News Column

What to Expect in Hagel Nomination Battle

Jan. 8, 2013

Robert F. Boyd

Chuck Hagel
Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel is the former senator from Nebraska nominated by the administration as the next secretary of defense. There was the usual ploy by administrations to determine what political baggage their potential choice may carry. In other words, is there going to be a messy battle during his or her confirmation hearings? We have seen how this works when Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador, was in the mix for secretary of state. The howls from the Republicans were so ear-shattering that she withdrew her name. What does this portend for Hagel?

Hagel, a Republican, has committed the political sin of not being loyal to Israel and being soft on Iran. This has unleashed a torrent of outrage among the Israeli apologists: neo-conservatives, American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Republican Jewish Coalition, the National Jewish Democratic Council, The Israel Project and the Zionist Organization of America. Their outcries have been magnified by commentary pieces in major newspapers. What has Hagel said that makes him such a target of vitriol?

In interviews, he has stated: as a U.S. senator, he took an oath of office to the U.S. Constitution, not to a president, nor a party, nor to Israel; the U.S. should be more sensitive to Arab matters and interests; the Obama administration should engage Hamas and try to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and he refused to sign AIPAC-sponsored anti-Iran bills.

Speaking to the pro-Israel lobby JStreet, Hagel said, "The United States' support for Israel need not be - nor should it be - an either/or proposition that dictates our relationships with our Arab allies and friends. The U.S. has a long and special relationship with Israel, but it must not come at the expense of our Arab relationships."

What also is interesting is that major Israeli apologists no longer use the term anti-Semite to defame their opponents. It is a term they now realize has outlived its usefulness in character assassination. Some new code words for anti-Semite are "endemic hostility toward Israel," "prejudice" and "anti-Israel." We all know what they mean.

Despite the media's attention to all things negative about Hagel, there are many supporters of his nomination. They include former national security advisers James L. Jones, Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Frank Carlucci, plus several generals and politicians. The attacks, as Jones has stated, "will only discourage future prospective nominees from public service when our country badly needs quality leadership in government."

Hagel's nomination and confirmation may or may not be a turning point in U.S. policies in the Middle East. But it might mean that officials in government will be able to say, without worrying about their careers, that Israeli interests are not necessarily U.S. interests. Wow, wouldn't that be something? If Obama caves, as many think or hope, his presidency will be in disarray. He will be viewed as someone without a backbone and whose influence and integrity both here and abroad will be meaningless.

What this country needs are more people like Hagel, i.e. independent thinkers. People who truly favor the interests of the U.S. and not a foreign power. He is someone who revolted against the Republican war-madness machine knowing its political consequences. We all know how the world, including the U.S., has suffered from the war mindset of our government. It's about time to have someone in the higher echelons of government who first favors diplomacy over war when conflicts arise.

I was impressed by a relevant statement made by a guest columnist for Al Jazeera about the Hagel affair and its consequences for the U.S. "This is a curious position for a democracy to find itself in where an interest group lobbying on behalf of a foreign state can exercise veto power over government appointments based on ideological litmus tests. The distortion it engenders has been obvious in the disastrous course of recent U.S. foreign policy."

Who is dictating our foreign policy?

Boyd is a former professor and science writer. He lives in Daleville.

Source: (C) 2013 Roanoke Times & World News. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters