Tags: MidPoint | Daniel Bolger | Chuck Hagel

Lt. Gen. Bolger: Hagel's Critics 'Never Served a Day in Uniform'

By    |   Wednesday, 26 Nov 2014 04:04 PM

A former U.S. battlefield commander in Iraq and Afghanistan spoke up for outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Newsmax TV Wednesday and said that Hagel's critics inside and outside the Obama administration "have never served a day in uniform."

"If they had done half of what Hagel did, they'd be a little bit more understanding," retired Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, author of "Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars", told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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Bolger described Hagel — who resigned abruptly on Monday but will remain at work until the Senate confirms a successor — as "a guy with a lot of integrity" who "knows what war is about" and "speaks his mind."

"Maybe he spoke once too much," said Bolger, alluding to reports of conflict between Hagel, a Republican former U.S. senator, and President Barack Obama's tight-knit circle of White House advisers.

Bolger credited Hagel, a wounded Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, with "raising good cautions about the use of military force" without underplaying threats to national security.

"He's one of the first guys to identify the threat from ISIS, and to do so publicly when other people were not so worried about them," said Bolger. "He has been a strong advocate for our soldiers, [their] families, veterans, [and] not just soldiers, but sailors, airmen and Marines as well, and their families.

"He's walked in those boots and it gives him a great amount of credibility with our force," said Bolger. "He's going to be a strong voice we're going to miss."

Bolger said that Hagel might also be a victim of ingrained political forces.

"Every president has the opportunity to choose their Cabinet," he said. "History tells us that as the administration goes on, there is a tendency to get more and more like-minded people."

"We'll have to see" whether Hagel's pending departure signals a shift in U.S. military policy at a time of multiple crises, said Bolger.

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"I would hope that we would stay on course with ISIS — with the Iraqis in the lead, our folks in support [providing] air power, intel" and military advice, said Bolger.

"I hope it's not more boots on the ground," he said. "We've tried that twice already, once in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. Americans can't take the lead in counterinsurgency."

Bolger said that the U.S. playing a support role against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is "not going to make people happy because it doesn't promise an immediate response."

But he said that letting Iraqis take lead in defeating ISIS is a smart approach, even if "they'll take forever to do it and it won't be done to our standards.

"The important thing is, it'll keep ISIS busy over there so they don't have time to organize terrorist training camps and threaten the U.S.," said Bolger. "They'd love to do that."

Bolger also discussed one of the friction points between Hagel and the White House: What to do about Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, an enemy of both the U.S. and ISIS.

"We can destroy the Bashar al-Assad regime tomorrow," said Bolger. "Our military is more than capable of that. We have to then look at what comes next. Are we willing to live with that vacuum? … We've got to think really hard before we kick the door down. As we've seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, knocking out a hostile government is one thing, but what comes next is really the challenge."

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A former U.S. battlefield commander in Iraq and Afghanistan spoke up for outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Newsmax TV Wednesday and said that Hagel's critics inside and outside the Obama administration "have never served a day in uniform."
Daniel Bolger, Chuck Hagel
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2014-04-26
Wednesday, 26 Nov 2014 04:04 PM
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