Hooray for Hagel?

Chuck HagelI think it is time again to discuss Chuck Hagel. I’ve been reasonably positive about Obama’s nomination of Hagel for Secretary of Defense. My main problem is just that I don’t like the optics of it: Republican presidents always have Republicans at this post, but this will be Obama’s second of three who are Republicans. As Michael J.W. Stickings has asked, “Is no Democrat good enough?”

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that is the wrong question. The Secretary of Defense is nominated by the president you have, not the president you wish you had. This is who Obama is: a man dedicated to seeming more reasonable than anyone else. It is actually, one of his least admirable qualities. It speaks of a man who cares more about appearances than accomplishments. But I don’t doubt that this is who he is. From the start I thought he was a man with very centrist beliefs. If it were 40 years ago, he would certainly be a Republican.

By far, the best argument that I’ve heard in favor of Hagel comes from committed discontent Eric Alterman, Hooray for Hagel. I am in agreement with him. There is nothing that makes me want Hagel confirmed as much as the neoconservative push against him. The idea that Hagel will not be a lackey of Israel and won’t push for war with Iran makes him perhaps more compelling than most Democrats.

Alterman’s case is summed up well at the end:

What these hysterics may actually indicate is a genuine fear on the part of the neocons and conservative professional Jews that they are about to be exposed as generals without armies, demanding fealty to policies opposed by the vast majority of American Jews for whom they profess to speak. How marvelous, then, that Barack Obama finally decided there was one time he’d rather fight than switch.

What he’s getting at here is that the United States is a very pro-Israel country. But the neocons take this to another level—a level that is actually bad for Israel. And it is certainly not what American Jews, much less Americans generally, want.

So I say let’s go. It would have been nice if Obama had picked someone else, but he didn’t. And it is likely that Hagel is more liberal than any Democrat that Obama would have nominated. As Secretary of Defense, Hagel could do much good. So “Hooray for Hagel,” indeed.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Hooray for Hagel?

  1. Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is disgraceful. It’s something every Israeli (and every American, since we enable it) should be ashamed of — and some are.


    I have no idea what Israel is supposed to do. They can’t conceivably make Palestinians citizens; the birth rate of poor people is much higher than that of rich people, and soon Israel would be a minority-Jewish state. Their safest bet would be renouncing terror and violence and spending a lot of reparation money to help Gaza and the West Bank become viable independent nations. That’s not going to happen. It should — it would be best for everyone — but it won’t.

    So, Mr. Blogster — if you magically got to decide who would become SecState, and could determine US policy towards Israel, what would you suggest? (I’m not being snarky; I’m curious. As for myself, I haven’t the vaguest idea.)

  2. @JMF – First, Eric Alterman [i]is[/i] Jewish and wrote a very strong article the week before saying that while the behavior of the Israelis toward the Palestinians is unacceptable, Hamas’ bombing of Israel is also unacceptable and should have provoked a response.

    As to your question, I plead the David Atkins. There are no good guys in the conflict. I think Rula Jebreal is right in saying that over the last decade both sides have become more extreme. It would be a simple matter to fix this problems if the moderates from both sides were in power. (Much less the liberals!) But a big part of the problem is that in Israel, as soon as the conservatives accepted the two state solution, the liberals lost their leverage. Of course now, the conservatives claim that they are for a two state solution, but their push for settlements shows they really aren’t.

    I have no answers.

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