Earlier this week, President Barack Obama nominated former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, to serve as Secretary of Defense during Obama’s second term. Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, is expected to face opposition by Republicans and Democrats during his confirmation hearings for his past statements on foreign policy, including his stance against increasing the number of U.S. troops during the war with Iraq and his weak support for Israel. Hagel was also criticized for calling a U.S. Ambassador nominee “openly, aggressively gay,” and not supporting the nomination in 1998.
Dr. Geoffrey Wawro, director of the University of North Texas Military History Center and a professor of history, is available to comment on Hagel as a possible Secretary of Defense. Wawro is the author of Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East from the Balfour Declaration to the Bush Doctrine. He was also a host and anchor of the History Channel and History International programs Global View, Hardcover History, Hard Target, History's Business and History versus Hollywood, and has been a commentator on Spike TV's The Deadliest Warrior.
Wawro says Hagel, who served in the U.S. Army Infantry in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968 and obtained the rank of sergeant, “would be the first grunt in the history of the U.S. to hold the position.”
“Chuck Hagel has a justified skepticism about military adventure — perfect for the age we live in. He would be a good steward at the Pentagon. He is not an inside player, and would bring a fresh set of eyes and military experience to bear on the inevitable cuts in programs and force size that lie ahead,” Wawro says.
He notes that Hagel has apologized for his unflattering reference to ambassador nominee James Hormel, and that Hagel’s opposition to the surge in Iraq “has wrongly been portrayed as wrong.”
“In fact, he was right, arguing that any amount of additional force would merely reduce violence, but do nothing to improve our standing or status in the region. Reality on the ground today proves Hagel right: Iraq is a weak satellite of Iran,” Wawro says.
Wawro calls the attack on Hagel for his stance on Israel “unconscionable and represents foreign meddling in U.S. government.”
“It is politically difficult for any U.S. public servant to take anything other than a truckling view on Israel, but it should not be rendered totally impossible. Hagel has shown courage, intelligence and integrity throughout a distinguished career,” Wawro says.
Wawro may be reached via cell phone at 214-514-7224.