The news that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down has been foreshadowed for weeks, so it does not qualify as a shock. But neither does it qualify as an obvious and logical next move for an administration so clearly struggling to manage myriad foreign policy challenges.
Three weeks have passed since Jeffrey Goldberg reported that unnamed "senior Administration officials" had called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "chicken$@#" and "a coward." Now that the shock has worn off, it is possible to assess the remark's significance for U.S. foreign policy.
President Barack Obama might not have spent the last six years promoting democracy around the world the way George W. Bush did, but he certainly has made that support part of his foreign policy. His State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development have continued to emphasize democracy promotion in their policies and expenditures, just as Bill Clinton and Bush 43 did. True, he likes the democracy programs a lot less than either of them did, and has cut funding to them, but he has always stressed the United States vital role in modeling democracy. Now with his executive order covering illegal immigrants, Obama has arguably presented dictators with an excuse to ignore his rebukes and cajolings for their illiberal actions. He's modeling the opposite of what an exceptional nation like the United States should be modeling, and he's opened himself to the charges of hypocrisy that he and his party leveled at George W. Bush.
President Obama's recent moves in Iraq seem to have violated the one thing on which virtually everyone inside and outside of both the Obama and the Bush administrations agreed upon -- that U.S. troops in Iraq required parliamentary-approved immunities. In light of the President's recent escalation of U.S. forces, what are the immunity protections for the 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq? Why weren't those protections enough to provide for a stay-behind force in 2011? And why does it matter?
Luis CdeBaca, the Ambassador-At-Large to Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP), has just stepped down. As we note in a recent op-ed, this leaves the State Department's anti-trafficking office without leadership, and imperils the progress the United States has helped make in calling attention to the problem of human trafficking. The TIP office, headed by the ambassador, we write,