Chuck Hagel Moves Toward Mainstream on Iran

Once Contrarian, Pentagon Pick Shifts to Establishment Stance

Falling in Line: Chuck Hagel used to be known as a lawmaker who marched to his own beat, especially on the Middle East and Iran. Now that he’s aiming to be President Obama’s Pentagon chief, he’s hewing closer to the mainstream.
getty images
Falling in Line: Chuck Hagel used to be known as a lawmaker who marched to his own beat, especially on the Middle East and Iran. Now that he’s aiming to be President Obama’s Pentagon chief, he’s hewing closer to the mainstream.

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 16, 2013, issue of January 25, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 4)

In fact, even by this past September — two months before Obama’s re-election — Hagel had adopted much of Obama’s language on Iran. In a Washington Post opinion piece that he co-wrote that month, Hagel stated that he believed in “keeping all options on the table, including the use of military force.”

In 2006, Kahl explained, the United States still had 150,000 troops in nearby Iraq, and Iran was far from reaching the kind of capability that would enable it to build a nuclear bomb (an intent that Iran denies). Now, U.S forces are already out of Iraq and are on their way out of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Iran has moved closer to being able to build a bomb, and Hagel’s views have shifted in response to all these factors.

Even if differences with the White House develop further down the road, Washington’s clear lines of hierarchy could limit friction. As commander in chief, Obama is solely responsible for decisions of war and peace.

“In this administration, foreign policy, and specifically policy on Iran, is set at the White House,” said Kahl, who is now an associate professor at Georgetown University. “It is not an issue in which the president is seeking the counsel of the secretary of defense, or an issue he is willing to have his mind changed on.”

Still as Obama’s top adviser on military issues, Hagel will have input.

“No president will make this call without the Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department,” said Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Jewish Policy Center and an expert on military affairs relating to the Middle East. “The job of defense secretary is to tell the president what he can hope to achieve on the ground.”

Experts diverge in their views on the impact that a war skeptic such as Hagel working as defense secretary will have on the dynamics of the U.S.-Iran standoff. Writing in Commentary, neoconservative analyst Max Boot from the Council on Foreign Relations argued that having Hagel in the Pentagon would send to the region a message of American reluctance to take on 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!
  • 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?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • 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.