Mitchell Reports | February 15, 2013
>>> defense secretary leon panetta would like to be former defense secretary leon panetta back on that walnut farm, but until chuck hagel 's nomination clears the senate, panetta remains a lame-duck defense secretary . that includes having to attend the nato defense ministry meeting in brussels next week. joining me now is michelle who served as a top pentagon official in this administration and is the co-founder of the center for new american security. what are the issues do you think as we have this sort of interim prospect with a filibuster and sort of a drip, drip, drip of different accusations against chuck hagel that every time he defends against one theshgs bring up another excuse. it's kich like whack-a-mole.
>> when you look at all the different crisises, the different issues, the threat of sequestration coming, we need a smooth transition for the defense secretary . i think, you know, president obama has made his choice. i think we would ail like to see the senate act on that choice, and let's get on with it. let's move forward.
>> this seems to have also emboldened critics. perhaps there would have been anyway because the issues are so controversial with targeted killings and belief that northbound got on the white paper . john brennan is also being held up.
>> i think this approach to making every single nominee a highly politicized fight is really damaging. particularly in the national security arena. absolutely the senate needs to give thorough vetting, thorough review to provide its advice and consent, but we have -- there's a lot going on in our national security , and we need a process that moves forward expeditiously.
>> speaking of what is going on, this week alone north korea setting off another nuclear test . the first under the new litered, which certainly signals that he is going to try to live up to his father's policies, rather than any kind of compromise. china not indicating yet whether -- we don't have many options if china doesn't join in terms of tougher sanctions. now from what we know at least, this was a much larger blast, and they claim we can't prove it. they claim it was a smaller device. it could mean they've made real progress on miniatureization of a warhead.
>> this is very worrisome from a number of perspectives. it's certainly a provocation. i think many believe it's meant to consolidate this new young leader's power inside north korea . it puts owes a very negative trajectory. i think it's imperative that the international community does have a strong response. as you said, china is critical. china holds a lot of the cards with regard to shaping north korea 's behavior and their response.
>> we sent up aircraft with sensors to try to determine whether this was a uranium-fueled blast or plutonium. plutonium is the old way. uranium would be more worrying because it would increase the likelihood that they would be proliferate and that they would be able to conceal the centrifuges more easily. do we know yet? do you know whether --
>> i think it's going to take some time for that analysis to occur, but you're right. it would suggest that their program is diversifying and that they're building their -- not only their arsenal, but their -- the breadth of their expertise.
>> is there a concern that iran might be benefitting many some way from what north korea is doing. we know that north korea has helped iran along in the past. could north korea 's tests be shared, the results of their tests be shared?
>> there has been some technical sharing in the past. it's possible that that could happen, but i think what iran is really watching is what happens to north korea in this instance. how does the world respond? is tla real penalty for overtly testing weapon for declaring arsenal and going forward in a way that north korea has? i think that's really what they're watching zoosh briefly, while i have your expertise here, john kerry is setting off on a trip, including the middle east . he says he has a new plan for a political transition in syria . pressure from john mccain and others to do more to help the rebels. what kind of political transition is possible without russia buying in? he has been in office now a week. he has tried to talk to the foreign minister since the north korean test, and so far has not had that call returned. that would indicate that russia is somehow avoiding a closer relationship with the new secretary.
>> i think russia wra certainly needs to be engaged. i don't think we know exactly where that conversation is at the moment, but i think, you know what, secretary kerry is doing is showing the leadership that's needed from the united states to try to push political transition. that is ultimately what is going to change the course in syria and coming forward with a plan, building some consensus around that, both within syria and in the international community , i think that's right the right first step in the middle east .
>> great to see you. thank you for joining us today.