Chuck Hagel Would Be War Skeptic in Pentagon

May Seek Afghan Pullout and Seek To Avoid New Conflicts

Skeptical Voice: Chuck Hagel says he has learned the costs of war firsthand, starting with his service in Vietnam.
getty images
Skeptical Voice: Chuck Hagel says he has learned the costs of war firsthand, starting with his service in Vietnam.

By Reuters

Published January 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A decorated Vietnam veteran acutely aware of the limits of military power, Chuck Hagel is likely to favor a sizable drawdown in Afghanistan, more frugal spending at the Pentagon and extreme caution when contemplating the use of force in places like Iran or Syria.

Obama’s decision to nominate Hagel - a Republican former senator who split with his party to oppose the Iraq war - as U.S. defense secretary came despite a public lobbying campaign against his candidacy in recent weeks by a host of critics, some of whom seized upon past remarks to argue he is anti-Israel.

Hagel’s supporters deny that, but are bracing for a tough confirmation battle in the Senate. Obama, as he announced the nomination, called Hagel the kind of leader U.S. forces deserve and pointed to his sacrifices in the Vietnam War, where he earned two Purple Hearts - the decoration for troops wounded in battle.

“Chuck knows that war is not an abstraction,” Obama said. “He understands that sending young Americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and mud, that’s something we only do when it’s absolutely necessary.”

Hagel, who would be the first Vietnam veteran to take the job, would succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, 74, who is retiring from public life after a more than four-decade career in government that included leading the CIA during the covert raid to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.

The blunt, 66-year-old Hagel will need to take over where Panetta leaves off, orchestrating a drawdown in U.S. forces in Afghanistan intended to bring the combat mission to a close by the end 2014. Hagel and Panetta were due to dine together on Monday night to discuss the transition.

The Afghan drawdown’s pace is an open question, as is the size of the residual force the United States will leave behind. Obama is again showing his readiness to veto the military brass, considering a lower range of options - keeping between 3,000 and 9,000 troops in Afghanistan - than his top commander in Afghanistan proposed, one U.S. official told Reuters.

Hagel has not yet commented on the matter, but Obama would likely not choose a Pentagon chief who fundamentally disagreed with him on that or other key issues.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.