In an exclusive interview with Charlie Rose at the Pentagon yesterday, Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel warned of the unprecedented challenges facing the United States military role on the global stage.
“The world is dangerous. It is damn dangerous,” Hagel said.
Earlier on, Hagel conceded to an array of US foreign policy failures read aloud by Rose from the op-ed pages of The New York Times, adding they came in response to an unprecedented and uniquely volatile global environment.
“We live in this imperfect, dynamic, changing, threatening, dangerous, interconnected world that we have never seen before, that we have never seen anything like this before,” Hagel said. “And so policies, yes, are predicated on historical knowledge and cultural awareness and all that goes into that. Have we made mistakes over a series of many years? Yeah, I think we have. I think anybody would agree to that. But that’s not the issue. That’s not the responsibility I have now or the president has or John Kerry. Our responsibilities now are to find ways that we can make it better, find strategies and policies that work within a world of uncontrollables.”
Hagel went on to lament the mismatch between these unique challenges facing the DoD and its shrinking budget.
The Defence Department is “being called upon to do more everywhere. I mean, look at the last six months, where — we now are involved where we weren’t six months ago,” Hagel said. “And our budget continues to be cut. Something doesn’t connect here. And that’s going to have to change.”
Hagel’s message echoed part of the speech he delivered at the Reagan Library on Saturday. The location then was an appropriate one; as president Reagan once said that “defence is not a budget issue. You spend what you need.”
Perhaps the secretary’s only prescription in the hour-long interview — which touched on the threat presented by the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL), the approaching deadline to strike a nuclear deal with Iran, Russia’s campaign of careful aggression, and China’s growing regional ambitions — was his hope that the new Congress in January would reconsider the department’s budget cuts.
Without relief from the cuts Hagel said the United States could find itself losing pole position for the first time since World War II. And that would mean the risk of one day fighting “a fair fight.”
“We won’t have the readiness. We won’t have the capability. We won’t have long-term investments that this institution requires to stay ahead of everybody else, as we have since World War II, with the technological edge, with the ability to continue to recruit and retain the best people.”
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