The Cable: The American people are weary of war and aren’t up for another military adventure in either Syria or Iran, former Nebraska senator and potential defense secretary Chuck Hagel told The Cable.
Hagel sat down for a 90-minute exclusive interview in his Georgetown office in May, well before President Barack Obama began vetting him for a top national security position in his second-term cabinet, perhaps to replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon.
In previously unreleased portions of that interview, Hagel commented on how the United States should move forward in Syria and Iran, urging caution, patience, and a focus on multilateral diplomacy.
“I think we’ve got to be very wise and careful on this and continue to work with the multilateral institutions in the lead in Syria. I don’t think America wants to be in the lead on this,” he said. “What you have to do is manage the problem. You manage it to a higher ground of possible solutions, ultimately to try to get to a resolution. You don’t have control over what’s going on in Syria.”
“You’ve got to be patient, smart, wise, manage the problem,” he said.
The Obama administration has resisted intervention in Syria based on the risk that arming the opposition directly could fuel the fire and out of concern that establishing a no-fly zone would require a major U.S. commitment with uncertain results.
Hagel said he agreed with that policy, and urged caution and patience when dealing with the Syrian crisis — though it’s worth reiterating that these remarks were made in May.
“I don’t think I’d do anything different from what the Obama administration is doing. I think they are handling this responsibly and working with everybody. It’s frustrating; it’s maddening. I get all that. But we’re still in the longest war in American history and our standing in that part of the world is not that good,” he said.
Hagel believes that the world is moving toward more diffused power structure where the United States no longer remains the single unchallenged superpower. That, combined with America’s internal problems and the desire for Americans to end over a decade of war, points to the need for a diplomatic solution in Syria, he said.
“We’ve got to understand great-power limitations. There are so many uncontrollable variables at play in Syria and the Middle East,” Hagel said. “You work through the multilateral institutions that are available, the U.N., the Arab league. The last thing you want is an American-led or Western-led invasion into Syria.” [Continue reading…]