Peter Feaver argues that that "battle over Hagel is a battle over the meaning of Iraq":
The debate over the historical meaning of Iraq matters because it has such obvious implications for the analogous challenge with Iran. Many of the pro-Hagel supporters openly acknowledge that they hope Hagel's pick signals that the President is willing to abandon the military option in dealing with Iran, for much the same reasons that they argue the option was disastrous in Iraq. President Obama has not publicly connected those dots, but I expect he will be challenged to explain whether that interpretation makes sense in the days to come.
And I expect him to keep his options open. Reihan explains why he remains a neocon who wants more of a neo-imperial presence across the globe:
I object to Hagel primarily because I see him as a faithful adherent to President Obama’s approach to foreign and defense policy and I disagree with what I take to be the president’s approach. Like Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan, for example, I believe that the U.S. should have made more of an effort to retain a sizable military presence in Iraq. And though I support cuts to some defense expenditures, e.g., I favor an overhaul of personnel policies to more effectively deploy human capital and resources across the military … I also support the recapitalization of the armed forces, and I believe that defense expenditures should have been a central part of fiscal stimulus efforts.
"Recapitalization of the armed forces". And where will that money come from? Frum fears – yes, fears – that Hagel would prevent another Middle East war:
[H]e would have substantial control over the information, advice, and policy options available to the person who does determine foreign policy. Suppose a president were to request an assessment of a hypothetical strike on Iran. Suppose the secretary of defense delivers to him a plan requiring the insertion of US ground forces into Iranian cities to be sure of destroying relevant facilities. That "plan" is as much a veto of a strike as any decision. Donald Rumsfeld enabled the Iraq war by producing estimates it could be won with as few as 135,000 troops. Had he instead on 300,000, the war would not have occurred: it would have seemed too heavy a lift. (As indeed it proved.) A Secretary Hagel could similarly thwart policies he disapproved of by magnifying their cost and difficulty. That's why his views matter, and that's why it's so disingenuous to claim they do not.
I take the point that the defense secretary is an important voice at the table. But I've seen no feasible plan that could accurately target Iran's nuclear sites without boots on the ground, and all that entails. And is David actually using Rummy's utopian over-ruling of Shinseki as a reason to oppose someone who will precisely not engage in such wishful thinking? Does David really want a defense secretary who will always lean in favor of intervention – even after the catastrophes of Iraq and Afghanistan?
It's as if the Iraq war never happened, isn't it? Which is why the three most powerful attributes of the neocons are amnesia, ignorance and denial.