|Credit: Stephen Crowley/NYT|
The world has changed since then: ISIL, the acronym by which the Islamic State was more known before ISIS became the more prevalent term, then just a jihadist force in Syria fighting Assad and moderate opposition forces, now controls swaths of the region. Russia now controls Crimea and is helping insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, China's effort to exert economic dominance in the eastern Pacific is likely to lead to a military buildup.
The radical changes in events makes it clear why Obama asked Chuck Hagel to resign this past week.
Obama praised Hagel at a press conference Monday, referring to his combat experience, “He’s been in the dirt. He’s been in the mud. He sees himself in them [the soldiers]. They see themselves in him.”
Hagel was confirmed in a raucous Senate hearing in 2013, with most of the criticism levied by his fellow Republicans. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was one of his harshest critics. McCain and Hagel had a falling out years before, likely because of their differences in view of the Iraq War. McCain and Hagel were once known to be very close friends.
McCain seemed to have taken a softer take on Hagel after his resignation was announced, saying, "He was up to the job."
Hagel will remain as defense secretary until his successor is confirmed. Speculation as to whom that will be has begun. Candidates include Michèle A. Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense, and Ashton B. Carter, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) was also considered a candidate, but Reed has stated publicly that he is not interested in the job, his spokesman saying, “Senator Reed loves his job and does not wish to be considered for secretary of defense or any other cabinet post." Reed is a former Army Ranger.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has suggested former Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) as a possible replacement, but Lieberman's own hawkish foreign policy views often mirror those of McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who have criticized Obama relentless over his perceived failures in foreign policy. This makes Lieberman's appointment unlikely.
Hagel's departure means that only Republican will be serving in Obama's cabinet, VA Secretary Robert McDonald.