Hagel Nominated to Top Defense Position
Published: Monday, January 7, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 13:01
Georgetown professor and former Republican Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel has been nominated as President Barack Obama’s next Secretary of Defense.
Obama made the announcement Monday morning, along with his choice for John Brennan as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
While Hagel has accepted the nomination, he must still be confirmed by the Senate.
The nomination has attracted a firestorm of accusations that Hagel, a Vietnam veteran with two purple hearts, is anti-Israel, antigay and complacent toward Iran, according to The Washington Post. The Post reported that Obama’s announcement prompted the formation of several support and opposition groups seeking to influence the senatorial vote, including one financed by the Emergency Committee for Israel.
The Hoya previously reported that in a Sept. 22, 2008, address in Riggs Library, Hagel urged America to engage and seek common interests with the Middle East, heralding the coming presidency as a pivotal moment in U.S.-Middle East relations.
“We can’t squander the next four years,” he is reported to have said. “The next president will have to make Congress, the Senate and the world a partner.”
Hagel, who, according to The New York Times supported the American war in Afghanistan but quickly withdrew initial support for the Iraq War, also said in the 2008 address at Georgetown that traditional methods of force are not appropriate for conflicts in the Middle East.
"The Middle East is a tribal land, it has a history, it is complicated," he said. "Military strength is not the solution in the Middle East.”
Amid uncertainty about Hagel’s term as potential Secretary of Defense, Michael Bailey, chair of the government department, said he foresees continuity with current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s policy.
“I think it means four more years of the same approach: centrist — and sometimes conservative — foreign policy with more liberal people at least being in the room,” Bailey wrote in an email.
Hagel was due to teach an international affairs course, titled “21st Century Geopolitical Realities,” next semester, but the class has been cancelled in the wake of his nomination, according to enrolled student Taylor Wettach (SFS ’13).
Wettach, who expressed disappointment at the course’s cancellation, said he signed up because he wanted to learn from someone who had been at the forefront of important foreign policy decisions in recent years.
“For me, perception was that Chuck Hagel was a good cross in terms of being on the policy side and making the big decisions in the political arena,” Wettach said. “He would have been great to learn from.”
Wettach, who added that Hagel solicited biographies from the class to gauge student interests, said that communication about the status of the course could have been clearer but he understood the decision to cancel it.
“It would have been nice to have a little more information and more knowledge, but given the situation, [the university] did the best [it] could,” he said. “If I had been asked to be Secretary of Defense, I would have cancelled my class, too.”
Carol Lancaster, Dean of the Walsh School of Foreign Service, said she regretted Hagel's departure from Georgetown's faculty but wished him well in office as Secretary of Defense if confirmed.
"He is a man of integrity, experienced in defense and security issues, a true patriot and an impressive leader. I shall be sad to see him leave Georgetown — he has been a successful, engaging professor and a very good citizen, participating in many extracurricular activities at Georgetown during his time with us," she wrote in an email. "I look forward to his service as a successful Secretary of Defense."
In addition to his undergraduate geopolitics course, Hagel previously taught a graduate course, titled “Redefining Geopolitical Relationships,” in which he was known for creative teaching methods.
A Nov. 19, 2010, article in The Hoya reported that Hagel rewarded the three students who most accurately predicted the outcomes of the election of that month with bottles of Federalist Zinfandel Wine. In addition, remembering students’ request that he arrange a class visit from President Obama, he treated the class to a surprise appearance by his former staffer T. J. Birkel donning an Obama mask.
"At a time when the world is so tense, so much trouble, I think it's kind of fun to lighten it up a bit and remind us all we are humans," Hagel said at the time.
Hoya Staff Writers Braden McDonald and Ted Murphy contributed to this report.