Friday, September 17, 2010

Our favorite "Senator from France" Chuck Hagel: still telling it like it is

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) arrives at Camp Rama...Image via WikipediaIt's not everyday that we find a politician who is able to keep his/her reputation of candor in office or out.  Hard to keep in office, because politicians pander to their constituents and are afraid to lose their votes; and outside, because they may be after a position here or there and presumably does not want to compromise their appointment prospects with the administration of the day.  But we are happy to see that Chuck Hagel still wear the same stripes, still own the same spots, and have not exchanged his views for political convenience.  And god bless the guy, he still makes sense.

Michael Coleman did an interview with the former Senator for The Washington Diplomat. Quotable quotes below:

“I think we’re in a mess in Afghanistan and I think we’re in a mess in Iraq,” said Hagel, who voted in support of the war in Iraq based on the intelligence assessments and later admitted he regretted his vote.

“Our military has been more valiant and done a better job than we could have ever hoped. But we have put the military in an impossible situation.”

“Look at the facts: No government, less electricity and people want us out,” Hagel pointed out. “Anyway you measure Iraq today I think you’re pretty hard pressed to find how people are better off than they were before we invaded. I think history is going to be very harsh in its judgment — very, very harsh. And I think we’re headed for a similar outcome in Afghanistan if we don’t do some things differently.”

“We are where we are today — going into our 10th year in Afghanistan, our longest war — because we did take our eye of the ball,” he said. “It’s becoming clearer and clearer. We really made some big mistakes during that time. I have never believed you can go into any country and nation build, and unfortunately I think that’s what we’ve gotten ourselves bogged down in.

“You can dance around that issue any way you like, but the fact is that there are billions and billions of dollars we’ve spent and are still spending, over 100,000 troops, and all the assistance we’ve got going in there,” Hagel continued. “It’s nation building. We should not nation build. It will always end in disaster.”

“We became completely disoriented from our original focus,” Hagel charged. “That problem in Afghanistan isn’t going to be solved with 100,000 American troops.”

“We’re sinking down further and further into the bog,” he lamented. “We’re going to have to unwind this because politically it’s not sustainable in the United States.”

“It’s the most combustible area of the world,” Hagel, a former senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, explained. “You’ve got three nuclear powers [China, India and Pakistan] that all come together at the same border and on the other side you’ve got Afghanistan and Iran. The worst thing we can do is continue to stay bogged down in those areas where we continue to undermine our own objectives.”

“I’ve been called the senator from France and all this stuff,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “But I’ve never thought that engagement was appeasement.

 “I’ve always found that engagement is critically important to statecraft,” he added. “That doesn’t mean that engagement is giving things away or appeasement. Engagement is a long way away from negotiation. But it will allow you some time and give you some high ground, some optics, some support worldwide and a dimension to try to assess things from as close to the scene as you can.

 “We say, ‘We’ll show you — we’re not going to talk to you. We’ll penalize you,’” he continued. “Well, it really doesn’t penalize anybody but us because we can’t make good judgments on just what we think. We have to engage.”

“The consequences of the blunder we made and the extenuation of the disaster in Afghanistan is going to play out in a number of ways that will affect our country,” he said. “Start with the Pentagon. Does anybody not think that these two wars have ground our people down? Our generals are saying it — record divorces, record suicides, not to mention the equipment — anyway you calibrate it. Quite frankly, I think there has been so much damage done to the infrastructure of our military and our force structure that it’s going to take a generation to build back.”

He pointedly added: “You can’t run people like machines  — even machines break down.”

Some quarters have actually cited his candor as "biden-nisque" that could cost him a possible position in DOD or DOS.  We don't mind it if he'd suffer from occassional foot in mouth disease -- somebody's gotta tell it like it is. 

Keep going, Chuck! Maybe one day, the somebodies will listen.

Read the whole thing here.

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