National Security

Cabinet announcements: a big week for the Pentagon?

Who is Hagel?; Benghazi review to Congress; Still deadly: landmines in Afghanistan; “Hell no!” Why Panetta will never stop cursing, and more.

An announcement on Defense Secretary, and perhaps it's Chuck Hagel, could come this week - or not. The NYT's David Sanger reports this morning that although the White House is expected to announce new Cabinet appointments this week, the Connecticut shooting may delay it until later this week, or even after that. And, Sanger reports, with Susan Rice out, there is some discomfort over the Cabinet slate - which, with Kerry and Hagel, lacks diversity. Yet it still seems likely that the White House will give the nod to John Kerry for State, and it's looking more and more like Chuck Hagel, the Republican contrarian who doesn't like using the military for nation-building, will get the nod.

Obama may like him because the two established a relationship from when they were both in the Senate together, AP wrote this morning. "Wounded during the Vietnam War, Hagel backed the Iraq war, but later became a fierce and credible critic of the Bush administration's war policies, making routine trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. He opposed President George W. Bush's plan to send an additional 30,000 troops into Iraq - a move that has been credited with stabilizing the chaotic country - as ‘the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out.'" Hagel supported the resolution for the Afghanistan war but "over time he has become more critical of the decade-plus conflict, with its complex nation-building effort."

NYT piece by Sanger: AP:

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report, where we know more about "preppers" than we did just a few days ago. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I'll put you on the list. And if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

Stephen Walt's five reasons Obama should pick Hagel: 1. He's a Republican realist; 2. He thinks for himself; 3. He knows the subject; 4. He's got good judgment; 5. He's got the right enemies: "Hagel does have one political liability: unlike most of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill, he hasn't been a complete doormat for the Israel lobby," Walt writes on FP. "For what it's worth, I hope Obama nominates Hagel and that AIPAC and its allies go all-out to oppose him. If they lose, it might convince Obama to be less fearful of the lobby and encourage him to do what he thinks is best for the country (and incidentally, better for Israel) instead of toeing AIPAC's line. But if the lobby takes Hagel down, it will provide even more evidence of its power, and the extent to which supine support for Israel has become a litmus test for high office in America."

Why Republicans hate Chuck Hagel: Jacob Heilbrunn on Hagel's reputation as a bête noire within the Republican Party -- which he would carry with him into the Pentagon.

Why the next Sec-Def should be more like Robert McNamara. Writing on FP, Larry Korb and Alex Rothman explain that the business and management acumen of the next defense secretary is critical to his success. McNamara, for example, came from Ford. "Not surprisingly, during the tenures of Wilson, McNamara, Laird, and Cheney, the Pentagon did not experience what Frank Kendall, the undersecretary for acquisitions to Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, called ‘acquisition malpractice,'" they write. "For the most part, weapon systems came in on time and within budget targets. Compare the F-4, which was developed by McNamara, and the F-16, which was started under Laird and Packard, with the grossly over-budget F-35."

But Panetta is still defense secretary. And in a new piece out by Esquire, "What I've Learned: Leon Panetta," the defense secretary answers questions on everything from having his golden retriever Bravo in the room during the debate on the bin Laden raid, to his frequent cursing, to why he takes comfort from President Obama and why it's not necessarily about surrounding himself with A-students: "I got my share of A's. But I like people who work for me to have a certain compassion for their fellow human beings that doesn't necessarily come with an A, that comes based on your life and how you were raised."

And this: "Could I imagine a world without cursing? Hell, no! Every place I've ever gone, people have had to hold their ears. When I use those words, it helps make the point."

And this: "The one thing I make pretty good is gnocchi. People have commented on it. I do it for the holidays. So if I were inviting Kim Jong Un over for dinner, I'd make him a plate of gnocchi. We'd have a glass of wine. And basically I'd try to understand: What's his thinking?"

What is a prepper? It's emerged that Nancy Lanza, the mother of Connecticut shooter Adam Lanza, and apparently his first victim, was a survivalist known as a "doomsday prepper," or just "prepper," someone who believes economic collapse or other manner of doomsday scenarios mean they must adopt a more extreme form of survivalism.

Writing on FP, J.M. Berger explains what it is and why it could inform what Adam Lanza did. "Preppers go beyond the average household's disaster preparedness regime of having a couple flashlights with batteries in them. Their precautions can include everything from keeping a supply of canned goods to stocking generators and building elaborate bunkers. Many preppers also keep guns and a supply of ammunition in anticipation of the breakdown of law and order, as well as for hunting after the local Whole Foods has been abandoned to looters."

This morning, State will deliver its report on Benghazi to Congress, and later this week, Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering, who are on State's Accountability Review Board, are expected to testify in a closed session. This is the report requested by the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees that should have some weight and help to focus the Hill on how the government could have responded better to the Benghazi attack -- absent some of the partisan rancor the incident caused. The findings of the independent panel, or at least some aspects of those findings, will likely be released publicly in some form later this week, by the time State reps testify in place of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is recovering from a concussion she suffered over the weekend.

Memo to Tom Ricks: why one Marine officer is leaving the Corps. (Worth the read even if it was posted Friday.) One Marine officer wrote to Ricks, anonymously, to explain why he's leaving the Corps: he thinks it's not big on ideas. "As the wars draw to a close, the Marine Corps is preaching a return to its roots. This is all well and good. But it seems as if everyone is holding up the 1990s as an idyllic time in the Marine Corps's history, as if the past decade with all of its lessons and changes was an aberration. My fear is we will learn very little from it."

Allen mourns the loss of the 10 little girls killed in an explosion in Nangarhar when an old landmine exploded. Gen. John Allen, this morning: "Over three decades of conflict, Afghanistan became one of the most heavily mined countries on earth. The tragic and cruel fact about landmines is that they don't discriminate. These precious children were innocent victims and I express my sincere sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of those affected."

Afghanistan has 10 million land mines, according to the U.N. and Kabul is "the most heavily mined capital city in the world," according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. And RAWA News said last year that more than 50 civilians died each month in 2010.

Video of weird tool that could be used to counter landmines on

About 500 Air Force volunteers are visiting more than 2,000 children living in about 20 orphanages in South Korea as part of "Operation Christmas Hope." From the Air Force: "The Operation Christmas Hope committee also hopes to raise enough money to buy general gifts for the orphanages in need.... Quality of life items including washing machines and tents for children to play outside are items the chapel is interested in giving but the chapel has yet to reach their goal."



National Security

Patriots to Turkey

Panetta visits troops 60 miles from Syria; An unfortunate incident at Karzai’s palace; Lessons learned from Paula and Petraeus; Hitting the nail on the ‘head,’ and more.

The U.S. is sending 400 Americans and two Patriot batteries to Turkey to defend against missile launches from Syria. As he wrapped up a five-day trip through the region, finishing in Turkey, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed orders to send the missile defense system, including about 400 Americans, to help contain the Syrian conflict. The batteries will arrive in the next few weeks, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters during a briefing aboard Panetta's plane as it headed toward its last stop at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. The move responds to Turkey's increasing concern that the Assad regime could lob Scud missiles, perhaps loaded with chemical weapons, across the border.

"The purpose of this deployment is to signal very strongly that the United States, working very closely with our NATO allies, is going to support the defense of Turkey, especially with potential threats emanating from Syria," Little told reporters.

Little would not say where the batteries would come from or how long they would stay, nor would he say if the Patriots could be used to enforce a potential no-fly zone.

Later, Panetta dropped in on troops stationed at Incirlik, 60 miles from the Syrian border. The secretary thanked a group of about 300 airmen for their service, wished them a good holiday, and told them about his fears of sequestration and a broken Congress. But the turmoil in Syria was top of mind at Incirlik, where there are about 2,200 service members, along with 1,800 dependents. Nearly all of the questions were about Syria: one airman asked what the U.S. would do if the Assad regime used its chemical weapons, another asked how Syria would respond to the assistance the U.S. has provided Turkey, and yet another asked if Panetta believed Incirlik would expand in size given its strategic role in the region. In his uniquely avuncular way, Panetta assured the airmen standing in the hangar that everything would be ok and that, ultimately, the Assad regime would fall.

"I think it's just a matter of time before that happens," Panetta told them.

