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Hagel’s Ritual Resignation and ‘The War Ahead’

1-Patrick-henningsen-BWPatrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire

Another ritual resignation took place today in Washington DC.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (R) threw in the towel today by tendering his resignation to President Barack Obama, amid all the usual pomp and circumstance at the White House. You could say it was akin to America’s equivalent to a royal divorce.

His swift departure could be for a number of reasons – health and stress from having to lie to the public on a daily basis, or simply ‘poor performance.’

Did Hagel really resign, or was he actually relieved of duty by his betters? Regardless, the writing was already on the wall… 

The whole ceremony couldn’t be more seedy and over the top. Obama was on his right, leaning in (too close for comfort), and Joe Biden on his left (always too close for comfort), with Hagel suffocating in the middle trying to deliver his exit speech. When the President gives a long-winded speech about what “close friends” they are and when Hagel has to kiss the ring of Biden, referring to Uncle Joe as his mentor, you can be sure that the knife in Hagel’s back was buried deep indeed.

Chuck-Hagel
You could read it on his face from day one. Hagel wore a permanent look of tired awkwardness at every press briefing, having to re-spin the spin coming out of the White House.

Hagel’s appointment in February 2013 was a political one – by a blue White House wanting some red trimming for its kitchen cabinet. He was labeled a ‘self-hating Republican’ by right-wingers for flying under Obama’s wing, and couldn’t have landed a worse job during one of the most chaotic periods in US and world history. He stepped into a swamp of Neoliberal and Neoconservative agendas already well underway: NATO’s encirclement of Russia, a military pivot towards Asia, no-win hangovers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the road-to-nowhere ‘peace process’ in Israel-Palestine, a nuclear standoff with Iran, and a covert proxy war in Syria already in midstream. 

As an enlisted combat veteran himself, men like Hagel are endangered species these days, with most contemporary DoD heads being bureaucrats or ‘businessmen’, and completely unlike his predecessors – a career Mandarin like Leon Panetta, a career insider and super-spook like Robert Gates, or a passive income-obsessed board room junky like Donald Rumsfeld.

Maybe it was the ISIS crisis that finally did Hagel in. Hagel’s main problem, aside from the fact that he was subservient enough for the Emperor, is that he was not hawkish enough for war maniacs like Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Strangelove-types like General Martin Dempsey.

All Graceful Exits

Notice how it’s no longer in vogue to fire anyone in central government these days. It’s a new sort of gentleman’s agreement between high-profile bureaucrats. Mostly it’s the fear of legal reprisals should a sacking affect their future earnings. Washington has gone full-on corporate in this respect.

In truth, Obama (and his handlers) needed a new face for the War on ISIS. White House officials speaking to the press on conditions of anonymity said that the President’s ‘removal’ of Chuck Hagel was, “A recognition that the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) would require a different set of skills than those Hagel was brought on to employ”.

1-Obama-Hagel-Resignation
IMAGE: ‘The King and I”, outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel next to President Obama.

The Poison Pen

At the end of October, Hagel wrote a memo to the White House which was said to be highly critical of Obama’s perceived ‘fight against ISIS’. What Hagel asked in his memo was only common sense, but for a wishy-washy opinion poll-obsessed Administration it might as well have been a plot for a coup d’état. He asked the White House to clearly define its strategy against ISIS and its plans for ‘regime change’ of the Assad government in Damascus. In Hagel’s own words, “A sharper view is needed of what to do about the Assad regime”. It wasn’t the content of this memo which infuriated the Royal Court. Rather, it was the challenge to the President’s authority. Afterall, a member of the court should not challenge the King in public on matters of state.

White House handlers would have been furious at how Hagel might have negatively influenced opinion polls and approval ratings in the run-up to the all-important November 2014 midterm elections. The Democrats lost the Senate in the midterms, so maybe Hagel was, in part, a casualty of that political battle.

On November 13, at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, senior US officials denied that the Obama administration saw the removal of Bashar al-Assad as “the key plank in its strategy to defeat the Islamic State (IS),” but more likely it was a harbinger of Hagel’s removal from the cabinet.

Upon questioning, Hagel’s response was, “We could change Assad today, and that’s not going to change all the dynamics,” he said. “Who are you going to replace Assad with? What kind of an army can take on [IS]?”

“Assad’s part of the equation, of course,” Hagel said. “Just alone dealing with Assad, where we are now … that’s not going to put [IS] back in the box.”


History will eventually show (we hope) that the elephant in the room isn’t ‘how to deal with ISIS’, but how to conceal and whitewash Washington’s own integral role in building up, funding, training and arming today’s extremist ISIS fighters.

When Hagel arrived as Secretary of Defense, it was hailed as a ‘breakthrough’, because so many saw Hagel as more of a dove than a hawk. Undoubtedly, he will be replaced by a more able hawk than himself, and one that will better further a ‘New American Century’. His exit paves the way for January 2015 and the new look Republican US Senate, led by John McCain who will certainly be issuing some loud demands – not just for more billions in aid and arms for “moderate rebels” in Syria, but for boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria.

Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s long-term agenda to reform the Middle East – and to isolate Iran – is running behind schedule and Hagel’s caution was not helping, so the new Secretary will need to be a lot more chummy with chilly globalist operatives like Susan Rice and Samantha Power, and be a better sales rep for the military industrial complex.

ISIS is a big issue in the US media, but perhaps a bigger geopolitical cloud was United States pushing NATO right up to the borders of Russia, and egging on its NATO allies for a renewed conflict between the West and Russia. A US State Department and CIA-back ouster of a democratically elected government in Kiev renewed those tensions, repositioning the geopolitical chessboard back into previously abandoned Cold War positions. 2014 proved that Washington DC was more than willing to trash the Warsaw Pact, breaking promises made in perpetuity between previous leaders of the east and west, opting instead for a neocolonial Treaty of Versailles-style power-politics mentality.

Sheepish wolves like Martin Dempsey will be more than happy to keep taking more wild stabs in the dark, eager it seems to see ever more bloodshed in the Middle East. Dempsey wants 15,000 more Syrian ‘rebels’ (foreign fighters for hire, and future ISIS members) in order, he says, to “put enough pressure on [IS] forces in eastern and northern Syria”.

Indeed, that’s exactly where the conversation will be heading come January.

“It will be a force large enough to defend initially so that it can actually hold territory,” Dempsey said. “And then it should have the capability over time to become offensive.”

As we can see from his comments, Dempsey is, like the other tired old dogs of war in Washington, completely detached from reality. Still, they keep giving it that old Ivy League try.

“We’ll just give it another try. It might work this time…”

The names and faces may change, but the agenda continues.

READ MORE ISIS NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire ISIS Files

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We are a North American and European-based, grass-roots, independent blog offering geopolitical news and media analysis, working with an array of volunteer contributors who write and help to analyse news and opinion from around the world.
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