As Washington insiders argue the finer points on the merits (and demerits) of having Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, the man himself had been running around for years proving that he probably isn’t the best option for the position. His abysmal performance in the confirmation hearings aside, Hagel has been wandering around proving his lack of basic knowledge necessary to do the job for well over a year now.
The American Enterprise Institute blog, AEIdeas aptly pointed out at least one shortcoming when it comes to Hagel’s comprehension of the Defense budget and sequestration cuts on the horizon. AEIdeas points out from a short snippet of a September 2011 interview by Financial Times, that Hagel’s lack of real knowledge of the issues at hand in the Department of Defense, when it comes to spending, is not a new development.
It is true that traditionally defense spending is a sacred cow to conservatives. Any talk of cuts typically garners at best, cynicism – at worst, outright attacks and derision. However, there is fat to be trimmed, and that concept has been explored by at least one blogger at Their Finest Hour. That source is mentioned primarily because of its pro-military stance. But, that is not the sort of cuts that Hagel is referring to, either in his 2011 interview with the Financial Times, or in his confirmation hearing testimony. On the contrary, in both he is showing a sophomoric understanding of the important issues at hand – of balancing budget requirements with maintaining the level of national security this nations needs. And this was not lost on former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs during his appearance on “Meet the Press.”
Hagel is not a an appropriate choice for Secretary of Defense at this point, not only because of his own shortcomings, but also because John Kerry is now taking the post of Secretary of State. These two departments must work hand-in-hand to ensure the safety of American citizens abroad, and provide relatively safe situations for American businesses to expand worldwide. It has come to light that the suicide bomber that attempted to attack the U.S. Embassy in Turkey was known to U.S. authorities, and unlike the Benghazi attack, the administration has come out from the beginning admitting that this was a terrorist attack. But, one has to wonder what Hagel’s ideas for cutting fat at the Pentagon would do to the security overseas that arguably prevented that bomber from breaching even the outer defenses of our Turkish Embassy.
And maintaining the safety of our personnel and business interests abroad is not the only concern our incoming Secretary of Defense will have thanks to the new Secretary of State. With Iran stepping up development of weapons for use against its enemies in the Middle East and beyond, there will be serious issues to address in the Department of Defense. Whether one considers the possibility of Iran making its own fighter jets, or the possibility of them being able to send rockets into space, there are seriously disturbing issues on the horizon when it comes to dealing with Iran going forward. Couple this with their determination to acquire a nuclear weapon, and it is a deadly combination that will require competent leadership in the Department of Defense – not willy-nilly running about talking about the need to cut funding. This is especially important, since the Iranians appear to be dangling a carrot when it comes to talks on nuclear weapons – something Kerry probably will not navigate through well. In this administration, the Department of Defense will play a pivotal role, if only because it will be left to clean up messes made by the Department of State, for one. Hagel cannot handle that, if for no other reason, because he would fail to recognize the need to do it in the first place – at least until there was a significant loss of civilian lives, at home or abroad, to force the issue.