Chuck Hagel is a former enlisted soldier who did a tour of duty in Vietnam, earning, among other awards, two Purple Hearts. He saw real, actual, getting shot at, combat. When the President asks his advice on a planned military action, he will understand, at a base level, what they will be asking the troops involved to do.

So forget the noise coming from the man’s own political party; that he’s anti-Israel, that he did an appearance on Al Jazeera, that he wants to gut the Pentagon, or the attacks from the left that he’s anti-gay.

We are about to enter another 4 years of tumultuous international problems, and the easy answer to a lot of problems will be to hit them with a hammer. To me, the most important factors in choosing a SecDef are picking one who will be able to honestly advise which fights are worth it, and how best to win those fights. 

At the bottom there’s a list of SecDefs back through MacNamara. The only two who had any combat experience were Cap the Knife, Richardson (who stood up to Nixon as AG), and Laird.

For all of the Reagan years’ (Weinberger) military buildup, the only big SNAFU was the handling of Beirut, but as painful as that was (and is) it pales in comparison to the long-term damage the chicken hawks on this list did. MacNamara? Cheney? Rumsfeld?

I won’t speak for them, and have faith that they were doing their best for their country from their own perspective, but my outside view of their actions makes it seem clear that they did not understand the true, visceral costs of war, or even how to wage one successfully.

Hagel does know the cost, and I’m damned glad he’s going to get confirmed, even if he was just an army puke. 😉

Panetta, 11-13 1st LT/Army intel
Gates 06-11 CIA out of college
Rumsfeld 01-06 3 yrs as Naval Aviator – peacetime
Cohen – 97-01 No military experience
Perry – 94-97 DOD contractor and staffer
Aspin 93-94 66-68 Army analyst stateside
Cheney 89-93 5 draft deferments
Carlucci 87-89 Naval officer 52-54
Weinberger 81-87 41st ID in WWII, Pacific theater
Brown Nuclear 77-81 Physicist.
Rumsfeld 75-77 Again
Schlesinger 73-75 Rand Corporation
Richardson 73 D-Day Platoon Leader
Laird69-73 Navy WWII Purple Heart oversaw the drawdown of US Forces
Clifford 68-69 Political Naval appointee WWII
61-68 MacNamara WWII USAAF officer office of “Statistical Control”