Ashton Carter: Hagel’s Likely Replacement

Carter Pushed Myriad Wars Over WMDs

With most of the Obama Administration’s first and second and third choices for Defense Secretary after sacking Chuck Hagel making it abundantly clear they don’t want the job, the administration seems to be scraping around in the bottom of the barrel, and has come up with former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

A long-time academic derided as the “next coming of Paul Wolfowitz,” Carter oversaw several enormously expensive weapons development projects, including the F-35. Throughout the time in office, Carter’s public comments mostly centered on condemning potential military budget cuts.

Carter had been seen as a potential candidate when Hagel was selected, and left office shortly thereafter, leading many to believe his role in government was over. It was only after Michele Fluournoy and several others spurned the job that the administration has come back to Carter’s name as a Hagel replacement.

On the policy side of things Carter is just a run-of-the-mill hawk, who in 2006 pushed for the Bush Administration to attack North Korea over its nuclear program, and pushed for a redefinition of the war on terror into a war on WMDs.

Carter argued that the Iraq War, itself started over WMDs, was justified at the time, but said North Korea and Iran were both “far graver” threats that needed to be confronted, urging the US to center its policy on a mixture of “coercion and diplomacy.”

Carter was also typical of the anti-Iran hawks in arguing that deterrence doesn’t work against Iran because of its “extremist ideology,” and claiming that even a civilian Iranian nuclear program would threaten the entire region, and repeatedly insisted that military action was a vital part of a “comprehensive strategy” against Iran.

What Carter’s selection will mean for the focus on the ISIS war remains to be seen, but with ISIS not a significant WMD threat beyond its makeshift chemical weapons, he may seek to shift focus toward other conflicts.


Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for 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.