Could Hagel’s appointment even get through the Senate? He served there for over a decade, but he’s alienated fellow Republicans over the last few years by publicly criticizing the party and joining Obama’s intelligence advisory board. That’s strike one, but strikes two and three against him are that he’s a vocal opponent of Israel and soft on Iran. If he’s nominated, it would basically mean the administration has come to terms with Iran getting the bomb.
It’s possible that some of his former Republican colleagues are so unhappy with Hagel that they would try to block his confirmation, but I find this implausible. I doubt that there is any appetite in Republican ranks to put up a big fight to stop a member of their own party from being appointed Secretary of Defense. Would some hard-liners and hawks use a Hagel confirmation hearing to grandstand and berate the administration on matters related to Israel and Iran? Of course, but that will probably happen regardless of who receives the appointment. If Senate Republicans did make a show of opposing a Hagel nomination, it would announce to the public that they remain as clueless on matters related to the military and national security as ever.
While it would be good news if a Hagel appointment meant that there would be a reduced chance of conflict with Iran, I wouldn’t automatically assume that this is the case. Even though Hagel’s support for U.S. military action in the past has sometimes been grudging and qualified, it has always been forthcoming in the end. Whether or not the chances of conflict with Iran increase in the next year or not will depend mostly on how far Obama is willing to go with a confrontational policy.