Perhaps because it is bad form to explore the possibility that Hagel was purged for insufficient enthusiasm for a pro-active China confrontation agenda, nobody went there. But I did. Natch.
In 2015, I buried my analysis in a tediously long piece that was meant to give an overview of the evolution of US China policy, and provide a corrective to the "Chinese aggression" meme that China hawks like to lean on.
The narrative of escalating Chinese aggression is central to the China hawks' thesis that we need an escalating response.
Rather interestingly, today a lot of this narrative is coming out of Australia. Google "Chinese influence Australia" and you'll get an idea of the barrage of local and global coverage keying on the skillfully shaped message that Chinese influence--though it is not illegal--must be feared.
I've recently come to the conclusion that spate of panic stricken reports emerging from Australia concerning the China menace in economics, politics, and academics are a belated and improvised substitute for what was supposed to be the real deal: a pivot from Obama namby-pambyism to steely Clinton resolve to confront China in 2016.
The unexpected Trump victory--and the determined gutting of the State Department by Team Trump--has temporarily put paid to dreams of running a united and highly coordinated global anti-China initiative out of a Clinton White House drawing on allies and assets in Asia and Europe.
Instead, the aggressive anti-China alliance is being improvised in exile and, in Australia, with the support of James Clapper, who did a visiting scholar thing down there, the unflagging efforts of the Lowy Institute (which, in addition to serving as the FP mouthpiece of the Lowy family, which bundled for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and contributed coin to the Clinton Foundation, also employs Hillary Clinton's foreign policy major domo Jake Sullivan), and the assistance of a local flock of eager pro-US China hawks at Australian unis and think tanks and in the media.
More significantly, I'm guessing Team Clinton might be getting more than a little help from the king of PACOM's China hawks, Admiral Harry Harris, in supporting the Australian natsec establishment in eliciting a remarkably aggressive anti-China posture out of previously dovish Malcolm Turnbull.
Admiral Harris, indeed, is rumored to be ready to retire from the US Navy to take over as US Ambassador to Australia next year, which would give him the opportunity to get hands-on in coordinating the China confrontainment mission.
With this perspective, it's interesting to read what I wrote in 2015 after Chuck Hagel hit the bricks:
For those who want to go through a lengthy and taxing account of how the China hawks developed their narrative and strategies since 2010, there's the full 2015 piece: It's Official. America Has a China Containment Policy.
For those who want to read about Chuck Hagel getting shivved (a story I don't think anybody has told in full) read on in this tasty excerpt:
The Chuck Hagel years (Feb 2013-15) are a sore point for US hawks, and perhaps explain why they like to date the South China Sea crisis to 2012 and a period of accommodation/appeasement/common sense during which the PRC ran amok in the South China Sea, and not 2010 when the carnival really started.
In that context, Washington officials, when asked about Fanell’s comments, dismissed them.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, who has been in Beijing laying the groundwork for Hagel’s visit, went a step further.
Asked about Fanell’s “short, sharp war” assessment, Odierno responded: "I've seen no indications of that at all."
“He gave them the strategy and the budget they asked for and wanted,” Edelman says. The White House has planned for a military drawdown after wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a reset toward a renewed presence in the Pacific. “I understand there were a few occasions when he may have leaned a little too far forward on his skis with regards to ISIS. But it’s kind of hard to figure out what it is they found lacking in his performance.”