TIME Military

New Defense Secretary, Same Old Strategy

Obama Announces Resignation Of Chuck Hagel As Defense Secretary
President Obama listens as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announces he is resigning after less than two years as defense chief. Alex Wong / Getty Images

Hagel's sudden departure fixes the wrong problem—the lack of a clear, achievable ISIS strategy

Last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declared that the U.S. war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria was on track. “There’s no official review of any of the decisions that the President has made, or strategy,” Hagel told Charlie Rose.

This week, he’s out of his Pentagon job, even as the same old Obama Anti-ISIS Express continues barreling down that track.

So how much change can be expected following Hagel’s announcement Monday that he is leaving the Defense Department’s top civilian post after 20 months? Or, by handing Hagel his walking papers, is President Obama now suggesting his ISIS strategy is fine?

Washington immediately began debating the reasons for Hagel’s surprising departure. Obama supporters argued that Hagel’s low-key demeanor made him a good choice two years ago, when the issues were winding down wars and budget cuts, but ill-fitted to the offensive U.S. military push ISIS now needs. His backers blamed an insular National Security staff that shut him out of key decisions that led to bad blood between the White House and Pentagon.

Current and former Obama Administration officials say the problem was more policy than personnel. The roots of the problem, they say, are closer to the Oval Office—involving close-hold decision-making by Obama, Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough and National Security Adviser Susan Rice—than at the Pentagon.

“Not sure what kind of Kool-Aid they are drinking if they think that getting rid of Hagel—and not the National Security Advisor who’s flailing to handle the [ISIS] problem—is going to make things better,” one former Obama Administration official says.

Hagel’s leaving “is not an obvious fix for what seems to be ailing the administration,” says Peter Feaver, a civil-military relations expert at Duke University. When President George W. Bush eased out Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2006 (also following a White House drubbing in midterm elections), it included changing strategy by sending a surge of U.S. troops into Iraq.

“But there doesn’t seem to be any interest in the Obama administration to change the strategy,” Feaver adds. “What we have here is a change in personnel, without a change in policy.”

Retired Army general Jack Keane, who advocated for the surge in Iraq, says the White House has meddled with Pentagon prerogatives as the ISIS threat has grown over the past year, including videotaped beheadings of five Westerners, three of them American. “The policy is wrong and Hagel was pushing back on it,” Keane says, confirming what some Pentagon officials say privately.

Defense officials say White House meetings on dealing with ISIS often ended without a decision, which would be made later by Obama, aided by National Security Advisor Susan Rice and her deputy, Ben Rhodes. “That’s very frustrating for a secretary of defense,” Keane adds, “who feels on the outside when it comes to issues that are in their domain.”

Rice has long been a target inside the administration, even as she garnered sympathy as a Congressional scapegoat in the post-Benghazi hullaballoo. “The problems reach much higher than the secretary of defense,” a second Obama national-security aide said.

Much of Capitol Hill concurs. “The President needs to realize that the real source of his current failures on national security more often lie with his Administration’s misguided policies and the role played by his White House in devising and implementing them,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said. He’s the likely next chairman of the Armed Services Committee, which will confirm Hagel’s successor. “That is the real change we need right now,” McCain said in a statement.

Hagel fought for a tougher approach in Syria, and wrote a recent memo to Rice calling for more clarity about dictator Bashar Assad’s fate. Assad’s continued hold on power has bedeviled U.S. strategy toward ISIS, which is one of several rebel groups seeking to overthrown him. “Hagel had been a bit more hawkish on Syria,” Feaver says. “Perhaps replacing him is an indication that the President’s not going to be moving in a more hawkish direction there.”

Fat chance. Republican lawmakers are making clear following Hagel’s announcement that they want a new strategy for dealing with ISIS, as well as a new secretary of Defense.

– With reporting by Zeke Miller

TIME Military

3 People Who Could Replace Chuck Hagel

All have been considered before and passed over

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced his resignation after less than two-years on the job Monday after President Barack Obama asked for him to step-aside amid repeated disagreements and missteps.

According to administration officials, three contenders are at the top of the short-list to replace Hagel: Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, and former DOD officials Michele Flournoy and Ashton Carter. All have been considered and passed over for the post before.

A senior administration official said Obama would name a replacement to Hagel “in short order,” with Hagel remaining in the post until his replacement is confirmed by the Senate. Current and former officials said Obama will look both for someone who can avoid the communications troubles that plagued Hagel, as well as who is more adept to manage newly emerging threats like the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.

Hagel, a former Republican Senator from Nebraska who broke with his party on foreign policy issues, faced tough opposition from hawkish Republicans and some Democrats during his confirmation battle over concerns that he wasn’t supportive enough of Israel, and that was with a Democrat-controlled Senate.

Hagel’s performance during his confirmation hearing was resoundingly panned. Republicans will control the Senate beginning in January when the new Congress is sworn-in, further complicating Obama’s decision. With the extension of the Iran nuclear talks, one Republican Senate aide said the next Pentagon chief’s confirmation hearings are likely to become a proxy for concerns in both parties about the Iran negotiations.

A look at the short-list:

Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed: Like Hagel, Reed was one of 23 Senators to vote against the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. A longtime member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he has been considered for the Secretary of Defense position by Obama before, but has repeatedly stated he would rather be a Senator. With the retirement of Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Reed is now in line to be the Ranking Member of the committee when the GOP-controlled Senate is sworn in next year. As a senator, he would likely face a smoother confirmation process than the others on the short-list, that is if he wants the job. A Reed spokesman said Monday morning that he’s not interested.

Michele Flournoy: The former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the number-three position at the Department of Defense, Flournoy was a top aide to former Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta before leaving the Pentagon in February 2012. Widely respected on both sides of the aisle, she is a founder of the center-left Center for a New American Security. Flournoy would be the first woman in the post, a historic element that some Obama administration insiders say would be appealing to the president. She also comes as a veteran of both Obama campaigns, and maintains close ties to the White House.

Ashton Carter: The former Deputy Secretary of Defense from October 2011 to December 2013, Carter was responsible for the day-to-day management of the department. During the Clinton administration he served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy. Carter’s supervision of the department during a period of budget cuts earned accolades from both sides of the aisle when he stepped down last year. Like Flournoy, he was on the short-list of contenders to replace Panetta in 2012.

TIME Military

Hagel Retreats from Pentagon Under Fire

His low-profile demeanor ill-suited for ISIS fight

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down, after he and President Barack Obama concluded that his low-key style—despite his military experience in Vietnam—isn’t well-suited for the expanding war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

The sudden change at the top of the President’s national-security team comes after the Administration seemed slow to react to ISIS’s rise over the past year, and responded with what many inside the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill saw as a timid bombing campaign launched in August.

Some Hagel allies were quick to defend him, saying he was doing the job the way the White House wanted him to do it. But others said his languid style—on display during his lackluster confirmation hearing in January 2013—left him vulnerable to criticism from those who want a more aggressive military strategy.

MORE: 3 people who could replace Chuck Hagel

The decision to seek a new top Pentagon civilian came after several weeks of discussion between Obama and Hagel following the Democrats’ shellacking in the mid-term elections. Hagel, as the lone Republican in Obama’s Cabinet, “began speaking with the President about departing the Administration, given the natural post-midterms transition time,” a senior Administration official said. News of Hagel’s departure was first reported by the New York Times.

Hagel, 68, served as an enlisted soldier in Vietnam, and was the first grunt to run the Defense Department. He served as a GOP senator from Nebraska from 1996 to 2008, and took over a Pentagon exhausted by 12 years of war and facing budget cuts, only to see conflict erupt in Iraq and Syria.

He quarreled with the White House’s National Security Council, especially over the best approach to deal with the three-year old Syrian civil war, which incubated ISIS. Hagel recently sent a memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice arguing for more clarity on how to deal with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. “Hagel was chosen for pliability,” former Army officer and scholar Ralph Peters says. “Yet, in the end he emerged as a man of conscience telling the President things he did not want to hear.”

Candidates to succeed Hagel include Ashton Carter, who has served as the Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian, and Michèle Flournoy, who would be the first woman to hold the job. Senator Jack Reed, D-R.I., also could be tapped, Pentagon officials say. Hagel plans to stay on until his successor is confirmed.

It was notable when Hagel testified alongside Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that Dempsey was the one who made news. While Dempsey overshadowed Hagel—particularly on the possible need to send U.S. ground troops in to fight ISIS—in part that was due to Hagel’s quiet demeanor.

Neither Hagel nor his associates had given any sign he was getting ready to leave the Pentagon after less than two years on the job.

Hagel conceded last week that the U.S. and its military is facing challenges well beyond ISIS, stretching from Iran to Russia. “If we’ve had such good policies over the years, then we probably wouldn’t be in this situation,” he told PBS’s Charlie Rose on Wednesday.

Two days later, Obama and Hagel decided it was time for the defense secretary to step down.

TIME Military

Pentagon Chief Chuck Hagel Is Stepping Down

Will stay in post until successor confirmed

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is resigning from the post after less than two years on the job, President Barack Obama announced Monday.

Obama said he was “reluctant” to see Hagel leave, though an Administration official told TIME that Obama had asked Hagel to resign. Obama said Hagel concluded it’s an “appropriate time for him to complete his service.” He will stay in his post until a successor is confirmed by the Senate.

“Over nearly two years Chuck has been an exemplary Defense Secretary,” Obama said during an appearance with Hagel at the White House. “Chuck is and has been a great friend of mine, since I was a green-behind-the-ears freshman senator,” Obama added.

Hagel called being Secretary of Defense “the greatest privilege of my life.”

MORE: Why Chuck Hagel resigned

An Obama friend dating back to their time opposing the Iraq War in the Senate, Hagel had difficulty interacting with members of Obama’s team and has been rumored to be on his way out for weeks.

In an interview with PBS last week, Hagel sidestepped questions about whether he would remain in the job. “First of all, I serve at the pleasure of the President,” Hagel said. “I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity I’ve had the last two years to work every day for the country and for the men and women who serve this country. I don’t get up in the morning and worry about my job. It’s not unusual by the way, to change teams at different times.

“I didn’t say I expect him to change,” he added under continued questioning. “What I’m saying is it wouldn’t be unusual to do that first of all historically. But second, I’ve got to stay focused on my job… and I do. And I am very fortunate that I have some of the best people in the world to work with and whatever the President decides, he’s the President, he makes those decisions.”

Asked if he still believed he had Obama’s confidence, Hagel said: “Well, I don’t think I would be here if I didn’t. But you’d have to ask him that. I mean I see him all the time.”

MORE: 3 people who could replace Chuck Hagel

Hagel, the first enlisted man to rise to become Secretary of Defense, was seen by Obama aides as having difficulty staying on message and communicating the Administration’s positions clearly. Over the summer, White House aides were forced to walk back comments he made about the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), in which he called the militant group an “imminent threat to every interest we have.”

One former Obama official was skeptical that dropping Hagel will improve the Administration’s foreign policy position. “Not sure what kind of Kool-Aid they are drinking if they think that getting rid of Hagel—and not the national security advisor who’s flailing to handle the [ISIS] problem—is going to make things better,” the former official told TIME.

Hagel faced a tough confirmation battle in 2012 and early 2013 when Democrats controlled the Senate.

“The bottom line is that he wasn’t set up for success by his team when he arrived at the Pentagon,” the former official added. “After a particularly tough confirmation process, instead of pushing the new Secretary to own the job inside the Beltway and in the public eye, his team took the opposite approach. Their goal was just not to make waves.”

His replacement will have to find support from the GOP-controlled Senate in the new Congress next year.

“Secretary Chuck Hagel honorably served the United States as a combat soldier, a U.S. Senator, and as Secretary of Defense,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will become Majority Leader when Republicans take over the Senate next year, said in a statement. “We appreciate his service to the nation.

“It’s important to remember that Secretary Hagel’s departure comes at a moment of great peril for our country,” McConnell added. “His successor will confront the daunting challenges of: modernizing our conventional military forces to meet the challenges posed by Russia and China; restructuring the force after more than a decade of counterinsurgency warfare; maintaining our dominance in the air and at sea; investing in the next generation of weapons systems to preserve our nuclear triad; and combatting terror whether from Al Qaeda, associate forces, [ISIS], or other groups seeking to exploit the ungoverned spaces created by revolt and unrest. All of these challenges come at a time when the all-volunteer force faces a shortage of resources and investment. It is imperative that the next Secretary of Defense possess a sharp grasp of strategy, a demonstrated ability to think creatively, and the willingness and ability to work with Congress. And it is critical that the President consider these qualifications and challenges as he considers such an important nomination.”

Two former Department of Defense officials—Michele Flournoy, the former under secretary of defense and Ashton Carter, the former deputy secretary of defense—were runners-up to Hagel for the post when former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stepped down in 2012, and are seen as top contenders to be Hagel’s successor, according to administration officials, along with Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, who is in line to be Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee.

“With the United States facing threats to our national security around the world, it is my hope that Senate Republicans will work with Democrats to give swift and fair consideration to President Obama’s next nominee to this critical post,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who will become Minority Leader next year, said in a statement lauding Hagel’s service.

Read next: Hagel Retreats from Pentagon Under Fire

TIME Military

Report: Obama Broadens Mission in Afghanistan

(WASHINGTON) — U.S. troops in Afghanistan may once again engage Taliban fighters, not just al-Qaida terrorists, under new guidelines quietly approved by President Barack Obama, administration officials say.

The armed forces were to limit their operations in Afghanistan to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida after this year, until Obama broadened the guidelines in recent weeks. The plan comes as the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan draws to a close, thousands of troops return home and the military prepares for a narrower counterterrorism and training mission for the next two years.

Obama’s decision also means the U.S. can conduct air support when needed.

One U.S. official said the military could only go after the Taliban if it posed a threat to American forces or provided direct support to al-Qaida, while the latter could be targeted more indiscriminately.

“To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to al-Qaida, however, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe,” the official said.

The Taliban’s presence in Afghanistan far exceeds that of al-Qaida, adding significance to Obama’s authorization. The president’s decision came in response to requests from military commanders who wanted troops to be allowed to continue to battle the Taliban, the U.S. officials said.

The New York Times first reported the new guidelines. Officials confirmed details to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama’s decisions by name.

The decision to expand the military’s authority does not impact the overall number of U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan. Earlier this year, Obama ordered the U.S. force presence to be reduced to 9,800 by the end of this year, a figure expected to be cut by half by the end of 2015.

The president wants all U.S. troops to be out of Afghanistan a year later, as his presidency draws to a close.

Some of the Obama administration’s planning for the post-2014 mission was slowed by a political stalemate in Afghanistan earlier this year. It took months for the winner of the country’s presidential election to be certified, delaying the signing of a bilateral security agreement that was necessary in order to keep U.S. forces in the country after December.

In Kabul, officials with the Afghan Defense Ministry declined to comment Saturday, while officials with the presidency could not be reached.

However, Afghan military analyst Jawed Kohistani said the move probably will be welcomed. President Ashraf Ghani’s new administration, upon taking office, immediately signed a deal with the U.S. to allow a residual force of 12,000 foreign troops in the country.

“We have heard from many military officers who are involved in direct fighting with the Taliban and other insurgents that still there is a need for more cooperation, there is need for an ongoing U.S. combat mission and there is need for U.S. air support for the Afghan security forces to help them in their fight against the insurgents,” Kohistani said.

TIME Terrorism

The Long, Hard Slog Continues

Afghan policeman keeps watch at the site of a Taliban attack in Kabul
An Afghan policeman keeps watch at the site of a Taliban attack in Kabul on Wednesday. Omar Sobhani / Reuters

After 13 years, there is no "pause" button in the war on terror

On Saturday, Islamist militants halted a bus crammed with 60 passengers in northeastern Kenya, killing 28 who could not recite a Muslim declaration of faith. The same day, word leaked that President Obama has agreed to a stepped-up combat role for U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the original Dec. 31, 2014, deadline.

On Sunday, a suicide bomber killed at least 49 people—mostly kids—at a volleyball game in eastern Afghanistan. Later in the day, the Washington Post told of one of the final U.S. military units readying to ship out for Afghanistan, even as the Taliban grow in strength just outside Kabul.

As the brutality in Africa and Afghanistan suggests, the U.S. preoccupation with defining conflicts by country and calendar is the way nations, not terrorists, wage war. The U.S. mostly views the troubled map stretching from Libya to Pakistan as a chessboard governed by sovereign borders that its foes ignore.

“All across these unstable regions we are confronting a multitude of threats to the U.S. and our interests, from longstanding well-known terrorist groups but also from newer and much more loosely connected networks of like-minded violent extremists,” Nicholas Rasmussen, tapped to head the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate Intelligence Committee at his confirmation hearing Thursday. These new breeds, he warned, “operate without regard to national borders or established organizational norms.”

