David Rothkopf: Hagel Was a 'Sacrificial Lamb'

ABC News' Martha Raddatz, the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens and Foreign Policy's David Rothkopf analyze why Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned and his potential replacements.
3:00 | 11/30/14

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Transcript for David Rothkopf: Hagel Was a 'Sacrificial Lamb'
It's usually considered one of the most prestigious of the president's cabinet appointments but for the fourth time in six years, president Obama is on the hunt for a secretary of defense after Monday's resignation of secretary chuck Hagel. With trouble spots in Iraq, Syria, Russia and a host of other countries, the landscape looks pretty complicated for the next nominee. The world looked a little different when president Obama nominated chuck Hagel for secretary of defense. America's war in Iraq will be over. Reporter: With a bush era conflict seemingly coming to an end and a peace dividend to be reaped, the president decided reform-minded Hagel was the right choice for the job. As we complete our mission in Afghanistan -- Reporter: -- Guiding the Pentagon through tough budget cuts and restructuring, but it was rough out the gate. Gaffes at the confirmation hearing. I've just been handed a note that I misspoke and -- Reporter: And then the deluge of world crises. Just a few months after the secretary took office. Chemical weapons were deployed against the Syrian people. Reporter: And then -- We begin with the urgent situation overseas in Ukraine. Reporter: And finally Isis. Hagel famously veering way off administration talking points and hitting the panic button. They are an imminent threat to every interest we have. Reporter: By last month he sounded a bit awestruck about it all. I think we are living through one of these historic defining times. I think we are seeing a new world order. Reporter: Add a thumping in the midterms, the president's approval rating on foreign affairs at a record low 31% and it was Hagel, seemingly the odd man out in white house debates, who was pressured to resign less than two years after he started. And I'm joined by David rothkopf, the CEO and editor of "Foreign policy" and author of the book "National insecurity" and Bret Stephens, national security columnist at the "Wall Street journal" and author of the book "America in retreat." David, I want to start with you. You had been urging in your writing for the president to shake up his cabinet, his national security team. But do you think they got rid of the wrong man? Oh, yeah, this -- Hagel was a sacrificial lamb. The reality is the problem is in the white house, the problem is that this administration takes too many decisions there, micromanages too much from there and is divided themselves within the white house about whether they take a strong stance on a group like Isis or they take halfway measures. That causes problems down the line. Hagel was a victim of those problems, not a cause of them. One of the things, Bret, there were some whisperings that Hagel had sort of gone native and channeling the frustrations of the military. So does that matter? Is that the point or do you agree with David? I agree with David in the sense that the whole Hagel saga from the moment of his nomination up until right now is so emblematic of everything that's wrong with Obama's management style. I mean, he went out of his way to pick a fight with congress in nominating Hagel. I don't think the white house then saw just the kind of opposition he would get or how poorly Hagel would perform. They also touted Hagel as an independent thinker and yet when he turned out to be somewhat less politically pliant than they needed him to be, they turned on him. I mean, I'm almost tempted to suggest they should ask Ron klain to be secretary of defense because if they want a political fixer in the Pentagon, they ought to get one. And we've heard the names. Michele Flournoy already turned it down. We've got Jeff reed who wasn't interested either. Does it matter who he puts in? I know the names floating out there, jay Johnson, ash Carter. It probably don't matter because at the end of the day because the white house micromanages, because so many of the decisions are taking place in the white house, this person is being seen as somebody to follow through on that. There are some names that are a little stronger. I mean ash Carter is a very tough, independent guy, and if they picked him, they would be sending a message that they do want diversity of opinion more than it seems to right now. Let's move on to the crises that we're facing in the coming years. A lot of presidents want a legacy of foreign policy. President Obama seems to be concentrating on domestic issues but these crises are going to slap him in the face. Isis isn't going away, Syria is not going away, Ukraine is not going away. Just take us forward here. The scary thing is that we have a series of crises and we have adversaries who think that there's a weak president in the white house who's not going to act against them, and I think that's true of Vladimir Putin. I think that's true of the ayatollah khomeini in Iran, throughout the world so it's important not to just put in a technocrat in the Pentagon. You have kind of a flock of seagulls with the Obama administration team. There needs to be a hawk there in a prominent position, so the president would be making a mistake by putting in a technocrat like ash Carter. He needs a strong voice. We've got about ten second, David, and just looking forward with the foreign policy crisis. I think it's going to get worse. It's going to be very tough last couple of years for the president. Well, on that note, thank you very much for joining us.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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