World News – America cannot “dictate to the world” and must work with allies and build relationships with other nations, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said shortly after being sworn on Wednesday as the new Pentagon chief.
On his first day at the job, Hagel reinforced his reputation as a reluctant warrior as he told an auditorium of civilian officials and military officers that America was a powerful country but could not accomplish its goals without forging strong alliances.
“I’ve always believed that America’s role in the world … has been one that should engage the world. We can’t dictate to the world. But we must engage in the world,” Hagel said.
“No nation, as great as America is, can do this on their own. We need to continue to build on the strong relationships that we have built.”
Defense secretaries often adopt a tough tone to signal resolve to America’s adversaries, but Hagel’s comments echoed President Barack Obama’s emphasis on extricating the country from a decade of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
US troops have pulled out of Iraq in 2011 and roughly 66,000 American forces are due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, a drawdown that Hagel will be charged with overseeing.
Hagel told the Pentagon audience that the United States was ultimately a force “for good.”
”We make mistakes. We’ve made mistakes. We’ll continue to make mistakes.
“But we are a force for good. And we should never, ever forget that, and we should always keep that out in front as much as any one thing that drives us every day.”
Hagel took his oath of office at about 8:30 am (1330 GMT) at the Pentagon as his wife looked on, becoming the first combat veteran from the Vietnam conflict to take up the post.
In his remarks to Pentagon employees, Hagel spoke without notes and struck an upbeat tone despite a nasty debate in the Senate over his nomination that saw him struggle to win enough votes for confirmation.
Despite the bitter atmosphere that prevailed at his confirmation hearing, in which he was pummeled by his former Republican colleagues over his statements on Iran and Israel, officials said Hagel would seek to cooperate with Congress.
“Senator Hagel has signaled his very strong commitment right away to get down to business, to get deeply invested in the work of the Pentagon and its military and civilian workers,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters Tuesday.
“His goal is to look to the future.” Agencies