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In remarks on ‘threats and challenges,’ new DefSec Chuck Hagel leaves out Iran

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Hagel with Sergeant John Wirth before addressing Pentagon today
Hagel with Sergeant John Wirth of Nebraska, who introduced Hagel at the Pentagon today (photo by Navy Petty Officer Chad J. McNeeley)

Having supported Chuck Hagel’s nomination so strongly, as a signal of a less-militant policy in the Middle East, I can exult today at his swearing-in and prepare myself for years of disappointment. In the exultation phase, I’d note that his speech emphasized ordinary people who are hurt by American militarism, and that he said nothing about Iran. He was introduced by an Army Sergeant from Nebraska, above, which Chuck Hagel was when he was in Vietnam. Humility; moving.

Two excerpts from his speech, about which Defense states, “As Written by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel”:

As your leader, I will always do my best for our country and for all of you – and your families.  As with my friends and predecessors Leon Panetta and Bob Gates, your safety, success, and welfare will always be at the forefront of my decisions….

And this was the only specific mention Hagel made to US engagements overseas, apart from a paragraph about winding down in Afghanistan. Notice that Iran isn’t on the menu. And reference to Asia-Pacific region is pretty vague:

As we turn the page on more than a decade of grinding conflict, we must broaden our attention to future threats and challenges.  That means continuing to increase our focus on the Asia-Pacific region, reinvigorating historic Alliances like NATO, and making new investments in critical capabilities like cyber.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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23 Responses

  1. American on February 27, 2013, 2:16 pm

    I don’t know——not mentioning Iran could be a positive.

    • benjoya on February 27, 2013, 3:20 pm

      yes, i think that was phil’s point. hagel’s lack of knee-jerk bellicosity is a breath of fresh air, if i may mix my metaphors.

    • FreddyV on February 28, 2013, 8:39 am

      Defo a positive. Interesting thing is that he ran the gauntlet of pro Israel neocons when many would have just told them to stick the job up their asses.

      I think this whole thing as a line up to Obama bitch slapping Netanyahu. Looks like talks with Iran are finding a more positive footing, Relations with Syria’s new regime seem to be better so what can Israel possibly lean on to derail meaningful talks about the Palestinian issue?

  2. pabelmont on February 27, 2013, 2:16 pm

    I’m into my second quadrennium of disappointment at Obama. Why should Hagel be any different?

    That said, Obama does seem to be nipping at the edges of the Zionist Project.

    If JPS would publish a full page ad in support of international pressure on Israel to remove the settlers, the wall, the siege of Gaza, and maybe the settlements (buildings), I’d pay my $100 cheerfully. Trouble is, assuming they did publish it, I’d not want to support the NYT by placing the ad there. That paper supports the occupation and, presumably, profits from it. Hmmm.

  3. lysias on February 27, 2013, 2:28 pm

    Note that the photographer was a Navy Petty Officer. So he is also an enlisted man. (There are — in descending order — Petty Officers First Class, Second Class, and Third Class. I was myself a Petty Officer First Class until I was commissioned as a Lieutenant Junior Grade. Petty Officer Third Class is an E-4, the equivalent of an Army Corporal or Spec-4. Petty Officer Second Class is an E-5, the equivalent of an Army Sergeant. Petty Officer First Class is an E-6, the equivalent of an Army Staff Sergeant.)

  4. Dan Crowther on February 27, 2013, 2:30 pm

    Iran isn’t in South Asia? Hmm

    • lysias on February 27, 2013, 4:57 pm

      Actually, by most definitions of South Asia, Iran is not included.

    • tree on February 27, 2013, 5:53 pm

      Iran isn’t in South Asia? Hmm

      “South Asia” is most often used as the current term that replaces the older “Indian subcontinent” term and Iran is most often not considered part of “South Asia”, although it is occasionally considered so.

      In any case, Hagel didn’t refer to “South Asia”. His only mention of “Asia” in his speech was this:

      ” That means continuing to increase our focus on the Asia-Pacific region…”

      Iran is clearly not a part of the Pacific, or “Asia-Pacific”. It is bordered by the Arabian Sea which is a considered a region/border of the Indian Ocean. My guess is that Hagel was referencing North Korea in his speech.

  5. Clif Brown on February 27, 2013, 2:49 pm

    Politicians typically wiggle and squirm, saying anything to get into office. As a result it’s difficult to know who they really are. Abe Lincoln was an exception – true to himself throughout his campaigns and even dooming his re-election to the House by speaking forcefully against the Mexican War.

    Hagel writhed in his nomination hearing. I hope, along with you, that he will now conduct himself as we hope he will. If he does it will be against the current of American Empire thinking – a very hard thing to buck. Empires are not known to rationally scale themselves back, no matter who is in power. Visions of the world are not easily altered. Group-think is powerful. Let’s cross our fingers.

  6. just on February 27, 2013, 2:52 pm

    It’s a beautiful day– right now the sun is shining, Spring is in the air and I feel some semblance of hope. What a great photo– the Sergeant looks proud and happy, and Sec Hagel appears humble and engaged.

    Thank you, Philip.

  7. atime forpeace on February 27, 2013, 4:33 pm

    I think that this Asia pivot only means that the Realist neocons have taken up the baton of militancy. Oh well if thats the best we can hope for ill take it.

