Chuck Hagel: Interventionist? Anti-Israel? …A Round-Up

John Glaser, December 14, 2012

With the news that UN Ambassador Susan Rice, after taking disproportionate heat from the GOP over her comments on the September 11th Benghazi attack, has withdrawn her name from consideration for Obama’s nomination for Secretary of State, rumors of nominating former Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense is owning the day.

What makes this important for Antiwar.com readers is that the news media and the DC-centric twitterverse are…well, all atwitter about Chuck Hagel’s supposed reputation for foreign policy restraint and for being decidedly outside the Congressional club of Israel-firsters.

Here is a partial round-up of what’s being said…

Foreign Policy reviews Hagel’s 2008 book, which they say “presents Hageal as an Eisenhower conservative – low budgets and no wars,” and some of Hagel’s more notable positions on foreign policy:

A prominent critic of the war in Iraq, he characterizes the invasion as “the triumph of the so-called neoconservative ideology.” With frequent reference to his experience as a drafted infantryman in Vietnam, Hagel gives the impression that he opposes any war of choice. That put him at odds with the Bush administration, but it may also put him at odds with the liberal interventionists in the Obama camp.

Nor is he a natural fit with the Obama administration’s signature Asia pivot policy. He is wary of any strategy that smacks of “economic, political, and military containment” of China: “this kind of belligerence would be a disaster for our two nations and for the world…. such a policy would fail.” Of course, the Pentagon has been increasing its naval presence in the Pacific, which, however many times U.S. officials deny it, looks like military containment, at least in Beijing.

On Iran, Hagel seems even more dovish — though his thoughts may have changed in the four years since the book’s publication. He writes at length about his concerns over policies that back Iran into a corner. “Isolating nations is risky,” he writes. “It turns them inward, and makes their citizens susceptible to the most demagogic fear mongering.” The answer, he says, is engagement. “Distasteful as we may find that country’s rulers, the absence of any formal governmental relations with Iran ensures that we will continue to conduct this delicate international relationship through the press and speeches, as well as through surrogates and third parties, on issues of vital strategic importance to our national interests. Such a course can only result in diplomatic blind spots that will lead to misunderstandings, miscalculation, and, ultimately, conflict.”

So Hagel supports direct negotiations with Iran. He laments the lack of diplomatic ties and toys with the idea of a consulate in Tehran. He also reflects fondly on meetings he had with Iranian ambassadors to the United Nations in New York.

Hagel even flirts with the idea that an Iranian bomb wouldn’t be the end of the world. “[T]he genie of nuclear armaments is already out of the bottle, no matter what Iran does. In this imperfect world, sovereign nation-states possessing nuclear weapons capability (as opposed to stateless terrorist groups) will often respond with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior. These governments, however hostile they may be toward us, have some appreciation of the horrific results of a nuclear war and the consequences they would suffer.” Hagel’s realpolitik might make Stephen Walt proud, but it may unnerve those on both sides of the aisle who believe that Iran must be stopped before it gets a nuclear weapon. Even President Obama has said that a nuclear Iran cannot be contained.

Daniel Larison at The American Conservative isn’t as convinced:

The advantages are that Hagel has been less enthusiastic about using force overseas than many other Republicans that he served with in Congress, and as a veteran he has never been one to minimize or ignore the costs of armed conflict. The disadvantages are that he did not oppose new foreign wars while he was in the Senate.

Towards the end of his last term in office, he seemed to have learned more from the Iraq debacle than most of his Republican colleagues, and I suspect he would now be a voice for restraint and skepticism when responding to conflicts like the one in Syria. On the other hand, Hagel was one of the leading Republicans in favor of the war in Kosovo, and went along with all of his Republican Senate colleagues (save Chafee) in voting for the authorization for the Iraq war. One of the reasons I have never been a Hagel fan is that his skepticism about military action never seems to prevail over his willingness to “do something.” He has been more aware than most politicians of the possible consequences of military action, but he has ended up supporting new wars each time the question has come up. Hagel is probably one of the best available choices that Obama could make, but it doesn’t guarantee anything and its significance shouldn’t be overstated.

And with regard to Hagel’s position on Israel, the rabidly pro-Israel crowd in Washington isn’t happy, while others claim this is being overstated.

POLITICO:

“Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite,” a senior Republican Senate aide told the Weekly Standard. The aide continued, “Hagel has made clear he believes in the existence of a nefarious Jewish lobby that secretly controls U.S. foreign policy. This is the worst kind of anti-Semitism there is.”

[Some have cited] Hagel’s refusal to “write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization” in 2006; that “In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel” and that in 2005 he “refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.”

Eli Lake at the Daily Beast:

Hagel’s real opposition will likely come from the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. While the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) never takes formal positions on nominees, if the group is asked by senators for its view on Hagel, it’s unlikely AIPAC will have a kind word.

A senior pro-Israel advocate in Washington told The Daily Beast on Thursday, “The pro-Israel community will view the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel in an extremely negative light. His record is unique in its animus towards Israel.”

…In 2009, Hagel signed onto a letter from the U.S. Middle East Project that urged Obama to begin talks with Hamas, a U.S. designated terrorist group, in an effort to revive the peace process.

…Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and a personal friend of Hagel’s, said that, while he doesn’t know if his friend will get the nomination, he predicts that if he does, Hagel would meet with pro-Israel senators and attempt to “mitigate the negative pressure.”

Marsha B. Cohen at Lobelog thinks Hagel’s reputed anti-Israel positions are being blown out of proportion. It is worth a read in full.

Update: Stephen Walt chimes in approvingly.




36 Responses to “Chuck Hagel: Interventionist? Anti-Israel? …A Round-Up”

  1. …rumors of nominating former Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense is owning the day.

    Further proof-positive that these career trough-swillers will take ANY job inside the Rome-on-the-Potomac Beltway, regardless of their (faux) political ideological background, as long as it gives them continued access to power and the public treasury

  2. Although he may have made the mistake of voting for the Iraq War in the first place, I remember Hagel as being outspoken against that war – too late, but he did change his mind. The fact that Hagel is not a yes-man to Israel is a great thing – and suggests that Obama may be making a pivot in his 2nd term. In spite of what anti-war often says, I remain cautiously optimistic that Obama will steer us away from a disastrous war with Iran. It's ironic that super-hawk McCain (imagine if that clown had been elected) wants Sen Kerry as Sec of State, and may get his way now that Rice has wihdrawn. Kerry, like Hagel, is a Vietnam vet – and both were outspoken against that war, and also the one in Iraq. As both Kerry and Hagel have pasts as 'peace-niks,' things may be looking up after all. Or am I being naive?

  3. Sorry to say…naive. Hagel will, if selected, be a quintessential "go along, get along" DC insider. If Obama was serious about Rice he sure wouldn't make u-turn with Hagel. You can rest assured Chuck has been vetted.

  4. His resume is certainly better than anyone I would have expected for the position, but the fundamental question is whether you can make it to that position and not be servant to the warfare state and, even if you weren't beforehand, whether you can actually act based on those principles once you get there. I'm afraid the answer is probably no to the first, and certainly no to the second. At any rate, I'm not quivering with expectation here.

  5. The fact that Hagel is not a yes-man to Israel is a great thing – and suggests that Obama may be making a pivot in his 2nd term. In spite of what anti-war often says, I remain cautiously optimistic that Obama will steer us away from a disastrous war with Iran.

  6. This is the kind of guy we need in there that states " the Israeli lobby and having a major influence on U.S. foreign policy ".

  7. The following quote headlines a web site that mainly covers the Middle East including Israel and its relations to the USA.

    " "'America is something that can be easily moved. Moved to the right direction.They won’t get in our way'" Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Adding to the above one can add that Israel and the US are the two powers that have drones that are capable of ONLY killing [militants, Al Queda, Talibans, Hamas, Hezbolla and assorted other such names] thereby avoiding KILLING HUMAN BEINGS.

    Mr. Hagel as a war veteran and a principled American politician seems to recognize that notwithstanding assigning made up names of those we kill its time to consider them as human beings.

  8. A critic of the way US builds its empire does not mean he is not an empire builder and for damn sure does not make him anti- war.
    Much in favor of expansion and a part of our Expansion into Africa the far east and Phillipine, which ids a combination of State Dept Helvey and neocon militarys LIC doctrines.
    He will fit right inwith the changes in militarys increased use of smaller more specialized secretive units. And a buildup in the super tech equipped main military forces especially in the gathering of intell domesticly and foreign.
    The new status of force takes it even further away from congressional oversight amd places the powers to controll it into
    State and DOD.
    In other words, all controls under Executive Branch that has already become, and becoming more so daily, the most secretive Executive yet.
    This belly aching Libya fiasco is no more than an atyempt by a congress that is being more and more left out of loop trying to regain a position of balanced three branches.
    Most assuredly not in proples cause but because they want a larger piece of the action and economics.
    There is no change in expansioist motive just the means to attain their goal.
    This guy or for that matter Kerry a Clintonista and Helvey believer would fill the bill nicely.

