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Mon Jan 28, 2013, 07:52 PM

Public Opinion Is on Chuck Hagel's Side


This morning Bob Woodward has a Washington Post column about President Obama's choice of former senator Chuck Hagel for the Pentagon. Woodward focuses on Obama's feelings about war—that it is always abhorrent and sometimes necessary—and draws a connection from there to Hagel. But the line that explains both the president's choice and the violent reaction of a minority of the conservative political and national security communities is earlier in the piece.

Hagel recalls himself telling the new president: "We are at a time where there is a new world order. We don't control it. You must question everything, every assumption, everything they"—the military and diplomats—"tell you. Any assumption 10 years old is out of date. You need to question our role. You need to question the military. You need to question what are we using the military for."

The extent to which the United States can control the international order, and unilaterally shape it to our ends, has been in some ways the disagreement underlying the politics of foreign policy for at least eight years now. President Obama won two national elections with the argument—and the second time, with four years of evidence—that trading unilateralism and efforts at control for (still muscular) engagement and influence could provide for U.S. security as well and in fact are better than the failed efforts at "control" that had been on display in Iraq and the Middle East.

Hagel's own journey from Iraq War supporter to opponent reflects a real intellectual effort to engage with reality beyond our shores—reality in which power has spread and even, in some places, democratized, over the last few decades. He then moved on to begin, as he advised the president, questioning other pillars of the Cold War order—the utility of nuclear weapons, the value of increased Pentagon spending in a time of austerity, the value of support for Israel that fails to ask Israeli governments hard questions.



Heather Hurlburt is the executive director of the National Security Network in Washington, D.C. Heather previously served in the Clinton administration as speechwriter to the president, and as speechwriter and policy planning staff for Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher. Follow her on Twitter at @NatSecHeather.

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Reply Public Opinion Is on Chuck Hagel's Side (Original post)
Purveyor Jan 2013 OP
Cha Jan 2013 #1
alcibiades_mystery Jan 2013 #2

Response to Purveyor (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 08:54 PM

1. The money quote..thanks Purveyor..

Public opinion shows that the public prefers Hagel's more thoughtful approach to the use of force over the muscular unilateralism of his opponents. Trouble is, they haven't had a clear sense of what those policies and tools might look like. Now's the chance for all the Hagel fans newly-entered into the public discourse to stay—with a disciplined habit of thoughtfulness that, it seems, Americans and not just President Obama crave.

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Response to Purveyor (Original post)

Mon Jan 28, 2013, 09:03 PM

2. Much ado about nothing...Hagel will be confirmed with 75 votes

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