Click HERE to see an excellent interview with Hagel done four years ago when his book, "America, Our Next Chapter" was first published. In it, he shows a tremends depth of knowledge about the issues surrounding our invasion of Iraq, consistent with how things have played out since then. I was impressed with him then (see my blog entry), and I remain even more impressed with him now.
I have trouble believing John McCain is asserting that the history has already proven that the "surge" in Iraq has proven to be absolutely "right." McCain is now using Hagel's ambivolence about the original decision to invade Iraq (based on faulty intelligence about WMD) as evidence that he is somehow the wrong person for the job of Defense Secretary. Additionally, McCain has attacked Hagel's concerns about the wisdom of the surge possibly throwing good lives and good money after bad, as I think most people believe that we never should have entered Iraq to begin with. It was done under false pretenses. Getting out proved to be VERY DIFFICULT. IMHO, the surge was done as an effort to withdraw from what, in hindsight, was what Chuck Hagel thought it was to begin wtih -- a bad decision.
Everyone agrees that Hussein was a brutal dicator. BUT...he was a Suni dictator, always at odds with his Shiite neighbors, especially in Iran. From a dispassionate view, taking out Saddam Husssein essentially left Shiia-run Iran as the major power in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia is also Shiite, but -- for now -- the secular/business leaders in Saudi Arabia remain allies of the U.S. Not necessarily true of the religious element which, as with Iran and other "Arab Spring" countries, could take over if the royal family is every toppled from power.
So now, by handing power in Iraq to the Shiites, Iran's control is virtually unchecked by some one like Sadam Hussein.
Hagel is absolutely right to say HISTORY -- not yet written -- will be the judge of the decision to dump Billions into the invasion of Iraq and subsequent "surge" required for us to draw down "with honor." Without being propped up by U.S. $$ and lives, can the Iraq military indefinitely protect the country against the forces of a) The Taliban; b) Al Qaeda; c) Iran?
Previously, Iraq and Iran were ruled by opposing factions of Muslim, and held each other in check. While everyone agrees that Sadam Hussein was a brutal despot (same with Muammar Gaddafi whose elected replacement is still being evaluated by history), by taking down his regime, the U.S. effectively turned the balance of power in the Middle East over to Shiite run Iran.
I applaud Chuck Hagel for his circumspect refusal to provide Congress with a knee jerk apology for his original assessment about the invasion of Iraq. It has proven to be one of the two longest, very expensive wars in the history of the U.S., with a very dubious and debatable outcome. In fact, many experts and military leaders believe that the diversion of focus, troops and military spending from Afghanistan into Iraq just undid all that had been accomplished in Afghanistan in the first very active years post 9/11. I believe McCain must be desperate to justify Congress's approval of the huge expense of the war in Iraq, which Congress approved (although G.W. Bush had already ordered troops deployed even before Congress voted.) Perhaps that explains why McCain is so dedicated to prove Hagel wrong and/or seek revenge by refusing to approve this fellow Vietnam war hero, and fellow Republican for a position for which he is, arguably, better qualified than anyone else in our useless Congress, the epitome of waste of taxpayer dollars.
Perhaps Congress is trying to "save face." They might say it's too late for Hagel to redeem himself. Funny, but that's how I feel about Congress. Members of Congress appear to know very little about the issues behind their votes. Even if they eventually DO admit that Republican Hagel was right to question why we were diverting money and lives from Afghanistan into Iraq, once again, Congress is proving themselves to be more dedicated to party politics than to solving problems.