By Matt Vespa
former Senator of Nebraska, has been tapped to head the Department of Defense.
during the Iraq War – and equated ‘The Surge’ as the biggest foreign policy
blunder since Vietnam. I also think Iraq was more of a distraction, than
brilliant strategic thinking – but that’s a different matter. We have a
nominee for Secretary of Defense, who holds positions that are to the left of
Obama, and it’s up to the Republicans on the Hill to derail his nomination.
revenge. Many pundits say that GOP opposition of Hagel is payback, but
there are serious questions that need to be asked of the former senator.
First, he needs to clarify his ‘Jewish
problem.’ The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens penned a great
column in December of 2012 highlighting Mr. Hagel’s peculiar policy positions
towards the Jewish State.”The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up
here,” says the then-Senator. As Stephens noted,”I’m a United
States Senator, not an Israeli Senator,” Mr. Hagel told retired U.S.
diplomat Aaron David Miller in 2006. ‘I’m a United States Senator. I support
Israel. But my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution
of the United States. Not to a president. Not a party. Not to Israel. If I go
run for Senate in Israel, I’ll do that.”
noted that such statements are indicative of Hagel’s feelings towards
Jewish-Americans, as exuding ‘dual loyalty’ when it comes to questions about
allegiance. It’s prejudicial and wrong. However, towards the end of
his column, Stephens hit the main concern on the head.
In 2002, a year
in which 457 Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks (a figure
proportionately equivalent to more than 20,000 fatalities in the U.S., or seven
9/11s), Mr. Hagel weighed in with the advice that “Israel must take steps
to show its commitment to peace.” This was two years after Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David had offered Yasser Arafat a state.In 2006, Mr. Hagel described Israel’s war against Hezbollah as “the
systematic destruction of an American friend, the country and people of
later refused to sign a letter
calling on the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist
organization. In 2007, he voted against designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards
Corps as a terrorist organization, and also urged President Bush to open
“direct, unconditional” talks with Iran to create “a historic
new dynamic in U.S.-Iran relations.” In 2009, Mr. Hagel urged the Obama
administration to open direct talks with Hamas.In
7 column, he noted how Hagel’s political courage is fraught with
opportunism.In 1998, when it
was politically opportune for Mr. Hagel to do so, he bashed Clinton nominee
James Hormel for being “openly, aggressively gay,” a fact he said was
disqualifying for becoming ambassador to Luxembourg. Late last year, when it
was again politically opportune, Mr. Hagel apologized for his gay bashing. Mr.
Hormel accepted the apology, while noting “the timing appears to be
self-serving.” Yes it did.In 1999, when
the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was broadly popular, Mr.
Hagel scoffed at the idea of repealing it: “The U.S. Armed Forces aren’t
some social experiment.” Since then, Mr. Hagel has offered his opinions on
many subjects in scores of published articles. In not one of them did he recant
or amend his views on gay issues. His public about-face only occurred when his
name made Mr. Obama’s shortlist for secretary of defense.In 2002, also
when it was overwhelmingly popular, Mr. Hagel voted for the resolution
authorizing the use of force against Iraq. The lack of political courage is
especially noteworthy here, because Mr. Hagel was, in fact, prescient in
warning his Senate colleagues that “imposing democracy through force in
Iraq is a roll of the dice.”Yet as the
inimitable David Corn notes, “Bottom line: Hagel feared the resolution
would lead to a war that would go badly but didn’t have the guts to say no to
the leader of his party.” In 2006, when the war in Iraq had become
overwhelmingly unpopular, Mr. Hagel was on the right side of conventional
wisdom. “The United States must begin planning for a phased troop
withdrawal from Iraq,” he wrote in the Washington Post that November.
Still swimming with the tide the following year, he called the surge “the
most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.”
surge’ (aka clear, hold, and build) was a success. It brought about the
Sunni Awakening, led to a dramatic decrease in sectarian violence, allowed the
Iraqi government to breath, and ended with Iraqi security forces taking more
responsibility in combat operations. By the way, these operations were
executed with success, with little to no American ground support. Ironically, it was ‘the surge’ that allowed the United States to
withdrawal from Iraq.
circles, it’s been a frenzy, but even The Washington Post knows Hagel isn’t
right for the job.
stated positions on critical issues, ranging from defense spending to Iran,
fall well to the left of those pursued by Mr. Obama during his first term — and
place him near the fringe of the Senate that would be asked to confirm him.
secretary, Leon Panetta, has said the defense “sequester” cuts that Congress
mandated to take effect Jan. 1 would have dire consequences for U.S. security.
Mr. Hagel took a very different position when asked about Mr. Panetta’s comment
during a September 2011 interview
with the Financial Times. “The Defense Department, I think in many ways,
has been bloated,” he responded. “So I think the Pentagon needs to be pared
the Pentagon during wartime is a smart move.
National Committee has compiled
some further research on the former senator, and it’s not much of an
According To Hagel, The Assad Regime In Syria Isn’t All That BadHagel Promoted Increased Diplomacy With The Syrian Regime And Failed To
Support Sanctions Against It As A State-Sponsor Of TerrorismAfter a 1998
Meeting With Syrian Dictator Hafez Al-Assad, Hagel Said “Peace Comes Through
Dealing With People.Peace Doesn’t Come At The End Of A Bayonet.” “Mr.
Hagel met in Damascus in 1998 with the terror-sponsoring dictator, Hafez
Al-Assad, and returned to tell a reporter about the meeting, ‘Peace comes
through dealing with people. Peace doesn’t come at the end of a bayonet or the
end of a gun.’” (Editorial: “Hagar The Horrible,”The New York Sun, 10/11/04)In 2003, Hagel
Failed To Vote On The Syria Accountability Act That Authorized Sanctions On Syria
For Its Support For Terrorism And Development Of Weapons Of Mass Destruction.(H.R.
1828, CQ Vote #445: Passed 89-4: R 47-2; D 42-1; I 0-1, 11/11/03, Hagel Did Not
Vote)In A 2008 Op-Ed
With Sen. John Kerry, Hagel Suggested The U.S. Should Offer “Tangible Benefits”
To Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad After The Dictator Complained That His “Positive
Steps Have Not Been Rewarded.” “While Syria must crack
down on the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad claims positive steps have not been rewarded. We should test whether
offering tangible benefits brings better results, starting with providing more
humanitarian assistance for the nearly 1.5 million Iraqi refugees Syria has
absorbed.” (Sens. John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, Op-Ed, “It’s Time To Talk To
Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, 6/5/08)
Said, “Our Policy Of Nonengagement Has Isolated Us More Than The Syrians.” “The
recent announcement of peace negotiations between Israel and Syria through
Turkey, and the agreement between the Lebanese factions in Qatar – both
apparently without meaningful U.S. involvement – should serve as a wake-up call
that our policy of nonengagement has isolated us more than the Syrians. These
developments also help create new opportunities and increased leverage that we
can only exploit through substantive dialogue with Syria.” (Sens. John Kerry
and Chuck Hagel, Op-Ed, “It’s Time To Talk To Syria,” The Wall Street Journal, 6/5/08)
Hagel, It Wasn’t Worth Sending A Message To Russia’s Leadership To Condemn
Anti-Semitism In Russia In
1999, Hagel Was The Only Senator Not To Sign a Letter Condemning Anti-Semitism
In Russia. “Jewish leaders are upset that Sen. Chuck
Hagel was the only member of the Senate not to sign a letter urging Boris
Yeltsin to speak out against growing anti-Semitism in Russia. An advertisement
in Sunday’s New York Times displayed a Senate letter signed by 99 senators with
only Hagel’s name missing. Hagel said Thursday he has taken even stronger and
more effective action by writing President Clinton, asking him to appeal
directly to Yeltsin to combat the anti-Semitic acts and rhetoric. But a trio of
Jewish leaders in Lincoln said they wish Hagel had also joined his colleagues
in signing the Senate letter.” (“Hagel Criticized Over Senate Letter To
Yeltsin,” The Associated Press,
certainly on the fringe when it comes to America’s interests abroad. He
served his country in uniform, and that’s honorable, but these positions on
Israel, Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria are incredibly troubling. Furthermore,
there will be times when he will have to give his opinion on matters that might
be at odds with the president. From his record, he seems to flow with the
political winds of what’s popular at the time. In all, he’s more of a
flip-flopper than Gov. Mitt Romney.
of this equation is what was President Obama thinking when he nominated Mr.
Hagel? Why is he spending so much of his political capital (what’s left
of it) on a nomination battle? If the president is doing this to
purposefully antagonize Republicans, he’s immature. If he’s doing this to
show that he’s removing the last
remnants of the Bush years, his ideological entrenchment is more stubborn
Chuck Hagel is the wrong man to lead the Defense Department, and gives realism
a bad name. Republicans should block him.