Share This Page

Why the war party fears Hagel

| Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

In the fortnight since Chuck Hagel's name was floated for secretary of Defense, we have witnessed Washington at its worst.

Who is Chuck Hagel?

Born in North Platte, Neb., he was a squad leader in Vietnam, twice wounded, who came home to work in Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign, was twice elected U.S. senator, and is chairman of the Atlantic Council and co-chair of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

To The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, however, Hagel is a man “out on the fringes” who has a decade-long record of “hostility to Israel” and is “pro-appeasement-of-Iran.”

Hagel's enemies contend that his own words disqualify him.

First, he told author Aaron David Miller that the “Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up there” on Capitol Hill. Second, he urged us to talk to Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran. Third, Hagel said several years ago, “A military strike against Iran ... is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.”

Hagel has conceded he misspoke in using the phrase “Jewish lobby.” But as for a pro-Israel lobby, its existence is the subject of books and countless articles.

“I am a United States senator, not an Israeli senator,” Hagel told Miller. “I support Israel. But my first interest is I take an oath ... to the Constitution of the United States. Not to a president. Not to a party. Not to Israel. If I go run for Senate in Israel, I'll do that.”

If a senator or Defense secretary believes an Israeli action — such as bisecting the West Bank with new settlements that will kill any chance for a Palestinian state — guarantees another intifada, what should he do? Defend the U.S. position, or make sure there is “no daylight” between him and the Israeli prime minister?

As for talking to Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, what are we afraid of?

Harry Truman talked to Joseph Stalin and read Vyacheslav Molotov the riot act in the Oval Office. Dwight Eisenhower invited Nikita Khrushchev to tour the United States three years after he sent tanks into Budapest.

If Hagel's view on Iran is a disqualification for Defense secretary, what are we to make of this statement from Robert Gates, Defense secretary for Bush II and Obama:

“Any future Defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,' as Gen. (Douglas) MacArthur so delicately put it.”

If Hagel were an anti-Semite, would he have the support of so many Jewish columnists and writers?

Neocon hostility to Hagel is rooted in a fear that in President Obama's inner councils, his voice would be raised in favor of negotiating with Iran and against a preventive war or pre-emptive strike. But if Obama permits these assaults to persuade him not to nominate Hagel, he will only be postponing a defining battle of his presidency, not avoiding it.

For Bibi Netanyahu is going to be re-elected this January. And the government he forms looks to be more bellicose than the last. And Bibi's highest priority, shared by his neocon allies, is a U.S. war on Iran in 2013.

If Obama does not want that war, he is going to have to defeat the war party. Throwing an old warrior like Chuck Hagel over the side to appease these wolves is not the way to begin this fight.

Nominate him, Mr. President. Let's get it on.

Pat Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.