Thursday, February 05, 2015





Remember when the media used to mock the way Sarah Palin spoke when answering questions?

"And to -- uh I-I-I think the uh-uh-uh the-the strategy connects, ends and means -- and our ends with respect to uh  ISIL needs to be it's lasting defeat.  Uh,  I say lasting because it's important when they get defeated and they stay defeated.  Uh, and, uh, that is why it's important that, uh, we have, uh, those on the ground there who will ensure they stay defeated once  defeated."

And to really underscore that statement by Ashton Carter, let's note that it was in response to this question from Senator John McCain, "What do you understand the strategy to be?"

Again, the answer was:

And to -- uh I-I-I think the uh-uh-uh the-the strategy connects, ends and means -- and our ends with respect to uh  ISIL needs to be it's lasting defeat.  Uh,  I say lasting because it's important when they get defeated and they stay defeated.  Uh, and, uh, that is why it's important that, uh, we have, uh, those on the ground there who will ensure they stay defeated once  defeated.

This morning the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing.  Senator John McCain is the Committee Chair and Senator Jack Reed is the Ranking Member.  They heard from only one witness:  Ashton Carter,  the nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense.

Yes, it's time for a new Secretary of Defense.

It's the start of year seven of Barack's eight years as president and that means a new Secretary of Defense, apparently.

Already, his tenure has seen Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel serve as Secretary of Defense. 

So, if confirmed, Ashton Carter will be the fourth Secretary of Defense in the administration.

For context, let's turn to Bill Clinton's terms.

Bill was elected president twice (1992 and 1996).

In his eight years, he had three Defense Secretaries: Les Aspin, William Perry and William Cohen.

Aspin was a mistake.  He had health issues which got worse in his brief tenure and he also had a highly embarrassing public moment (the Mogadishu attack which left eighteen US service members dead and over seventy injured) which led Bill to ask for Aspin's resignation.

Barack's asked for no resignations (as far as we know) from Gates, Panetta or Hagel.  He just can't seem to keep them.  Maybe he should be singing "Shake It Off"?

I go on too many dates
But I can't make them stay
That's what people say
-- "Shake It Off," written by Taylor Swift, first appears on her 1989.

Carter's biography at DoD is as follows:

Ashton B. Carter served as the Deputy Secretary of Defense from October 2011 to December 2013.
Previously, Dr. Carter served as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics from April 2009 until October 2011.  As Under Secretary, Dr. Carter led the Department’s efforts to accelerate the fulfillment of urgent operational needs; increase the Department’s buying power; and strengthen the nation¹s defenses against emerging threats.
Over the course of his career in public service, Dr. Carter has four times been awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal.  For his contributions to intelligence, Dr. Carter was awarded the Defense Intelligence Medal.
Dr. Carter earned bachelor's degrees in physics and in medieval history from Yale University, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and received his doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. 
Prior to his most recent government service, Dr. Carter was chair of the International and Global Affairs faculty at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Co-Director of the Preventive Defense Project.   Dr. Carter was also Senior Partner at Global Technology Partners, a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, a member of the Board of Trustees of the MITRE Corporation and the Advisory Boards of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratories and the Draper Laboratory, and an advisor to Goldman Sachs.
During the Clinton Administration, Dr. Carter was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy.  From 1990 until 1993, Dr. Carter was Director of the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Chairman of the Editorial Board of International Security.  Previously, he held positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, and Rockefeller University.
Dr. Carter is a member of the President’s Management Council and the National Council on Federal-Labor-Management Relations. He has previously served on the White House Government Accountability and Transparency Board, the Defense Science Board, the Defense Policy Board, the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board, and the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States.  
Dr. Carter is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Diplomacy and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Physical Society.
In addition to authoring articles, scientific publications, government studies, and Congressional testimonies, Dr. Carter has co-edited and co-authored eleven books.

Dr. Carter is married to Stephanie Carter and has two grown children.

His wife Stephanie sat behind him this morning and fidgeted throughout the (very long) hearing.

Various issues came up throughout the hearing.  We'll note this exchange on Iraq.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: So, the Middle East, do you believe the most immediate threat there to US interests in the region is ISIL?

Ashton Carter: Uh, uh-uh-uh-uh, I hesitate to, uh-uh-uh, ISIL only because in the back of my mind is Iran as well.  Uh-uh-uh, so I think that we have two immediate, substantial dangers, uh, in the Middle East.  Uh, one is ISIL and one is Iran.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: In terms of our current military operations, they are clearly directed at ISIL is that --

Ashton Carter:  That's true.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: -- the appropriate response at this moment to the threats in the region.

