Feb 1, 2013

The Hagel Hearing: A Snapshot

I'll have plenty more to say about the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that took place yesterday regarding the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. For now though, I just wanted to share this snapshot.

Word Clouds offer a decent starting point for textual analysis and, well, when you are dealing with day long events they are also the easiest way to navigate exactly what was and wasn't talked about. Just a note on how this works for those unfamiliar: a word cloud image basically displays words appearing in a text (in this case the 200 plus page transcript from the Hagel hearing) in varying sizes based on their frequency. To make this helpful, I removed some words from the transcript to put more focus on topics of conversation instead of the interlocutors themselves. This means I removed the names of the Senators because that would distort the display and some common words that don't lend much for analysis like "OK," "also," "Mr.," "like," etc. I think you get the idea. Here is the image below:

[Click the image to enlarge]

It's clear that "Israel" stole the show. "Iran," which was nearly as prevalent as "Israel," was discussed as an issue intertwined with Israel and contextualized through the prism of Israeli interests.

Now, let's play a game. See if you can find the following words in the cloud.
(Answers below - don't cheat!)

Afghanistan: Those living in the U.S. who follow mainstream media coverage may be unaware but this is a country in central Asia where the United States has been militarily involved longer than any other military campaign in its history; it also currently has about 70,000 troops troops there. There have been over 3,000 coalition deaths in Afghanistan, over 2,000 of which were American troops. Countless civilians have been killed or wounded during the fighting.

China: Close to a billion and a half people live in this communist nation that also has several hundred nuclear weapons, borders several significant regional players (some of which it has had increasing tense relations with) and is the U.S.'s largest overseas trading partner.

Drones: Perhaps the most controversial of President Obama's national security policies has been the dramatic escalation in the use of unmanned drones to kill adversaries (including American citizens) and very often civilians.

Pakistan: This country borders Afghanistan, is an unstable nuclear power, and has been the target of hundreds of American drone strikes leaving thousands dead, hundreds of which were civilians, including many children.

Guantanamo: The location of a controversial American prison camp which the President first promised to close before later back-tracking.

International Law: That set of rules and norms agreed upon by states that help govern inter-state relations and, perhaps most importantly, determine what is legal and illegal during war.




(Answer key: Afghanistan: Start at "Israel," go up until you see "department" and look left. China- I haven't found it yet, good for you if you do. It was only mentioned a handful of times, including once by Neo-Mcarthyite Senator Cruz who sought to associated Hagel with Chas Freeman through an alleged trip to China that never happened. Drones: If you haven't found it, it's because it isn't there. It wasn't mentioned. Pakistan: Start at "Israel," go left until you see "Congress," then go down until you see "friends." Below that, in smaller print, is Pakistan.  Guantanamo: If you haven't found it, it's because it isn't there. It wasn't mentioned. International Law: It was uttered a grand total of one time, so get your microscope out, if you find it let me know, plenty of us are hoping to understand where and why its gone missing.)


For some added perspective, here is a word cloud of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' confirmation hearing in 2006. Clearly, they were more focused on Iraq then than they are on Afghanistan now.

[Click the image to enlarge]

1 comments: on "The Hagel Hearing: A Snapshot"

Unknown said...

Is it possible that the word cloud separated "international" and "law" in the phrase "international law"? Because I found "international" right under "Pentagon," which is just to the left of Israel. Haven't found "law."

I think China might be between the "n" in "Position" and the "u" in "united." But it's so tiny that it pixelates before I can zoom enough to read it.