  9. P.S.
    No matter which way the pie is divided , the over all blanket that hides the pie, what we live in and under is government where people foreign and domestic are. Being alligned into a Full Spectrum Warfare state.
    The changes coming to make domestics fit that policy are just beginning and are indeed the end of any chance to stop.

  10. America policy will not change will remain aggressive as the past shows e.g.Prof.Francis A.Boyle writes in his article that american policy was always hostile since 1889 and wil not change. American mind set is aggression and is the same who is defence secretary will have to follow the dictation of bureucrats.
    I wish that america transform from warring nation to peace loving nation but isdifficult when not impossible. I wish as enough is enough they have killed 175 million people so for.

  11. I think Hagel was intended to be a threat to make neocons want to put up with Rice after all. But if she really doesn't want the job anymore Obama can't change her mind.

  12. For once, it's good to get a momentary breath of fresh air and sanity out of Washington insiders! I've all but abandoned hope from hearing anything sensible from these fools and traitors. Let's hope Hagel gets the nomination, and that Obama is showing true signs of independence from IsraHell.

  13. Yes, but it's all good theater, isn't it?

  14. Hagel only speaks the truth when inferring the Israel Lobby, not "Jewish Lobby" as the Weekly Standard conveniently mutated the term, controls US Middle Eastern foreign policy. The Lobby may not totally control it, but it certainly is the biggest influence peddler in that regard. Naturally the neocon warmongers conveniently misapply the terms "Israel" and "Jewish" when it comes to the Lobby. If America's foreign policies can be criticized by either political party and their adherents, why does anyone think that Israeli foreign policy is above recrimination? Using that idiotic standard, all Americans who criticize the Obama Administration are "anti-American", and the same would apply to the Americans who criticized the Bush Administration.

  15. [...] Chuck Hagel: Interventionist? Anti-Israel? …A Round-Up « Antiwar.com Blog. [...]

  16. It seems clear to me that Hagel & Kerry were always supposed to come in on the second term if there was any to have. Whatever Obama dreams of doing in the foreign policy domain, it would have been impossible during the first years. While I do like the aphrodisiac of hope like any other, the pro-war forces are just too massive and never play by any rule. All they then can hope for is to have a war "light" instead, which from a strategic point of view might be worse. If you're going to do it, don't do it half and messy. The only other way is to unravel and expose the plotting first. Antiwar.com blazes the trail!

  17. Interesting take, and very likely given the left/right kabuki theater:

    http://mondoweiss.net/2012/12/the-war-over-hagel-is-on.html#comment-524055

  18. neocon filth wanted obama out! Oh it did not happen, because Americans are sick of sending America to fight israel's Arab wars! I can not stomach Obama but if he destroys the neocon filth I will say he was our GREATEST president.

  19. while i havent seen anyone mention it recently, an honestly im to lazy to look up the footnotes;
    but i remeber something about senator hagels having somethin close involvement with diebold

    ok thanks for doing the work interwebs

    " In 1992, investment banker Chuck Hagel, president of McCarthy & Co, became chairman of AIS. Hagel, who had been touted as a possible Senate candidate in 1993, was again on the list of likely GOP contenders heading into the 1996 contest. In January of 1995, while still chairman of ES&S, Hagel told the Omaha World-Herald that he would likely make a decision by mid-March of 1995. On March 15, according to a letter provided by Hagel's Senate staff, he resigned from the AIS board, noting that he intended to announce his candidacy. A few days later, he did just that.

