When the Senate Armed Services Committee takes up the nomination of Chuck Hagel on Thursday, former Georgia senator (and committee chairman) Sam Nunn will introduce him. But another former Georgia senator will be in the room to support a fellow Vietnam veteran. Though he’s not scheduled to testify, Max Cleland has penned the following op-ed piece in support of the former Nebraska Republican senator:
Several years ago, I visited with Gen. Colin Powell when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. “How’s it going, General, I greeted him?” He replied that he had spoken to a civic group recently. He said a man came up to him and pointedly announced, “You don’t sound very much a hawk!”
General Powell told me he responded to the man by saying, “Tell you the truth, I don’t get paid to be a hawk. My job is to give the president the best advice on how to use the American military to stay out of war, but if we get in war win and win quickly.”
That’s the finest definition of a high-ranking Pentagon official’s responsibilities I’ve ever heard. It is the ultimate definition of the role of Secretary of Defense.
Chuck Hagel fits that definition perfectly.
Hagel is a fellow veteran of the Vietnam War. We were both wounded about the same time in the same year in the Tet Offensive in 1968. We both witnessed the slaughter on both sides. He and I still carry the shrapnel from our wounds.
Chuck is the living embodiment of General MacArthur’s observation that, “The soldier above all prays for peace because he must bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” For that reason, Chuck is gun-shy about the willy-nilly commitment of American forces around the globe. I’m sure he agrees with another former chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staff, Gen. Hugh Shelton, also a Vietnam veteran, who was fond of saying, “The American military is a great hammer, but every problem in the world is not necessarily a nail.”
But, does that make Hagel a peacenik?
The other part of the Powell equation (now known as the Powell Doctrine) says that when America goes to war, it must do so with overwhelming force in order to win, and win quickly.
Having spent a year of his youth in a war that went on for years, that bled America dry of blood and treasure, Chuck feels the necessity of this dictum in his bones. After more than a decade of war, this American military needs to come home. It also needs a leader in the Secretary of Defense who gets that fact.
Gen. Colin Powell has endorsed Chuck Hagel.
So do I.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider