Several senators returning in 2015, among them Diane Feinstein, John McCain and Joe Manchin, have already announced that they support President Barack Obama’s nomination of Dr. Ashton Carter for secretary of defense.
Sen. Feinstein welcomed “Dr. Ash Carter’s nomination” and urged her colleagues to “move his nomination” expeditiously. Sen. Manchin, noting he “enjoys credibility” with Congress, added a caveat: Carter “will face hard questions … about the military and security policies our government should pursue.”
“Should pursue” suggests to me that Manchin may harbor doubts regarding the wisdom of current Obama administration policies.
Sen. McCain, who in January becomes chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, leaves no question about his grave doubts. After describing Carter as “highly competent,” McCain speculated that he “will likely have limited influence over the tight circle around the president, who apparently controls the entire strategic decision-making process.” By “tight circle,” McCain meant partisan advisers like Valerie Jarrett. McCain added that the confirmation hearings provide an “opportunity to fully ventilate all of issues around this administration’s feckless foreign policy, and its grave consequences for the safety and security of our nation.”
I think McCain is an Ash Carter fan. He values technical competence. That’s why the Arizonan also says the U.S. needs “a secretary of defense who isn’t a lame duck.”
The confirmation hearings give security experts like McCain the chance to circumvent Washington’s left-leaning media, which continues to protect President Obama and his inner circle from deserved criticism of their incompetent defense and foreign policies.
Here are some of the questions McCain’s committee should ask Dr. Carter.
The Islamic State Fills a Power Vacuum, Part 1: Knowing what you know now, Ash, was President Obama’s failure to back up his “redline” threat to punish the Syrian regime for using chemical weapons a mistake? Syrian nerve gas killed some 1,500 civilians, Ash. Did our enemies see our president as being weak and indecisive?
The Islamic State Fills a Power Vacuum Part 2: Was the Obama administration’s failure to maintain a residual military security presence in Iraq strategic error? Obama himself praised Iraq’s stability. Vice-president Biden called Iraq an Obama administration success — on CNN. What do you say to Iraqi political leaders who contend that in oder to obtain a new Status of Forces Agreement they needed U.S. political cover? Obama needed to be the adult in the room, and by damn, say U.S troops would stay because everyone benefited. Are these Iraqis just weak and inept and are making belated excuses, or do they have a point, one adults understand? Ash, does a superpower sometime have to play “bad cop” for the sake of peace and stability?
Russia Fills a Vacuum: After invading Crimea, Vladimir Putin annexed it. Putin has shredded the post-Cold War diplomatic framework for stability in Eastern Europe. Before he reneged on his Syrian redline, in 2009 Obama unilaterally decided that the U.S. would not deploy ground-based anti-missile interceptors to Poland. It was part of his “reset” of relations with Russia. The Poles felt sold out. Putin continues to wage war in Ukraine. Ash, can Poland rely on security guarantees from Obama? Should the U.S. Army station a tank brigade in Poland? The Poles want one. What do you think? By the way, how did Obama’s Russian reset go? Wasn’t that really nothing more than domestic political theater to try and blame the Bush administration for the Russo-Georgia War?
Iran’s Nuke Quest: You understand nukes, Ash. Is Iran’s theocratic dictatorship going to get The Bomb? This prospect concerns Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Europe. Those Polish GBI’s Obama nixed were designed to stop Iranian missiles. Have you talked to Valerie Jarrett about Iranian nukes? Over the next two years, will her opinion of Iranian nuclear aspirations carry more weight than yours? If the mullahs do acquire nukes, would you support action to destroy those weapons?
I await Dr. Carter’s answers, with interest.
Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist.