Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Appoinmtents: Chuck Hagel on Defense

Since it was rumored to be announced a couple weeks back, the appointment of former GOP Senator Chuck Hagel has drawn a lot of fire, that would seem unusual since he is a combat veteran who served in the Vietnam War, and earned two Purple Hearts. He also has been in the Senate long enough to know how Washington works.

As a Midwest (and often independent) Republican Senator, Hagel was willing to admit the Second War in Iraq was a mistake--one he made by supporting it-- and that the Israeli Lobby is very powerful in Washington. Is this supposed to be controversial. Hagel also once said--gasp!--that the "Jewish lobby" is powerful in Washington. (Yes, he should have said "Israeli Lobby" which he did for the most part in the same interview in the same interview and the word "Jewish" is not a slur last time I checked nor are Israel's staunchest defenders in the USA exclusively of one ethnic group. Hagel supports negotiation over war to settle the problems in the Middle East. Being shot at as a GI "grunt" in combat does that to people I guess.
Hagel, the dark beast of certain special interests, including conservative gentiles who support Israel with a blind obedience even voters in Israel do not always share, is more mainstream in his outlook than the Chicken Hawks in the D.C./Harvard-Yale elite whose kids never join up to fight and frankly likely haven't even had a relative in the armed forces since 1945.
The Second War in Iraq is considered a mistake by most Americans--go ahead and look it up if you don't believe me-- and only a fool or a liar would say that pro-Israeli lobbyists don't have clout.
Hagel is not a Neo-Conservative. He knows what actually happens in a war. He's not afraid to tell people in both political parties where to get off. He considered himself "an American Senator, not a Israeli Senator" which means he also isn't a Japanese Senator or a European Union Senator either. Even though he has been a hawk in the past, he is not the Pentagon's toady. And he is from small town in heartland Nebraska, not an collective urban farming co-op in Berkeley, California, so it's not likely this fear of Chuck Hagel is anything but knee-jerk posturing.
Don't want to oversell this guy, but given the state of the American Establishment, this is a pretty good pick and I hope he makes it past the Senate conformation and we see a movement toward reason in defense planning and not totally same-old, same old.

And then there is this analysis from a blog by Jonathan Weiler, A Political Scientist at North Carolina/Chapel Hill and a contributor to the Huffington Post. It reminds us that the anti-Hegel forces are overstating his statements for political and not national defense purposes.

"Hagel's views align more or less seamlessly with conventional wisdom among American and Israeli military officials. More to the point, if Chuck Hagel is Secretary of Defense, there is no plausible argument that US foreign policy toward Israel specifically or more broadly will change notably. Though it seems likely that significant cuts are coming to the Pentagon in
any event, we will continue to maintain avastglobalmilitarypresence,willcontinue to spend more than any other country on our armed forces and will continue to leverage our economic and military might to push our interests in all corners of the globe. America is not going to stand down because Chuck Hagel is SecDef. Nor is it going to cease treating Israel as a uniquely favored ally. His most vocal critics are not, by and large, engaging in a substantive attack on his likely conduct as Secretary of Defense because they cannot
plausibly argue that his appointment would change meaningfully any of these realities."

So Hagel is not an ideal choice, but the opposition to him seems puzzling to me. I suppose some folks still haven't got the memo that the Romney/Ryan Team will not be featured at the upcoming Inauguration in Washington.

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