What Hagel Said to Impress Obama

Bob Woodward: Hagel is Obama's foreign policy 'soul mate'

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 28, 2013 9:49 AM CST

(Newser) – Why did President Obama pick Chuck Hagel as his new secretary of defense? It all goes back to a never-reported conversation Hagel had with Obama right after his first term as president began, Bob Woodward reports in a Washington Post column. Obama asked Hagel his thoughts on foreign policy and defense. Hagel replied: "We are at a time where there is a new world order. We don't control it. You must question everything, every assumption, everything they"—the military and diplomats—"tell you. Any assumption 10 years old is out of date."

"You need to question our role," Hagel went on. "You need to question what are we using the military for." He also warned Obama not to get "bogged down" in Afghanistan. The conversation established Hagel as Obama's "soul mate" on defense matters, Woodward writes. Both believe that the US must scale back its global role and avoid massive ground wars, while maintaining the threat of war as a diplomatic tool. Still, they don't always agree; Hagel was not pleased with Obama's 2009 Afghanistan surge decision. "The president has not had commander-in-chief control of the Pentagon since Bush senior was president," he privately remarked. Click for Woodward's full column.

Barack Obama shakes hands with Chuck Hagel, after announcing Hagel's nomination for defense secretary in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 7, 2013.
Barack Obama shakes hands with Chuck Hagel, after announcing Hagel's nomination for defense secretary in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
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