Former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel is President Obama’s top pick for secretary of defense, but the choice is being maligned from every direction.
Although he’s a Republican, conservatives don’t like Hagel because he was against going to war in Iraq a decade ago and has pushed for diplomacy instead of war in Iran.
But that’s exactly why he’s a good choice.
Liberals are concerned with his positions on social issues — he’s a devout Catholic and is against abortion and was previously against repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He’s apologized for an anti-gay statement he made 14 years ago, saying that he now "fully supports" open service and is “committed to LGBT military families.”
I would hope for some direct questions during the nomination and confirmation process to make sure that he will stay committed to equality and the rights of soldiers, but what’s more important than how a secretary of defense feels about abortion is how he feels about war.
He’s being smeared as anti-Semitic, but the only basis for the name-calling seems to be his lack of eagerness to go to war in Israel’s name. It shouldn’t be necessary to say this, but not being anxious to use Israel’s sovereignty as an excuse to go to war doesn’t make someone an anti-Semite.
Jon Soltz, a Jewish veteran who served two tours in Iraq and now heads Vote Vets, spoke out in defense of Hagel.
“Chuck Hagel, as a Vietnam Veteran, would put troops first. He has a record of challenging neocon dreams of preemptive use of force – and winning that debate,” he wrote. “So please, take a stand against this swift-boating of a man who has only served America with honor.”
Peter Beinart of The Daily Beast summed up the importance of Obama sticking with his choice to appoint Hagel and not giving in to false accusations and tantrums.
“If Obama backs down, it will leave the perception that those [‘pro-Israel’] groups have more power over top foreign policy appointments than they actually do,” he wrote.
“That perception will create a new reality since any future administration considering a high-level foreign policy appointee who strays from the AIPAC line will remember the Hagel fiasco. And even more importantly, anyone who fancies themselves a future high-level foreign policy appointee will take even greater care to avoid independent thinking about the Middle East.”