Beyond the Cusp

February 1, 2013

Is Hagel a Danger to Only Israel?

Nobody can honestly claim that former Senator Chuck Hagel has a history which proves he does not display animosity towards Israel. His comments such as the Jewish state is keeping the “Palestinians caged up like animals,” and Israel has kept the Palestinian people “chained down for many, many years,” along with his consistent refusal to sign any of the pro-Israel letters, resolutions and other declarations originating in the Congress are a testament to a consistent view of Israel that is disparaging and unsupportive. Hagel’s excuse that the record of his votes on all issues concerning Israel reveals that not a single one of his votes ever harmed Israel. Many have challenged this statement but I believe he is speaking the truth, though his truth is extremely misleading. If we look at legislation concerning aiding or providing assistance to Israel and the bill passed and was signed into law and enacted despite Hagel voting against the legislation, then his vote did not harm Israel. His statement is very likely a reference to the end result and not his singular actions thus he claims that despite his votes against supporting Israel, these legislation were still enacted and thus despite his efforts, Israel received the support anyways. One must parse these statements and translate them from politic-speak to common language, something my youth of having been raised just outside Washington DC provided me with an ability to often strip away the falsehoods implied and see the hidden truth within.

But the fact that former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel does not support Israel should not be the singular reason for not approving his appointment to serve as Secretary of Defense as he is being presented to be the Secretary of Defense of the United States and not a position in the Israeli government. Every individual Senator shall need to weigh how much Hagel’s previous animosities towards Israel should hold and if that along with everything else should disqualify him of holding that office. So, what are some of the other views from Senator Hagel’s past that might cast a dark shadow over his appointment? The ones we will concentrate our opinions on are his seemingly timorous views on Iran and their pursuit of nuclear weapons, his declarations of significant amounts of excess in the Defense Department budget, his reluctance to call groups guilty of perpetrating of terror as terrorist organizations, and his views on universal or unilateral nuclear disarmament. All of these individually could be sufficient for voting down a person holding them seeking to become Secretary of Defense, all of them together in one candidate for this position is an overwhelming tsunami of evidence of his unsuitability for being approved as Secretary of Defense.

In the past Senator Hagel has displayed reluctance for imposing strong sanctions on Iran to persuade them to end their nuclear program which has shown many indications to be seeking to produce nuclear weapons. He has displayed even stronger opposition to the use of force no matter how close Iran may appear to be to attaining nuclear weapons capability. Senator Hagel’s reasoning against the use of sanctions is that you will only serve to radicalize and anger the Iranians by imposing sanctions and rather than isolating Iran the sanctions would only serve to isolate the United States. Hagel claimed that any moves or sanctions against Iran had to go through the United Nations and any moves which were not approved by the members of, at a minimum, the Security Council should not be unilaterally imposed even with the support of some nations. He even expressed reservations over NATO imposed sanctions as they did not include sufficient support necessary to be effective and they ignored much of Iranian trade such as their business with Russia, China, Asia, Africa, South America and even some of Europe. Placing such a high level of expected support for sanctions would have proven only to weaken the sanctions making them as ineffective as Mr. Hagel claimed they would turn out being.

One has to wonder what his opinion might have been concerning the sanctions that were placed on Iran independent of the United Nations, the United States, and most of the world by independent European nations and European Union. But the questions about former Senator Hagel’s positions concerning Iran go beyond sanctions and on to a military option where they continue to be troubling. He has spoken against the use of military force not only to prevent the Iranian nuclear program but against entering Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein as well as against the surge tactics to break the stalemate. Hagel not only opposed the surge plan and claim it would not only fail to change the situation but would also exacerbate the situation and prove disastrous for the United States. Even after almost everybody had acknowledged the success of the surge in completely changing the situation in Iraq, Hagel continued to describe it as a complete failure which only served to worsen a very bad situation. One can only assume that Senator Hagel would resist any use of force in order to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear capable and instead propose containment equating Iran erroneously with the Soviet Union and China during the cold War. Chuck Hagel, from everything I have seen and read, does not believe there exists any difference between the Islamist threat and the threat we faced with the Communist Powers during the Cold War. His refusal to broaden his view from its myopic limits makes his views on situations limited far too much such that he would be unable to present a variety of options to the President which is an essential requirement any candidate for Secretary of Defense should possess.

