Why the Attacks on Chuck Hagel?

But first, some quotes on the reality of war: Obama, Chuck Hagel, and his opponents:

Obama in his Nobel Prize Speech:

“The instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another — that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldier’s courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause, to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious” — Churchill had called it that — “and we must never trumpet it as such. So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly irreconcilable truths — that war is sometimes necessary and war at some level is an expression of human folly.”

Bob Woodward in his Washington Post article remarked that “[this quote] is probably the best definition of the Obama doctrine on war. Applying such a doctrine in today’s dangerous and unpredictable world will be daunting — but on these issues Obama seems to have found a soul mate [in Chuck Hagel].”

Chuck Hagel to President Obama in 2009:

“We are at a time where there is a new world order. We don’t control it. You must question everything, every assumption, everything they” — the military and diplomats — “tell you. Any assumption 10 years old is out of date. You need to question our role. You need to question the military. You need to question what are we using the military for.”

Hagel’s Doubters:

“I fear that Hagel will be a staunch advocate for, or even accelerate, the continuation of this administration’s misguided policies… And on many of the security challenges facing U.S. interests around the world, Hagel’s record is deeply troubling. Too often, it seems, he is willing to subscribe to a worldview that is predicated on appeasing our adversaries while shunning our friends.” – Senator Jim Inhofe

“I think there will be a lot of tough questions for Sen. Hagel, but he will be treated fairly by Republicans in the Senate,” – Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader

According to NBC News, when Hagel left the Senate, McConnell called him “a clear voice on foreign policy and national security.”

“But I think another thing that’s going to come up is just his overall temperament, and is he suited to run a department or a big agency or a big entity like the Pentagon…There are numbers of staffers who are coming forth now just talking about the way he has dealt with them,” -Senator Bob Corker, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee

“Typically, there’s a tension. The Defense Department presses for weaponry and making sure that our country is safe. The State Department presses for nuclear arms agreements and reductions. And so in the event this person is confirmed, that balance is not going to be there.”    – Senator Bob Corker, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee

“I have serious concerns about positions Senator Hagel has taken on a range of critical national security issues in recent years, which we will fully consider in the course of his confirmation process before the Senate Armed Services Committee.” – Senator John McCain

Why the Attacks on Chuck Hagel?

There does not seem to be any restraint or even serious debate on the merits of many of Sen. Chuck Hagel’s past views and votes by those who are opposing his nomination as Secretary of Defense. They seem to oppose him primarily because he is the choice of President Obama and the Republican right wants to derail Obama’s second term even before it starts. This does not bode well for any hope of bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy and national security issues. This view is bolstered by recent attacks on the nomination of Jack Lew as Secretary of the Treasury for no apparent reason but to embarrass again the new administration at its start. Lew, one needs to remember, has been confirmed many times for past senior positions he has held in government.

But the Hagel confirmation “problem,” as we noted above, has many added dimensions since one of the key aims of the neo-con right is to undermine any serious rethinking of national security policy and structure that might lead to a more considered and thoughtful evaluation of our threats and priorities and trying to match them with our resources. That includes a reduction and cuts in those projects and weapon systems that are aimed at maximum profits to the military industrial industry and are the least useful in any way to the reality of the 21st century threat landscape. And again, there will be areas where additional resources are needed, but they should be justified by real American security present and future challenges rather than profit and cold war mentality.

The issues on which the right wing neo-cons are most vocal include Iran, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the direction of the DOD budget, and especially how our strategic posture is likely to be configured in the second term. Behind some of this is the belief that Hagel will be more reluctant to urge hasty military action in place of less costly “preventive diplomacy,” which produces fewer profits for the paymasters of the GOP. But, it may mean fewer American lives lost in combat.

Both Hagel and Senator Kerry, who is on his way to being Secretary of State, have served in combat, and those who oppose Hagel and even some Kerry (but not often openly) have largely been the neo-cons who blindly sent our solders into combat in Iraq and largely have declined to serve in wars themselves. The people like John Bolton, former Vice president Dick Cheney, and the likes at American Enterprise Institute, Heritage, or publications like the Murdoch News Corp’s Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard have all joined in opposition, but are really only fueling the drums of war and also placing money in the hands of the arms providers.

I like all the quotes of Hagel above; they seem for our times to be prudent, not isolationist and not wanting true security, but thoughtful and tested.


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2 thoughts on “Why the Attacks on Chuck Hagel?

  1. Harry C. Blaney III February 1, 2013 / 3:44 PM

    I agree with Bob Lamoree……his questions were better than what the Republican Senators were able to come up with!

    The Hagel Troubled Path to Defense Secretary: Meaningless Questions: Serious Issues Missed.

    There was much opaqueness and little that was enlightening in questioning of former senator Chuck Hagel before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday January 31st. Besides being shameful in the way that the Republican Senators cross examined him as if he was some kind of monster rather than a war hero and much respected senator. The gang of small minded Senators including John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Ted Cruz not only conducted themselves with self-inflicted dishonor in their combative line of questioning, which was not directed a Hagle’s strategic vision or policy ideas, but rather backward looking at his earlier statements, some more than a decade old and often out of context, to try to discredit him.

    Their assumptions were all wrong about what matters most to US and global security. They wanted to show Hagel weak on support of Israel, indifferent to Iran’s nuclear efforts, and not militant enough to pass muster with the right wing Israel lobby and neo-con war party types or the military industrial industry. We are in deep trouble if these are the congressional watchdogs of American security.

    Fortunately, they will not hopefully win the day, but they did discredit themselves and showed they were more interested in making points with their nutty political base and their paymasters, than serious analysis and understanding of our strategic challenges and the changing global landscape – all of these were almost entirely ignored in the effort at character assignation. It reminded me of the days when Sen. Joe McCarthy held sway.

    The some eight hours of questioning could have explored the questions of the new emerging threats in the international landscape like asymmetrical warfare and its challenges, the role of the Air Force and Navy in the 21st century, cyberwar, the rise of unrest and discontent and terrorist activities in many developing countries and actual and incipient conflict in Africa and the Arab world. They might have asked about North Korea and its nuclear program, perhaps raised the question of implications of the rise of China or how to deal with Russia and non-proliferation, or yet the standoff between India and Pakistan and American interests in the region. They might have even tried for a rational discussion over the future, not the past in Afghanistan. They might have asked about the outrageous rising costs of high tech weapon systems that do not work and are not relevant to our current security risks. No character vilification and political points were their goal. Sad!

  2. Bob Lamoree February 1, 2013 / 3:06 PM

    Is the contentious criticism of Sen. Hagel a matter of politics (a vote to hurt Obama.), a matter of philosopy (pro war vs. anti war), a matter of staying the course (God forbid we should ever cut the Defense Dept. budget.), a matter of history (We did right in Iraq,Chuck Hagel, and don’t you forget it.) or could it possibly be about Hagel’squalifications?

    For those who rail against Hagel, perhaps they should never have changed the title Department of War to Department of Defense. In how Hagel is being hounded, you’d think the President had nominated a pacifist to head the department, not someone whose stated commitment is to eliminating waste and making the department more functional and more accountable.

    The recently deceased author/historian Chalmers Johnson opined that the Defense Department has been more influential in making foreign policy than has the Department of State. There is more than an element of truth in that. Has our military over-played it’s hand? And, if so, at what cost? What seems evident here is that those who rail against Hagel want someone who is more ‘hawk’ than dove.

    Is Hagel likely to loosen the ties of the military-industrial complex? Observing the opposition, one might come to that conclusion. The question then is — how good is that?

    Military historian Thomas E. Ricks (The Generals) suggests that a cut in the military’s funds would be good, “It would force them to think.”

    If one were to ask any of the anti-Hagel interrogator why they are so against him, chances are they’d offer some high sounding reasoning that wouldn’t hold water under scrutiny. Politics and truth are not bedfellows. Hagel is a good man, a veteran, and on the right track.

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