Imagining Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense
How the role of defense secretary is being defined
The mere mention of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as a possible nominee for defense secretary has inspired massive wiggings out across the commentariat–first in criticisms of his spotty record on Israel and later (and slightly hysterically) about his alleged anti-Semitism. Others yet have written in defense of him as a veteran who served admirably in battle and as a public servant who has often broken with party orthodoxy.
As the response to the
issue rumor of the nomination grows, the various questions about Hagel–here’s a smart, respectful set by David Ignatius–seems to want to define the way we look at the position of defense secretary. For the sake of argument, here’s one more.
Let’s imagine some of the potentially objectionable things that Hagel could do with regard to Israel as defense secretary in an administration that has proven itself to be both pretty pro-Israel in words and deeds and very aggressive in forming an international coalition to isolate and sanction Iran. (For those who need reminding here, it’s the president sets the policy.)
A short list:
1. Criticize or seek to hinder Israel’s arms deals with other countries.
2. Call Israel an ungrateful ally and even say that the United States benefits nothing from the relationship.
3. Publicly state his opposition to an Israeli attack on Iran.
4. Criticize Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
5. Sell weapons to the Arab allies of the United States including Saudi Arabia.
6. Blame Israel for its own international isolation.
7. Oppose establishing red lines on Iran’s nuclear program.
8. Urge Israel to return to peace negotiations, giving it the appearance of being the intransigent party.
For many, myself included, this would be a pretty troubling order (with a light touch of some perhaps needed tough love). This list also represents the actions and statements undertaken or said by the last two Secretaries of Defense, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta. Despite these deeds, if either one of them were to stand in the running to be defense secretary again, I can’t say I’d object. After all, I think they both did a honorable job in executing their duties and in maintaining a cooperative security relationship between Israel and the United States. I also think both men also excelled at the task that matters most: keeping Americans safe.
I’m not saying Hagel is the right pick–it’s becoming pretty clear that he’s not–but I’m not sure that an American president should view a nominee for defense secretary with Israel as the absolute highest priority. The tenor of some of the commentary about Hagel seems to imply that President Obama should. That’s not a good thing.
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.