November 24, 2014
A Republican by party affiliation, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, took office as a strong supporter of President Obama especially, on the Iraq war despite fierce opposition from his own party and a gruesome confirmation hearing before Congress. Now less than two years after taking charge as the nation’s defense tsar, the one time Vietnam veteran has decided to bow out.
Way before his nomination in 2013, some in the GOP criticized his opposition to unilateral sanctions on Iran. Many of the critics of his candidacy at the time wanted him to go through extensive scrutiny and a thorough review during his confirmation hearing. They did not trust the former Vietnam veteran and a one time sergeant’s judgment and qualification to handle the U.S. defense office. His opponents mounted an aggressive opposition to his confirmation but despite all, he became the top defense officer and a close associate of the President.
While the circumstances surrounding why the Defense Secretary chose now to leave knowing the President has just two years left in office remains unclear, the President lauded Hagel as an “exemplary” Defense Secretary and said he was critical to a number of national security accomplishments during his time as the nation’s defense boss. Administration officials are not short of making it clear that Hagel’s decision to leave was a mutual agreement, despite contrary sources view that the Defense Secretary was forced out as a result of his disagreement with the President on some foreign policy strategy.
On Monday, the New York Times reported that the administration asked Hagel to step down as a way to reassure the nation of the President’s foreign policy, which his critics consider ineffective. The decision according to the Times report was meant to acknowledge that the new security threat posed by ISIS, require a change of leadership in the Defense Department.
With the exit of Hagel certain as a result of the White House announcement, the administration is yet to mention who will take the mantle of defense when Mr. Hagel leaves. So far, different sources indicate the list to replace Hagel includes former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Democratic Senator from Rhode Island Jack Reed. Meanwhile, Sen. Reed is said to reject any possibility of becoming the Defense Secretary, due to his loyalty and desire to continue serving the people of Rhode Island in the U.S. Senate.
Hagel is expected to leave next year, when Republicans take over the Senate and the House, a change that some believe could drag the confirmation hearing due to political gridlock. However, close sources say it is unlikely lawmakers will allow any delays considering the threat posed by ISIS and the need for U.S. leadership in combating global terror.
As Hagel leaves the Defense Department, it is no doubt that the former war Sergeant agrees with the President on certain foreign policy issues. Hagel shares the President’s view that as the most powerful military on earth, the United States must use its capability wisely and must only wage a war of necessity. Hagel knows the art of war. He fought along his brother in Vietnam and understands what it takes to put American blood on the line; though, some believe his decision to leave centers on the need to commit ground troops in Iraq to which the President disagreed.
A man not without his own controversies, Hagel got criticized before his nomination for his opposition to unilateral sanctions on Iran. When asked about his statement on Iran, here is what Hagel said, “I have not supported unilateral sanctions because when it is us alone, they don’t work and they just isolate the United States.”
Hagel has been called anti-Semite because some in the GOP think he is not militaristic enough, to deal with Iran and its nuclear program. In fact, Senator Lindsey Graham once described Hagel’s nomination as an “in-your- face” pick. “Hagel if confirmed to be Secretary of Defense would be the most antagonistic Secretary of Defense towards the state of Israel in our nation’s history,” he said.
Hagel also got criticized for the comment he made in the late 1990s, when he opposed a Clinton administration’s ambassadorial nominee for being “openly, aggressively gay.” He recognized his mistakes and later apologized. In a recent statement, he rescinded his past views and indicated his support for gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
With two Purple Hearts, Hagel will go down in history as a Conservative Defense Secretary, who shares the President’s beliefs on certain war issues, one who once held the keys to the nation’s defense.
Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment,’ ‘Criminal Law-Homicide’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available at http://www.amazon.com/author/adeyemioshunrinade. Follow on Twitter @san0670.