Top Ten Reasons Chuck Hagel Should be Secretary of Defense

I doubt Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator from Nebraska, and I would agree about almost anything with regard to domestic US politics. Unless his views have changed, we certainly would not agree on gay rights. ( He says, at least, that his views have in fact changed and has apologized for remarks in the 1990s, and I think he should get the benefit of the doubt here). But he isn’t being nominated for secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He is being nominated as Secretary of Defense. And on defense and foreign policy issues, Hagel’s views have much to recommend them. I testified in April, 2004, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which Hagel served, about the then Mahdi Army uprising in Iraq. The chairman, Richard Lugar, and Hagel both struck me as informed and concerned about the situation. Others, like Sam Brownback, seemed almost robotic in throwing softballs to my fellow panelist, the neoconservative Richard Perle, who denied that there was any uprising. Hagel had voted for the Iraq War authorization, but raised questions even then about US ignorance of what it was getting into, and he later in the Bush years joined Democrats in voting to get out.

Here are some positive things about the Hagel nomination:

1. Chuck Hagel is a decorated war hero, having won two Purple Hearts as infantry squad leader in Vietnam. He knows what war is, unlike the usual gaggle of chickenhawks who have emerged to accuse him of not being warlike enough. The very notion of William Kristol in a uniform is enough to provoke mirth, but here is an influential man (why?) who never met a war he didn’t love. Hagel not only knows war but knows it from the point of view of the infantry and NCOs, not just the officer corps. Hagel is cautious about wars and what they can achieve, and has become more cautious over time, as his hands got burned by the Iraq resolution. This caution is admirable in a Secretary of Defense.

2. Hagel has been an advocate for veterans. He introduced legislation to limit deployments in Iraq, which failed. (Many Iraq vets served multiple 18-month tours, and many of their problems have to do with frequent, long deployments.) He was a principal co-sponsor of Sen. Jim Webb’s bill on GIs, which expanded educational opportunities for those who served after September 11 (the bill became law). Unlike many inside-the-Beltway hawks who use the troops for political purposes but cut veterans’ benefits when the war is over, Hagel cares.

3. Hagel has long opposed the use of sanctions instead of diplomacy in the Middle East, having argued on June 27, 2001 at a conference of the American Iranian Council that sanctions on Libya and Iran “isolate us” (Washington Times, March 29, 2002).

4. Hagel opposed George W. Bush’s and the Neoconservatives’ ‘muscular Wilsonianism,” the idea that the US should invade countries like Iraq and impose democracy on them: Hagel said in 2006, “You cannot in my opinion just impose a democratic form of government on a country with no history and no culture and no tradition of democracy… We have not always connected those fundamentals to our efforts.” (- International Herald Tribune, March 17, 2006)

5. After an Israeli bombing killed dozens of children at Qana during the Israeli attack on Lebanon in summer, 2006, Hagel criticized the Bush administration for declining to call for a ceasefire (i.e. supporting further Israeli military action), saying, “The sickening slaughter on both sides must end now, this madness must stop.” (- Irish Times, August 2, 2006)

6. In 2009, Chuck Hagel signed a letter along with public figures such as James Wolfensohn of the World Bank and former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski asking that the US government “Shift the U.S. objective 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 clarify the movement’s view and test its behavior.” The letter did not call for direct US negotiations with Hamas, though it perhaps implied that other intermediaries (the EU?) might. (- International Herald Tribune, March 26, 2009). Hamas is a force in Palestinian politics and pretending it doesn’t exist and branding it a terrorist organization to which we forbid ourselves from talking just further reduces the US from being an honest broker in negotiations to being a handmaiden of Likud Party policy.

7. Hagel supports withdrawal from Afghanistan, warning in a 2009 op-ed that the US cannot dictate the outcome there, but can only try to empower Afghans to pursue their own fate. He acknowledged that much will depend on Afghan-Pakistan relations. (Washington Post, September 3, 2009) If anything, Hagel seems to have been more eager to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan than was Obama himself, and he will be an excellent steward of the coming US disengagement from Afghanistan.

8. Hagel signed on to the Global Zero proposal, spearheaded by a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James E. Cartwright, which argued for very steep reductions in the US nuclear arsenal, on the grounds that deterrence can now be achieved with relatively few warheads, mounted on submarines rather than on land and in silos. (- International Herald Tribune, May 17, 2012)

9. Hagel joined former Centcom commander Gen. Anthony Zinni (ret.), former US ambassador to the UN Thomas Pickering and others in arguing that an air attack on Iran without putting US troops on the ground could only set back but not destroy Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, and would risk actually pushing Iran to develop a nuclear warhead. (The report Hagel endorsed is available in PDf here at the Wilson Center). At this point the evidence suggests (as outgoing Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak admitted) that Iran has not made a decision to pursue a nuclear bomb, as opposed to enrichment expertise. Hagel’s position is the only reasonable one, and it is a primary reason for which warmongers, chickenhawks, and American Likudniks have come after Hagel like a pack of jackals trying to beard a lone noble lion.

10. Hagel speaks his mind on the Israel-Palestine issue, unlike almost any other American politician still seeking public office. He castigated what he called the “Jewish lobby” for intimidating American politicians. The choice of phrase was unfortunate, since AIPAC and its affiliates do not represent American Jewry, which is significantly more liberal and less enthusiastic about the far rightwing Israeli parties and policies than the self-appointed ‘Israel lobby’ is. But John McCain’s riposte that there is an Armenian lobby but not a Jewish lobby is also kind of silly. Hagel has just said what President Gerald Ford did, that US policy toward Israel and Palestine should be guided by US interests. The leader of the sane Israel lobby, J-Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, has come to Hagel’s defense.

