Senator MCCAIN. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I am
pleased to see an old friend here before the committee, and especially
pleased to see Senator Warner and Senator Nunn, two of the
great members of this committee, who have contributed so much to
our Nation's defense.
Senator Hagel, members of this committee will raise questions
reflecting concerns with your policy positions. They are not reasonable
people disagreeing. They have fundamental disagreements.
Our concerns pertain to the quality of your professional judgment
and your world view on critical areas of national security, including
security in the Middle East.
With that in mind, let me begin with your opposition to the surge
in Iraq. 2006 we lost--Republicans lost the election, and we began
the surge, and you wrote a piece in the Washington Post called
""Leaving Iraq Honorably.'' In 2007, you committed--you said it is
not in the national interests to deepen its military involvement. In
January 2007 in a rather bizarre exchange with Secretary Rice in
the Foreign Relations Committee after some nonsense about Syria
and crossing the border into Iran and Syria because of the Syria,
and a reference to Cambodia in 1970, you said, ""When you set in
motion the kind of policy the President is talking about here, it's
very, very dangerous.'' Quote, ""Matter of fact, I have to say, Madam
Secretary, I think the speech given last night by this President represents
the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country
since Vietnam. If it is carried out, I will resist it.'' And then of
course you continued on and on for months afterwards talking
about what a disaster the surge would be, even to the point where
it was clear the surge was succeeding.
In March 2008, you said, quote, ""Hear the term quagmire could
apply. Some reject that term, but if that is not a quagmire, then
what is?'' Even as late as August 29th, 2011, in an interview--2011
in an interview with the Financial Times, you said, ""I disagreed
with President Obama, his decision to surge in Iraq as I did with
President Bush on the surge in Iraq.''
Do you stand by those comments, Senator Hagel?
Senator HAGEL. Well, Senator, I stand by them because I made
Senator MCCAIN. Were you right? Were you correct in your assessment?
Senator HAGEL. Well, I would defer to the judgment of history to
support that out.
Senator MCCAIN. The committee deserves your judgment as to
whether you were right or wrong about the surge.
Senator HAGEL. I will explain why I made those comments.
Senator MCCAIN. I want to know if you were right or wrong.
That is a direct question. I expect a direct answer.
Senator HAGEL. The surge assisted in the objective. But if we review
the record a little bit--
Senator MCCAIN. Will you please answer the question? Were you
correct or incorrect when you said that ""The surge would be the
most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.''
Where you correct or incorrect, yes or no?
Senator HAGEL. My reference to the surge being the most dangerous--
Senator MCCAIN. Are you going to answer the question, Senator
Hagel? The question is, were you right or wrong? That is a pretty
straightforward question. I would like an answer whether you were
right or wrong, and then you are free to elaborate.
Senator HAGEL. Well, I am not going to give you a yes or no answer
on a lot of things today.
Senator MCCAIN. Well, let the record show that you refuse to answer
that question. Now, please go ahead.
Senator HAGEL. Well, if you would like me to explain why----
Senator MCCAIN. Well, I actually would like an answer, yes or
Senator HAGEL. Well, I am not going to give you a yes or no. I
think it is far more complicated that, as I have already said. My
answer is, I will defer that judgment to history.
As to the comment I made about the most dangerous foreign policy
decision Vietnam was about not just the surge, but the overall
war of choice going into Iraq. That particular decision that was
made on the surge, but more to the point, our war in Iraq, I think
was the most fundamental bad, dangerous decision since Vietnam.
Aside from the cost that occurred in this country through blood
and treasure, aside what that did to take our focus off of Afghanistan,
which, in fact, was the original and real focus of a national
threat to this country, Iraq was not. I always tried to frame all the
different issues before I made a decision on anything.
Now, just as you said, Senator, we can have differences of opinion,
but that is essentially why I took the position I did.
Senator MCCAIN. It is a fundamental difference of opinion, Senator
Hagel. And Senator Graham and I, and Senator Lieberman,
when there were 59 votes in the U.S. Senate, spent our time trying
to prevent that 60th. Thank god for Senator Lieberman. I think
history has already made a judgment about the surge, sir, and you
are on the wrong side of it. And your refusal to answer whether
you were right or wrong about it is going to have an impact on my
judgment as to whether to vote for your confirmation or not. I hope
you will reconsider the fact the fact that you refuse to answer a
fundamental question about an issue that took the lives of thousands
of young Americans.
Senator HAGEL. Well, Senator, there was more to it than flooding----
Senator MCCAIN. I am asking about the surge, Senator Hagel.
Senator HAGEL. I know you are, and I am trying to explain my
position. The beginning of the surge also factored in what General
Allen had put into place in Anbar Province, the Sunni Awakening.
We put over, as you know, 100,000 young soldiers----
Senator MCCAIN. Senator Hagel, I am very well of the history of
the surge and the Anbar Awakening, and I also am aware that any
casual observer will know that the surge was the fundamental factor,
led by two great leaders, General Petraeus and Ambassador----
Senator HAGEL. Well, I do not know if that would have been required
and cost us over 1,000 American lives and thousands of
Senator MCCAIN. So you do not know if the surge would have
been required. Okay.
Senator Hagel, let me go to Syria now. More than 60,000 people
have been killed in Syria. Do you believe that we should be more
engaged in Syria?
Senator HAGEL. I know this administration is very engaged in
working with its partners.
Senator MCCAIN. So you do not think we should do more?
Senator HAGEL. Well, when you say ""do more,'' do you mean----
Senator MCCAIN. Do you think we should put--make sure that
the Syrians get the weapons they need, and perhaps establish a no
fly zone? Do you think we do?
Senator HAGEL. I believe that part of our review is looking at
Senator MCCAIN. It has been 22 months, Senator Hagel.
Senator HAGEL. Well, I was not there. I do not know the details.
I am not there now.
Senator MCCAIN. I am sure you have read in the newspapers
that 60,000 people have been killed, and that it is in danger of
spilling over into neighboring countries. My question, I guess, is
how many more would have to die before you would support--arming
the resistance and establishing a new fly zone--no fly zone?
Senator HAGEL. Well, I do not think anyone questions the terrible
tragedy that is occurring there every day. It is a matter of
how best do we work our way through this so that we can stop it
to begin with, and then what comes next. I think the President----
Senator MCCAIN. Did you disagree with President Obama on his
decision for the surge in Afghanistan?
Senator HAGEL. I did not think we should get ourselves into--
first of all, I had no regional position as far as no formal position.
But I did not think we were----
Senator MCCAIN. But you were reported on August 29th, 2011
saying I disagreed with President Obama and his decision to surge
Senator HAGEL. That was my personal opinion, yes.
Senator MCCAIN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator HAGEL. Thank you.