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In today’s New York Times, David Brooks argues persuasively that Chuck Hagel has been nominated to help Barack Obama dramatically cut defense spending.

Chuck Hagel has been nominated to supervise the beginning of this generation-long process of defense cutbacks. If a Democratic president is going to slash defense, he probably wants a Republican at the Pentagon to give him political cover, and he probably wants a decorated war hero to boot.

All the charges about Hagel’s views on Israel or Iran are secondary. The real question is, how will he begin this long cutting process? How will he balance modernizing the military and paying current personnel? How will he recalibrate American defense strategy with, say, 455,000 fewer service members?

How, in short, will Hagel supervise the beginning of America’s military decline? If members of Congress don’t want America to decline militarily, well, they have no one to blame but the voters and themselves.

I don’t agree that Hagel’s views on Iran are “secondary.” Iran is a first-order threat – a radical regime allied with al Qaeda, at war with America and determined to obtain nuclear weapons. If we don’t address that threat now, the costs of addressing it later will be significantly greater.

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