For Hagel’s appointment to go through is extremely important at this juncture. It will blunt if not altogether end the use by extremist Jewish nationalists of the charge of ‘anti-Semitism’ to sideline critics of any aspect of Israeli policy. It will set a precedent showing that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other such organizations don’t always get their way on appointments, despite their long track record of shooting down capable Americans nominated for public service on the grounds that they are insufficiently worshipful of Israeli policy. ( Chas Freeman is a recent such victim of an orchestrated smear campaign, such that the US was deprived of his considerable expertise at a time it is desperately needed). It will put the far right wing coalition now in charge of Israel on notice that its intensifying colonization of Palestinian territory and attempt forever to forestall a 2-state solution is unacceptable. And it will signal that the US is not going to war against Iran for Bibi Netanyahu, however much William Kristol and the American Enterprise Institute demand it.

Hagel will be nominated and he will be passed by the Senate. And that process will be a turning point in the relationship of the US government to Israel and to its US lobbies. It is an extremely positive development, most of all for Israel itself, which cannot survive if it tries to annex the Palestinian West Bank (as Netanyahu obviously intends to do).

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69 Responses

  1. Here’s a thought: If your last name begins with A or B, call your senator and give him/her reason #1. If C or D, reason #2 … Q-R-S Reason #9. Everybody else – Reason #10.

  2. My war loving senator, Lindsey Graham, who is attached with a leash held by Joe Lieberman says Hagel doesn’t love Israel with that kind of unquestioned love required of all congressmen and senators.

    It’s like talking to a stone wall but if you would care to object to his smearing a war vet who has served his country in war, as opposed to the chickenhawks found in the neocon think tanks, here is Graham’s website for comments.

    link to

    • Think about the “optics” of Graham’s outburst. Obama reaches across the aisle and nominates a Republican to be his Secretary of Defense, and the Republicans respond by calling it an “in your face” pick that foretells an “in your face” second term.

      A Republican Senator. It might not be the hardest task in the world, but President Obama sure does excel at making the Republicans look like irrational, bitter extremists.

      • Seeing as Hagel is well to the left of a number of Democratic Senators on foreign policy and seeing as he burnt his bridges with the Republican establishment and caucus in his last years in the Senate and the aftermath, I’d have to agree with Graham that it is an “in your face” pick.

        • Sure, Seth9 – if you are deeply enmeshed in Washington politics and can tell all of the players without a scorecard. I remember when Rush Limbaugh and National Review were calling Hagel “Senator Betrayus” for his conversion during the Iraq War.

          But to people who don’t read about politics all day, in this most polarized of political cultures, much of that nuance is likely to be lost.

    • The real reason these cowards are hiding behind Israel is they don’t want to cut the defense budget.

      Texas’s #2 source of money is the War industry in Texas. He holds up appointments for redundant F22 engines. Someone needs to force these companies to retool and make products that don’t involve killing people.

  3. “Hagel will be nominated and he will be passed by the Senate. And that process will be a turning point in the relationship of the US government to Israel and to its US lobbies. It is an extremely positive development, most of all for Israel itself, which cannot survive if it tries to annex the Palestinian West Bank (as Netanyahu obviously intends to do).”
    Good point,I agree with it.
    The hearing will help to define the senator’s loyalty to the USA.

  4. Some ‘political Pundits’ have claimed that Barack Obama has finally picked up the necessary courage to stand-up to Israel Lobby and announce Hagel’s nomination on Monday (Today).

    link to

  5. This is by far the best nomination Obama has made. Hagel is probably the most qualified person for the job. His service in Vietnam and his real concern followed by commitment to the vets is enough to present a sane alternative to Ike’s dire but accurate forecast of over half century ago.

  6. “I’m a US Senator, not an Israeli Senator.” If more US politician could remember which country they were supposed to serve, both America and Israel would be much better off for it. The blind, unquestioning subservience to rightwing Israeli demands has encouraged Israeli extremists to think that they are above the law and act in ways that are detrimental to the long-term Israeli interests, not to say anything about US interests. If for no other reason but for the above statement Chuck Hagel deserves to be appointed secretary of defense. If his nomination is blocked by a bunch of extremist Zionist zealots it will send a wrong message to the world and would also prove the worst accusations about the inordinate strength of the Israeli lobby in US politics.

    • Farhang,

      Your opinion is a popular one, unfortunately it’s not backed up by fact. The U.S gives Israel aid, diplomatic support, and the ability to buy weapons, but it comes with significant strings attached. Bush 1, Clintoln, Bush 2, and Obama made demands of Israel, demands they acquiesced too. And it has always been that way, from pre-state days to today.

      Those who want the U.S to change course and become more critical of Israel like to pretend that the policy they advocate is the sensible one, the policy in our national interest, the policy we had until those awful, awful, “Zionists” scared our poor helpless politicians into doing their bidding. This narrative bears no relation to the actual historic record, but it does demonstrate the ideological fanatacism and stark ignorance of those who subscribe to it.

      From pre-state days until present the great powers have always been more concerned with pleasing the Arabs then the Jews, and the Arabs got their way most of the time. As Israel’s power grew the great powers started giving Israel it’s way more often, because Israel simply gained clout as it got more powerful. Moral concerns also played a role, whether anti-colonialism or shock over the Holocaust, but up tell now the overwelhming motive was self interest.

      Those who argue for a change of course from the position of U.S national interest (Stephen Walt), are the real radicals. They want a major shift in U.S policy, a shift that will have major unforseeable ramifications. On that basis alone the burden of proof is on them to show why our historic policies are bad for us. They make a big deal about how our support for Israel hurts our standing in the Muslim world, failing to mention that the U.S was far more popular under Bush than Obama.

      They also ignore the negative impact to a shift in the balance of power in the middle east. A weaker Israel might lead to more wars, and a more hardline attitude on the Israelis part. Netanyahu could stop all terrorism tommorow; by expelling every single inhabitant from Gaza. Weaken Israel and they might feel desperate enough to do it.

      Finally, the left wing hostility toward Israel is ignorant and tone deaf toward history. As the years go on we observe the incredible destruction reaked on Rhodesia/Zimbabwe by well meaning leftists. One of the most prosperous nations in Africa transformed into a basket case under Robert Mugabe. Leftwing anti-colionialists ought to talk to helpless disarmed white farmers in South Africa, or poor unemployed blacks in Zimbabwe before getting on their high horse about colonialism and apartheid. Of course I won’t hold my breath, one can’t expect serious reflection from people who learn their history from Michael Moore and Howard Zinn.

      • Ben,

        Thank you for your response to my comment. I am a strong supporter of the state of Israel and hope that it will stay strong and live in peace next to a Palestinian state on pre-1967 borders. However, I feel that the present Israeli policies and almost unquestioning US support for those policies are not conducive to that outcome.

        You are right to point out that US support for Israel comes with some strings attached. It is clear that when a superpower with global responsibilities provides billions of dollars to a small country and guarantees its security it would want to get something in return, but the US-Israeli relations are very lopsided and many people may be excused in believing that in this case it is the tail that wags the dog. The Obama Administration called on Israel to stop building additional settlements in the occupied territories in contravention of international law, yet on the day that Vice-President Biden arrived in Israel, Israeli officials provocatively announced the construction of thousands of new homes.

        President Obama made great efforts to revive the so-called “Peace Process”, but Netanyahu refused to budge and in practice humiliated the US president. Yet, shortly afterwards, Netanyahu was invited to address the joint session of Congress, and while trashing the entire basis for the peace process he was given some 30 standing ovations.

        The US has vetoed practically every single UN Security Council resolution that has been critical of an Israeli policy, more vetoes in the case of Israel than all other vetoes combined. Very often, it has been 14 votes against one. In most cases, such as the barbaric attacks on Gaza both in 2008-09 and last year and the attack on the aid flotilla in international waters, the US blocked the issue even being discussed by the Security Council.

        In the recent UN General Assembly Resolution that recognized the Palestinian Authority as an observer state and the one condemning Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons, America was practically alone in voting against the resolutions. The latter resolution was passed with 174 votes for and six votes against and six abstentions. With the exception of the United States and Canada, only the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, and Israel voted against that resolution. Such partisan behavior is certainly not in America’s interest. It reduces the status of a global power to that of Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau.

        Your comment about Netanyahu being able to stop terrorism tomorrow by expelling every single inhabitant of Gaza does not deserve an answer, but your argument that a weakened Israel might feel desperate enough to do it should also apply to other countries that feel threatened. We prohibit Iran or North Korea from having a nuclear program and we forbid many other countries in the Middle East from having long-range missiles because they might use them against Israel, but it seems that in the case of Israel they should be armed to the teeth, while the countries that Israel threatens should not have the means to protect themselves. This is not the issue of being leftwing or rightwing, but a simple issue of fairness and respect for international law.

        • Farhang,

          Pakistan and India officially don’t have a right to nuclear weapons either. Israel has had nuclear capabilities for a longer time and hasn’t used them, that would indicate they are keeping them to deter other countries not launch a first strike.

          Israel doesn’t get it’s way all the time; Bush 1 told Israel to negotiate with the PLO, Bush 2 told Israel to pull out of Gaza and accept a ceasefire with Hezbollah, Obama told Israel not to expand settlements or attack Iran. Israel hasn’t attacked Iran, and has generally complied with the settlement restrictions. Israel’s critics, Allison Weir for example, are partisan lunatics who would only be pleased with Israel’s total surrender to Arab demands.

          As for UN votes, America is the great power that has to be the arbiter between the various parties. As the arbiter it can’t simple succumb to partisan demands of the Arab and Muslim world, and has to veto these absurd and lopsided resolutions. Other countries can vote however they like, because they don’t have the responsibility of being the great power arbiter.


      • No one I know of is talking about a policy to weaken Israel, nor are many who advocate a more balanced U.S. policy toward Israel suggesting anything other than putting the U.S. national interest first. The fact is, the U.S. national interest is not always compatible with the Israeli perception of its national interest.

        The West Bank settlement program is a prime example. The United States has opposed the settlement program for decades (and for good reasons), yet Israel thumbs its nose at the U.S. and continues building. (The creation of “facts on the ground.”) Acquiescense of the U.S. (who, after all, is Israel’s prime benefactor and source of security) is not in the our national interest. The disgusting Israeli attack on the USS Liberty during the 1967 war, an attack that occurred with full knowledge that the Liberty was a U.S. ship, is another example in which the U.S. acquiesced in assisting in the cover-up of Israeli complicity in the killing and injuring of U.S. personnel, not to mention damage to the ship, apparently in order to spare Israel condemnation. There are many other examples where the U.S. national interest would have been better served by diverging from our lockstep march with Israel, both in our bilateral relations and in our posture at the United Nations.

        Your simplistic suggestion that those who think the U.S. national interest does not always track with Israel’s “learn their history from Michael Moore and Howard Zinn,” demonstrates arrogance exceeded only by ignorance.

      • Because, of course, American support for the right-wing military of Indonesia committing multiple genocides, or the right-wing military of Guatemala murdering 400,000 Indians is so much more “serious” than what the left wing advocates.

        Yeah, let’s bring colonialism back. Isn’t that essentially what Israel looks like to Arabs, and understandably so? You’re saying that whites rule best, so they should rule everywhere. Do you want me to scour the Internet for the death toll of European imperialism in the last 200 years? It will be a large number.

        You are also conveniently forgetting 1956, when pinko traitor Dwight Eisenhower broke up the colonialist UK-French-Israeli coalition that invaded the Sinai with the threat of Marshall Plan cutoffs. We used to stand for something other than Israeli expansion, sir. Note that in that same year Israeli agents bombed a USAID library in Egypt in a failed attempt to provoke a US war on Egypt, an act which the Israeli government not just admits, but celebrates. This was the nice socialist Israel, not the apartheid far-right Israel of today.

