National Security

Former staff fights for Hagel; Why Vietnam won’t be enough; A student remembers Hagel’s class; Why Halloween may matter at the Pentagon; Jim Amos on Margaret Brewer, and more.

A band of brothers and sisters. Hagel commanded deep loyalty among those who worked for him, staffers who, now that Hagel has been nominated, seek to set the record straight about their boss and counter the charge that Hagel sits far outside the mainstream. As one put it to us, most of his former staffers would "lay in front of a bus for the man."

Indeed, Andrew Parasiliti, who served as Hagel's foreign policy advisor between 2001 and 2005, was quick to defend his old boss, hinting that Republican critics are mostly just trying to settle old scores on Iraq. Hagel voted to authorize the use of military force but angered Republicans when he raised questions about the conduct of the war later on. "Hagel was right on Iraq and paid a price within his party for it," said Parasiliti, now editor of Al-Monitor in Washington. "Many of those smearing Hagel clamored for a rush to war and have not done the introspection or due diligence about what happened," Parasiliti told Situation Report. "More than 4,400 Americans died and more than 33,000 were wounded after running a war on credit, and our standing in the world sunk." Hagel showed "leadership, wisdom, and accountability," he said. "His critics have shown none of the above and should be embarrassed for themselves." 

Another former Hagel staffer: "He is highly qualified, the president wants him, and most of what has been said against him is demonstrably false. He is absolutely confirmable." The staffer added that, as senator, Hagel voted for more than $40 billion in aid for Israel, traveled there frequently, worked hard to strengthen the U.S.-Israeli relationship, and is "clear-eyed" on the threats posed to that country.

There are plenty who support Hagel. But among those who don't, there is either fierce opposition or cold shoulders. Some senators have either

suggested they might not support him, at least initially, or would block Hagel's nomination outright. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was one of the first Dems to suggest that Hagel's record would need additional scrutiny; on the other side, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said he wouldn't support him. Hagel's record, as framed through the lens of his critics, can be found at, which the WaPo and others reported this morning was led by the Emergency Committee for Israel, a conservative group led by Bill Kristol and Gary Bauer. But in the end, as some Democrats have pointed out, it may be hard for Senate Republicans and Democrats to vote against one of their own, especially after Hagel begins to speak for himself during the hearings, likely to be scheduled in the coming weeks.

Emergency Committee for Israel: 

Still, there are people like freshman Republican Senator Ted Cruz - sworn in just days ago - who typifies the kind of indignant rhetoric coming at Hagel over Israel. Cruz told Fox News' John Roberts: "Hagel's record is very, very troubling on the nation of Israel. He has not been a friend to Israel. And in my view, the United States should stand unshakably with the nation of Israel," he said, adding that Hagel has "consistently advocated weakness" when it comes to Iran. "If you are an Iranian mullah right now and you're looking at a Chuck Hagel who thinks that sanctions are too harsh, you've got to be laughing off any harsher than sanctions."

But an aide to retired Marine Gen. Arnold Punaro of the Defense Business Board e-mailed us this from Punaro, who served as a civilian as a senior staffer on the SASC for many years: "Having been involved with the confirmation process for nine Secretaries of Defense, I am confident the Senate will approve Chuck Hagel's nomination after following the regular order, ensuring all the tough questions are answered, and addressing all of their concerns. He will not be denied an up or down vote. All should remember that political appointees are not entitled to ‘personal views;' they support the policies of the President." 

ICYMI: Hagel's favorite holiday: Halloween. He's not above wearing a mask on Halloween, former staffers and others who know him say. "He's kind of a jokester," a former student of Hagel's at Georgetown told Situation Report.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of Situation Report where we are always at least trying to pull the mask off. 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. 

What do the active uniforms think about Hagel? It's always hard to poll the true thoughts of the rank-and-file and more so the senior leaders who may interact personally with the new SecDef. The military is more concerned with the order to take that hill than the person giving it. Said one, the military just wants a principled leader who is open-minded. "Most folks are comfortable with that," said a full-bird in the building. That Hagel served his country and made sacrifices on the battlefield affords him a unique perspective that is important. But Hagel's service in Vietnam will only help to an extent. "It's a very different military than it was then and I think he understands that."

At Georgetown, Hagel was on top of things, says a former student, who says Hagel has a photographic memory and a knack for details. Hagel taught a class last fall called "Redefining Geopolitical Relationships" for about 15 students. Unlike other "guest professors," Hagel was always well-prepared and engaged the class in an easy, amiable style. But students had to be on top of things, too.

"He was always well prepared so everyone knew you had to have done your stuff to be participating," the student told Situation Report. "He's actually a good teacher, really understood how to run a class, be involved," said the student who asked not to be identified by name. The class focused on the rise of non-state actors, cyber-security, information technology, and the diffusion of power. They talked economics, critical resources and China. Hagel's love for Eisenhower was an underpinning of the class, the former student said.

Hagel did talk about "Weighing Benefits and Costs of International Sanctions Against Iran," a report by the Iran Project of which he was  clearly a proud co-signer, the student said. But what stood out most of all in the class was his service as a veteran. "He clearly carries that veteran experience as a key shaper of his world," the student said.

