Hagel just a carbon copy of Obama
When they return from the 10-day February recess, it’s a good bet that Senators will end the filibuster against Chuck Hagel and confirm him as the next secretary of defense. Barring a spectacular revelation, the White House will hold firm and Hagel will be home free.
No matter what happens to Chuck Hagel, the fact remains that he is nothing more than a stand-in for Barack Obama. The long list of objections to Hagel’s views rests squarely at the feet of the president. Hagel equals Obama.
Obama chose the mediocre and controversial two-term Senator from Nebraska because Hagel reflects his worldview and specific positions on a wide range of issues. It’s a perfect team. What we see in Hagel is what we’ll get from Obama.
The confirmation session before the Senate Armed Services Committee was a personal disaster for Hagel and had to be a major embarrassment for the president. Senator John McCain, once a Hagel fan, said it was the worst confirmation performance he had ever seen. Hagel was woefully unprepared as he backtracked on former statements and appeared ignorant of the basics of the job.
Some of the Hagel opposition was centered on grievances against the president for lingering questions about the Benghazi terrorist attack last year. This remains a major bone of contention for McCain and Senators Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, among others. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that the Senators will learn more about the president’s actions or failure to act on the evening of September 11.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas asked for more information on past Hagel speeches and the sources of Hagel’s income after he left the Senate. The Cruz inquiries got particularly contentious, with a strong rebuke from Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin.
These senatorial complaints may or may not produce more information, but in the end it probably won’t matter. What will matter are Hagel’s views and their reflection of the Obama administration’s second term national security policy. It’s a troubling list.
- Iran: The administration will continue its determination to talk endlessly with the leaders in Tehran as they move closer to obtaining nuclear weapons capable of threatening Israel and the entire region. The fallback position that military options remain on the table will grow more hollow as the clock ticks on. When there is no other alternative, prevention will be replaced by containment and an uncertain future that will spark nuclear proliferation in the region and the danger of terrorists armed with nukes.
- Israel: The antagonism between the United States and Israel will continue. The president’s visit to Israel next month will do nothing to advance the so-called peace process or ease the tension between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt will remain a significant threat to the Jewish state and will underline Israel’s decades-old necessity to keep its enemies at bay.
- Disarmament: The American nuclear arsenal will grow more antiquated as it is reduced on a unilateral basis, whether talks with Russia succeed or not. This will include tactical nuclear weapons as well as strategic ones that have helped to keep the peace since World War II. Doubts will grow about protection by the American nuclear umbrella. NATO will be a spent force.
- Military Cutbacks: As the United States exits Afghanistan and turns to so-called nation building at home, all branches of the military will take a hit. This will result in reduced force readiness prepared to respond to crises, a reduction in US naval forces, and fewer bombers and fighters. This will be billed as a long-overdue peace dividend. In reality it will usher in a period of risk and vulnerability in a world of terrorists and eager antagonists.
The United States will continue to grapple with a resurgent Al Qaeda, a belligerent North Korea, and the uncertainty of the military intentions of Russia and China. It may take a major crisis to jolt the administration back to reality and a realization that only strength deters aggressors.
Hagel will be a cheerleader for the Obama doctrine of American retrenchment and disengagement. He will have no original thoughts of his own or initiatives that run counter to the White House. That’s why he was chosen; Obama will get no kickback from the yes-man in the Pentagon.