Chuck Hagel is an incredible asset to any presidential cabinet. His pragmatism and Realist mindset on foreign policy conundrums harkens back to the days of former larger-than-life secretaries of defense, and his nomination would bring a welcome feeling of nostalgia combined with an alignment of President Obama’s own policy perspectives, not to mention that he is one of the last breathing moderate Republicans.
But in the U.S., pragmatism has its costs, and those in opposition to Hagel’s rumored nomination to secretary of defense continue to lob false accusations of anti-Semitism, lack of resolve, and even homophobia in a desperate bid to keep one of the best men from taking the job.
For sure, Chuck Hagel is anything but anti-Semitic ... as long as you don’t ask the Israel lobby. By their standards, not finishing your matzo ball soup is akin to having an SS death’s head skull tattooed on your forehead. But for those who take a more even stance, Hagel is pro-Israel exactly where it counts: He believes in a state for Israel as well as guaranteed peace there, so long as Palestinians can live with the same level of peace, autonomy, and security. Further, Hagel has openly condemned Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations and Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. This is the ultimate in pragmatic policy, but the Israel lobby and its minions never cease to try and defame anyone that takes an even posture towards Israel.
Hagel’s pragmatism is also being masked as a lack of willpower to confront potentially dangerous threats to American interests abroad. However, Hagel seems to know exactly when and where force is necessary. His duty during the Vietnam War — which earned him two purple hearts — had a profound impact on him:
“After being wounded I made myself a promise that if I ever got out of that place and was ever in a position to do something about war — so horrible, so filled with suffering — I would do whatever I could to stop it. I’ve never forgotten that promise. I made it to myself but also to everyone who answers their call to serve the country. I think of it every day, because once you set war in motion, its consequences are often the ones least intended and they are always uncontrollable.”
Pragmatic to a fault, since some more hawkish figures could use this to make the point that Hagel would delay ordering critical military action and allow the U.S. to be caught off guard. Not so however, since Hagel has openly called for an “all options on the table” stance in dealing with Iran, as well as military force if necessary, but understands that the only real solution to this problem is a diplomatic one.
Those opposed to Hagel’s nomination have yet to cite a respectable reason, even going so low as to bring up an anti-gay statement made by Hagel in 1998, which he has since apologized for. Apparently some believe that a stance one way or another on LGBT rights has something to do with your ability to run the Pentagon, but the two are grossly unrelated.
If Chuck Hagel is able to withstand this politically charged onslaught against him and get the nod from President Obama, the country as a whole will be better off with a pragmatic, thoughtful, and calculating Realist in the Pentagon’s E-Ring.