A milestone will be crossed for the first time in U.S. history if, as expected, the Senate approves the nomination of Democrat senator John Kerry and former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as secretaries of State and Defense. This will mean the four most powerful leaders of the country will be former Senators. The four, despite their different backgrounds and biographies, did develop collegial relations, collaborated with one another, and the three elder ones Joe Biden, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel mentored their younger freshman colleague Barack Obama particularly on foreign policy issues including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other thorny challenges of the Middle East.
It was presidential candidate John Kerry in August 2004 who first gave the unknown Illinois State Senator with an unfamiliar name, Barack Obama, his first national stage when he asked him to address the Democratic National Convention that nominated Kerry in Boston. In July 2008, presidential candidate Obama visited the Middle East accompanied by Senator Hagel, who later supported his presidential race against his old friend Senator John McCain. Even when Obama and Biden competed as candidates for the nomination of their party for president in 2008 they maintained their collegiality. And it was Senator Hagel who advised Obama after he won the nomination to pick Biden as his vice president.
Most importantly, the four share a similar vision of America’s role in a very complex, swiftly changing world where Washington is no longer able, as it used to in the past to play the role of the hegemon. Both Kerry and Hagel are decorated war heroes who fought valiantly in Vietnam and they have the scars to prove it. By their admission, they were haunted by their experience as young men in Vietnam, which shaped their views of wars and conflict resolutions. That traumatic experience explains their reluctance to use military force, and their belief in soft power, diplomacy and engagement and the need to work through international organizations, and strengthening current alliances and cast a wider net for friends.
Both Kerry and Hagel are decorated war heroes who fought valiantly in Vietnam and they have the scars to prove it. By their admission, they were haunted by their experience as young men in Vietnam, which shaped their views of wars and conflict resolutionsHisham Melhem
The four believe that the harsh deserts of Iraq and the inhospitable mountains of Afghanistan have shown in bold tragic relief in the last decade the limits of America’s military power. The U.S. did not win either war. Obama won the nomination in 2008 in part because of his opposition to the war in Iraq. And while it was true that Biden, Kerry and Hagel approved with reservations a congressional decision to give former president George W. Bush in 2003 the authority to invade Iraq, the three soon after turned into harsh critics of the mismanagement and the blunders of the occupation and began to call for disengagement. Hagel alienated his Republican colleagues in the Senate and earned the enmity of the White House, particularly that of vice president Dick Cheney when he vociferously criticized president Bush’s ‘surge’ of forces in Iraq, a decision that was championed by Senator McCain but denounced by Hagel in a debate in January 2007 as "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."