Blow for Clinton as Aspin quits defence post: Sudden end to a tenure marked by policy problems
Thursday 16 December 1993
Mr Aspin's tenure at the Pentagon has been marked by problems, related both to policy and to his own health. However, his decision yesterday to the leave the post was not expected and came as a shock even to close colleagues.
Mr Aspin said only that he was resigning for personal reasons. 'I have been working continually for 20 years to help build a strong United States military, so it is time for me to take a break and undertake a new kind of work.'
Although White House sources indicated that President Clinton is likely to announce his choice for a new Defense Secretary within days, Mr Aspin indicated that he would stay in his post until 20 January. This suggests that he will be attending the Nato summit with Mr Clinton in Brussels next month.
Speculation over the precise reason for the sudden departure had already begun in Washington last night. From the narrowest perspective, it is possible the Defense Secretary had lost patience over a budget wrangle with the White House involving additional defence cuts of dollars 50bn (pounds 33.5bn).
More broadly, however, Mr Aspin has been politically hurt by several perceived policy stumbles over the last months, notably arising from a decision not to honour a request from the military that he send reinforcements to Somalia just days before a clash in Mogadishu in early October in which 18 US troops died.
Mr Aspin, together with the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, has come under attack more generally, especially from Congress and from political commentators, for what some consider a lacklustre and wobbly record on foreign policy so far, over Somalia, Bosnia and Haiti.
Mr Clinton last night did not stint in his praise for Mr Aspin, however. 'I will always appreciate the thoughtful and dedicated and selfless service that Les Aspin has given to this country,' he said. 'On a range of tough decisions and tough challenges abroad, from Bosnia to Korea, he has called them as he saw them.'
There is no hint yet as to who might get the call from the White House to take over from Mr Aspin. Although musical-chair sessions are not all that rare in US administrations, a void at the Pentagon is always awkward. Among the issues that remain urgent for the administration is the continuing concern over North Korea's intentions and the tension in that region.
Officials close to Mr Aspin insisted last night, meanwhile, that health concerns had nothing to do with his decision to leave. Early in the year the Defense Secretary was forced to withdraw for several weeks after having a heart pacemaker inserted.
Among his friends and colleagues, Lee Hamilton, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the announcement had been made 'without warning'. He added, however, that 'I know he has been under great fire and personal distress.'
In military circles, there is likely to be private relief at the decision. Senior officers in the Pentagon were known to be unhappy with Mr Aspin's leadership, in part simply because of his donnish, baggy-suited style and his almost academic, thinking-out, way of policy- making.
- 3 Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
- 5 Terror threat level raised to severe as PM warns Isis risk could last for decades
Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Botched ice bucket challenge leaves man critically injured after plane drops hundreds of gallons of water
Terror threat level raised to severe as PM warns Isis risk could last for decades
Isis 'A Message in Blood' video shows beheading of Kurdish man in Iraq
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
- < Previous
- Next >
£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...
£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...
£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...