Recall that Barack Obama was nominated and elected in 2008 as the candidate who was opposed to “dumb wars.” But he was an anti-war poseur. Within 10 months of inauguration, Obama reversed course to please the bipartisan industry that demands a permanent state of military conflict and rising defense outlays as a jobs program for AFL-CIO congressional Democrats and as corporate welfare for K Street Capitol Hill Republicans.

And John Kerry? Could there be a purer human distillation of the Washington Rules described by our most eloquent anti-war voice, Andrew Bacevich, in his book of that title? Since he arrived in the Senate in 1985, Kerry has been a primary player leading us down “America’s Path to Permanent War,” as Bacevich’s subtitle puts it.

Assuming his nomination isn’t proactively yanked by the president, here’s the question that Hagel first needs to answer: Should he allow himself to be used as a pawn in Barack Obama’s continuing deflection of presidential responsibility?

Tempting as it may be to get inside the tent, Hagel should decline. Given Obama’s uninspiring track record, he won’t have a major impact on policy. Far more likely, he’ll serve as a prop for a president who asserts the right to kill even American citizens without judicial oversight and to send manned and unmanned planes anywhere he chooses.