  8. BillM on February 27, 2013, 4:43 pm

    I don’t agree that “his speech emphasized ordinary people who are hurt by American militarism,” so much as it focused on the sacrifices made by military families. I, too, was happy that Iran was not covered in this speech (am I interpreting you correctly that you view it as a positive that this speech did not focus on Iran?) and that Hagel did not feel to toss in a gratuitious pledge of support for Israel.

    • Citizen on February 27, 2013, 6:30 pm

      @ BillM Yes Hagel specifically said he keeps in mind the sacrifices made by military families, and always works in the interests of those families and veterans (as his record clearly shows). But I think Phil’s characterization was also accurate, but of course Hagel couldn’t expressly slam American militarism on the occasion of subject speech. Yet by focusing on the sacrifices made by our military families of an all voluntary force, on that 1% of the US population and military veterans, it’s clear Hagel does think they were the Americans hurt by American militarism. Who else has been hurt with a chicken hawk congress and a 1% volunteer military in our total population? Hagel has repeatedly said he always asks first, Does this justify risking our troops? That’s not rhetoric with him. Fresh air.

  9. ToivoS on February 27, 2013, 5:19 pm

    It would not be appropriate to talk about Iran. Right now that is not part of his portfolio. Afghanistan, on the other hand is. It will be a major logistical undertaking withdrawing US forces. One of the unsung heroes of our withdrawal from Vietnam was Nixon’s SOD Melvin Laird. He quietly and efficiently withdrew so many US troops, that in 1972 when Nixon and Kissinger threatened the North, they much to their chagrin discovered that they didn’t have enough troops. They were forced to rely on ineffectual bombing.

    Now that Hagel has finally been nominated we should all give a hearty three cheers to the one victory that has been achieved: the lobby has suffered a defeat. Let there be many more in the future.

  10. CloakAndDagger on February 27, 2013, 5:41 pm

    No Phil, this is a good day. Don’t expect public proclamations. The disembowelment of Israeli spies and treasonous donkey-fellators in the Pentagon will not be televised. You may not even perceive the changes as they occur – and neither will the lobby. It will all be clear one day.


  11. Citizen on February 27, 2013, 5:57 pm

    On Hardball now; Chris asks again, why did they keep voting against him, even on the cloture vote? Howard Fineman says, they were “catering to their core constituency.”

    Chris, of course, is not following up on who that constituency might be. Fineman says, “that’s what the Democrats did with Bork.”

    Like, they blame the entire attack on Hagel the GOP. Nothing about how slow and tepid the Democratic leadership was to support Obama’s pick. Nothing about the “pro-Israel” lobby.

  12. CloakAndDagger on February 27, 2013, 6:30 pm

    From the Chicago Tribune:

    Addressing Pentagon employees shortly after a small, closed-door swearing-in ceremony, Hagel spoke optimistically, if vaguely, about global challenges ahead and the importance of American leadership abroad.

    “We can’t dictate to the world. But we must engage the world. We must lead with our allies,” Hagel said in what appeared to be unscripted remarks.,0,3068664.story

    The non-interventionist is peeking through the covers! “Engaging the world” could include direct talks and reconciliation with Iran.

    • Citizen on February 27, 2013, 10:12 pm

      He has advocated speaking with all our enemies; he actually thinks the barrel of a gun is the absolutely last resort, not the first diplomacy, which is why Israel Firsters have called him an appeaser. They believe it’s 1938, Iran is Nazi Germany, and Palestinians are an invention by those who try to use our Western ethical code against us.

      He’s a surviving piece of cannon fodder who actually values America’s highest values–the ones we’ve been throwing away as useless anchors, as fast as Israel can train us.

  13. Kathleen on February 27, 2013, 10:55 pm

    “and prepare myself for years of disappointments” me too. Know it is coming. Keep looking for the transcript of Hagel’s speech at the Univ of Colorado’s World Affairs Conference in 2009 where I heard him speak and was able to ask him a few questions during the Q and A period. He was so clear, on target, compassionate yet real. Talked a great deal about how the US has created a lot of enemies through our ruthlessness. Those were of course not his words but that was the message I received.

    Watching Chris Matthews right now have never seen his face looked so pissed when he opened with this “Scalia calls voting an entitlement”

    • annie on February 27, 2013, 11:24 pm

      scalia is the scourge of the court. some creme brulee for desert in the coming decade pleaseeeeeee.

      • Kathleen on February 28, 2013, 6:19 am

        Who and why do some of these jokers have life time appointments? bipartisan in your dreams. We had a Supreme Court Presidential selection in 2000 and look what happened and now they want to do it again in 2016 by undermining or eliminating the Voting Rights Act

  14. gingershot on February 28, 2013, 1:05 am

    Hagel is dealing with the grave strategic threat to the US that Israel and her Israeli Lobby pose – and foremost of that threat is the Israeli/IL push to hoax or mousetrap the US into a war with Iran

    • Kathleen on February 28, 2013, 11:25 am

      yep. I really think Hagel is being a better friend to Israel than most. The hatred towards Israel is only going to increase if they do not back off on the expansion of the settlements. Only going to get worse.

      I do think Hagel will go back to speaking his mind at least to Obama (who clearly all ready knows how Hagel really feels and thinks about the situation. Obama and team calculated how to get Hagel through the neocons sticky rabbit hole. He is in. Kristol and team have two black eyes. With Kerry, Hagel and Obama in these seats I have more hope in a sane foreign policy. But like Phil said I know I will be disappointed. Just hope there is not a pre-emptive attack on Iran. They will not roll over.

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