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Sat Jan 5, 2013, 11:36 AM

Chuck Hagel’s Experience as a Soldier Uniquely Qualifies Him to Head Defense

If nominated and confirmed, Chuck Hagel would become the first secretary of defense in decades—perhaps in U.S. history—to have served in combat as an enlisted soldier.

U.S. senators considering whether to support Hagel would do well to reflect on this qualification, whose benefits—both practical and symbolic—easily outweigh the arguments now being marshaled against his nomination. At a time when fewer politicians in Washington have served in the armed forces than at any point since the 40s—a disturbing trend, given the gravity of sending people and taxpayer’s dollars to war--Hagel’s realistic and seasoned perspective on the utility and limitations of military force would be an asset to policymakers hunting for a sustainable defense strategy.

Some readers might appreciate a refresher on the definition of an “enlisted” soldier. Uniformed servicemen and women fall into one of two categories: officers or enlisted. Officers, from second lieutenants up to four-star generals, constitute the top of the chain of command. They receive their commissions from the president of the United States, and they usually must have a college degree or higher to qualify. Enlisted personnel are the privates, corporals and sergeants—the high school graduates who sign up for four-year terms of service and swear to obey the orders of the officers appointed over them. In other words, they’re the ones who have the least say about where, when, and why we go to war, but bear the harshest consequences when we do.

Despite having had some college under his belt in 1967, Hagel chose to enlist. He not only didn’t dodge the draft, he actually volunteered to go fight in Vietnam, and was twice wounded in combat. Those experiences became a valuable lens through which he has examined decisions about war ever since. They gave him the confidence, while serving as a senator from Nebraska, to defy his fellow Republicans (and many Democrats) by doggedly questioning the plan to invade Iraq. Among other things, he warned that the course of the war would be uncontrollable—a piece of foresight that many U.S. leaders now wish they’d had.

As a general rule, war vets who go into government tend to exercise greater restraint than non-veterans when it comes to committing troops to war. “Having seen war's horrors firsthand, leaders who were veterans helped steady the country's course and calm the passions of the moment before sending our youth into the fire of battle,” is the explanation Hagel gives in his memoir.

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Reply Chuck Hagel’s Experience as a Soldier Uniquely Qualifies Him to Head Defense (Original post)
Purveyor Jan 2013 OP
AnotherMcIntosh Jan 2013 #1
Purveyor Jan 2013 #2
SDjack Jan 2013 #3
MannyGoldstein Jan 2013 #4
rug Jan 2013 #5

Response to Purveyor (Original post)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 11:44 AM

1. Plus he is a Republican, which is a plus for a President who wants to appoint Republicans.

 

With all of the millions of veterans in the United States, can't President Obama find a Democrat?

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Response to AnotherMcIntosh (Reply #1)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 11:51 AM

2. Perhaps but the President has a working relationship with Hagel and is apparently comfortable

with Hagel and his abilities.

He is currently co-chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board.

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Response to Purveyor (Original post)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 12:03 PM

3. Hagel should expect some resistance and undermining by the generals. They

don't like being told what to do an ex-sarge. Some of them might have retire.

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Response to Purveyor (Original post)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 12:56 PM

4. Hagel voted to invade Iraq

Not a good omen.

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Response to Purveyor (Original post)

Sat Jan 5, 2013, 01:22 PM

5. That's nonsense.

The role of a Defense Secretary is to steer the military industrial complex and enfoce U.S. foreign policy. Combat experience, if anything, would distract from this pivotal role in maintaining the ruling classes. What happens to personnel in combat zones, not to mention civilians, is collateral to that job. This is no more than a silly puff piece.

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