THE RESIGNATION OF US DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL
Hal Pepinsky, firstname.lastname@example.org, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 24, 20146
Today, Chuck Hagel formally resigned as Defense Secretary, yet agreed to stay on until a replacement is confirmed (or until President Obama leaves office, whichever comes first. Mr. Hagel leaves quietly, like a good soldier, expressing nothing but gratitude for the honor of service and affection for his commander-in-chief. And yet it is easy to imagine why he is resigning.
Nebraska Senator Hagel, who came into office a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran, was the lone Republican in 2007 to vote for a resolution giving President Bush 120 days to clear out of Iraq, citing “the corrupt al-Maliki regime.” He was a veteran who sought to avoid the tragedy of Vietnam. He was appointed by a president who ran for office on a pledge to leave Iraq and end the war in Afghanistan. He came into office to aid in reducing the size of the armed forces.
Chuck Hagel leaves office the day after the New York Times reports that President Obama has “secretly” expanded the role of Afghan ground troops. I wonder if the timing is more than coincidence.
The sad fact is that with Secretary Clinton the only visible candidate other than Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democrats for president in 2016, and her rhetoric on fighting terrorism has been tougher than President Obama’s. Meanwhile, there is only one identified Republican presidential candidate or spokesperson on the media, Rand Paul, who has steadfastly opposed expanded military involvement abroad. Apart from democracynow.org, I can scarcely find any US national news network that presents any of the US anti-war sentiment that exists. Notwithstanding the blessing of President Obama’s temporary amnesty for a limited number of undocumented immigrants, border security and deportations and detention continue to grow. I see no prospect that in 2016 or 2020, a major party candidate who will propose a major reinvestment of the resources, including our soldiers, to fighting “terrorism” bigger and harder. As for 2024, who knows?
Last night, CBS “Sixty Minutes” had a segment on deterioration of the US infrastructure, and of how hopeless it was to foresee Congress finding the money anywhere, as by raising gas taxes or raising “wealth” taxes. I’m taken back to the supposed call for military “economic conversion” as the Cold War ended in 1989. Suppose we bring the troops home in large numbers, and deploy them to repair bridges, roads, and sewer systems, to clean and repair waterways and water systems, to help engineer and deploy solar, wind and water energy sources both large and small enough for individual consumer use. Suppose military arms production was shifted domestic transport, and for production of machinery for domestic military and civilian use, toward the end of making development economically and environmentally sustainable and inclusive. Suppose troop redeployments home were supplemented by expansion of programs for US youth to serve needs for education and other social services, including time with the elderly and infirm. Imagine using troops abroad as US infantry are doing building field hospitals for ebola patients in Liberia, or in general supplementing the Peace Corps. Imagine a party or a major party presidential candidate who would run on a platform of converting military service to maintaining and sustaining ourselves. Eventually, public service, including military service, could become a major source of employment, education, and career development for our youth.
It wouldn’t have to cost taxpayers any more than we now pay for US warfare and “counterterrorism” abroad. It is easy in theory to see how to meet our needs primarily to assume a duty of care for all our relations and for our sustenance simply by executive action of our commander-in-chief. But for the time being, we are stuck as a political culture in the conviction that the way to resolve social problems is to stop, end, or abolish them. Discourse and action are dominated by fear. Chuck Hagel’s resignation is a sign, I think, of quiet despair, a sign that the growth of US warfare appears for this political moment to be unstoppable. Mr. Hagel, thanks for trying. Love and peace, hal