Chuck Hagel has just resigned as the Secretary of Defense,
although his resignation was probably highly encouraged. His story is an interesting one, as it
serves as a good example of the almost uselessness of politics. He is also an example of where a lack
of hardcore principles ends badly.
Unlike many politicians, Hagel actually had a business
career that did not depend solely on government favors. He helped found Vanguard Cellular,
which made him a multi-millionaire.
It was a mobile phone service carrier formed in 1984, when mobile phones
were quite primitive compared to today.
Hagel was a U.S. Senator from Nebraska from 1997 to 2009 (2
terms). While he was elected as a
Republican, he had some differences with the establishment of his party,
particularly during the Bush years.
Hagel voted with the majority of Republicans in support of
the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. He
also voted for the Patriot Act, which perhaps should have been a sign of caution
for civil libertarians who later supported Hagel and had high hopes for him.
From a pro-liberty standpoint, Hagel voted against No Child
Left Behind, against the Medicare prescription drug bill, and against
McCain-Feingold. These were some
of his better moments in defecting from the Republican establishment.
In 2002, Hagel voted in favor of the resolution to go to war
in Iraq. However, unlike most
other Republicans in Washington DC, he later reversed course on Iraq. He voted in 2007 for a troop withdrawal
and he became something of a critic on the war. He lost favor with the Republican Party and started to gain
favor with Democrats.
After Obama was re-elected in 2012, he nominated Hagel for
Secretary of Defense. Whether or
not it was a political move, Obama wanted someone in his cabinet from “across
the aisle”. Hagel was a somewhat
obvious choice because of his previous opposition to remaining in Iraq. Hagel became Secretary of Defense in
February 2013 after getting approval from the Senate.
It is amazing how people change once they are in
office. We see it all the time,
but it is still almost unbelievable how all principles go out the window once
We see it with Republicans all the time when they promise
smaller government, only to expand it and find government solutions in most
We see it with Democrats who promise more peace and a less
interventionist foreign policy.
Once they get in to power, they continue the spying and war making.
Obama was elected as the anti-Bush candidate. He opposed the war in Iraq. He campaigned on greater civil
liberties, including shutting down detention centers for accused terrorists.
While nominating Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State was
a bad sign of the things to come, Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel four years
later may have looked a little bit promising. But, as usual, big government wins.
Interestingly, the position of Secretary of Defense actually
comes from what was previously called the Secretary of War. Since the Defense Secretary now has
little to do with defense and a lot to do with war, the previous cabinet
position was more accurately named for today’s times.
Under Hagel’s watch, we have seen continued war in
Afghanistan. We have seen the U.S.
government help overthrow the president in Ukraine and start something of a war
there, along with renewed tensions with Russia.
We have seen continued bombing in Pakistan, Yemen, and
Somalia. The U.S. government
almost started a major war with Syria under Hagel’s watch, but was forced to
back down due to significant opposition.
Now the military is being sent back to Iraq, with U.S. bombs raining
down on Iraq and Syria.
That is quite a record for Obama and Hagel, the supposedly
peace people. I’m not sure it would
have been possible to see that much war out of a third Bush term.
I don’t know if Hagel truly changed his mind on the Iraq War
or if he started opposing it for political reasons. But it didn’t matter once he was in his new office. At that point, all political principle
goes out the window. You have to
play ball with the establishment and the establishment was in favor of more war
and continued intervention overseas.
While some non-interventionists may see Hagel’s time as
Defense Secretary a letdown, it was really just a good example of what happens
in politics. If he had publicly
opposed any of the Obama administration interventions, then he would have been
forced out earlier. You have to be
willing to play ball or you will be kicked out of the game.
Perhaps Hagel did oppose much of the administration’s
meddling and war making in foreign lands, but he did not do it in public
forcefully. He may have voiced
opposition behind closed doors and that is probably why he is leaving. He wasn’t quite hawkish enough for
Obama and the establishment.
So who will take Hagel’s place as Defense Secretary? Does it matter?