Foreign and Defense Policy, Defense

Hagel flip-flops

Image Credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Image Credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

This is being circulated on Capitol Hill by Sen. Cornyn’s office. It’s an amazing document, a litany of flips and flops and twirls and somersaults, the likes of which have rarely been seen… Hagel apparently doesn’t have the courage of his own convictions; only the courage of everybody else’s.

See excerpts below, full document here: Confirmation Conversion: Sen. Chuck Hagel’s Erratic Record on Key National Security Issues

On Israel, the Peace Process, and the U.S.-Israel Relationship

  • THEN (1998-2006):  In 1998, Hagel blamed a breakdown in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process squarely on Israel, saying “The Israeli government essentially continues to play games. [...] Desperate men do desperate things when you take hope away.  And that’s where the Palestinians are today.”  (Associated Press interview, Aug. 27, 1998)
    • In a 1998 Senate hearing, Hagel suggested to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that the U.S. has “tilted way too far toward Israel in the Middle East peace process.”
    • In August 2002, Hagel said, “Israel is our friend and ally, and we must continue our commitment, but not at the expense of the Palestinian people.”
    • In a 2006 interview with Aaron David Miller, Hagel stated, “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here… I’m not an Israeli senator.  I’m a United States senator.”
  • NOW (2013):  Hagel claims he is “overwhelmingly supportive of a strong U.S.-Israel strategic and security relationship.” 
    • In a January 14, 2013, letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer, Hagel wrote, “Most Americans, myself included, are overwhelmingly supportive of a strong U.S.-Israel strategic and security relationship.  This broad support comes from both Jews and non-Jews alike.”  Hagel further wrote: “America’s relationship with Israel is one that is fundamentally built on our nations shared values, common interests, and democratic ideals.  The Middle East is undergoing dramatic and historic changes, ones which surround Israel with tremendous uncertainty.  We are working together daily, hand-in-hand, in unprecedented ways to counter old, new, and emerging mutual threats.  I fully intend to expand the depth and breadth of U.S.-Israel cooperation.”

On Israel’s Right to Defend Itself

  • THEN (2006):  Hagel accused Israel, in carrying out a military campaign against the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon, of “the systematic destruction of an American friend—the country and people of Lebanon.” 
    • That same month, Hagel accused Israel of carrying out a “sickening slaughter” in Lebanon, stating that the U.S. relationship with Israel “need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships.”
  • NOW (2013):  Hagel tells Sen. Schumer that “he has always supported Israel’s right to retaliate militarily in the face of terrorist attacks by Hezbollah or Hamas.”
    • According to a January 15, 2013, statement by Sen. Chuck Schumer: “Senator Hagel volunteered that he has always supported Israel’s right to retaliate militarily in the face of terrorist attacks by Hezbollah or Hamas.  He understood the predicament Israel is in when terrorist groups hide rocket launchers among civilian populations and stage attacks from there.  He supported Israel’s right to defend herself even in those difficult circumstances.”

On the Threat of a Nuclear-Armed Iran and “The Military Option”

  • THEN (2008-2010):  In 2008, Hagel downplayed the national security risks of a nuclear-armed Iran.  Then, in 2010, Hagel said he is “not so sure it is necessary to continue to say all options are on the table.”
    • Hagel wrote in his 2008 book, “[T]he genie of nuclear armaments is already out of the bottle, no matter what Iran does.  In this imperfect world, sovereign nation-states possessing nuclear weapons capability (as opposed to stateless terrorist groups) will often respond with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior.  These governments, however hostile they may be toward us, have some appreciation for the horrific results of a nuclear war and the consequences they would suffer.”
    • In November 2010, Hagel led a forum on the Iran issue at the Atlantic Council, stating he was “not so sure it is necessary to continue to say all options are on the table” with respect to Iran.
  • NOW (2012-2013):  Hagel expresses to Sen. Schumer “the need to keep all options on the table in confronting” Iran, and promised to do “‘whatever it takes’ to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including the use of military force.” 
    • According to a January 15, 2013, statement by Sen. Chuck Schumer: “On Iran, Senator Hagel rejected a strategy of containment and expressed the need to keep all options on the table in confronting that country. But he didn’t stop there. In our conversation, Senator Hagel made a crystal-clear promise that he would do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including the use of military force. He said his ‘top priority’ as Secretary of Defense would be the planning of military contingencies related to Iran. He added that he has already received a briefing from the Pentagon on this topic.”
    • As the co-author of a Sept. 28, 2012, Washington Post op-ed, Hagel wrote that: “Our position is fully consistent with the policy of presidents for more than a decade of keeping all options on the table, including the use of military force, thereby increasing pressure on Iran while working toward a political solution.”

On Engagement with Terrorist Groups

  • THEN (2007-2009):  In 2007, Hagel spoke out against trying to isolate the terrorist group Hamas.  In 2009, Hagel went a step further, co-authoring a report that essentially called for engagement and dialogue with Hamas, as well as the deployment of U.S. ground troops as United Nations peacekeepers in a “non-militarized Palestinian state.”
  1. Criticized U.S. policy for “shutting out” and “isolating” Hamas, then urged that the U.S. do three things: shift objectives from “ousting Hamas to modifying its behavior, offer it inducements that will enable its more moderate elements to prevail, and cease discouraging third parties from engaging with Hamas in ways that might help clarify the movement’s views and test its behavior.”
  2. Urged the adoption of new U.S. policy that reflected:  “A non-militarized Palestinian state, together with security mechanisms that address Israeli concerns while respecting Palestinian sovereignty, and a U.S.-led multinational force to ensure a peaceful transitional security period.  This coalition peacekeeping structure, under UN mandate, would feature American leadership of a NATO force supplemented by Jordanians, Egyptians and Israelis.  We can envision a five-year, renewable mandate with the objective of achieving full Palestinian domination of security affairs on the Palestine side of the line within 15 years.”
  • NOW (2013):  Hagel assures Sen. Schumer “that he today believes there should be no negotiations with Hamas, Hezbollah or any other terrorist group until they renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
    • According to a January 15, 2013, statement by Sen. Chuck Schumer: “On Hamas, I asked Senator Hagel about a letter he signed in March 2009 urging President Obama to open direct talks with that group’s leaders. In response, Senator Hagel assured me that he today believes there should be no negotiations with Hamas, Hezbollah or any other terrorist group until they renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

One thought on “Hagel flip-flops

  1. This is being circulated on Capitol Hill by Sen. Cornyn’s office. It’s an amazing document, a litany of flips and flops and twirls and somersaults, the likes of which have rarely been seen…Hagel apparently doesn’t have the courage of his own convictions; only the courage of everybody else’s.

    If that is the case the GOP would stand and back him. After all, they rejected the candidate who had stood on principle for decades and chose a flip-flopper like Romney to be their man to go against Obama. Since there is no way that Hegel can be any worse on that front there is no reason to reject his nomination.

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