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

(page 2 of 3)

Hagel, who fought alongside his own brother and suffered shrapnel wounds in Vietnam and burns to his face, has made no secret of his reservations about what the military can accomplish in Afghanistan.

“We can’t impose our will. The Russians found that out in Afghanistan. We’ve been involved in two very costly wars that have taught us a lesson once again,” Hagel told PBS’s “Tavis Smiley” show last year.

Unsurprisingly, he also is extremely cautious about what could be done in Syria. “I don’t think America wants to be in the lead on this,” he told Foreign Policy magazine in May.

‘THE GUY AT THE BOTTOM’

Hagel’s first-hand experience in war may win respect inside the Pentagon. He volunteered for the Vietnam War as an infantryman. He would become be the first defense secretary who started and ended his military career with an enlisted rank, as opposed to serving as an officer - an important distinction in wartime.

The enlisted ranks are “the ones who have the least say about where, when, and why we go to war, but bear the harshest consequences when we do,” Matt Pottinger, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and a former journalist, wrote in a piece on the “The Daily Beast” website applauding Hagel as a candidate to become defense chief.

Obama on Monday quoted Hagel saying: “My frame of reference … is geared towards the guy at the bottom who’s doing the fighting and the dying.”

Hagel’s comments on Middle East issues, including on Israel, are likely to complicate his Senate confirmation. House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said in a statement on Monday he is “profoundly concerned and disappointed” by Hagel’s nomination.

Critics including Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, a group devoted to fighting anti-Semitism, have raised questions about Hagel’s past comments, including one during a 2006 interview in which he was quoted as saying: “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” Hagel also has faced criticism for urging direct talks with Iran.


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!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • 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.