    A little less than eight months after steppind down as director of AIS, Hagel surprised national pundits and defied early polls by defeating Benjamin Nelson, the state's popular former governor. It was Hagel's first try for public office. Nebraska elections officials told The Hill that machines made by AIS probably tallied 85 percent of the votes cast in the 1996 vote, "
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2004/03/diebo

    p.s. oddly enough "hagel diebold" will bring up a million hits on google search, but zero on google news

  20. The sec/state is is not a policy leader, that is the president's prerogative, of course this has been in ebb and flow ever since his high-ness Kissinger was crowned by Nixon. Many comments here seek a savior according to their own beliefs; the SS would normally be a seasoned expert diplomat with great knowledge of foreign affairs and also having necessary "connections" globally among the foreign players' own diplomatic corps to enable the president in his policy. Clinton was and is a disaster, totally inexperienced, naive, unprincipled and easily manipulated by the Europeans, who love her for her malleability and gullibility. She is clearly a "loose cannon" as well, the infamous remarks about Khadaffi and grandstanding about "gay, lesbian and transgender people rights" as some kind of new justification for meddling in the affairs of other countries has been a supreme embarrassment.
    Traditionally, the SS is not a member of congress for good reason in relation to the foregoing.

    Obama is hopeless, his grotesque public comments criticizing Cambodia for current "human rights" abuses after what our nation did to that country was another indication of how inexperienced, naive and unprincipled he is in addition to Clinton. The president's primary function IS foreign policy. We suffer at the hands of a no experience lawyer propelled to power by Chicago machine politicks dependent on a bunch of recycled hacks from former Democrat administrations who were themselves not American Firsters by any means. That we permit ourselves as a nation to bow to shrill minorities advocating policy for and about their supposed countries of origin is absurd. This absurdity is customarily warned of in traditional USSD policy guidelines and is warned of in any adequate scholarly discussion in international relations regarding maintenance of a viable foreign service.

    The so called Israel Lobby, its agents and assigns, composed of technical American citizens, is an outrage. Yet we have other such lobbies as well, especially a British first lobby, or EU first lobby, A China lobby, composed of technical US citizens. Not to lump lobbies promoting legitimate business and good relations into the 5'th column camp, of course, we must be cautions, but Israel? the bottomless pit? Come on….The policeman of the Middle East is a complete negative relative to the interests of the vast majority of US citizens. What is the judiciary controlling this policeman, one wonders? Does it even matter, just let's try to get out of it for good for our won sake.

    Yet, what influential person wants to be gaslighted, financially ruined, stalked and harassed or much worse by saying this,?

    Unfortunately the foreign service was gutted long ago by Bush the elder (some suspicious window jumping out of too, etc) and we are seeing a continuation of ousting honorable military professionals as well (Petreaus notwithstanding) . One doubts that there is any fruit from the tree of our academic institutions that could possibly fill the shoes needed for today's job. Please excuse the quickie spelling on some names.

  21. Further to my post re Jim Lobe on Scott Hortons Show, the date was August 7 2004, on the "Republic" broadcasting Network.-see Scott's Archives on the Net

  22. There are no anti-Israel politicians in the US at least none in positions of power. They are either pro Israel, rabidly pro Israel or slavishly pro Israel. Those are the only choices one has.

  23. DOD and State Dept are today the most powerfull governing bodys and the influence of lobby groups out of Israel and domesticly AIPAC, which is only one of over 100 such groupings. is immence.
    One reason for such power in US is because the very same lobbying is just as powerfull in Euro landscape, especially within their own state and scientific communitys.
    In the US we tend not to group scientific/education into our military industrial complex but reality is they in the main have the strongest pro Israel presence in government and military technological fears.
    There are multiples of that community circulating in every corporate and pseudo government orgs including dual citizens in energy and defense research.
    Israel has often received some of our most advanced weaponry even while our own forces waited.We store all forms of military weaponry at tax payrrs expence upon our military bases.
    No one in state or any Branch of government. Can say they are truly independent of Israel influence.
    State Department depends upon Israeli connections here in order to smooth the way into multiple nations inner circles.
    Why speak of anti israel too close to antisemitism and dangerous ground not Israels fault they got US by shorthairs just as so many of our financial interest direct our military to cushion americans butts by invading other nations.
    It’s a game, a serious game, and while americans hubris still allows them to beleve there is an american agenda what we fail to look at is that agenda is not just of our own choosing.
    The Kingdom of Israel is here to stay and foreign financials power as well.

  24. [...] as I’ve noted a couple times in the past few days, has been repeatedly compared to Dwight Eisenhower. “Hagel is [...]

  25. [...] as I’ve noted a couple times in the past few days, has been repeatedly compared to Dwight Eisenhower. “Hagel is [...]

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