Tag Archives: Leon Panetta

The coming fight over Chuck Hagel

CNN reports, encouragingly, that at least some prominent Republicans and Democrats are rushing to his defense against the shameless Israel lobby and others:

In one of its letters the group said, “We write to you, Mr. President, in support of Senator Hagel because we believe our polarized political life is much in need of leaders with the kind of bipartisanship and independence of conscience and mind that Chuck Hagel’s service to our country has exemplified.”

Among its notable members are Former National Security Advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, Former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, Former Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, Former Sens. David Boren, Nancy Kassebaum-Baker and Gary Hart.

To help get its message out the Bipartisan Group in the last few weeks approached the Podesta Group, one of Washington’s leading lobbying and public relations firms, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Some of the members have been doing television interviews as well to help defend Hagel and his record.

The criticism of Hagel before there is even a formal nomination “is not acceptable” and “unseemly,” according to this source and that is the motivation for the actions by these notable foreign policy veterans – “to show he has a record” and to defend it, this source added. “Premature judging…is unfair.”

Meanwhile, Joe Coscarelli predicts that the fireworks are just getting started:

If you were under the impression that he had already been chosen based on the beating he’s taking in the press — for not loving Israel enough, for calling someone “aggressively gay,” for being the Republican he is and was — then just wait until after the weekend. Then the actual fun begins, although at least Hagel will have the White House really defending him.

The official line today, according to NBC, is that “chatter” about Hagel as Obama’s final decision is “premature,” but the White House did admit he’s a “leading contender.” Other options to replace Leon Panetta after the sinking of Susan Rice included deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Pentagon Under Secretary Michele Flournoy.

But detractors have already aimed squarely at Hagel, as laid out by Foreign Policy:

That campaign has included anonymous Senate aides calling Hagel an anti-Semite, the Washington Post editorial board writing that “Chuck Hagel is not the right choice for defense secretary,” and the Emergency Committee for Israel, which counts among its board members Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristolrunning a television ad criticizing Hagel’s opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran. “For secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel is not a responsible option,” the ad claims.

The gold-plated rock worth billions

Note from Jay Pinho: Below is the inaugural guest post on The First Casualty, with many more to come. Erik Landstrom is a master’s degree candidate in International Affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University in New York. His studies concentrate on Energy and Environment, which he blogs about at his new site, Erik Landstrom on Energy. This post is adapted from one on his site.

If you weren’t aware of it, I will try to update you on a little-known fact that has, strangely enough, avoided much media attention, crowded out by “You didn’t build that” and most recently the “47%.” Right now the second- and third-largest economies in the world, Japan and China, are engaged in a territorial dispute that has a significant probability of getting worse before it gets better. They are fighting over a seemingly worthless rock formation in the South China Sea (the same one that figured in the 2010 fishing boat incident, if you remember).

The Senkaku (Japan), Diaoyu (China), or Tiaoyutai (Taiwan) islands

So why are they fighting about these seemingly worthless rocks? Most of you probably know the answer: potential mineral and hydrocarbon resources that exist in the area, as well as fishing rights. Both countries are signatories to the UNCLOS, or in plain-speak “Law of the Sea,” which stipulates that any state might claim an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) 200 nautical miles (nm) out to sea. Inhabitable islands have the right to claim this as well; however, the above island should by all rights be classified as an uninhabitable rock, reducing its ability to claim significant surrounding space. China does not take this stance. (I will return to talk about UNCLOS in other posts, specifically why the U.S. has not signed it.)

In other words, this rock is not worthless. It is potentially more expensive per gram/ounce than had it been made out of pure gold! Prove that it is inhabitable and you win the jackpot.

So the rock formation has become the center of attention for world power politics and is a likely stage for many future skirmishes and standoffs. Especially taking into account China’s current build-up of naval capabilities coupled with its claim (see below) to basically the entire contested area, the entire region is slightly worried. Leon Panetta, the US Defense Secretary, is in the region to continue talks on a regional ballistic missile system that will protect Japan from attacks by North Korea, but as we can all see from the timing it will probably serve a dual purpose. China’s response was to launch a major naval exercise involving around 40 missiles.

No one knows how much oil or gas exists in the South China Sea as no exploration data exists (only estimations). The estimations of oil resources have ranged between ~20bn barrels and ~200 barrels, and gas reserves are said to be around 900tcf (trillion cubic feet). For those of you that have a hard time putting the numbers in perspective, the U.S., which is the 3rd-largest oil producer in the world, has between 22-30bn barrels of P90 (90% probability) oil reserves. And Qatar, which has the 3rd-largest gas reserves, has 884tcf. How much exists around this specific rock formation is unknown.

More on same-sex marriage and Romney’s high school “pranks”

I’m having trouble embedding Daily Show videos, so just take a look at this link to see Jon Stewart saying pretty much exactly what I’d mentioned — but in a much funnier and more sarcastic way —  about how far we’ve come in our national conversation.

Secondly, it turns out that the military did not spontaneously combust or cease to exist or explode into a million pieces due to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” after all:

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2012 – A new report shows the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law is being implemented successfully in the military, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said during a news conference today.

The repeal of the law banning gay and lesbian people from open military service took effect Sept. 20, 2011. The secretary said he received the report on repeal implementation yesterday, and it shows repeal is going “very well” and according to the department’s plans.

“It’s not impacting on morale. It’s not impacting on unit cohesion. It is not impacting on readiness,” he said.

Panetta said he credits military leaders for effective repeal planning.

“Very frankly, my view is that the military has kind of moved beyond it,” he said. “It’s become part and parcel of what they’ve accepted within the military.”

During the same conference, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he has not seen “any negative effect on good order and discipline” resulting from the repeal.

In response to a reporter’s question of what the military had been afraid of in allowing open service, the chairman said, “We didn’t know.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Chait at New York expresses some caution (which is different than entirely ignoring it) as to Mitt Romney’s bullying high-school self:

The best way to assess a candidate is not to plumb his youth for clues to his character but to look at his positions and public record. The problem is that this is a harder exercise with Romney than almost any other national politician. He has had to run in such divergent atmospheres, and has thus had to present himself in such wildly different ways at different times, that his record becomes almost useless. There is hardly a stance Romney has taken that he has not negated at one point or another. This makes the fraught task of trying to pin down his true character more urgent, though not any easier.

My cautious, provisional take is that this portrait of the youthful Romney does suggest a man who grew up taking for granted the comforts of wealth and prestige. I don’t blame him for accepting the anti-gay assumptions of his era. The story does give the sense of a man who lacks a natural sense of compassion for the weak. His prankery seems to have invariably singled out the vulnerable — the gay classmate, the nearly blind teacher, the nervous day student racing back to campus. It’s entirely possible to grow out of that youthful mentality — to learn to step out of your own perspective, to develop an appreciation for the difficulties faced by those not born with Romney’s many blessings. I’m just not sure he ever has.