The Trump administration is considering Jim Webb, a former Democratic senator and Reagan-era secretary of the Navy, to be the next defense secretary, according to three officials, potentially bypassing more hawkish Republicans whose names have been floated to replace Jim Mattis.
Mr. Webb did not respond to a request for comment. How seriously he is being considered was unclear; Mr. Trump likes to float names as he considers his options for various openings in the government — sometimes to test responses and sometimes to keep the news media guessing.
But the views of Mr. Webb, a former one-term Democratic senator from Virginia and candidate during the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries, align closely with Mr. Trump’s drive to pull American troops from the Middle East and confront China more aggressively.
Here are five reasons why Defense Secretary Webb might not be a bad idea, followed by five reasons why it might be.
- Given some of the other options – warmongers and crazies like Tom Cotton, Lindsey Graham, etc. – I’d take Webb in a heartbeat. Yeah, I know, kind of a backhanded endorsement, but still…that’s where we’re at right now in this country. Sigh.
- Webb is definitely NOT anti-war, as some people erroneously believe (note that he opposed the Iraq War because he believed it was a strategic mistake, including vis-a-vis Iran, not because he’s anti-war), but I don’t believe he’s trigger happy either. For starters, he’s experienced firsthand the horrors of war. Second, from what I’ve seen, it just doesn’t seem like that’s his outlook on the world, generally speaking.
- Webb is certainly qualified and experienced, having served as Navy Secretary in the Reagan Administration, having served with honor and distinction (Navy Cross, Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Star medals) in the military, and having served on the Armed Services, Veterans Affairs and Foreign Relations Committees in the U.S. Senate.
- Webb voted against blocking legislation “that would have repealed the law banning gays from serving openly in the military.” So while Webb isn’t particularly a champion of LGBT people in the military, he’s not an anti-LGBT bigot either, as far as I’m aware.
- Webb has stated opposition to torture (a low bar, I realize, as obviously nobody should be for torture!): “if you abrogate the, the standards of the Geneva Accords, you give other nations who have less fair standards than ours the, the justification, the moral justification to do that. We, we saw that in a, in a, in a way—I’m sure Senator McCain has, has long memories about this—during the Vietnam War when the North Vietnamese refused to call our prisoners of war prisoners of war. They simply called them war criminals. They said they, they weren’t a part of the, the Geneva Accords, and they didn’t respect the Geneva Accords.” So that’s not perfect, but it’s better than Trump, at least, or Tom Cotton or some of the other crazies Trump might nominate to be Defense Secretary.
On the other hand…
- Webb is fiercely anti-China, kind of obsessed with China actually. Check out these comments, for instance, in which he said “the greatest strategic threat that we have right now is resolving our relationship with China.” Also see this 2012 article by Webb, in which he talks about the dangers of Chinese expansionism and says “the U.S., China and all of East Asia have now reached an unavoidable moment of truth.”
- Webb is absolutely terrible on climate change and the environment in general. These are major national security threats, among other problems, and Webb simply doesn’t “get it.”
- Webb strongly opposed the Iran nuclear deal, which calls into question his broader judgement, as far as I’m concerned.
- Webb is a very strong, aka difficult, personality – definitely doesn’t play well with others or suffer “fools” (or people he views as fools, which is most people in his eyes). How would he do managing the gigantic Defense Department and interacting with Trump, Congress, the military-industrial complex, etc?
- Webb has not lasted particularly long in previous jobs (e.g., he quit as Reagan’s Navy Secretary and didn’t run for reelection to the U.S. Senate in 2012); any reason to believe he’d last in this one?
What do you think?