        Also, you are wrong that the US was more popular in the Moslem world in general under Bush than under Obama. Our popularity collapsed everywhere under Bush, most importantly in Turkey where it has had serious consequences. Pakistan is the exception to this rule, due to Obama’s policy of flying killer robots there blowing up wogs, which you probably applaud.

        • What is amazing is that the United States and its Central Intelligence Agency have basically won the Cold War with the collapse of the Warsaw Pact nations, socialist Egypt, and former pro-Soviet states like Afghanistan, Iraq, Chile, Nicaragua, Guatemala and soon-to-be Syria.

          Fundamentalist Islam was once our friend in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

          Now, America and Israel are actually backing Marxists in Iran – MEK – that are trying to destabilize the government. Even going as far to training them in military logistics in the U.S.; America is forming economic alliances in China, Vietnam and even has military installations in some of the Soviet republics. The chairman of the Syrian National Committee that was the exile organization that was fomenting the overthrow of Assad had served for many years in the central committee of the Syrian Communist Party.

          Fundamentalist Islam has replaced Marxism as the primary perceived danger to American values, world peace, and democracy.

          Will we have anti-Islamic inquisition-like campaigns as we did with anti-communists such as Sen. Joseph McCarthy and J.Edgar Hoover?

  7. OTOH, he has zero problem with the “Patriot Act” and torturers and war criminals (by our OWN definitions) running around loose and unprosecuted. Like Khadafy & Assad, and lot- too many- so called “progressives” buy the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” dumb philosophy. He’s another tool of Empire, nothing more. Its just that in comparison, he seems sane.
    I always appreciate you honest writings, Professor, and often pass them on to folks. And I think your assessment here is again an honest one, its the conclusion I don’t share…..passing this along tho, to, to give my peeps something to talk over……

  8. US policy cannot be turned on a dime. Much like a super tanker, turns take miles to accomplish. Obama’s been slow to change US policy abroad but as with the tanker, we can see the turn unquestionably. That is why the Neocon War Party rails and why I agree with Juan that this marks a major turning point

  9. Excellent article.
    As a veteran of Vietnam I am reminded to many times how poor decision making in Washington lead to the death of so many of our soldiers. Iraq is a perfect example. Poor George Bush Jr. followed bad information.
    I will dance with joy when I see Chuck Hagel confirmed as Secretary of Defense.

  10. #0.1 Bushist Tom Ridge endorses Hagel: link to
    #0.2: Hagel is a moderate Republican, so Obama shows once again that he is basically a GOPer, follower of Reagan who is a leftist on the current GOP scale

  11. ”Unless his views have changed, we certainly would not agree on gay rights. But he isn’t being nominated for secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He is being nominated as Secretary of Defense.”

    Chuck Hagel’s homophobic beliefs are very relevant to his qualifications. Lesbian and gay married soldiers currently do not receive spousal benefits. Hagel’s recent flip-flop apology for his previous stance against equality doesn’t convince me. He should be asked during his confirmation hearing if he supports complete equal rights for lesbian and gay military personnel. If he’s going to block equal rights, he’s not qualified to oversee the continuing implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), nor should he be allowed to interfere with the country’s continuing evolution toward comple equality for lesbian and gay families.

    • Hagel has apologized for homophobic remarks of the 1990s and says he is now supportive of LGBT community.

    • The Defense of Marriage Act forbids the military, or any other federal department, to extend marriage benefits to same-sex married couples. It’s not something that the Secretary of Defense, or anyone else in the executive branch, can do, unless the law is repealed or overturned.

      That President Obama, the force behind DADT repeal, nominated him indicates to me that Obama is quite comfortable that Hagel will implement DADT repeal according to administration policy.

    • Chuck Hagel has apologized for his prior statements and, indeed, should be given the benefit of the doubt. The critical element that should determine whether or not he is qualified to be Secretary of Defense should be his position on how best to defend the national interest of the United States. Any past positions on gays and lesbians is of secondary importance. He is not running for president of the Log Cabin Republicans.

      My first choice for Secretary of Defense would have been Michele Flournoy. I think she has full command of the issues that are important for the security of the United States. But Chuck Hagel is an honorable choice. Let’s not let secondary issues obscure his qualifications.

  12. You are so right about the stakes. Hagel’s appointment – just his appointment going through, never mind what he does in office – will be a huge blow for the organized Likudnik lobby, a sign of their decline, and will drive a wedge down the middle of the conservative movement.

    • Driving a wedge down the middle of the conservative movement is of little importance. That we would have a Secretary of Defense who is not beholden to Israel, or the Israeli lobby, is of immense importance.

      • I have to disagree, Bill. Weakening the conservatives and damaging their credibility on foreign policy remains a top-tier objective for this country’s well-being.

        • I’m with Joe on this one, because we must understand that we are dealing with an actual neo-Confederate movement, one whose agenda reaches back to the John Birch Society and the 1990s militias. This movement has sworn to take America back to the 19th century. The rich and the far-right in alliance have already re-created the economic conditions that caused the Great Depression, thus the 2008 crash. Yet afterwards they doubled down on the crazy, said we hadn’t gone far enough back into the past. Now they’re attacking Teddy Roosevelt as a commie for creating income tax (1908), calling for the repeal of the 13th Amendment (1865), even demanding an end to popular elections of senators (1830s). The goal has always been to radically polarize American wealth, so that a restored white patriarchy (Kochs, et al) would regain the monopoly of power that the slaveowners and robber barons once had and used to preside over white supremacy (the reward for their redneck rank & file).

          Israel is now ruled by people with many connections to these maniacs. Not surprising given its own need to prevent an Arab-Israeli voting majority at all costs.