Deaths caused by terrorism jumped from 11,133 in 2012 to 17,958 in 2013, a 61% hike, according to an independent accounting released last Tuesday. Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria accounted for 80% of the toll, according to the nonprofit Institute for Economics and Peace. Officials blamed four radical Islamist groups for two-thirds of the carnage.

Don Rumsfeld was right.

In the falls of 2003, the defense secretary defined the post-9/11 wars as a “long, hard slog.” Eleven years later, war-weary Americans—eager to escape wars that have no intention of letting them go, are gaining an appreciation for what he meant.

“The Middle East is in turmoil with the deepening of the enmity between Sunnis and Shias, the collapse of a number of nation states, really failed states, and the elimination of meaningful borders,” political scientist Michael Curtis wrote in an essay for the weekend’s Halifax International Security Forum (as if to prove the point, jihadists piggybacked on tweets from the gathering in Nova Scotia’s capital to distribute a video featuring a British captive being held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria).

Meanwhile, late Friday, the House Intelligence Committee issued a report concluding that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans was more screw-up than cover-up. For two years, lawmakers have sought to cast the event as an epic White House scandal, when reality has suggested it was more a string of mistakes and bad luck. A foreigner couldn’t be blamed if she thought GOP lawmakers viewed Obama as a bigger menace than al Qaeda. Imagine if all that partisan firepower had been directed at the real enemy.

The U.S. and its allies have yet to take on this spreading scourge in a way that is sustainable and successful. That’s going to require an international front willing to take on autocracies, kleptomaniacs and nascent nuclear powers. Success won’t come to politicians nervously glancing at their watches, or their electoral calendar. It’s going to take decades. (Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., took a tentative step in this direction over the weekend when he called for a U.S. declaration of a year-long war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.)

After his memo leaked in 2003, Rumsfeld groused to reporters that the U.S. too often measures the wrong things.

“We have lots of yardsticks and metrics where we can measure things like what’s taking place in Iraq, what’s taking place in Afghanistan, how we’re doing in the finances, how we’re doing in capturing and killing, for example, the top 55 Iraqi leaders or the top al Qaeda leaders,” he said.

But the U.S. and its allies too often have come up empty-handed when it comes to tallying the important numbers.

“How many young people are being taught to go out as suicide bombers and kill people?” Rumsfeld wanted to know. “That’s the question. How many are there? And how does that in-flow of terrorists in the world get reduced so that the number of people being captured or killed is greater than the ones being produced?”

More than a decade after Rumsfeld asked, we still have no idea.

TIME gender

What We Can Learn From the Women Who Passed as Men to Serve in the U.S. Army

People like 'Lyons' Wakeman have a lesson for today

Now that the Pentagon has lifted the 1994 ban barring women from serving in special-operations and combat units, critics are waging a battle of their own, insisting that women lack the physical and psychological stamina that combat requires. While military officials insist they won’t soften their intense standards in order to allow more women entry, opponents argue that women will never be able to join otherwise, and that the Pentagon’s push for diversity will only result in a weakened United States military that places us at risk. Right now, the Marine Corps is in the middle of an experiment to test whether women can adequately perform the tough work required to defend the nation.

But American history is already full of women who can answer that question: during the Civil War, there were as many as 400 women who disguised themselves as men and fought for both the Union and the Confederacy. They pulled off their charades so well that few people today even know their stories.

“War actually shapes history, and history has always been about men,” says C.J. Longanecker, a historian and former ranger for the National Park Service. “But women were always there; they just didn’t get the press coverage.”

For one female soldier buried in Chalmette National Cemetery in Louisiana, it took more than 100 years to get the press coverage she deserved. Her story ends just east of New Orleans, where 15,000 headstones stretch out in seemingly infinite rows, interrupted only by the occasional oak tree.

Her story begins, though, in 1843 in Afton, N.Y., when a farmer’s wife gave birth to the first of her nine children—Sarah Rosetta, or just Rosetta. Like the lives of so many other women who enlisted as men, Rosetta’s life would revolve around hard labor and her family’s many debts. By the time Rosetta turned 19, she still had no marriage offers—a suffocating verdict for a woman who lacked both education and social status in the 19th century.

So Rosetta cut her hair, found a pair of men’s trousers and became 21-year-old Lyons Wakeman, leaving behind her family’s farm and fighting for independence in the only way that seemed possible.

