This is no time for America to have a mediocre Secretary of Defense. Under present circumstances – let alone foreseeable ones – it would be the height of folly to give the job to someone even more deficient: Chuck Hagel.
For purposes of calibration, consider just the past two week’s news: China is threatening war with Japan and massively hacking government and private sector computers across America. The North Koreans tested a nuclear weapon and are promising to destroy their neighbors to the south if the Republic of Korea conducts scheduled military exercises with the United States.
Meanwhile, Russia’s nuclear-armed bombers circled U.S. bases on Guam as its foreign minister refused to take phone calls from the new U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. And Afghan President Hamid Kharzai, a man who owes his position and probably his life to American protection, has barred our special forces from operating in a hotly contested province in Afghanistan.
Welcome to a post-American, and increasingly volatile, world. It is one where a steady hand at the helm of the Pentagon is absolutely necessary – arguably more so than at any time in decades.
Chuck Hagel simply does not measure up. Consider just three of the many reasons why his nomination must be rejected by the Senate:
- Unilateral disarmament: Senator Hagel has called the Pentagon budget “bloated” and said it needs to be “pared.” He made such comments even after Congress had set in train the formula for cuts that the incumbent Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have described usingterms like “catastrophic.” Then, last May, Hagel co-authored a report recommending U.S. denuclearization, including unilaterally eliminating of one or two “legs” of our strategic “Triad” and de-alerting those that remain. In one of the most dramatic – and implausible – “confirmation conversions,” Hagel has disavowed such sentiments, insisting that they were just suggestions and that he doesn’t actually subscribe to them.
- Appeasing Iran: Experts on the Islamic Republic of Iran like the Center for Security Policy’s Clare Lopez and the Foundation for Democracy in Iran’s Kenneth Timmerman have documented ties the former Nebraska senator has to the Iranian regime via its lobbyists and fellow travelers here in the United States. These include helping, through his membership on the board of directors of the far-left Ploughshares Fund, the underwriting of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). The organization’s director, Trita Parsi, was determined by a federal judge to be an Iranian agent. Hagel has also helped The Iran Project, another group that opposes military action to prevent the mullahs from getting the Bomb. This record makes a mockery of Hagel’s confirmation-driven professions of a commitment to “prevention” of such an outcome.
- Undermining Israel: Senator Hagel has not only showed considerable sympathy over the years for Iran but has exhibited a hostility for Israel and its Jewish supporters that smacks of anti-Semitism. Comments like his reported 2007 remark at Rutgers University that “the State Department is an adjunct to the Israeli foreign minister’s office” is not only absurd to anyone familiar with the Arabists of Foggy Bottom’s reflexive hostility towards the Jewish State. It is redolent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, with that odious tract’s assertions that Jews control the world.
No less worrying is Hagel’s co-authorship of a 2009 report by the U.S./Middle East Project that recommended a U.S.-led multinational force be inserted into the West Bank to “ensure a peaceful transitional security period” for a new Palestinian state. As Breitbart.com observed, this notion seems to track with the views of another senior Obama advisor, Samantha Power, who urged in 2002 “that the U.S….provide a ‘meaningful military presence’ in the ‘new state of Palestine’ to carry out the ‘imposition of a solution on unwilling parties.’” Tearful assurances to Senator Chuck Schumer of his commitment to Israel cannot disguise Chuck Hagel’s longstanding animus toward the Jewish State – and shame on those who pretend otherwise.
These examples of seriously problematic judgments are not simply historical matters of no relevance to the job of the next Defense Secretary. To the contrary, they bear directly on the sorts of challenges and decisions our nation willconfront in the years ahead. They should be seen as disqualifying of any candidate who holds them.
Senators considering voting for this nominee must ask themselves: Are they prepared to endorse such defective policy prescriptions? And are they willing to be held accountable for them if such policies are promoted by a Secretary Hagel to devastating effect on the national security?
Finally, there is the question of Senator Hagel’s lying to the Senate. Quite apart from the transparent falsity of his aforementioned confirmation conversions, he has refused to date to fulfill a public commitment made during the confirmation hearing to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin: “I will commit to [release all speeches]and every request as we have….Everything that is out there that we can find we’ll make every effort to get it and provide it.” By denying permission to examine his archives at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Hagel is transparently trying to prevent legislators and the public from exploring what is likely to be further evidence of his unsuitability for the Pentagon job.
There are plenty of sound reasons to reject the Hagel nomination. At the very least, Senators must not reward a man who has lied to them even before he gets the job.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. was an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan. He is president of the Center for Security Policy (SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program, Secure Freedom Radio.