  13. The Senate should say no to this terrible choice.

    Hagel has no natural constituency, except perhaps for those who want a foreign and defense policy that is tougher on Israel and softer on Iran.

    Israel would be clear that Obama views the Jewish state with hostility. Iran would be clear that it has nothing serious to fear from the Obama administration.

    Nothing else can explain this odd nomination. Team Obama tried to couch it as a bipartisan act, inasmuch as Hagel was a Republican Senator. But key Republican Senators have made it clear that they don’t want Hagel at the Pentagon. Key Democrats have also failed to express enthusiasm over that prospect. If there’s a bipartisan consensus around Hagel, it’s that Obama should nominate someone else.

    If the President would like to abandon his election promises about stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program he should just say so.

    Trying to change US Defense and Foreign Policy by just appointing Hagel will be understood that way in the Senate and will
    not be accepted.
    Ten out of twenty-five members of the
    Senate Armed Services Committee, Democrats, Republicans and Independents,
    have already expressed their concerns about him.

    To me he is the stereotypical Archie Bunker type bigot. His policies have been anti gay (even now after his late and self serving apology he doesn’t support equal benefits for gay military families.

    there are many ways a Secretary of Defense could help gay military families no matter how DOMA is decided and Hagel has not come out in favor of any of these.

    Reports to the contrary, LGBT equality is not yet a done deal in the military. There is still the matter of partner benefits. There still remain a handful of regulations that could be revised independent of the Defense of Marriage act that could bring some equity of compensation and benefits to gay and lesbian service members. but remain denied due only to Department of Defense foot-dragging:

    Included in the discretionary benefits currently denied are spousal identication cards, and shopping at the PX, the former cited in the Pentagon’s own Working Group study as not requiring DOMA repeal to deliver.

    His remarks about the Jewish lobby having too much influence would cleary be seen as bigoted if you substitute any other
    minority group’s lobby. Try NAACP or La Raza and see how long you would be considered.

    He is anti-African American (with a 11/100 rating from NAACP and admires Strom Thurmond as a great role model. anti Woman (vs choice and contraception)
    By contrast, he has a 100% rating from the NRA.

    Hagel has drawn additional heat from insiders who claim he lacks the credentials needed to manage a department as large and essential as the Pentagon.

    “Yes, Hagel has crazy positions on several key issues. Yes, Hagel has said things that are borderline anti-Semitism. Yes, Hagel wants to gut the Pentagon’s budget. But above all, he’s not a nice person and he’s bad to his staff,” said a senior Senate aide who has close ties to former Hagel staffers.

    “Hagel was known for turning over staff every few weeks—within a year’s time he could have an entirely new office because nobody wanted to work for him,” said the source. “You have to wonder how a man who couldn’t run a Senate office is going to be able to run an entire bureaucracy.”

    Others familiar with Hagel’s 12 year tenure in the Senate said he routinely intimidated staff and experienced frequent turnover.

    “Chuck Hagel may have been collegial to his Senate colleagues but he was the Cornhusker wears Prada to his staff, some of whom describe their former boss as perhaps the most paranoid and abusive in the Senate, one who would rifle through staffers desks and berate them for imagined disloyalty,” said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq. “He might get away with that when it comes to staffers in their 20s, but that sort of personality is going to go over like a ton of bricks at the Pentagon.”

    Multiple sources corroborated this view of Hagel.

    “As a manager, he was angry, accusatory, petulant,” said one source familiar with his work on Capitol Hill. “He couldn’t keep his staff.”

    “I remember him accusing one of his staffers of being ‘f—ing stupid’ to his face,” recalled the source

    Sources expressed concern about such behavior should Hagel be nominated for the defense post. With competing military and civilian interests vying for supremacy, the department requires a skilled manager, sources said.

    “The Pentagon requires strong civilian control,” a senior aide to a former Secretary of Defense told the Free Beacon. “It’s already swung back in favor of the military over the past five years. A new secretary of defense should push it back in its rightful place, but it’s doubtful Hagel would be that guy.”

    “It’s not clear that [Hagel] has the standing, the managerial prowess, or the willingness to gore some oxen,” said the source.

    One senior Bush administration official warned that Hagel is ill informed about many critical foreign policy matters.

    “He’s not someone who’s shown a lot of expertise on these issues,” said the source, referencing a recent Washington Post editorial excoriating Hagel’s record. “That [op-ed] was extraordinary.”

    “Only in Washington,” the official added, “can someone like [Hagel] be seen as a heavy weight. He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.”

    Hagel’s reluctance to chastise Iran also remains a central concern.

    As chief of the Pentagon it is expected he would avoid planning for a military intervention should Tehran refuse to end its clandestine nuclear enrichment program.

    “The military brass is already reluctant to offer up any military options on Iran even though it’s their job to have something on the books and to leave the options of the commander in chief open,” said the aide. “Hagel will only reinforce these worrisome tendencies.”

    “Chances are he’ll view any legitimate effort to talk about military options with Iran as some plot by the ‘Israel Lobby’ to box him in,” the source said.

    There is no reason to believe his appointment would change Israeli policies.

    But there is a very strong likelihood that it would be a fatal blow to the chances of a negotiated settlement with Iran.

    Iran would have to conclude that it doesn’t have to fear
    finishing it’s nuclear weapons program or even continuing towards ICBM’s pointing at America.

    Democratic senators, several of whom have already voiced concern, also should vote no on someone who’s views on many major issues are opposite of the President’s
    and who’s language is bigoted, and instead insist he appoint a better person like Michelle Flournoy.

    Flournoy closely mirrors the previous stated policies of the President, the Democratic Party, and the American people.

    • It was quite predictable that someone would soon pop up to throw dirt prepared by various neocon and AIPAC sources at Hagel and claim that their opposition to him had nothing to do with his sane and balanced views regarding relations with Israel and not wanting to rush to war against Iran, which even by the admission of a large number of Israeli officials, has no nuclear weapons, in order to please the rightwing leaders of Israel, which has hundreds of nuclear weapons. However, by now, the tactics are well known, and they will not fool anyone. Here is an article by Charles W. “Chas” Freeman Jr. about a repeat performance by the Israeli lobby regarding Hagel

      link to

      and here is another article by Arnaud de Borchgrave on Hagel and the Israeli lobby

      link to

      Let us hope that as Professor Cole has pointed out, the latest hysterical outbursts will further expose the Israeli Lobby, and as Robert Parry says in the following article it will be the Neocons’ last stand, but I somehow doubt it

      link to

    • Hagel has no natural constituency, except perhaps for those who want a foreign and defense policy that is tougher on Israel and softer on Iran.

      That is not an insignificant number of Americans.

      Israel would be clear that Obama views the Jewish state with hostility. Iran would be clear that it has nothing serious to fear from the Obama administration.

      A little perspective is in order here. “Hostility” in this sentence means “Wants to give them billions of dollars a year in aid and sell them the latest military equipment while maintaining close military and intelligence ties, but occasionally breaking with them on policy questions,” while “nothing serious to fear” means “being defined as a state sponsor of terror, subject to extensive sanctions, and generally being treated as a threat to national security and potential opponent in a war.”

      • Since Israel has no model for survival except perpetual expansion, it would be hostile not to give it enough weapons to steal more land.

    • Don’t gay servicepersons have an even greater right not to have their lives thrown away in criminal wars of aggression, like the one against Iraq planned by Cheney’s Likud-employed agents? How about the rights of the Iranians not to be slaughtered as a scapegoat so Israel can build more illegal settlements?

      You are as shameless a dehumanizer of Moslem victims as Madeline Albright, who said the 400,000 Iraqis who died from US sanctions were “worth it”. You obviously won’t be happy until Iran is destroyed the way Iraq was. Thank you for telling me the name of the Zionist candidate for Albright II, Michelle Fluornoy. I will try to warn my friends against her. Also, thank you for laying out the entire strategy of the smear campaign that will be used by the non-existent Israel Lobby against Hegel.

    • Thank you, Jean, for inadvertently confirming what a fine choice Hagel would be.

      The major criticisms of his appointment that you cite are:
      1) there’s a bunch of malicious gossip about him that we’re supposed to take seriously, despite EVERY source you cite being anonymous (guess what, Jean? “Sources say” you work for Gush Emunim. For shame.)
      2) Hagel isn’t keen to incinerate Iran.
      3) Hagel’s domestic positions are possibly out of sync with Obama’s – although as Juan pointed out, they’re hardly relevant to the Def Sec’s core responsibilities.

      By setting out the strongest objections to Hagel’s appointment, you have made it clear that there isn’t much reason to deny him the appointment.

  14. Hagel isn’t perfect and doesn’t match my views on many issues, but he is about as progressive on military issues as a Secretary of Defense can be within the current bipartisan consensus on military and foreign policy.

    As a Democrat, I would ideally prefer that the President select a Democrat with similar views. But I think it’s a realistic assessment that for the policy views he holds to have any chance of success, his party identification is a plus. And in any case, where are the equally progressive choices among Democrats? Maybe John Kerry, but he’s going to State.

    And that brings up another point: John Kerry and Chuck Hagel were friends in the Senate and have a good working relationship on military and veteran’s issues. They’ll work well together in the cabinet, and be more effective than either alone.

    • As a Democrat, I would ideally prefer that the President select a Democrat with similar views.

      This is true. On the other hand, as a Democrat, I am quite happy to see discord sown in the enemy camp. This pick is going to put the Republicans at each other’s throats.

      • Yes, but liberal Zionists will hide behind the cover of gay rights, while continuing to undermine the Administration on those rare occasions when it shows any backbone.

        Obama should have made this pick in 2009 and forced the Tea Party to establish its position on imperialism right away. Ron Paul would have found himself very lonely on the podium as the only GOP congressman supporting Hegel.

        And maybe Hegel would not have been such a fan of the flying killer robots. Now it’s too late to stop them, because they’re fast, cheap and out of control.

        • We’ll see how “liberal Zionists” react. It seems equally likely that the J-Street crowd will take this opportunity to peel off some pro-Israel-but-not-Likudnik support from the AIPAC crowd.

          There was no Tea Party when Obama made his initial SecDef pick, and he had quite a few priorities (ending the Iraq War, avoiding catastrophic collapse in Afghanistan) that were more important at that moment in time.

          And maybe Hegel would not have been such a fan of the flying killer robots. There is only a tiny fringe in American politics, among the far left and the libertarians, who oppose using drones against al Qaeda. Chuck Hagel is almost certainly not among them.

          they’re fast, cheap and out of control.

          You left out “effective,” and they’re perfectly in control. Your complaint isn’t that they are failing to achieve their purpose, or that they are running wild and going beyond that purpose. Your complaint is that you don’t agree with their purpose, and you’re using the term “out of control” the same way a libertarian might use it when discussing Medicaid.

        • Joe, my complaint is that the drones are killing a lot of innocent civilians, even launch delayed second attacks to kill the rescue workers after they arrive. We blow up wedding parties, we kill children. You can say the civilian Pakistani survivors are a bunch of dirty Moslem liars, but THEY’RE CITIZENS OF A SOVEREIGN STATE WE HAVEN’T DECLARED WAR ON! In fact, their government is supposed to be our ally. Yet it is NOT refuting the claims of civilian dead, nor is our ally Afghanistan.