Ashton Carter:  It is. 

Ranking Member Jack Reed: And as you point out, there are two theaters.  One is Iraq where we have more traction and the other is Syria.  So you would think in terms of responding to the threat that our actions or our vigorous support of the current Iraqi government is appropriate in responding to this ISIL threat?

Ashton Carter:  It is appropriate if I -- as I said -- if I -- if, uh, -- whether and how to improve it will be my first job if I'm confirmed as Secretary of Defense.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: One of the issues  -- particular with respect to Iraq --  is that not only  improvement as you suggest in your comments, the longterm defeat, uh, of ISIL rests not just on military operations but on political arrangements.  And what we've witnessed in Iraq particularly was a political arrangement that consciously and deliberately degraded the Sunni population.  At least, that's there perception.  And it gave rise.  So would you acknowledge that part of a strategy has to be constituting an Iraqi government that is perceived by its own people as being a bit fairer and inclusive?

Ashton Carter: Absolutely.  That's what the previous government of Iraq did not do and that was instrumental in their military collapse.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: And one of the issues that complicates, you've pointed out, in terms of Iran being a strategic issue for the United States in the region is their relative influence in Iraq and throughout the region was enhanced over the last several years by the government in Iraq, by the [Nouri al-] Maliki government.  Is that accurate?

Ashton Carter:  That is accurate, yes.

Ranking Member Jack Reed:  So we are now in a position of.trying to essentially contain the regional ambitions of the Iranians and kinetically defeat the Sunni radical Islamists.  Is that the strategy?

Ashton Carter: Yes, that sounds right.

Ranking Member Jack Reed:  And you understand that?  And that to you is a coherent strategy?

Ashton Carter: It is, uh, yes.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: Uh, now that means that your prioritizing -- or the administration is prioritizing these actions you've talked about in building, uh, over time, capability in Syria. Uh, in terms of using US resources in addressing the most serious threats, is that a coherent response in your mind?

Ashton Carter: Uh, I think it is the beginning of a, uh, strategic response.  Uh, I think that, uh, as I noted on the, uh, Syrian side of the border, the, uh, assembling of the force that is going to keep ISIL defeated. Uh, there is, uh -- We're in the early stage of trying to build that force.  We're participating in the uh-uh building of that force, I think it's fair to say that we're at an earlier stage there.  On the Iraqi side, we have the existing Iraqi force.

Senator Jack Reed:  Let me --

Ashton Carter:  Uh, uh, mister, uh, Senator Reed -- 

Senator Jack Reed:  Please.

Ashton Carter:  Let me add one other thing.  Maybe it's something I missed in your, uh, line of uh-uh questioning.  There is, uh, an issue, uh-uh, looming over this which is Iraq in the region.  I mean Iran in the whole region.  That is why I pointed it out at the beginning.  That is a serious complication. 

There are other moments I'd like to note about the hearing.

I'm not really concerned with his position on the Ukraine -- but then I'm not selling war on the Ukraine. 

The US press corps is which is why they ran like crazy with that aspect of the hearing.

They can't stop beating off and fingering themselves to the thought of a full blown US invasion of Ukraine.  They're that sick and that nutty.

Carter insisted that he did support sending arms to the so-called 'rebels' in Ukraine and, in one exchange, he added "lethal arms" at that. 

If they were less hot and bothered over war on Ukraine, they might have wondered about his wording and if that reflected on his competency?

I have no idea if it does or not.

People can get flustered speaking off the top of their heads and clearly Ashton Carter was flustered throughout the hearing.

But if someone's going to be over the Defense Dept, I kind of expect that they would grasp that any arms sent to be used in battle would be "lethal arms."

Or is Carter proposing water guns and super soaker water blasters be sent to the CIA-backed 'rebels' in the Ukraine?

Equally true, it doesn't matter what Carter thinks.

US policy in terms of whether to go to war will continue to be decided by the president and the national security advisor and others -- the others and the national security advisor were, of course, neither elected nor confirmed by an elected body.

The American people had no say in them.

That's not how it's supposed to be in a democracy.

And careful readers of Robert Gates and Leon Panetta's recent autobiographies caught what the press refused to explore: how little the Secretary of Defense can impact foreign policy.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"