Hagel: The United States Remains an Unrivaled Power
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 11, 2014 While some around the world believe the United States is a weakening superpower, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today defended America as the world’s dominant force.
“I have seen some of [that perception], yes,” Hagel said, during an interview on the ABC program “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”. “But we are still the dominant power. No one’s in our universe, whether you apply a metric or measurement of an economic power or military power.”
But that doesn’t mean the United States can solve every problem alone, he said.
“No nation can do that. I do think there’s a sense out there by some that somehow America has powers eroding, or we’re not going to use our power, or we’re too timid about our power. I think we have been wise on how we use our power.”
“I don’t think you can run foreign policy or lead a nation and be president of the United States based on what other people think of you,” he added.
Hagel was asked about several issues in the news, including the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls by the Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria, the situation in Ukraine and problems at the Veterans Affairs Department, in addition to cyber security threats, and questions regarding transgender people serving in the military.
The United States has sent a team of experts from the FBI, the intelligence community and the military to Nigeria to help authorities in the West African nation find the girls, kidnapped in the remote northeast last month.
“It’s a vast country, so this is not going to be an easy task, but we’re going to bear every asset we could possibly use to help the Nigerian government.” However, he said the United States has no plans to put American troops on the ground.
On the crisis in Ukraine, Hagel said even though Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that Moscow was withdrawing tens of thousands of its troops from along the border with Ukraine, Russian forces appear to be still there.
“Russia continues to isolate itself for a short-term gain,” he said. “The Russians may feel they’re somehow winning, but the world is not just about short term,” Hagel noted.
Regarding the growing threat of cyber attacks, Hagel said the United States is paying full attention to cyber security threats, but added it’s difficult to be confident.
“You can’t be,” he said. “The fact is, [cyber security issues] are as dangerous a threat as the world is dealing with, especially the United States. It’s quiet, it’s insidious, it’s deadly.”
Hagel was also asked whether department policy regarding transgender individuals serving in the military should be revisited now that gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly. He called the issue complicated because of its medical component.
“These issues require medical attention. In austere locations where we put our men and women in many cases [those military posts] don’t always offer that kind of opportunity,” he explained.
“I do think it should continually be reviewed … because the bottom line [is] every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity, if they fit the qualifications and can do it. This is an area we’ve not defined enough,” Hagel said.
Hagel also said he continues to support Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki amid reports that some veterans have died because they were unable to receive timely medical care through the VA system.
“There’s no one who understands accountability more than [retired Army] Gen. Shinseki,” Hagel said. “I do support [him], but there’s no margin here.”
The Defense secretary said if these reports prove accurate, “Accountability is going to have to be upheld, because we can never let this kind of outrage, if all of this is true, stand in this country.”
But the situation didn’t start with Shinseki’s term at VA, Hagel emphasized. “This is something that should have been looked at years and years ago. Yes, we missed it.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkAFPS)