WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2014 —
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today provided perspectives on his approach to national security issues during an interview at the Washington Ideas Forum here.
“I think we are living through one of these historic, defining times,” Hagel told James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic. “I think we are seeing a new world order.”
Hagel said the multitude of issues confronting the nation “affects us now, [and] will continue to affect us into the future,” especially the conflicts involving the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
“What we’re seeing in the Middle East with ISIL is going to require a steady, long-term effort,” Hagel said. “It’s going to require coalitions of common interests, which we are forming.”
The secretary also cited pandemic disease, relationships with China and Russia and climate change as major issues affecting national defense.
Emphasis on relationships
Navigating those issues, Hagel said, requires not only large-scale cooperation, but also a greater emphasis on individual, personal relationships.
“We all know that nations always respond in their own self interests. That’s predictable. That’s good,” he said. “But personal relationships are the lubricant. It doesn’t change a policy, but it makes it better.”
The secretary said his approach is heavily influenced by his experience as an enlisted veteran of the Vietnam War. Nothing else has made him more aware of being careful of unintended consequences and good intentions, he added.
“It’s made me cautious,” Hagel said. “[I] always think through the whole sequence of questions. What happens? Where’s this going? What’s the end result? And what could go wrong?”
And caution is good up to a point, he said, “but then you’ve got to make decisions.”