Hagel Dodged the Kerry Question Two Weeks Ago

(AP Photo)
National Journal
Kevin Baron, Defense One
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Kevin Baron, Defense One
Sept. 10, 2013, 9:58 a.m.

Two weeks ago in the Phil­ip­pines, De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel was asked the same ques­tion put to Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry yes­ter­day in Lon­don. Was there any­thing left that Syr­ia could do to avoid a U.S. mil­it­ary strike for us­ing chem­ic­al weapons? Hagel dodged, nobody no­ticed, and the U.S. car­ried on build­ing its case for mil­it­ary strikes on Syr­ia.

Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry, however, took the bait and answered a re­port­er’s ques­tion. “Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chem­ic­al weapons to the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity in the next week - turn it over, all of it without delay and al­low the full and total ac­count­ing, but he isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done.”

The dif­fer­ence has been strik­ing. Hagel’s re­fus­al to en­gage the ques­tion en­sured the U.S. re­tained con­trol of its pub­lic push for ac­tion, while keep­ing Syr­ia (and Rus­sia) in­creas­ingly pres­sured by im­min­ent mil­it­ary strikes, isol­ated as pari­ahs in the wake of a chem­ic­al weapons at­ro­city.

After Kerry spoke on Monday, Rus­sia pounced on his of­fer and said it would try to con­vince Syr­ia, and Syr­ia has said it has re­ceived the idea. Overnight, Kerry be­came the fall guy for throw­ing a wrench in­to the Obama war drum ma­chine, weak­en­ing Wash­ing­ton’s stance, hand­ing con­trol of Syr­ia’s timeline to Mo­scow, and giv­ing As­sad a last minute way to avoid mil­it­ary strikes that could have crippled not just his chem­ic­al weapons stocks but the re­gime’s en­tire mil­it­ary cap­ab­il­ity, po­ten­tially fatally.

On Aug. 30, Hagel was at the end of a nine day South­east Asi­an swing dur­ing which Syr­i­an strikes seemed so im­min­ent that the trav­el­ing Pentagon press corps was told each night wheth­er it seemed safe enough to go sleep or not. By the time Hagel reached Ma­nila, the war drums and re­port­ers were be­gin­ning to wane, but noth­ing was chan­ging out of Syr­ia.

So, the press corps craf­ted this ques­tion for the sec­ret­ary, asked by NPR’s Larry Ab­ramson:

Q: Thank you. My ques­tion is for Sec­ret­ary Hagel. Sir, is there any­thing that the As­sad re­gime can do right now to take the mil­it­ary op­tion off the table at this late hour?

SEC. HAGEL: I have not been in­formed of any change in the As­sad re­gime’s po­s­i­tion on any is­sue. So I deal with the real­ity of what we have. I don’t spec­u­late on hy­po­thet­ic­al situ­ations. I think you know where the United States gov­ern­ment is and our ana­lys­is of what happened in Syr­ia, as well as most na­tions of the world con­demning the use of chem­ic­al weapons and our op­tions as we con­tin­ue to con­sult with our al­lies. We’ll fur­ther de­vel­op the facts and in­tel­li­gence on what happened.

Both men are testi­fy­ing side-by-side be­fore the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee on Tues­day morn­ing. Pres­id­ent Obama is sched­uled to ad­dress the na­tion from the Oval Of­fice in prime­time later in the even­ing.

What We're Following See More »
WWE WRESTLING OWNER
Trump to Nominate Linda McMahon to Head SBA
5 hours ago
THE LATEST
MODELED ON 9/11 COMMISSION
House Dems Introduce Legislation to Investigate Russian Hacking of Elections
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

"On Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Eric Swalwell, (D-Calif.), a Democrat on the House intelligence committee, and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the senior Democrat on the House government oversight committee, announced they were introducing legislation to create a bipartisan commission to investigate any attempt by the Russian government or persons in Russia to interfere with the recent US election. The commission they propose is modeled on the widely-praised 9/11 Commission."

Source:
$6.3 BILLION FOR RESEARCH AND OPIOIDS
Senate Sends Medical Cures Bill to Obama’s Desk
10 hours ago
THE LATEST
DON’T WANT TO VOTE HILLARY
Colorado Electors Sue State for Right to Vote Third Party
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Two Colorado presidential electors Tuesday filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging a state law that requires them to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote," in this case Hillary Clinton. They say they want to "vote for a third-party candidate to keep Trump from receiving 270 electoral votes," and work with other faithless electors around the country to "shift their Democratic votes to a consensus pick."

Source:
HAD CONSIDERED RUNNING FOR GUV IN 2018
Oklahoma AG Pruitt to Get the Nod for EPA Chief
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login