With Hagel Gone, Does Anyone Really Want to Be Defense Secretary?

Frontrunners Flournoy, Sen. Reed Both Reject Job

The sacking of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel fueled an immediate flurry of speculation over who the administration would pick as a successor. The real question should have been if the administration can find anyone who even wants the job.

Consensus front-runner Michele Flournoy has made it clear today that she doesn’t want the job, saying she’s rather stay at her position at a think-tank she founded. Sen. Jack Reed (D – RI), another member of the short list, says he has no interest in the job.

It’s not had to see why. President Obama is moving toward a more hawkish stance overseas, and wants a hawkish defense secretary along for the ride. While that, in and of itself wouldn’t be a big deal to find, the new war on ISIS looms large.

Plenty of hawks are in favor of the ISIS war, but with no real strategy in place and no real path to victory, the next defense secretary is going to be managing an unwinnable war, and taking the heat when it inevitably goes off the rails.

The new defense secretary is also going to have to personally sign off on any Guantanamo Bay detainee transfers, and with President Obama looking to wrap up his promise to close the facility, supposed to be completed in the first year in office, by at least the end of his eighth year, the defense secretary will be the public face of the battle.

The defense portfolio is multiple disasters waiting to happen, and whoever eventually takes the job will be signing on to take the blame. It’s unsurprising, then, that the first choices aren’t too interested in the job.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.