January 1, 2013  

SECDEF selection

To President Obama for nominating Chuck Hagel as defense secretary.

As the U.S. moves beyond a decade of furious op tempo and price-is-no-object spending, the American military will need to make best strategic use of shrinking funds and force structure. A key to this transition, as laid out in the latest national defense strategy, will be drawing upon the full range of U.S. government capabilities as well as those of international allies and partners. Hagel, long a student of smart power, has the knowledge, experience, and — always important — the relationships to bring this vision to life. The long-time senator and current Atlantic Council chairman knows, and is widely respected by, the major players in the game.

His multilateral outlook is reflected, among other things, in his attitude toward sanctions, the perception of which has been somewhat muddied by opponents of his nomination. Hagel’s record shows he isn’t against sanctions, just unilateral ones. For sanctions to work, those applying them must be unified. Otherwise, they have no bite.

In this era of uncertainty and cutbacks, a defense secretary who challenges group think and common assumptions is essential. Hagel fits that bill.