First, thanks to Kevin Baron, of Foreign Policy Magazine for these “Hagelisms” quotes:
With these quotes as a context, it seems that Obama’s choice is one that is interesting since it must assume that there is a serious meeting of the minds between the President and Senator Hagel on our strategic goals and on necessary resources and priorities or he would not have been given this position.
One can assume that Hagel will start with a strong disposition towards caution and care in initiating American armed forces into a conflict or war. He will be in charge immediately in overseeing in the draw down of our forces in Afghanistan and will provide a new set of eyes to the “end game” in assessing the options and outcome of both the withdrawal and remaining troops in the country. He will also be providing his own views on all of this directly to the President and assessing the options which our commanders in the field will soon be providing.
The other key decision will be how to deal with immediate budget issues which DOD will be faced with on the budget front. The key challenges will be the sequestration impact and dealing with the impact of the existing Continuing Resolution (CR) for FY-2012 and final FY-2013 budget appropriations. None of these will be easy issues as the Congress seems to love its “candy” for the defense industries even thought most of the money goes to just three key states. (And you know who lines the campaign pockets of Republican and even some Democratic backers of larger bloated military contracts!) Time and time again Congress has tried to force on DOD expensive and largely useless defense systems that are not needed and are eating away at defense needs that are real and key to current and future threats rather than war fighting during the Cold War. Most experts agree that a more trim and “mean and lean”and mobile force configuration is the way to go.
There are key security issues that also must be confronted by Obama/Hagel/Kerry and include, as this blog has noted, Iran’s nuclear weapons, the creation of peace in the Middle East with an Israeli-Palestinian agreement of two states, the addressing the horror and the consequences of the conflict in Syria, the problem of terrorism in Africa, the danger of a nuclear North Korea, and not the least, the Pakistan-India-Afghanistan regional conundrum.
Further Hagel and Kerry need to add their views on dealing constructively with Russia a nuclear armed power, that may be descending into an ever darker night of authoritarianism, and the “rise” of a China that must decide if indeed it will be a “peaceful rise” and how we can support that approach. Rethinking is needed on how to bolster the U.S. and international institutions of peacekeeping/peacemaking and conflict prevention which have been permitted with wither and atrophy.
Clearly finally, our budget and strategic posture needs a deeper “rethinking” and one can hope that Hagel and others will contribute to it along with President Obama now that we are finished with a war in Iraq and winding down the other in Afghanistan, and our experts and officials can start looking afresh at the longer-term challenges, not least I might add for macro national security, climate change’s impact and inter-communal/ethnic antagonisms.