BRIT HUME: Supporters of former Senator Hagel are fond of citing what they say was his courage in bucking his party and his president on the Iraq war. Indeed, his agreement with President Obama on the issue when both of them were senators is said to have formed the bond between them. But there is another way to look at the Hagel record on Iraq.
When the authorization to go to war there was before the Senate, Hagel certainly voiced misgivings, lamenting what he said was a lack of knowledge of the country and insufficient awareness of the risks and possible difficulties.
But when the roll was called, Hagel voted aye. When things got tough later, he became a major critic. And, as has been amply noted, when President Bush ordered a troop surge to try to redeem the situation, Hagel called it the biggest foreign policy blunder since Vietnam. Even had it failed, the troop surge would not have been that, and it did not fail. This is a record to be proud of?
After Vietnam, this country was gripped with a reluctance to use military force and a sense that U.S. military power was a big part of what was wrong with the world. It was known as 'Vietnam syndrome.' The first President Bush thought he banished it with the success of the first Gulf war. But with President Obama reelected, the U.S. out of Iraq, soon to be out of Afghanistan and Chuck Hagel chosen for defense, that syndrome seems to be back again.