Fresh off a trip to India and Australia, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addressed a group of Marines in San Diego, California Tuesday, and delivered a line that may show up in Republican campaign ads this election cycle. After updating the troops on some issues in the Pacific region and the Middle East, Hagel took questions from some of the Marines and gave a stark assessment of the global security situation: "The world is exploding all over." The remark came in response to a question about the Obama administration's realignment of the military towards the Asia-Pacific theater:
Q: Good afternoon, sir. My question is that, given that the administration's primary focus is on the Pacific theater, how has all of the issues popping up in the world today, Russia, Iraq, Africa, the rest of the theaters pretty much affected that current mission? And how do you foresee that affecting the mission in the future?
SEC. HAGEL: Thank you. That's a -- go ahead, sit down -- that's a question I got often when I was in India and Australia. And the trip I just came from was my sixth trip to the Asia Pacific area in the last year-and-a-half. I've got four planned this calendar year. And so I get that question all the time. It's a legitimate question for the very reasons you asked.
The world is exploding all over. And so is the United States going to continue to have the resources, the capabilities, the leadership, the bandwidth to continue with the rebalance toward the Asia Pacific? And the answer is yes.Hagel went on say that, despite the rebalancing towards the Pacific, the US will not be "retreating" from any threats elsewhere in the world.
Now, that said, as I've said, with that rebalance, which will continue, and we are committed to do that, we're not retreating from any other part of the world. Great powers can't pick and choose which challenges and threats they're going to deal with. There is no power on Earth like the United States of America...
No country is great enough, powerful enough to deal with all these threats and challenges alone in the world today. They're too big, too complex. The world is too complicated.Hagel noted in his talk with the Marines, "We're in more countries, involved in more operations with more partners all over the world than we've ever been in." Hagel has faced criticism from Republicans for cutting the military budget and specific programs while at the same time expanding the overall mission of US forces.
Whether they're cyber threats, which are relatively new, but are just as real and deadly and lethal as anything we've ever dealt with, obviously, what's going on in North Korea, China's behavior in the South China Sea, East China Sea, you mentioned Russia's actions in Ukraine, North Africa, the Middle East today, every part of that world is troubled under great stress.
The Obama administration has increasingly come under fire lately for weakness in foreign policy, even from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though Clinton seemed to subsequently walk back her criticism.
Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.