          Flying killer robots are just as indiscriminate a tool of war as manned aviation, and if we were using the latter to attack Pakistani territory, wouldn’t there be consequences?
          Robert E. Lee once said, after a victory, “It is good that war is so terrible, or we should soon grow too fond of it.” The drones are a way to make war less “terrible” so we can remain fond of it, and its operating expenses. The only reason the death toll from drones is so tiny compared to the million dead in the Vietnam War is that our opponent is so weak, so few, living in a place so worthless that there are no cities to blow up. So what’s the threat to us from those civilians?

          We must stop lying about our magical weapons that never kill civilians. At least Madeline Albright was willing to say that causing the death of 400,000 innocent Iraqis via sanctions was “worth it”. Let’s see Obama say the same.

  15. The country has moved far on gay rights and marriage. I think Hagel should get the benefit of the doubt. He certainly won’t try to institute anything like don’t ask don’t tell.

    Along with a changing country I imagine Hagel has changed too in that respect……

    • Benefit of the doubt, nothing! I want to see Hagel perform a little Maoist self-criticism session before the Armed Services committee on the issue of gay rights.

      Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

      • No need for Chuck Hagel to perform Maoist self-criticism regarding his previous statements regarding gay and lesbian rights. He has already apologized. Hagel is up for Secretary of Defense, not for president of the Log Cabin Republicans. His views on the United States national interest are far more important than previous statements regarding gay and lesbian rights. Let’s get real here, folks. The primary qualification for Secretary of Defense is his views on the national interest of the United States, not his previous stance on gay and lesbian rights.

        • No need for Chuck Hagel to perform Maoist self-criticism regarding his previous statements regarding gay and lesbian rights. He has already apologized.

          He apologized for one rude comment about an Ambassadorial nominee, and that is all to the good.

          That’s not the same thing as renouncing his previous views on issues of substance, such as allowing gay people to serve in the military – a little matter which is, in fact, somewhat important for the next Secretary of Defense.

        • We don’t want, though, someone in Defense who would make life harder for gay men and women in the armed services, would we? When Hagel made his unfortunate remarks, though, gay rights still had a long way to go. (And still do.) The overall outlook of the country was still pretty intolerant of the gay world. But the country has changed since then. I think that with Hagel’s apology we can assume that he has changed with nation’s changing attitudes too.

          Should he be asked about his past comments at the Senate hearings? Certainly. And I suspect his answers will reflect the changes in attitude which have occurred since the nineties.

        • By all means, let’s get the perfunctary questions regarding Hagel’s attitude toward gays and lesbians out of the way so he can demonstrate his newly-enlightened attitude. Then let’s let the Senate Armed Services Committee get down to the important issues and discuss with him the national security challenges faced by the United States, and how he plans to meet them in an era of tight budgets. I suspect Hagel will acquit himself well.

  16. Why is the pro-Israeli lobby so upset that Hagel used the term “Jewish lobby” when they insist that supporting Israel is inherent in being Jewish, that Israel is a “Jewish Homeland” and furthermore any Jews who are critical of Israel are “Self-hating Jews”. ANd yet we can’t say “Jewish lobby”? The only problem with the term is that the Likudniks flatter themselves by claiming to speak for all Jews.

    • Same reason we can’t say “Israeli nuclear arsenal”. Because if Israel is really that strong, it doesn’t need to steal land and water from its neighbors or evolve a program of ethnic cleansing. As a Special Victim, it demands a free pass from what everyone knows is international law.

      But it sure as hell is profitable for someone in Israel to do these things.

    • Heard a great interview with Elliott Abrams on NPR,ap parently point man of The Lobby in the attack now being mounted. No link now available on their website, but instructive to listen to.


      1-The interviewer cornered him into admitting several of Hagel’s most “questionable” statements were being quoted second-hand.

      2-The underlying complaint, which is indeed hard to deny, is that
      Hagel’s public statements, like not being “the Israeli Senator,” is that if he isn’t “for” Israel he’s “against” it. Abrams makes the point of Hagel’s “unresponsiveness” to his Jewish constituents in Nebraska….which is an interesting when those constituents get to give him his grade…and if he isn’t sufficiently responsive he is de-facto an anti-semite. See how this works?

      3-The use of the word “Jew” and “Jewish”, gets into perceived slights, again circling back to point #2, where its become a preparative (how did that happen? The fact that it has become so means something, and it’s not that reacting negatively to negative behavior makes the observer an anti-semite).

      Still, this business with semantics goes deeper, into making sure there is no slippage toward Jews (whoops: Israelis) losing nation status and being relegated to being simply the believers in just another religion. It is a legitimate point that “the Jews” are no more monolithic than “the Israelis.” But when someone refers to the entity of Israel, its policies and history, it is a single entity and its citizens have to own to being responsible for it, as American Jews, and other US citizens have to own up to what this country has been up to.

      Obama, it strikes me, has picked a whale of a fight, and a pivotal one to US foreign policy. If “the Lobby” cannot take down Hagel, with the lines drawn as they clearly are, it bodes badly for their power to intimidate and manage US policy going forward. Losing this fight their power and relevance will be eviscerated. On the other hand, Obama is going to have to expend considerable political capital to see this nomination through, and in the interests of the US this becomes a battle of enormous importance when you consider the implications of its failure.

    • Why is the pro-Israeli lobby so upset that Hagel used the term “Jewish lobby”

      There is some unfortunate history there. A term like “Jewish Lobby” carries some unintended baggage, some echoes of old anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

      But mostly, it’s just a cheap shot that helps them cast Hagel’s actual foreign policy positions in a worse light.

  17. I see Flourney is a pro-war “liberal hawk” who like Mccain wants US troops to have remained in Iraq carrying out their initial neocon/dual loyalist plans of turning Iraq into a pro-Israel, pro-American government aka a puppet.

    One correction: Prof Cole quotes a 2006 anti Iraq War quote from Hagel. He initially supported the war, a cynic might say until it turned bad. Problem is, before the war’s inception everyone from Scott Ritter to Pat Buchanan had outed the WMD lies, so what was the excuse?