She enlisted with the 153rd New York Infantry regiment, which encamped at both Alexandria, Va., and Washington D.C. before campaigning in Louisiana. In her book An Uncommon Soldier, Historian Lauren Cook Burgess has assembled Rosetta’s private letters to her family from the battlefield. As Burgess’ book shows us, Rosetta not only survived in a soldier’s life, she excelled at it:

“I don’t know how long before I shall have to go in the field of battle,” Rosetta writes. “For my part I don’t care. I don’t feel afraid to go…I am as independent as a hog on the ice.”

The eager young woman took to chewing tobacco and adopted all the “vices” that a typical soldier embraced. The five-ft.-tall Rosetta even won a brawl once with a much larger and much rowdier soldier than she, landing a few punches on him and no doubt earning some cheers from her comrades.

Rosetta eventually fought in another kind of battle, one more savage than she could have imagined. The Battle of Pleasant Hill took place in northwest Louisiana on Apr. 9, 1864. It was part of the Union Army’s push to capture the area from the Confederates. “There was a heavy cannonading [sic] all day and a sharp firing of infantry,” Rosetta writes. ”I had to face the enemy bullets with my regiment. I was under fire about four hours and laid on the field of battle all night.” Rosetta’s regiment launched a full frontal attack on the Confederates, with their commanding officers later praising the 153rd for their fierce bravery.

Meanwhile, the soldier seemed forever haunted by her oppressed past life as a farmer’s daughter. In letters to New York, Rosetta can’t help repeat that she will never return home, as if she had to convince not only her family, but also herself.

“If I ever get clear from the Army I will come home and make you a visit, but I shall not stay long,” Rosetta writes. “I shall never live in that neighborhood again.”

Had Rosetta lived, she may well have spent the rest of her days as a man, as multiple women actually did when the fighting was over. Rosetta, however, did not live. She fell prey to the menace that killed more than 413,000 soldiers in the Civil War—disease. After the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Rosetta and her comrades were forced to participate in a hellish two-day, 70-mile march through the untamed Louisiana wilderness, with many men collapsing from exhaustion and pain before reaching the end. Rosetta survived, but developed chronic dysentery.

By the time Rosetta’s ambulance reached the Marine U.S.A General Hospital near New Orleans 15 days later, she had deteriorated into the acute stages of her disease.

Rosetta languished for a month and then died. Lyons Wakeman’s cover, however, did not. In a stunning combination of luck and poor 19th-century healthcare, it seems the Army never discovered Lyons’ true identity. The military ironically lists Lyons Wakeman as an “honest” and “faithful” soldier, who died from chronic diarrhea while serving.

Back in New York, the U.S. census that took place shortly after the war makes no mention of a Rosetta Wakeman, only listing the now-dead Lyons. Rosetta’s family never mentioned their eldest daughter again, instead hesitantly referring to a long-gone sibling “who went by the name of Lyons,” according to Burgess’ research. It wasn’t until the 1970s, when Rosetta’s descendants examined a stack of faded letters kept in an attic, that the astounding legacy of Rosetta—aka Lyons—was made public.

Could the Army hospital have possibly never noticed Rosetta’s true gender? Experts say it’s more plausible than you’d think. “Even enlisting, they didn’t do a physical examination without any clothes on, and people didn’t look at other people’s naked bodies in those days,” says Longanecker.

Conspiracy theories, however, abound. Longanecker believes the nurses at Marine U.S.A. General sympathized with Rosetta’s desperate masquerade. “Because she had been in the Army for some time, and because she was a well-respected soldier, they didn’t say anything because it would have prevented her parents from receiving any compensation for her death,” Longanecker says. “It was a kind of hush-hush thing.”

While Rosetta’s death may still be clouded with unanswered questions, her military service and contribution to the war couldn’t be clearer. Today, as we raise the question of women’s readiness for combat, we only have to remember Rosetta Wakeman—and the countless other women who’ve secretly served alongside men—for our answer.

TIME Terrorism

Peter Kassig’s Powerful Silence Before ISIS Beheaded Him

Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig ISIS Islamic State
Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig is pictured making a food delivery to refugees in Lebanonís Bekaa Valley in this May 2013 handout photo. Reuters

The former Army Ranger did not address the camera.

