I don't have an opinion one way or the other about the Hagel nomination. Not yet. (Just you wait!) I'm not really sure Jonathan Chait has one either -- which is much more puzzling. You can read his thoughts on Hagel and Obama here.
The final paragraph struck me as interesting and, in the end, asks the right question.
Michael Lewis reported last year that Obama completely circumvented the advice of most of his cabinet on Libya, demanding options that they were not presenting him with that might actually have halted the impending slaughter in Benghazi. The episode shows two things. First, Obama is not at heart the dovish left-realist that Hagel seems to have become, cynical about idealistic goals and deeply skeptical about the use of force. And Obama, despite his lack of foreign policy experience before assuming the presidency, is also not dependent on his advisers to tell him what to do. No actual parts of Obama’s agenda would seem to require Hagel in the Pentagon. And if Obama has been ruthless about one thing, it’s avoiding side fights that aren’t necessary steps to achieve a concrete goal. So why Hagel? ...Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel
One maybe big thing struck me about Hagel that may have been the determining factor. Hagel served in the military as a "grunt" -- a "foot soldier," an enlisted man.
U.S. senators considering whether to support Hagel would do well to reflect on this qualification, whose benefits—both practical and symbolic—easily outweigh the arguments now being marshaled against his nomination. At a time when fewer politicians in Washington have served in the armed forces than at any point since the 40s—a disturbing trend, given the gravity of sending people and taxpayer’s dollars to war--Hagel’s realistic and seasoned perspective on the utility and limitations of military force would be an asset to policymakers hunting for a sustainable defense strategy.
Some readers might appreciate a refresher on the definition of an “enlisted” soldier. Uniformed servicemen and women fall into one of two categories: officers or enlisted. Officers, from second lieutenants up to four-star generals, constitute the top of the chain of command. They receive their commissions from the president of the United States, and they usually must have a college degree or higher to qualify. Enlisted personnel are the privates, corporals and sergeants—the high school graduates who sign up for four-year terms of service and swear to obey the orders of the officers appointed over them. In other words, they’re the ones who have the least say about where, when, and why we go to war, but bear the harshest consequences when we do.
Hagel wrote that after being wounded, "I made myself a promise that if I ever got out of that place and was ever in a position to do something about war—so horrible, so filled with suffering—I would do whatever I could to stop it. I have never forgotten that promise.” Despite having had some college under his belt in 1967, Hagel chose to enlist. He not only didn’t dodge the draft, he actually volunteered to go fight in Vietnam, and was twice wounded in combat. Those experiences became a valuable lens through which he has examined decisions about war ever since. ...