Foreign and Defense Policy, Defense

The Senate and Chuck Hagel

Image Credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed

Image Credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed

Much has been revealed about Barack Obama’s nominee to be defense secretary in recent weeks. A quick rundown:

There’s more, but let’s just take these issues and ask how the Senate should consider them.

Hagel’s problem with Israel: Let’s posit that Hagel doesn’t have a problem with the Jews, but rather with the policies of the State of Israel, as his supporters allege. Do we want a defense secretary who believes the greatest challenge the U.S. faces in the Middle East is the fact that Israel has not made peace with the Palestinians? Not Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Not the rise of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Not the collapse of Syria. Not the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. Not the takeover of Lebanon by Hezbollah. Not the return of al Qaeda in Iraq. Just Israel.

Hagel’s problem with supporters of Israel: He has referred to the Jewish lobby. But so have others. More troubling is his insistence that he is not the senator from Israel.  Because, apparently, 99 other senators are? Because supporting Israel is somehow tantamount to being a traitor? Remember, we all support Hagel’s right to say whatever he wants. But do we want a defense secretary who believes that support for Israel can be traced back to the “intimidation” of a lobby that has roots in dual loyalty?

Hagel’s lack of a problem with Iran: There are plenty who want warmer relations with Iran, most of whom are supporting the Hagel nomination vigorously. But do we want a secretary of defense who believes our sanctions don’t work? Who didn’t support them?  Who thinks that Iran must be part of any “solution” to the problems of the Middle East? Who believes that Iran’s proxies in Hezbollah and Hamas should be negotiating partners for the United States? Again, all of that is fine for the Chairman of the Atlantic Council. But SecDef?

The sequester: Sure, Senator Hagel voted for “bloated” Pentagon budgets in the past. The past is not at issue. He has stated clearly when asked about the sequester that the Pentagon remains over-funded. Do we care if the head of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board thinks that? No. But the secretary of defense?

The nuclear arsenal: Hagel is in august company in supporting the Global Zero movement. But his Global Zero compatriots are not up for a job at the Pentagon, where he will be part steward of our nuclear arsenal — an arsenal he wishes to cut by 80 percent, and implicitly believes denies the United States the moral authority to demand that Iran and North Korea end their own nuclear weapons programs. This isn’t some retired official. This is, if confirmed, the next secretary of defense.

Social views: Personally, I couldn’t care less whether Chuck Hagel has an A from the NRA and a zero rating from NARAL. Those aren’t going to be his issues at the Pentagon, if confirmed. But…Chuck Hagel, U.S. Senator, didn’t see things that way. When he opposed the nomination of James Hormel to be Ambassador to Luxembourg, Hagel wasn’t interested in the fact that Hormel wasn’t going to be making policy about homosexuality off there in one of Europe’s lovely Grand Duchies  It was enough for him that Hormel was “openly, aggressively gay.”

What of Hagel’s conversion on all these issues? Honestly, the man has repudiated almost everything he ever said. Can anything he now says be believed? In any case, if confirmed, we must presume that Hagel will again be Hagel, and not the self-abnegating nominee.

Finally, there is the question of deference to the president and his choice for his cabinet. The Senate must always err in favor of confirming nominees, and usually does so. If not, all confirmations would happen on party lines. But yesterday, John Kerry was confirmed to be secretary of state with only three dissenting votes. The Senate is deferential to those with whom it disagrees. Regarding Hagel, the issue is not disagreement, but fitness for the post, a range of views outside the American mainstream of left and right, and a history that must give pause to the 100 men and women who represent the American people in the U.S. Senate. Those people — the American people — are owed a greater deference, because it is their national security that is at stake.

9 thoughts on “The Senate and Chuck Hagel

  1. He thinks Palestinians are kept “caged like animals” by Israel.

    Most people agree with him on this issue.

    He is not “an Israeli Senator”

    Correct. He was supposed to be an American Senator looking after the interests of Americans.

    • “American interests” are oppostion to racism of Islam, where would you rather be a Jew, in Israel or in Arabia, homophobism, where would you rather be gay, in the US where you can marry most of the time or in Arabia where different methods of stoning, as in rocks not smokes, is debated theologically, and where would you rather be a Christian, in Egypt or the US

      US interests are freedom not racism, thus our interests align with Israel, and Israelis do not fly airplanes into American buildings, Muslims do, who are pals of Pals

      thus we have common enemies, in best Mideast tradition, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, we are all Muslim snow

  2. Hagel is in august company in supporting the Global Zero movement. But his Global Zero compatriots are not up for a job at the Pentagon, where he will be part steward of our nuclear arsenal — an arsenal he wishes to cut by 80 percent, and implicitly believes denies the United States the moral authority to demand that Iran and North Korea end their own nuclear weapons programs.

    The nuclear arsenal should be cut by 80% or more. No country can threaten the US militarily so what is the point of nukes that kill indiscriminately. Given the fact that Truman dropped two nukes on civilian targets I would say that the US does not have the moral authority to tell other countries what they must do with their programs.

    • we have absolute moral authority we are the good guys, we tell only Muslim countries because they believe that murder is ordered by god against infidels and practice by flying airplanes into buildings, and preach such to their people

      American buildings, and they routinely blow each other up with suicide bombers, so there is certainly no moral authority there,

      peace through strength, pax americana

  3. It might be a good time to re-open an investigation into Pletka’s path to US citizenship from her native Australia since she obviously has a problem with Hagel declaring that he was “a US senator, not an Israeli senator.” when in office, “Because, apparently, 99 other senators are?”

    Yes, for all intents and purposes they are, they’re not being a single one of the unholy lot that has cast a single vote against an AIPAC supported resolution.

    It is not surprising that she was a part of the war-mongering Project for a New American Century and now is member of the Committee on the Present Danger which I must admit is where, as a present danger, she should be.

    At the very least she should be frog marched down to the Foreign Agents Registration office of the Justice Dept. and be forced to register for what she is, a foreign agent.

    • Hagel thinks that 99 other senators are from Israel, i see, thus HE is the one percenter, who knew

      he should be frog marched to the Iranian embassy for his honorary Iranian citizenship, since he has actual citizenship in his mind

  4. “Do we want a defense secretary who believes the greatest challenge the U.S. faces in the Middle East is the fact that Israel has not made peace with the Palestinians? Not Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Not the rise of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Not the collapse of Syria. Not the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. Not the takeover of Lebanon by Hezbollah. Not the return of al Qaeda in Iraq. Just Israel.”

    Many people realize it is precisely this intransigence of Israel’s aggressive and immoral behaviour toward the Palestinians that drive tensions with Iran, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and most of the rest of the world. Anyone applying the same common sense standards toward anything else would see this.

  5. The Pals and their pals are the authors of their own misfortunes and whine whine whine. Since 1947 when the UN created Israel, as part of ‘self-determination for peoples’ ie ethnic territorial nationalism, ie homeland, they have refused the UN vote and waged endless and permanent war without UN authorization and waged war against civilians and by using civilians as soldiers and as shields and as such are outlaw nations, and as such deserve to be in cages.

    These cages have billion dollar international funding, direct to Swiss bank accounts, armies, radio stations, thriving industries, international diplomatic corps, newspapers, and internal security apparatus. Almost as good as Norwegian cages or prisons. Oh and they have Muslim freedom of religion, the freedom of Muslims to kill each other over Allah, prohibited to them inside Israel proper.

    Peace will come when these outlaws pay sixty years of reparations, rewrite their history books, hang their war leaders, and repudiate jihad in favor of universal rights, vs the apartheid of sharia.

    The West denies the 1300 year Long War, as inconvenient, and it is. Mr Hagel’s mental problem defies analysis, although he is more likely stupid and brittle, vs evil, and his rapprochement with Iran and sharia enemies of our entire western heritage of freedom, suggests the war wounds he received left permanent trauma and fear of violence, a good partner to Mr Kerry who also hates American exceptionalism.

    His Judaization of his own permanent post traumatic stress disorder suggests he is a good Secretary for Surrender, a bad one for Defense.

  6. Dear Ms. Pletka,
    Obama certainly knows how to pick them. But I am afraid it makes no difference anyway because it seems to me that foreign policy is determined by the White House and Obama has ‘withdrawal syndrome’. The game was lost once Obama was re-elected, and I do blame Romney for not putting up a stronger fight in the last debate. The present reality is that vulnerable countries like Israel, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, as well as Europe, who have relied on American protection, will have to start relying on themselves for their defenses. France has already decided to act on its own and I notice that South Korea has just launched a rocket.
    No matter what Kerry says, Obama’s actions indicate that he is not going to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Of course I may be wrong, but the longer he waits the more difficult it will be to intervene militarily.
    It might therefore be wise to consider what the consequences of a nuclear Iran will be. Perhaps the AEI could make a study of possible scenarios. What would Iran’s main objectives be? To threaten Israel? Surely, they don’t actually think of using it? Blackmail seems more likely, perhaps inciting Hizbollah and Hamas to strike Israel again? Or to dominate the Arab world? Will Saudi Arabia be in a position to develop a nuclear weapon of their own, and how soon? Should they even be encouraged to do so? What should the answer to such threats be? It is as well to be realistic and see what is coming. In any case, we can look forward to ‘interesting times’ as the Chinese say.

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