THE BLOG

The Ordeal of Chuck Hagel

02/01/2013 08:11 am ET | Updated Apr 03, 2013

When has a nominee for Secretary of Defense had to prepare a 120-page summary of his views on foreign and defense policy? Well, the nomination of a former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has come to this after bitter criticism from right-wing Republicans and some Democrats demanding explanations of some words spoken by Mr. Hagel in some cases ten years or so ago. And the assault on Mr. Hagel has also broadened into TV ads and radio commercials produced and financed by secretive groups connected to various Republican political consultants denigrating Mr. Hagel as a subversive anti-American irreligious pacifist.

What lies behind this crusade against the Hagel nomination is, in my view, really not so much about Mr. Hagel, but represents an indirect attack on President Obama and his foreign policy. The most obvious fact about Mr. Hagel is that, for the most part, his overall thinking on global matters simply echoes exactly what Mr. Obama has been saying for years -- namely, with adversary states, that it is important to seek talks, negotiate, use sanctions, do everything short of war to fix problems before you resort to the most lethal weapon of all, military action.

In short, Hagel's opponents are trying to accomplish through these hearings and through their rants against Mr. Hagel what they could not accomplish through the presidential election -- to devalue Mr. Obama and his posture on foreign policy. They want America to endorse war with Iran, intervene in Syria, continue the fight in Afghanistan, reengage in Iraq, abide rigidly by Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu's policies, triple the U.S. military budget, enlarge the Guantanamo prison, augment the American troop presence in Europe and Africa and Asia, waylay the United Nations and become the virtual policeman of the world. That is what the ordeal of Chuck Hagel is all about.

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