WHY HAGEL WAS PICKED
NEW YORK TIMES
Chuck Hagel has been nominated to supervise the beginning of this generation-long process of defense cutbacks. If a Democratic president is going to slash defense, he probably wants a Republican at the Pentagon to give him political cover, and he probably wants a decorated war hero to boot. All the charges about Hagel’s views on Israel or Iran are secondary. The real question is, how will he begin this long cutting process? How will he balance modernizing the military and paying current personnel? How will he recalibrate American defense strategy with, say, 455,000 fewer service members?
How, in short, will Hagel supervise the beginning of America’s military decline? If members of Congress don’t want America to decline militarily, well, they have no one to blame but the voters and themselves.
NOMINATIONS FOR DEFENSE AND THE C.I.A.
NEW YORK TIMES
On national security policy, there is much to like about Mr. Hagel, one of a fading breed of sensible moderate Republicans. Mr. Obama hailed him as “the leader that our troops deserve.” … Mr. Hagel’s independence and willingness to challenge Republican orthodoxy on Iraq, sanctions on Iran and other issues — both in the Senate and later as an administration adviser — have so alarmed neocons, hard-line pro-Israel interest groups and some Republican senators that they unleashed a dishonest campaign to pre-emptively bury the nomination. It failed, but the confirmation process could be bruising. The opponents are worried that Mr. Hagel will not be sufficiently in lock step with the current Israeli government and cannot be counted on to go to war against Iran over its nuclear program if it comes to that.
THE TARRING OF CHUCK HAGEL
The most depressing aspect of Hagel’s nomination is not his severe case of Vietnam Syndrome and not even some of his foreign policy views. It’s been the unremitting and underhanded attack on him, especially the imputation of anti-Semitism. In fact, he could be the necessary corrective to the Netanyahu government’s expectation that anything Israel wants from Washington it’s entitled to get. Nothing Hagel has said about Israel is not said in the Israeli press on a daily basis. …I thought the day had long passed when a skeptical attitude toward this or that Israeli policy would trigger charges of anti-Semitism. The accusation is so powerful — so freighted with images of the Holocaust — that it tends to silence all but the bravest or the most foolish.
FIGHTING THE CHICKEN HAWKS
… Hagel is worth fighting for. The Republican former senator from Nebraska should and probably will be confirmed by the Senate, despite irresponsible claims that he is anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, anti-gay and a coddler of Iran. Most of that is false and the rest is irrelevant: As head of the Pentagon, Hagel would not determine foreign policy. What he would do is lead the people who fight wars — and for that, the old infantry sergeant is uniquely qualified. When he says that war should be the last resort, he speaks with a moral authority that few of those senators who would judge him can match.