Letter to the Editor

Chuck Hagel for defense secretary?

Disheartening and wrong are the kindest words to characterize the Dec. 19 editorial attack on former senator Chuck Hagel [“Pentagon mismatch”]. A defense secretary who views war as a measure taken as a last resort is a wise choice for leadership. As the nation extricates itself from wars that will end up costing about $3 trillion and thousands of American lives and have not endeared us to the allies we need to fight terrorists, it is a shame that Mr. Hagel was not defense secretary a decade ago.

I first met Mr. Hagel in 1981, when he was the No. 2 man at the Veterans Administration. He had just thrown out of his office some people who were demanding that he stop his support for Maya Lin’s design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. His integrity and toughness were impressive then. Both qualities have grown since.

Long before he became a senator, Mr. Hagel was an infantryman in Vietnam. He fought the enemy up close, and he had to put Americans in body bags. I am sure that as defense secretary, he would not hesitate to use military force aggressively if our nation or its allies are in danger. Yet he knows well that war is terribly unpredictable and needs to be avoided. He has shown some fury at those who have never seen war but encouraged it during the past decade. This is called courage. He has earned his stripes.

Jan C. Scruggs, Washington

The writer is president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

William S. Cohen, Robert M. Gates and now Chuck Hagel [“Chuck Hagel, John Kerry share more than spotlight,” news article, Dec 15]? It’s no wonder the Democratic Party finds it difficult to shake the false accusation that only Republicans can be trusted with our national security. Democratic presidents reinforce that idea with each Republican they appoint as defense secretary.

If the White House is convinced that a show of bipartisanship must be made with its upcoming Cabinet appointments, why not make it with some other position? It would be interesting to see whether the House of Representatives would be as eager to hold a Republican attorney general in contempt as it has been with Eric Holder.

Dan Milstein, Washington

 
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