‘Holdup of Hagel’s appointment as Defense Sec. was public theater’
RT:Chuck Hagel endured through a bumpy road to
receive the long-awaited confirmation, do you think he can now
breathe a sigh of relief?
Conn Hallinan: I do think that what it showed was that the Obama administration was willing to stick with Hagel on this, and if you judge someone by whose enemies are, then I think this was a step back from the, sort of, confrontational policies that the US has followed throughout the past 10-12 years. I think… the Secretary of Defense doesn’t make policy.
It doesn’t mean that the Secretary of Defense doesn’t have a major voice in the establishment of policy. It’s one of the two most important secretaries, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense; it’s really the two most important cabinet positions in the United States. So, this is a step in the direction that I tend to see as hopeful for ratcheting back some of the rhetoric around Iran, and maybe even some possibilities of some sort of settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
RT:Many were certain that Hagel would get the approval despite the hurdles he had to overcome. So why did it have to be delayed for so long?
CH: I think that the Republicans were trying to do two things: One is they would throw as many roadblocks as they could up against Obama, which makes it quite clear the Republican party has made a decision to basically put their bodies on the railroad tracks and to jam up the works as much as possible. This was an opportunity to do that. But I think also it was a way to try to intimidate both Hagel and the administration around the question of Iran and around the question of Israel, so it was more public theater, but a lot of politics in the United States is public theater, so I think that was the goal they had in mind.
RT:Does this mean Obama is seeking a change in course, picking someone with views that are not mainstream in Washington?
CH: Certainly, he is not the mainstream Washington kind of guy. He’s kind of old-fashioned conservative Republican, like the ones they used to have, say, 30 years ago. In fact, he’s a lot like the outgoing Secretary of Defense [Leon] Panetta. Panetta was, one point, a Republican who became a Democrat because he couldn’t get elected from his Congressional district without shifting parties. I think they’re pretty much of the same mind.
I think Hagel is someone who has experienced war, he’s someone who’s seen it face to face, someone who’s been wounded, he was an enlisted man, he’s got some sympathy for what it is that the soldiers are going through. And I think that he’s less tied to the kind of big lobbying firms to the major corporations like Lockheed Martin, and Bowing, and Taledyne, and Northrop Grumman, et cetera. I think what you will see is someone who’s a lot more willing to go after these high-price level programs which are not working out very well, and which can be cut. He’s a guy who you kind of want to buck lobbyists. Hagel isn’t a bad guy to do it with.