    And yes, he’s never spoken out against the Patriot Act or drone war crimes. But if he’s the best Israel Lobby critic politically acceptable, gotta unenthusiastically go with him.

    • If I remember correctly, Hagel whipped up a storm by puncturing the Neocon lies regarding the need for the war. And opposed it when only a few people did. Today, of course, anyone slightly sane, cognizant, ratiocinative, and aware of any basic truth or reality realizes the war was a monstrous fraud. Hagel stepped out of the ranks of his fellow “conservatives” to speak up. But, yes, he did vote for it initially. And that when tens of thousands of Americans were marching on the streets against the upcoming war……

    • before the war’s inception everyone from Scott Ritter to Pat Buchanan had outed the WMD lies, so what was the excuse?

      It seems pretty clear to me that the Bush administration lied to Congress about the WMD intelligence, about the al Qaeda/Iraq links, and about its intentions, even more shamelessly than it lied to the American public. If you go back and look at the statements of half-hearted supporters like Hagel or John Kerry, they seem to be dropping hints that they know things the general public does not, that makes the case for the war stronger.

  18. Juan,

    Point number five is what worries me. Hagel didn’t just want a cease fire he declined to call Hezbollah a terrorist organization. This indicates that he believes private citizens have the right to go to wage war on foriegn countries, which would be insane. The U.S should never have pushed for a cease fire, Hezbollah needed to be disarmed and the Israelis were the only ones who could do it. Right now Lebanon has a private militia completely unaccountable and independent of the government, and this militia is even more powerful than the government! This is the equivalent of the U.S allowing the michigan militia to declare war on Canada! Hagel is either stupid or just ignorant, either way he doesn’t belong in government.


    • Hizbullah is not a private militia. It is a political party with several cabinet seats in the Lebanese government. It was also designated by the Lebanese government to defend the south from further attempts at Israeli occupation. More or less, it was deputized as the National Guard for the Lebanese south.

      Nor does any of this have anything to do with the desirability of a ceasefire in the massive Israeli bombardment of Lebanon in early August 2006, just before the Israelis dropped a million cluster bombs on the farms and homes of the Lebanese South, the way some people might try to exterminate rodents.

      • A friend of mine who was in a Shi’ite residential neighborhood in Beirut visiting relatives when the IDF invasion occurred in 2006.

        The Israeli Air Force dropped leaflets warning of a bombing run would strike the next day and to evacuate residents. The area was carpet bombed the next day. There appeared to be no military purpose for the air strike other than to make civilians homeless due to their religion. A variation of the “Search and Destroy” tactics employed by General William Westmoreland in Vietnam.

        Alleged IDF war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Lebanese people were not referenced in the Winograd Commission Report.

    • Hezbollah needed to be disarmed and the Israelis were the only ones who could do it

      Could they?

      Sometimes, your best friend is the one who takes away your keys when you’ve been drinking so you don’t wreck your car.

    • If my country is being raped by foreign invaders and hostile domestic militias decade after decade, I damn well have the right to create a militia to protect my people and restore order. Or do you consider Israel’s pet militia slaughtering hundreds of Palestinians in Lebanon while Israeli troops looked the other way to be “order”?

      Lebanon cannot have a legitimate government because its constitution prevents one-man one-vote, because that would dethrone the Sunni and Christian business elites. In that sense, the Shia had as much right to form Hezbollah as Nelson Mandela did to form the ANC. Because the US and Israel and Saudi Arabia refuse to allow a proper revolution to do what the ANC did (recall our invasions in 1958 and 1983), Hezbollah is accepting this absurd quasi-sovereign status while actually governing Arabs better than any of US/Israel’s pet kings and tyrants do – at least the ones without oil.

  19. This kind of reminds me of the nomination of retired Admiral Bobby Inman (also formerly National Security Agency director and deputy director of the CIA).

    Admiral Inman was respected as a competent and intelligent nominee. He also had been critical of the actions of Israel in the USS Liberty incident and opposed sharing certain national intelligence with the Israeli government. He was almost immediately attacked by NY Times columnist William Safire as being anti-Israel upon his nomination becoming public and later withdrew from consideration.

  20. In all the hullabalew, let’s not forget the nomination of John Brennan for CIA. As a matter of spectator politics, Obama has to be submitting these two with each other in-mind, on the heels of using Susan Rice to finesse some of the knee-jerk opposition (never-mind what a lame nomination she’d have been, strictly on her merits).

    The consideration with Hagel is how to get a reasonably positive guy in, but this guy Brennan is downright scary and he stands to be put in a position of doing far more harm than Hagel. All these people, especially coming out of the IC, are accomplished liars. But it was Brennan who with a straight face spoke about there being NO civilian casualties from drone strikes: the sheer, blatant disrespect with which he views his fellow citizens is breathtaking. What might a guy like this accomplish with 4 years to work their magic, already knowing their way around as he does, plus having Obama’s ear?

  21. I am sick and tired of those who try to bend backwards to show that they are not against Israel by telling that peace is to the benefit of Israel. Israel ethnically cleansed Palestinians, annexed the lands on which they were supposed to have a state according to the pratition plan and continues to settle, colonize blockade and oppress. Stating that peace is to the benefit of Israel is pandering. And now the whole world is begging her to be nice. What the world should demand is return of the refugees, return to 1948 plan or accept a single democratic state with Palestinians, give up allthe land taken by force including the the Golan heights. Any thing else means that you can get away with ethnic cleansing and colonizing. Not a good omen for the future of mankind if we appease offenders, I say. In fact, since there is no map of Israel that is definite, who can tell if more jews immigrate into Israel, Israel will not have territorial claims to Jordan and other Arab lands? Can you vouch that it won’t?

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