The remarkable thing about President Barack Obama's nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel as his new defense secretary is not the fact that Hagel is a Republican. It is the fact that the Republican whom the president has chosen as defense secretary is Hagel. Many U.S. presidents like to have members of the other party somewhere in their cabinets — even George W. Bush followed that custom.
Hagel, however, is not a typical modern Republican. He is a conservative on domestic policy but he is very independent on defense and security, and has long been out of line with mainstream Republican thinking, particularly since 9/11. In his 12 years in the U.S. Senate, from which he stepped down in 2008, Hagel was often out of step not just with his own party but with some Democrats too — his friend, fellow Vietnam veteran and Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey, was similarly iconoclastic.
The unifying feature of Hagel's security record is skepticism about assertive U.S. unilateralism and his advocacy of what he calls principled realism. This stance puts him at the opposite end of the Pentagon spectrum from Republicans such as Donald Rumsfeld.
He thinks America cannot be the world's policeman. He thinks that America should not be isolated, either. But it is why the rest of the world ought to see his arrival at the Pentagon as an appointment full of possibilities.
The Guardian, London