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Liked a whipped dog trying to please its master, Democrats are always trying to prove their allegiance to the National Security State. There is no tag that inspires greater fear than being labeled weak on defense.  That’s why I’ve reluctantly concluded they can’t be trusted to run the Pentagon.

Democrats have gone to great lengths to show strength on national security from authorizing the use of military force in Iraq to our nearly endless commitment in Afghanistan. We have a defense budget that has nearly doubled since 2001 excluding the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Leon Panetta’s histrionics over the sequesters effect on military spending demonstrate what we can expect from a Democrat in the post.

Now, I was very disappointed when President Obama didn’t name a Democrat to serve as Secretary of Defense in his first cabinet. And I had little patience for those who said that Bob Gates would be able to make positive changes that a Democrat couldn’t. But given the Democrat alternatives this time I figure Chuck Hagel has a better shot of moderating the discourse on Israel and Iran.


Let’s take the case of Michelle Flournoy, the leading alternative candidate for Defense Secretary, among Democrats. Flournoy served on the National Security teams of both President Clinton and Obama, rising to number 3 at the Pentagon, and served as President Obama’s principal campaign advisor on defense in 2008. From the LA Times.

According to "The Obamians," Flournoy wanted to take a more overtly political role: to develop centrist policies to help Democrats combat the perception their party was weak on national security.

Six years ago, she and another Pentagon alumnus founded the Center for a New American Security, which has grown into an influential player largely by promoting the doctrine of counterinsurgency, which calls for troops to develop close ties with local populations to help defeat militants.

The Institute for Policy Studies has collected a few other interesting tidbits.
In a December 2012 speech to the Atlantic Council, she warned against cutbacks to counterinsurgency planning as the war in Afghanistan winds down. “We have to be careful not to fall into the Vietnam Syndrome where we believe we’ll never do that again,” she said

Comparing her Atlantic Council speech to that of Chuck Hagel, one reporter wrote: “Flournoy spoke at an Atlantic Council forum a day after another possible choice for Pentagon boss, former Republican Senator and current Atlantic Council chairman Chuck Hagel, addressed the same group. The difference in approaches was illuminating. Hagel, a former member of the Senate committees on foreign relations and intelligence, emphasized a diplomatic approach to emerging global threats through ‘engagement.’ Flournoy, a former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, focused on the military.”[8]

Notably, in 2005, Flournoy supported an advocacy campaign aimed at increasing the size of the U.S. military that was spearheaded by a discredited neoconservative activist group called the Project for the New American Century(PNAC).

….Flournoy has warned against a preemptive U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran, calling it “a tactical step that undermines the strategic goal” of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. However, Flournoy has also allowed that military action remains a possibility in the future, telling the Jerusalem Post in August 2012 that “Israel can rely on Obama to stop a nuclear Iran. … [T]he policy is not containment and I think he is serious about that.”[10]

I just don’t see Flournoy or any other Democrat resisting the onslaught of charges of being weak particularly with regard to Iran. For that matter we’ll see how long it is before Hagel declares his fealty to the Likud Party and pledges to bomb Iran.

Now it is disheartening that President Obama would not automatically disqualify someone who has expressed repugnant views on abortion and made vile attacks on Ambassador Hormel's sexual identity. He must formally repudiate these views in the confirmation process and provide assurances that he will do the right thing on gay rights and women’s rights in the Department of Defense. But if he does that he is likely to be our best hope for a Pentagon led by someone who isn’t cavalier about a war with Iran.

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