Then there are the views which Chuck Hagel has expressed on the Defense Department budget and the many and various programs and weapon development systems which are financed by that budget. Senator Hagel has taken the position that the Defense Department budget has much excess and could be pared fairly substantially. Where this position might not normally be an indication of a dangerous situation resulting, with the pressure to impose serious cuts to Federal Government spending, the temptation to lie much of the pressures to cut spending could be placed upon the Defense Department. The precedent for this was predicted with the options that were proposed by the sequestration cuts that were presented as a solution for the Fiscal Cliff. These cuts have not been put to rest but were simply kicked down the road and will come due again at the end of February or beginning of March. I expect that most of the cuts will continue to be booted on into the future but should Hagel be approved as Secretary of Defense, it would be very possible that he would offer up cuts in the Pentagon and Defense Department budgets at each juncture in order to rescue entitlement spending and have the military take the brunt of the spending cuts. By repeatedly kicking all other cuts down the road a few months every time the debate comes due and also making what appear to be reasonable cuts to the Defense Budget at each point of crisis being imposed with little opposition and a guilty silence. Such a process would be accumulative and could impose serious cuts in military capabilities simply by imposing reasonable cuts repeatedly over time. It would be the death by a thousand cuts scenario.

Former Senator Hagel also appears to have a problem identifying terrorist organizations and their sponsors. Chuck Hagel failed to sign a letter calling on the European Union to list Hezballah as a terrorist organization. He voted against the resolution which named the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. But Hagel did add his signature to a 2009 letter which urged President Barack Obama to begin peace talks with Hamas ignoring the fact that they are designated as a terrorist entity by the Department of State. Senator Hagel supported the cause of direct negotiation with the Iranians disregarding their record for supporting terror operations through the IRGC as well as other channels financing and arming such groups as Hezballah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror entities. He also had to ignore the part played by Iran in financing and supplying al-Qaeda and the mujahidin in both Iraq and Afghanistan where many of the IRDs were found to contain Iranian produced weapons parts and explosives. One could describe Chuck Hagel’s views on Iran and most of the countries and forces which support international terrorism as “See no terror, hear no terror, name no terror and find no terror.

The final problem subject concerns nuclear disarmament where former Senator Hagel appears to hold positions very close to those of President Obama. The last thing the United States needs in the disarmament debate is another supporter of unilateral disarmament of all nuclear stockpiles by the United States in order to lead by example and thus have the moral high-ground in the nuclear disarmament debate. Having the moral high-ground is not very promising if by getting there the United States has made themselves completely vulnerable to a nuclear first strike. While believing that if the United States were to disarm itself of nuclear weapons that the rest of the world would happily follow suit and rush to join the United States in this purely altruistic effort, the truth is drastically different and such a symbolic move would be a final move which would quickly make the United States cease to exist. One can only conclude that Senator Hagel was speaking of a hopeful and imaginary future as we live in a world that is seriously flawed.

Another flaw would be the approval of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as the next United States Secretary of Defense. The approval earlier this week of John Kerry as United States Secretary of State was not so much a surprise as an affront to many Americans who remembered peace and anti-Viet Nam War activist Kerry who testified in the United States Senate stating about his fellow soldiers, “… they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads … cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war …” At least Senator Hagel has never challenged the honor of the men and women with which he served. Unlike the new Secretary of State, the prospective Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel never threw somebody else’s medals over the White House fence claiming they were his own and as a propaganda stunt against the government of the United States. That is where the differences between these two end. Like Kerry, Hagel has opposed many items which any staunch supporter of the United States military would have supported and has acted favorably towards any actions which are consistent of appeasement for the enemies of the United States. No, former Senator Chuck Hagel is not simply a bad choice for Secretary of Defense of the United States as far as Israel is concerned, but also concerning the United States and possibly many of the United States’ allies and friends. It is for a broad range of troublesome facts for which one may oppose Hagel’s appointment. There will be those who will claim that Mr. Hagel has changed his positions pointing to statements and written answers in response to questions and queries posed by numerous Senators and others concerned or interested in his appointment. The problem here is that Mr. Hagel’s long record demonstrates positions which are diametrically opposed to the positions he has stated solely since coming under consideration for the position of United States Secretary of State. It is easier to believe a decade’s long record of positions and actions, many of which executed as a Senator in the United States Congress than to believe positions that have mere days evidence of existence. Should Mr. Hagel’s recent 180o turnabout prove sufficient to remove all of his past records and he be approved as the next United States Secretary of State, where do we sign up so we can redefine and rewrite much of our history to make a new persona clean of any problematic statements, decisions, stances, votes, and actions? It would be nice to be allowed to redefine oneself so easily and have the media and the world required to accept your word that the change is legitimate and unchallengeable. It would be so nice!

Beyond the Cusp

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