And this is again a major shift of course from the Bush policies, but also from Obama policies.

The blog entry is based on an interview to the Voice of Russia radio station http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_01_24/Will-dovish-Hagel-make-US-less-trigger-happy/

 

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