It’s tough to take any solace when the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria commits a murder, as it made clear yet again on Sunday it had done with the release of a video of the apparent beheading of American Peter Kassig.

But as grimly depressing as the video was—this is the fifth recorded killing of a Westerner released by the group since August—it differed from those that came before.

The video didn’t feature as many high production values or multi-camera angles. Most startling, Kassig, an Indiana native, didn’t make a final statement into his captors’ cameras, as those who died before him had done (he did, however, speak to Time early last year before he was kidnapped).

Kassig, 26, “doesn’t have much to say,” said ISIS’s British-accented, black-robed executioner on the video.

There is speculation over why this video is different.

“The likeliest possibility is that something went wrong when they were beheading him,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the New York Times.

But there’s another possibility. “I don’t know how this went down, or if it really did,” tweeted Andrew Exum. “But I like the idea of the Ranger not saying a damn thing.”

Kassig became a Ranger in 2006, and served with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Iraq in 2007. Exum himself is a former Ranger, an elite band of soldiers that the Army declares to be its “premier direct-action raid force.”

Kassig knew what he faced, and he knew the Ranger Creed, which says:

Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers…

Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one-hundred-percent and then some.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

His family, and his nation, can take solace in Ranger Kassig’s silent courage before his country’s enemies.

Read next: Graphic ISIS Video Claims US Aid Worker Beheaded

TIME National Security

More Band-Aids for the Nation’s Ailing Nuclear-Weapons Force

A US Air Force missile maintenance team removes the upper section of an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead in an undated USAF photo at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.
A US Air Force missile maintenance team removes the upper section of an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead in an undated USAF photo at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. Airman John Parie—U.S. Air Force/Reuters

Pentagon beefs up spending to keep yesterday’s weapons ready for tomorrow

The U.S. military’s nuclear force — both its hardware (the weapons) and its software (the people who operate those weapons) — is in disarray. That can only come as a surprise to those who don’t concede the Cold War is over, and that neither the funding, nor the required mindset, exists to keep it going indefinitely.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that a pair of reviews calls for spending about $7.5 billion over the next five years to shore up the nation’s nuclear weapons, as well as the bombers, land-based missiles and submarines that carry them. “The reviews found evidence of systematic problems that if not addressed could undermine the safety, security and effectiveness of the elements of the force in the future,” he said. “These problems include manning; infrastructure; and skill deficiencies; a culture of micro-management; and over-inspection and inadequate communication, follow-up, and accountability by senior department in nuclear enterprise leadership.”

There was a palpable sense of national mission when you visited nuclear sites during the Cold War. While that remains true at most sites, there’s a feeling gleaned from speaking with current nuclear officers that their mission isn’t as vital as it once was. Congress feels the same way, which is why the nation’s nuclear-weapons organization has been nickled-and-dimed, relatively speaking, for the past 25 years (although it’s slated to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years).

Hagel ordered the reviews in January, after reports of widespread cheating surfaced among the airmen operating the Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missiles at Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base. The Navy also discovered that some of its sailors had apparently cheated on tests involving the nuclear reactors that power some of the service’s ships and subs. The panels recommended more than 100 changes, which will be monitored by a newly created Nuclear Deterrent Enterprise Review Group that will report directly to Hagel every three months.

“Our nuclear triad deters nuclear attack on the United States and our allies and our partners,” Hagel told reporters. “It prevents potential adversaries from trying to escalate their way out of failed conventional aggression, and it provides the means for effective response should deterrence fail.”

Arms-control advocates disagree. “Apart from deterring a nuclear attack, nuclear weapons play an increasingly limited role in U.S. national security policy, but our arsenal is still configured and sized for a Cold War world that no longer exists,” says Kingston Reif of the non-profit Arms Control Association. “There are simply no plausible military missions for these weapons given their destructive power, the current security environment and the prowess of U.S. conventional forces.”

The Air Force has already made improvements. Last month, missile launch officers became eligible to receive up to $300 monthly because of the importance of their mission. New uniform and cold-weather gear also have been provided the ICBM crews, who work in North Dakota and Wyoming as well as Montana. It has added 1,100 more troops to its nuclear force (the Navy’s hiring 2,500 more). Last week, the Air Force awarded 25 airmen the new Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service medals to honor their work.

