While I am supportive in theory of Chuck Hagel as a qualified candidate to run the Department of Defense–i.e., he served in the military, was a competent Senator and a successful businessman–there is no denying his performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week was sad and embarrassing. His back peddling and reversals on several issues really call into question our ability to trust him as a man of conviction. It also raises doubts about his intellect. He utterly failed to defend himself on points that he should have easily refuted.

Take John McCain’s rantings about The Surge in Iraq. McCain wanted a yes or no answer. Well, actually, he wanted Hagel to admit his error in opposing the surge.

Hagel should have said something akin to this:

“Yes, Senator McCain, I was right.

“The surge did not change fundamentally the strategic and tactical situation on the ground. The decline in violence we witnessed in 2007 and 2008 was achieved because of the Anwar Awakening. Months before President Bush announced the surge, our intelligence services identified that lack of money was primary incentive for the Sunnis who were planting bombs along the roadways that killed our troops. Once we started paying the Sunni Sheiks in western Iraq the number of bombings dropped precipitously.

The surge ended up draining our Treasury and putting the lives of our military personnel at risk. A risk frankly that was unwarranted. Why? Because we have withdrawn from Iraq but not fundamentally changed the politics or dynamics in that society, which is still struggling to find a solution to sectarian strife and centuries old enmities. I did not and do not believe that we should deploy our forces into a conflict where we have no clear picture of what constitutes victory. We were not victorious in Iraq and we do ourselves a great disservice to continue with the delusion that is was a great strategic accomplishment.

So, Senator McCain, I return to your question. Yes, I was right to challenge the surge and would challenge it again today if asked to make the same choice.”

That’s an example of one answer Hagel could have offered. He didn’t.

Then there was Hagel’s clumsy responses regarding Iran. There was rampant stupidity by both Hagel and Senator Gillibrand on this question:

Iran will pose an existential threat to the United States? What utter nonsense. No, even with a dozen nukes in its arsenal, Iran does not and will not pose a threat to the United States that would exterminate us as a nation. Please. Enough with this kind of ignorant pandering to Israel.

Hagel’s comment that Iran has a legitimate government came in the context of explaining why he did not vote to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity. He did a poor job of explaining that we should not waste time designating a component of Iran’s intelligence and military service as a terrorist entity since we have already designated Iran as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. While Iran is a legitimate nation and is recognized as such by other governments, the United Nations and the International Court at the Hague, it is still engaged in activities that the United States views as detrimental to our interests and to the interests of our allies in the Middle East.

Indulging juvenile, specious arguments about whether Iran is a legitimate government provides no guidance whatsoever on what our policy should be with respect to Iran. On that specific issue it is clear that the majority of our political leaders are hell bent on going to war with Iran. That is an insane, damaging policy. So what if Iran has nuclear weapons? Iran has shown clearly over the past thirty years that it has a healthy self-interest and is not keen on committing suicide. The mullahs that lead Iran understand that a nuclear strike on Israel would be reciprocated and would in fact pose an existential threat to Iran. Their quest for nukes is very simple–join the nuclear club and create an immediate deterrent to those nations who might otherwise be tempted to launch a military strike against Tehran.

Unfortunately, there is no one on the national stage in either the Obama Administration or the Republican Party who are willing to have a sane, grounded conversation about these matters. Despite the dramatic insistence by opponents of Hagel that there is no such thing as a “Jewish lobby,” there is in fact such a lobby, which is in bed with conservative Christian groups, and are ready to punish any politician who dare even discuss the possibility of finding an accommodation with Iran.

I am surprised by how shallow Hagel appeared during his testimony. Instead of thoughtful, intelligence discussion, he opted for the path of political pandering and shadow dancing. In that regard he is a perfect fit for Obama.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.
  • nimei576


  • MG6


    whats with these cyber attacks on the DOE. Seems that the DOD should be involved in protecting some of the information stored there

  • getfitnow

    IMO, those who vote to confirm Hagel
    have more desire to protect Obama from looking bad than they have a
    desire to protect the USA and maintain good leadership for our troops
    put in harms way.”Nuf said.

  • Dave L.

    If Hagel wasn’t incompetent, Obama would not have nominated him. you need to be incompetent to fit in to this administration. That is what makes Obama look like he might know what he is doing !!