Welcome to Friday's edition of Situation Report and greetings from the E-4B Doomsday plane on its way home to Washington, an aircraft designed to survive a nuclear attack but without much in the way of Internet connectivity. And you can forget about it altogether during refueling. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I'll put you on the list. And if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

Behind the music -- Panetta awoke this morning at Camp Eggers in Kabul and after receiving the usual morning briefing, prepared to leave Afghanistan for Turkey, the last stop on his five-day tour, which also included Kuwait. Panetta, whose successor is expected to be announced within days, appeared to enjoy what may be one of his last trips as defense secretary, posing for pictures with the drivers of the trucks that had ferried his party around Kabul before jumping into a black Ford SUV to head for the airport. There, in jeans, trail shoes, and a black fleece, he joked with cameramen, laughed with members of his party standing on the tarmac, and presented challenge coins to the air crews supporting his trip. He left a rainy, gray Kabul on a C-17 cargo jet, and arrived in Turkey, but left on the E4-B Doomsday plane he normally flies overseas. Once on board, he presented a birthday cake to Reuters' Phil Stewart (with an unlit candle on top so as not to violate airplane safety rules), who turns 39 today.

After landing in Washington, Panetta will head to California for the weekend. When he returns, he told troops in Turkey, he will be focused on helping Congress -- and the Pentagon -- to avoid sequestration, which would amount to an additional $487 billion in defense cuts over 10 years if Congress doesn't act by Jan. 2.

"So my hope is that over these next few days, and we're down to the wire here, these next few days and they'll ultimately make the right decision to be able to avoid a kind of fiscal disaster that awaits us if we don't do the right thing," Panetta told troops at Incirlik.

Panetta's trip in stories and pictures:

On the way into Karzai's palace last night, something unfortunate happened. CBS Radio's Cami McCormick, who lost one of her legs in an IED explosion during a 2009 reporting trip to Logar Province, returned to Afghanistan this week for the first time as one of the reporters traveling with Panetta. After a year and a half at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and nearly another two years of painful physical therapy, McCormick gets around reasonably well with the help of a cane. The return to Afghanistan was emotional for her but had been going well until she and other reporters attempted to go through the security checkpoint at Karzai's palace Thursday for a late-night presser. Palace guards insisted that her prosthetic leg be removed to go through a metal detector and to be inspected by a bomb-sniffing dog. Nervous, she asked that the dog be brought to her and her leg not be removed from her sight. The guard, who had already taken her cane, and had her prosthetic leg under his arm, first asked her to walk with him. When she couldn't, he left with it anyway, lifting it up, parading it past other stunned reporters, and leaving her stranded. After another reporter and a defense official intervened -- and a few "F-bombs" were exchanged -- the prosthetic leg was returned. But it left her shaken. "It briefly felt like losing my leg twice," she said. Nevertheless, she said returning to Afghanistan was important and she left with a feeling of accomplishment. "Even that experience won't take that away from me," she told Situation Report.

The more you know - Maj. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams from RC-South in Afghanistan whom we quoted yesterday is that Abrams -- son of Creighton, father of the M-1 tank.

Paula and Petraeus: what's still missing. Both Paula Broadwell and David Petraeus have, through surrogates, expressed regret for their affair, but have they really taken responsibility for what it all means? So asks Sarah Chayes, the NPR correspondent turned military adviser to the stars turned senior associate at Carnegie. "I have not heard either of them or any of us for that matter -- members of the national security community -- weigh our public responsibilities in the drama and its impact on institutions we claim to cherish," Chayes writes on FP. Membership in the tight national security community, from the brass to civilians to think tankers to journalists and other policy wonks, confers many privileges, from access to influence, but it also requires responsibility. Chayes: "In a community, friends -- and even military subordinates -- bear some collective responsibility for the behavior of their friends or superiors, as uncomfortable as it may be to intervene."

Another dog story.  We heard from another reader with a story about a dog after our little post about the handler in Kuwait who didn't want Situation Report to pet the doggy. "I was embedded at KAB two weeks ago, and I saw a Marine sitting with a German shepherd with big friendly eyes," the reader wrote Situation Report. "Can I pet him?" he asked the handler. "He laughed sarcastically and said ‘I wouldn't.'  Next time I saw the dog he was ripping into a guy wearing a padded suit.

Hitting the "head' on the head. Another reader wrote in about the post about the Navy's use of the word "head" Marines and sailors are one in the same, he pointed out. "There's no distinction to be made," the reader wrote. "The Marine Corps is part of the naval establishment and has always used naval jargon. From the day I arrived at Parris Island (more than four decades ago) I learned it was downright dangerous to refer to anything by anything but its proper nomenclature. A wall is a bulkhead, a ceiling an overhead, a floor a deck, a staircase a ladderwell and you never go to the bathroom, you make a head call."