The roots of the problem runs deep. Over the past two decades, the Air Force has shifted responsibility for its ICBMs around like an unwanted child. The missiles bounced from Curtis Lemay’s Strategic Air Command, where they had been since becoming operational in 1959, to Air Combat Command in 1992. They moved to Space Command in 1993, and finally to Global Strike Command in 2009, created as a mini-SAC following a pair of nuclear snafus of 2007-08 that led to the cashiering of the Air Force’s top two officials. “We mattered under Strategic Air Command,” Dana Struckman, a retired colonel who manned missiles from 1989 to 1993, said earlier this year. “The Cold War was still on, and we had a sense of purpose that I don’t think they have today.”

Some official Air Force reports acknowledge the problem. “Many current senior Air Force leaders interviewed were cynical about the nuclear mission, its future, and its true (versus publicly stated) priority to the Air Force,” a 2012 Air Force paper said. Commanders routinely told nuclear airmen that they were in a “sunset business” and “were not contributing to the fight that mattered,” it added. A second Pentagon study noted that most airmen manning ICBMs “were not volunteers for missile duty.”

Hagel conceded the problems aren’t new. “Previous reviews of our nuclear enterprise lacked clear follow-up mechanisms,” he said. “Recommendations were implemented without the necessary follow-through to assess that they were implemented effectively. There was a lack of accountability.” To fix that, he said he has assigned Pentagon cost experts to monitor the new changes being made so that the Defense Department knows “what’s working and what’s not.”

The defense secretary pledged to “hold our leaders accountable up and down the chain of command.” That’s because the problems aren’t confined to the lower ranks. The Air Force fired Maj. Gen. Michael Carey — in charge of all the nation’s ICBMs — last year after an official trip to Moscow, where he drank excessively and cavorted with “suspect” women. During a layover at a Swiss airport, witnesses told Pentagon investigators that Carey “appeared drunk and, in the public area, talked loudly about the importance of his position as commander of the only operational nuclear force in the world and that he saves the world from war every day.”

Those still in charge don’t see their assignment as a Cold War mission. “I don’t think we’re any more a Cold War force than an aircraft carrier, or Special Ops, or the UH-1 helicopter,” Lieut. Gen. James Kowalksi, chief of Global Strike Command, said of his nuclear arsenal last year. A Russian first strike, in fact, has become such a “remote” possibility that it’s “hardly worth discussing,” he said. “The greatest risk to my force is an accident. The greatest risk to my force is doing something stupid.”

Kowalski became the No. 2 officer in U.S. Strategic Command in October 2013, overseeing the nation’s entire nuclear arsenal, after President Obama fired Vice Adm. Tim Giardina from the post for allegedly gambling in an Iowa casino with counterfeit chips. The charge — a felony — happened at Horseshoe Council Bluffs Casino, a 15-minute drive across the Missouri River from the nation’s nuclear headquarters.

Hagel implied Friday that operating the nation’s most deadly weapons in the 21st century is kind of like using enough wax and elbow grease to shine up an old jalopy: “We must restore the prestige that attracted the brightest minds of the Cold War era, so our most talented young men and women see the nuclear pathway as promising in value.” Only one problem: the most talented young men and women know the Cold War ended before they were born. Given that, they also know there’s no way to restore the resolve and purpose those manning the weapons against the Soviet Union once felt.

TIME Nuclear

U.S. Looks to Improve Management of Nuclear Weapons Cache

“Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in securing U.S. national security”

The United States’ arsenal of nuclear weapons is badly in need of a makeover, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday.

“The good news is that there’s nothing here we can’t fix,” Hagel told reporters. “But if we don’t pay attention to this, if we don’t fix this eventually, it will get to a point where there are some questions about our security.”

Hagel said a full review of the country’s nuclear arsenal revealed “evidence of systematic problems,” including issues with manpower, infrastructure, skill deficiencies, a culture of micromanagement and over-inspection.

The overhaul of nuclear arms across the entire Department of Defense will include reforms that address each of these areas. In order to make the nuclear field a more attractive career path for young soldiers, for instance, Hagel elevated the Global Strike Command to so-called a four-star billet, meaning high-ranking soldiers in the nuclear fleet can be equal in rank to their counterparts in non-nuclear fields. Hagel also announced the creation of a new medal to recognize service in the nuclear field.

“Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in securing U.S. national security,” Hagel said. “No other capability remains more important.”

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