Tags: chuck hagel | mission | creep | military | deployments | defense | department

Chuck Hagel: Too Easy for Mission 'Drift' in Military Deployments

By    |   Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 05:30 PM

U.S. military might alone can't transform conflict-torn regions, and the nation has to be wary of mission creep and strategies that "drift and wander," outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says.

As the resigning Hagel prepares to leave the Pentagon – he'll step down after his nominated successor, Ashton Carter, is confirmed by the Senate – the Vietnam War vet told Stars and Stripes "you always have to ask the tough questions, [such as] what happens next? Where do you want this to end up?"

"It is easy to drift into other missions," he said. "Any secretary of [D]efense has to always be on guard that we don’t inadvertently sometimes drift into a more accelerated use than we thought of what our military was going to be [doing] … I think the two long wars that we were in the last 13 years is pretty clear evidence of … how things can get out of control, and drift and wander."

The United States is conducting an air campaign against the Islamic State group militants, and about 1,550 troops have been sent to Iraq to train and advise government and Kurdish peshmerga forces. Another 800 troops are providing force protection.

About 10,600 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan to advise and assist forces there.

Noting the mission creep that turned America's advisory role in Vietnam into a long, bloody war that involved as many as 500,000 service members at its height, Hagel told Stars and Stripes "The violence, the horrors, the suffering that I saw [in Vietnam] conditioned me...."

"I saw the suffering of our own troops; I saw the suffering of the Vietnamese people; I saw terrible things, which war always produces," he told Stars and Stripes.

And the experience convinced him "you cannot impose your will, you can’t impose your values, you can’t impose your standards, your institutions on other societies and other countries. It has never worked; it never will work, as noble as you believe [the effort] is."

Hagel announced his resignation in the wake of both a disastrous midterm election for the president's party and persistent criticism about the administration's policies in the Middle East and elsewhere.

He told Stars and Stripes he's concerned how cuts in the military budget, troop strength and uncertainties over worries about pay and benefits are affecting the rank-and-file.

"I think there is a good deal of uncertainty out there," he said, adding, fixing the problems will take time.

"You’re not going to fix some of this in a year or two years, but … you can start to turn it around," he said. "I hope that we can continue to do these things [after I leave] because health of the force is essential to everything we do. If you really have major breakdowns, you will not be able to continue to recruit and retain quality people. And without quality people, you don’t have much."

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U.S. military might alone can't transform conflict-torn regions, and the nation has to be wary of mission creep and strategies that "drift and wander," outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says.
chuck hagel, mission, creep, military, deployments, defense, department
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2015-30-22
Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 05:30 PM
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