Speculation About Who Will Replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates Later In 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, first appointed by George W. Bush in 2006, and agreeing to stay on when President Barack Obama asked him to do so for the country, clearly is leaving the government sometime this year.

The appointment of his successor will be crucial, not only involving the war in Afghanistan, and the continuing troop presence in Iraq, but also the issue of Pentagon spending.

So the question arises who should be replacing Gates, and two candidates come to the forefront, although obviously a less political choice could come from within the defense establishment or the Obama administration.

The two “political” choices that come to mind are former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who was against the war in Iraq, and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who has been a “hawk” on both Iraq and Afghanistan, and has announced he will not be seeking another term in the Senate in 2012.

It seems to the author that Hagel is the better choice, but Lieberman also carries a lot of weight in the Senate and the defense establishment.

It all comes down to whether Lieberman is willing to consider alternatives to his hawkish attitude if he becomes part of the Obama team, and is willing to leave the Senate before the 2012 election. Being so independent and stubborn can be both a positive and a negative, depending on the circumstances.

It is ironic that a Republican such as Hagel, seen as more “dovish” generally, but also a Vietnam war veteran, would probably have more opposition in the Senate confirmation process, but would probably fit in better with the President, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and other top Obama Administration figures in the so called “war room”.

Again, it may be that neither will be selected, or even want the position of Secretary of Defense, but either, if chosen, would have a dramatic effect on the budget and the war planning that always goes on in the Pentagon, as well as the political fortunes of the Obama re-election effort!

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