The Iran Project: 

Not a surprise? The former student got an ‘A.'

Guests during the semester: four ambassadors, including from Japan and Russia, John Nagl and NYT journalist Thom Shanker.

Gates: make it a swift confirmation. Geoff Morrell e-mailed a statement from Bob Gates on Hagel: "I congratulate Senator Hagel on his nomination to be secretary of defense. I am grateful for his willingness to take on this responsibility at a time of great challenges for the Defense Department. While there are issues on which I have disagreed with him, such as the 2007 surge in Iraq, he is a man of complete integrity and deep patriotism. He is also the president's choice. The country and our men and women in uniform would be well-served by his swift confirmation." 

Flournoy e-mails about Hagel. Michele Flournoy, the Pentagon's former policy chief, who was on the north end of the short list, e-mailed reporters yesterday after the Hagel announcement. Some said the mother of three, whose husband, Scott Gould, works for Eric Shinseki at the VA, didn't want the job; others said she very much did. In the end, she put out a dry statement that reflects sportsman-like conduct: "I respect and support President Obama's choice of Senator Chuck Hagel to be his nominee for Secretary of Defense. Senator Hagel has a long and distinguished career of public service in the military and the Senate, and is well qualified for the position. I believe he will fully support the president's policies and will be a faithful steward of our armed forces."

Commandant Jim Amos on the death of Brig. Gen. Margaret Brewer. Gen. Amos had this to say yesterday about the Corps' first public affairs director and female general officer: "I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Brigadier General Margaret Brewer. Throughout her three decades of service to our Corps and country, she truly led from the front and helped the Marine Corps integrate women more fully into the force. She served during an era when many thought that women had no place in the Corps, but she proved critics wrong time and again. It's never easy being the first, but she was both the first female general officer and the first Director of Public Affairs and met the challenges and responsibilities of each with professionalism and grace. Brig. Gen. Brewer was an amazing and courageous woman who has left an indelible mark on the rich legacy of our Corps and she will be missed. On the behalf of all Marines, we send our condolences to her family and friends."





National Security

Hagel: always pleased, never satisfied; Brennan to CIA; Street cred: Hagel’s injuries in Vietnam; Doug Wilson on Sec-Def nom; McChrystal on trust, on ‘Today,’ and more.

Brennan to CIA. Obama is reported to have passed over a well-regarded No. 2 at CIA in tapping John Brennan, the White House's counterterrorism adviser and a 25-year veteran of the agency, to become the head of CIA, report a number of news outlets. Obama is expected to nom him today. Many thought and hoped that Obama would pick Mike Morell, now the deputy at CIA, to help refocus the agency on its more conventional mission of intelligence collection and analysis, as opposed to drone strikes and other paramilitary operations that Brennan has advocated, at least in the past.

Read FP's Micah Zenko on "The Seven Deadly Sins of John Brennan" and "The Lethal Bureaucrat," also by Zenko.

Who is John Brennan?

Deadly Sins:

But the bigger nomination from Obama today will be Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense, a choice Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said yesterday on CNN was an "in-your-face" pick, but one that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on ABC will "receive a fair hearing." Despite the promise of a big fight over the Hagel nomination, in the end, he may well be confirmed by the Senate. His stance on the Iraq war may have angered many Republicans, but it's hard to see Republicans calling him out on that point now. And his perhaps more moderate stance on Israel, which seems to square with Obama's own, may create fireworks but not doom him. Either way, it will be more theater on the Hill. For now, though, we're interested in what kind of a manager he is thought to be.

"Always pleased, never satisfied." When Chuck Hagel ran the USO, he was an amiable but demanding leader, we're told. Charlyne Berens, who wrote a book about Hagel, told Situation Report over the weekend that she had many interviews with Hagel and people he interacted with. She spoke with one woman at the USO: "She said he was always pleased, but never satisfied," Berens recalled. "He's positive, encourages people, and he always thinks that more can be done." Berens' impression from her research for her 2006 book, "Chuck Hagel: Moving Forward," written as he considered a presidential run, was that he was respectful of people and reasonably mild-mannered when it came to managing them. "I think it would be unusual for him to lose his temper, and be demanding and difficult," said Berens, a professor and associate dean at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. "But I think he expects a lot and wants people to give him everything they've got." 

On being a Nebraskan: "There is a directness and a sense of sincerity as opposed to strategic answers," Berens said. 

Welcome to Monday's edition of Situation Report, where we know from Berens that Hagel used to get teased for subscribing to Time magazine in junior high so he could learn about world affairs. He's also a huge Teddy Roosevelt fan, we're told. 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.

When all is said and done, it was likely Hagel's experience in Vietnam that really helped to persuade Obama to pick him to lead the Pentagon, giving him the credibility to look at his generals in the eye and whose views on war are tempered with real battlefield experiences. In her book, Berens describes the two times Hagel was injured, alongside his brother Tom, who served in the same unit: "...danger came in many forms in Vietnam. In March of 1968, the Hagel brothers were on an ambush patrol northeast of Saigon. They had been walking at the front of the column until their commander rotated them to the back. Only moments later, the soldiers who had taken their place at the front tripped a booby trap. Mines full of shrapnel, planted in the trees, exploded all around them. The men walking in front were killed. Tom thought at first that he had simply been knocked down by the force of the explosion, and when he saw Chuck lying on his back, he thought that's all that had happened to him, too. But then he noticed the blood stains on Chuck's shirt. He had been hit by shrapnel. Tom said, "I could see blood on the front of his shirt, and I tore his shirt open and that's when geysers of blood went up."


He wrapped bandages around Chuck's chest to stop the bleeding. Tom had been hit by shrapnel himself, in his back and arms, and the brothers spent some time recovering together in a field hospital. Chuck Hagel still has some of the shrapnel from one of the mines in his chest, but he still insists ‘our wounds were no big deal.' A month later, after a long firefight, the brothers' unit was pulling out when a land mine exploded under their armored personnel carrier at the rear of the column. Chuck thought his brother Tom, the turret gunner, had been killed by the initial impact. He grabbed Tom and found he was ‘dead weight, blood pouring out of his ears.' He started pulling Tom and others from the carrier, trying to get everyone out before the ammunition in the carrier blew up. But he was still too close when the inevitable explosion came and set him on fire, burning his face severely." [His brother survived.]

One of Hagel's first jobs in Vietnam: burning crap from the latrines. 

Berens' book:

Read Salon's "The Private War of Chuck and Tom Hagel," in 2007: "After saving each other's lives in combat, Chuck Hagel, the future Republican senator of Nebraska, and his brother Tom fought about Vietnam and Iraq -- until they finally saw eye to eye." 

Log Cabin Republicans still don't like Hagel. Today's WaPo, page A-7, carries a full-page ad from the gay and lesbian advocacy group, the Log Cabin Republicans: "Chuck Hagel's record on gay rights" describes the history of his views on the issue, from 1996, in which "Hagel says he would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act; to 1998, when he "argues that an ‘openly, aggressively gay' man should not be selected as a U.S. ambassador"; to 1999, when Hagel is said to have opposed repealing DADT; to 2005, when "in reaction to a federal judge's ruling that Nebraska's voter-passed ban on same-sex marriage violated the constitutional rights of lesbians and gay men, Hagel calls on the court to reverse its decision, complaining the court had overridden Nebraska voters who opposed gay marriage"; to 2012, when, "in an effort to secure the nomination for Secretary of Defense, Hagel finally apologizes."

Doug Wilson, the highest-ranking openly gay former Pentagon official, who headed DOD public affairs, to Situation Report: "Senator Hagel made clear he regretted his comment about Ambassador Hormel, and major organizations like the Human Rights Campaign essentially accepted the apology. I think Senator Hagel, if he is nominated, would not only be an outstanding Secretary of Defense but he would be a strong advocate for the president's support for gay and lesbian service members, including the implementation of the full repeal of [Don't Ask, Don't Tell]. Senator Hagel made clear that he would be fully supportive of open service and made clear he was committed to [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] military families, and if he is nominated, I would fully expect that he would live up to those commitments." 

The E-Ring's Kevin Baron found these Hagelisms:

"There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq."

"The worst thing we can do, the most dangerous thing we can do is continue to isolate nations, is to continue to not engage nations. Great powers engage."

"I told Obama he should pick Biden as his running mate."

"There is no glory in war, only suffering."

"We must avoid the traps of hubris and imperial temptation that comes with great power."

Stan McChrystal was asked to weigh in on Hagel, this morning on "Today:" "If President Obama trusts him, I think Senator Hagel has the experience, he certainly has got the qualities as a person, the real matter is if that president has that level of trust." Asked by Matt Lauer if Hagel's statements over the years on Iraq and Israel and other matters would disqualify him: "I don't think so. I think what you're going to find is you have to predict the future, and they're going to face very complex problems, many of which we can't predict, and I think that level of trust and relationship between those people and with other members of the Cabinet are the most important."

In a somewhat tense interview on McChrystal's book, "My Share of the Task," out this morning, Lauer kept on McChrystal about the "deficit of trust" between the White House and the Department of Defense.

Lauer: "Was that mistrust a two-way street? Did you distrust the people at the White House, did you distrust key members of the Obama administration, when it came to their policy in dealing with Afghanistan?"

McChrystal: "I think what's most important is we spent a lot of time sharing information to try to build trust. Trust comes with time, trust comes with cooperation, trust comes with compromise, and I think that's what we worked through in that really detailed way."

Lauer: "With all due respect, you didn't answer my question. Did you distrust the president and key members of the administration in terms of their handling of the war in Afghanistan?"

McChrystal: "Yeah, I still believe that the most important thing we can do is build that trust."



BBC: World media downplay Assad's peace plan.

New Reuters: Pope says stop war in Syria before it becomes a "field of ruins."

Press TV: Analyst says Saudis assist CIA strikes in Yemen.

Danger Room: Iran targets dissidents with 30,000 strong spy army.