  • JJ_the_PUMA

    I was against the surge, but I do think it helped to extricate us from a war we should never have gotten involved in to begin with. Hagel could have said he was wrong on the surge, but correct on the war. Regardless, there were an infinite number of possible answers that would have been better than Hagel’s.

  • MG6
  • FloridaFI

    I, like you, really felt that Hagel was a great choice.

    Right now. I, like you felt that he looked weak and confused during the Senate hearing.

    He was handed softballs and responded with whiffle balls.

    Your quote of what he should have said was perfect.

    Larry, you are a well known consultant in this arena.

    Shouldn’t you do a better job of marketing yourself to the Hagel’s of the world?

  • elizabethrc

    It’s hard to believe that Hagel was caught so flatfooted so often. It makes me believe that for some bizarre reason he’s not good at standing up to challenges (not militarily) by his peers. And this is the man who would run the Pentagon? Lord help us if he gets the post. The last thing we need is another yes man in government.
    This is about Democrat vs Republican. It has little to do with the man, himself. As Reid stands behind Menendez without knowing the facts because he’s a Democrat, so Democrats will vote for Hagel (who is a RINO if ever there were one), in spite of his very weak showing, knowing he will likely further Obama’s agenda.
    Republicans will vote against him because he’s a RINO and because he will further Obama’s agenda.
    Same old tiresome game. The losers? US.

    • MG6

      I think he knows he will be nominated regardless so he didn’t prepare. He didn’t have to so….”who cares.”

      • DianaLC

        Don’t you mean “What difference does it make?”

        • MG6

          Yup! It seems to be the Demcratic Socialist party way of showing how they think and plan.

  • Popsmoke

    LJ you know as well as I do the handlers did not want him to excite the bunch to a degree where holds would be placed. I also believe he was taken back by the outragous attack on him personally and it was a personal attack.
    You also know that if he was already affairmed the answers would have been a little different. Even Clinton waffled in her testimony on Benghazi with McCain.
    If confirmed and the skinny is MdCain will not abstain from voting, payback will be a real bitch..

    Now if any of this is true. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/us/politics/in-behind-scene-blows-and-triumphs-sense-of-clinton-future.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 my view of Clinton has now changed and it would explain why she did not go after Patraeus…. If its true….


    off topic


    panetta : Benghazi was a failure of intelligence no warning that this was going to happen.

    just out of curiosity what does consider a warning?? a letter saying hey we are going to attack Benghazi, you are invited

  • JohnnyTwoDog

    “he opted for the path of political pandering and shadow dancing. In that regard he is a perfect fit for Obama.”
    I am amazed that this is shocking news to you.

    • no_longer_a_democrat

      I think Soetero picked Hagel as his token repub, so that he can say, see repubs agree with me. So whatever things Barry does to diss America, our military etc etc etc, he can have his standby line, see repubs like Hagel agree with me.
      I was shocked to listen to the interviews Hagel gave to Al-jeerza just a couple of years ago. This isn’t about not being a neocon, the man, Hagel, was openly agreeing with BBC, al-jeezra’s dissing of america, and so 2 years later, he’s supposed to be representing the same entities he showed such disdain for 2 years prior.

  • no_longer_a_democrat

    Appreciate all the posts on Hagel. I never supported going into Iraq, too many neocons, chicken neocons trying to overextend our resources and people.

    I watched Hagel’s performance, I was shocked, while I supported his view of not going into Iraq, I was absolutely shocked to hear his views on the US military, dissing the US military, on Al-jeerza no less. I no longer support his nomination, I though he was a repub who wasn’t a neocon, and that is a good thing, but he seems even more lefty than Soetero, dissing the American military. He’ll get the job I have no doubt, the russians and Chinese must be laughing their butts off, the US military led by a man who just 2 years ago was dissing the US military on various networks across the world.

  • DianaLC

    Thanks for posting this evaluation. I’ve been waiting to read your opinion. I am so sick of D.C. at this point. It makes my heart sad.

  • HARP2

    If Hagel was any dumber, they would have to water him once a week.

    • foxyladi14

      lololol Harp..



    Reid says he would flub it up too if interviewed as long as Hagel

    • DianaLC

      Reid could flub it up before they interviewd him.



    Gibbs Hagel was unimpressive and unprepared


    I had no opinion on Hagel until the hearings. He did not do well. When being interviewed for a job, you do try to do your best and show why the job should go to you. His own statement of not being qualified was not the smartest statement ever made

    • HARP2

      At least he wore a suit…..