[B]arring the unexpected, Hagel will succeed Leon Panetta at the Pentagon. And that could prove to be President Obama's most significant appointment to date."Functionally neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict". An "opponent of military intervention in Iran". A "foreign policy 'realist'", not terribly saddened by the prospect of an American withdrawal from Af-Pak and other conflict-prone areas. Sounds to me like a very attractive platform for those who desire a back-turn away from a policy of democratic imperialism; one hopes that what will replace it is a policy of non-interventionism--although anything other than bellicose saber-rattling will probably earn jeers and slurs of "isolationism" from neocons and other foreign policy hawks.
Why? Consider what Hagel's nomination signifies. Unlike his predecessor, who called the defense cuts built into the sequester "disastrous," Hagel thinks they're A-OK. And that's precisely why he's the president's man. As David Brooks put it, Hagel has been nominated "to supervise the beginning of [a] generation-long process of defense cutbacks," necessitated both by the president's ambivalence about American global hegemony and by his preference for butter over guns in our impending debt and entitlement reckonings. Hagel is also functionally neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict, an avowed opponent of military intervention in Iran, and (after his rebirth as an Iraq War skeptic) a maximally circumspect foreign-policy "realist" who would be more than content to oversee a net U.S. withdrawal from global hotspots (including, but not limited to, Af-Pak).
This constellation of foreign-policy views is not too different from that of candidate Obama, circa 2007, 2008, or even 2009. That such views are nonetheless leftward of the actual policies that have emerged from the Obama administration may sound odd, but in fact reflects how outside the foreign-policy mainstream those views were and to a certain extent still are.
While I generally welcome anything that reduces the bloat and scope of the central government, unfortunately, this defense drawdown isn't being made in the name of increasing liberty or even reducing spending. Neither are priorities of either wing of the bifactional ruling party, and neither are priorities of Mr. Obama's administration. Rather, I suspect Leviathan, instead of actually drawing down, will merely shift form, away from warfare and more toward welfare.