Hagel Confirmation: A Dark Day in the Senate

| February 27 2013
John Walker

February 26, 2013, the day the United States Senate confirmed former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense, will long be remembered as the day the Senate voted to degrade the U.S. military, discourage our allies, and encourage our enemies.

This is the sad conclusion from the 58 to 41 vote that confirmed Hagel. The reason is simple. Hagel perfectly reflects the dangerous and even radical view of Barack Obama. It is a view that says the American military is too large, our allies too independent, and our enemies frequently misunderstood.

Hagel was always an undistinguished and mediocre choice for a senior cabinet post. His only accomplishment as a two-term senator from Nebraska was his reputation as a cranky contrarian. A nominal Republican, Hagel delighted in opposing his party and pleasing the media.

His nomination almost went off the rails during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Repeatedly Hagel disavowed former statements and seemed confused about the role of Defense Secretary. He even made the astounding assertion that as Secretary of Defense he would not be a policy maker, a statement that baffled members of the committee but surely must have pleased the president.

The key to the Hagel confirmation was the 71 to 27 vote to end debate on the nomination and proceed to the confirmation vote. The 71 votes to proceed included 18 Republicans, all but four of whom then voted against Hagel for confirmation.

These 14 Republicans can now say that they were against the Hagel nomination after they were for it. Included in this group were John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte, three senators who conducted serious opposition to Hagel. Jeff Flake joined McCain in voting to end debate and then voted against Hagel for confirmation.

Hagel will now serve as Obama’s stand-in at the Pentagon, a totally reliable yes-man eager to implement the president’s second term defense policy. At the top of the list will be the administration’s determination to hollow out the military by reducing readiness across the board. Along with troop cuts, Obama and Hagel will cut spending on everything from ships to airplanes and will work to reduce the nation’s nuclear capability.

An immediate task will be the effort to accelerate the withdrawal from Afghanistan. This will leave an unfinished war effort sure to backfire, as did the administration’s inconclusive withdrawal from Iraq. A weak and corrupt Afghan government will be left at the mercy of the ever-patient Taliban and a newly inspired Al Qaeda.

Then will come the real showdown as the United States and our allies face a nuclear-armed Iran. Hagel, like Obama, is a skeptic on Iran. As a senator, he opposed unilateral sanctions against Iran and is sure to reject any use of force to stop the Iranian determination to acquire nuclear weapons and the capacity to deliver them against its neighbors. American policy against a nuclear-armed Iran will shift from prevention to containment.

Along the way, the United States will face a resurgent Al Qaeda in Africa and elsewhere, a defiant Russia determined to regain its superpower status, an emerging China with menacing military motives, and a host of challenges that include the unpredictable and potentially lethal North Korea.

While America’s foes make mischief, our allies will emerge wary and confused. Sure to be on guard will be the State of Israel. Hagel’s record of support for Israel is a dismal one. He relentlessly bashed our strongest Middle East ally at every turn as a United States Senator. Although he pledged strong support for Israel in his confirmation hearing, Hagel will mirror Obama’s hostility to the only free democracy in the Middle East; he will join the president in promoting the futile pursuit of the so-called two state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Hagel will enter the Pentagon wounded from his contentious confirmation struggle. He was a poor choice from the beginning, lacking the credentials and independent status of former Defense Secretaries Leon Panetta, Robert Gates, Donald Rumsfeld, and William Cohen. Now he will be exposed for all to see.

None of this will trouble President Obama. He now has his man as the civilian leader of the military; together they will implement his agenda. Although Obama and Hagel are the short-term winners, the long-term losers are the men and women who serve their country in uniform and the nation that will be left weakened and vulnerable.

9 comments
phoenixlaw
phoenixlaw

So then, your position is that we should continue to make war for oil, let Israel dictate our foreign policy, and ignore the stupidity of attacking Iran??  You are a joke.  You and your neo-con buddies want to continue America's posture of endless war and militarism and antagonizing the entire Muslim world through lockstep support for indefensible Israeli policies of aggression and annexation, including an unjustified attack on Iran.  Fools one and all.

WesternFreePress
WesternFreePress moderator

 @phoenixlaw Whether that is, or is not, the author's position, or mine, or anyone else's doesn't make Chuck Hagel any more qualified for the position.

phoenixlaw
phoenixlaw

The knock on Hagel all along from the Right was that he was too anti-perpetual war and that he wasn't strong enough in his subservience to a foreign country.  Even if you won't admit it, you know it's true.

ThomasS
ThomasS

 @phoenixlaw

 No, I think I was very clear about what I said, that many on the left place their ideology ahead of the interests of their own country.  Sort of similar to the way many of the same people seem incapable of holding a discussion without resorting to straw-man tactics, or changing the subject when they are losing.  :)

phoenixlaw
phoenixlaw

 @ThomasS Oh, you mean that its sad that they put the interests of the US ahead of the interests of a foreign country.  If you believe that is sad, then you also do not put the interests of the US ahead of the interests of Israel.  Why should a US government need to pledge allegiance to Israel in order to be approved to serve the US??  Whether you will admit it or not, the interests of the US and Israel are not the same, contrary to the message that AIPAC likes to promote.

ThomasS
ThomasS

 @phoenixlaw

 Not strange at all.  America is sadly littered with leftists who put their ideology ahead of all else, including Jews who place it ahead of Israel's well-being.

phoenixlaw
phoenixlaw

 @ThomasS Strange, isn't it, that if Hagel holds such hostility toward Israel, that all 12 Jewish Senators voted to confirm him??

ThomasS
ThomasS

 @phoenixlaw

 WFP is being polite.  Your remark is political-spin at its finest.  Hagel's remarks on the record clearly demonstrate a HOSTILITY toward Israel, and one based in gutter-mythology at that.  He is not only a light-weight, but an indefensible one.

WesternFreePress
WesternFreePress moderator

 @phoenixlaw The tendentious, straw-mannish nature of your characterization notwithstanding, you are right that his positions vis-a-vis Israel and Iran have been major issues. However, those are ideological concerns, and arguments have certainly been put forward that nominees should not be blocked based on ideology alone. However, the other knock (and not just from the right) has been that he is an unaccomplished lightweight who has no business in such a position.