The very character traits and policy positions that make Chuck Hagel controversial also make him the right choice for Secretary of Defense:
- Recognition of the folly of the Iraq war.
- Willingness to criticize Israel when warranted.
- Emphasis on dialogue over bravado.
- Realization that force is the last option, not the first. His inclination to open up dialogue with enemies like Hezbollah are not capitulation. They are instead a realization that a new approach is required if the continuous cycle of tit for tat violence in that region is to stop.
Being a Vietnam veteran who has experienced the horror of war up close only adds to his credibility.
For those of us looking for significant change in the US foreign policy stance rather than the outdated establishment view that has kept us backing corrupt rulers and getting mired in useless conflicts like Iraq, this is a small step in the right direction.
Furthermore, Hagel is the right person to lead the necessary transition to a fiscally smaller defense department.
Adding Hagel and Kerry simultaneously strengthens the foreign policy and national security teams. Both have the credibility of veterans who know enough about war to know that it should be avoided. Plus if people think Hagel is too radical Kerry will be able to smooth the ruffled feathers.
Now I want to see the president fight for this nominee. With no reelection pressure this is the time to call in the favors and invest the political capital necessary to move foreign policy into the 21st century.