Chuck Hagel’s views on everything from Israel to Iran to nuclear weapons disqualify him from leading America’s armed forces, according to a Reagan administration Pentagon official and a growing group of retired generals and admirals.
The latest point of controversy for Hagel is his support for continued reduction of American nuclear weapons and even their total elimination – regardless of whether Russia charts the same course.
Confirmation hearings for Hagel will be held Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Hagel nomination was always going to be a rocky one, especially among his fellow Republicans. However, his apparent acceptance among Democrats supportive of Israel and at least one Republican suggests Hagel is likely to be confirmed.
Frank Gaffney is president at the Center for Security Policy and was an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. He says the fight against the Hagel nomination must persist because of the dangers he presents to America’s national security and America’s most decorated warriors are an important part of the debate.
“It’s often the case that you’ll have those who have served in uniform but who are now out of uniform weighing in on national security issues,” said Gaffney. ” In this case we were very pleased with 14 senior general and flag officers who came together to advise the Senate from their perspective as professional military men that, in their judgment Chuck Hagel should not be the next secretary of defense. I couldn’t agree more with them.”
The common defense of any controversial cabinet choice by a president is that the president should be allowed to surround himself with the advisers he prefers. Gaffney says that courtesy only extends so far.
“The issue is not simply a disagreement about policy direction. It’s an appreciation that, historically, that those in the Pentagon have kind of been an anchor to windward as the Navy might say, a break on some of the worst impulses of presidents like Barack Obama,” said Gaffney, who described Obama’s approach to foreign policy as cavalier and ideological for his efforts to “undermine” Israel, “hollow out the military” and “empower” Iran.
“In Chuck Hagel, we will clearly not have that kind of break on this president’s worst instincts,” said Gaffney.
As for Hagel’s views on nuclear weapons, Gaffney says the goal of eliminating our nuclear stockpile is foolhardy but is perfectly in line with the Obama agenda.
“There’s no question President Obama has declared he thinks it should be our policy to rid the world of nuclear weapons. I happen to believe that’s a lunatic idea, completely unachievable and one that will, even if successful and I don’t see how it could be, make the world more likely to be in the throes of violence and war rather than less,” said Gaffney.
“Chuck Hagel has, in fact, embraced this Global Zero idea. He has fully associated himself with it,” said Gaffney.
Given a 10-seat Democratic majority in the Senate and at least one GOP member ready to back his former colleague, do opponents still have a shot at sinking this nomination?
“There is a lot of information that I think would cause most members of the Senate to have real pause about this nomination,” said Gaffney. “This nominee has made it abundantly clear for a very long time his animus toward Israel and his willingness to engage its enemies and ours from Hamas and Hezbollah to Iran.”
Ultimately, Gaffney says rigorous questioning and fair media coverage are critical to any efforts to derail the nomination.
“We’re going to see an airing of many of these issues in the course of this hearing. My guess is there will be senators who haven’t decided as of now who may be influenced by the outcome of that, assuming we get a fair shake from the press,” said Gaffney.
“What we’ve sadly seen too much of, most especially during the last campaign is the press sort of tending to suppress information that would be unhelpful to this president but very material to the national security interests of the people. I hope that won’t be the case in this instance,” said Gaffney.