BY ADEYEMI OSHUNRINADE
As President Obama nominates Chuck Hagel to be the Defense Chief, there is a looming controversy over the kind of opposition the nominee might face at his confirmation hearing. It is not a surprise the opposition is coming from both sides of the aisle especially, Senator Lindsey Graham, who with Senator John McCain ended Susan Rice’s bid for Secretary of State. This time, Hagel’s problems according to claims, stems from his position on Iran, Israel and a statement he made about a one time gay candidate for ambassadorial position.
Way before his nomination, some in the GOP have criticized his opposition to unilateral sanctions on Iran. Many of the oppositions to his candidacy want him to go through extensive scrutiny and a thorough review during his confirmation hearing. They just don’t trust the former Vietnam veteran and a one time sergeant’s judgment and qualification to handle the U.S. defense office. His opponents are bent on mounting an aggressive opposition to his confirmation.
When asked about his statement on Iran, here is what Hagel said, “I have not supported unilateral sanctions because when it is us alone, they don’t work and they just isolate the United States.” Fair to say those with staunch opposition to Hagel, also believe his anti war narrative on Iran, makes him an enemy of the State of Israel, a claim those against his nomination have made incessantly. In fact, Senator Lindsey Graham once described Hagel’s nomination as an “in-your- face” pick. “Hagel if confirmed to be Secretary of Defense would be the most antagonistic Secretary of Defense towards the State of Israel in our nation’s history,” he said.
There is no doubt those allegations are somewhat controversial as Hagel’s voting records in the Senate shows a different and positive approach towards Israel. Though, the Senator has a different approach to dealing with the issue of Israel and its Arab neighbors, he has always maintained his unwavering support for the Jewish State. He voted a couple of times to provide billions of dollars in military aid to Israel. The Liberal Pro Israel Group J Street has since defended Hagel, calling the “outrageous attacks” leveled on him, attacks “at a decorated Vietnam war hero who is widely admired as a rational and independent voice on foreign and defense policy.”
The point is should Senator Hagel be smeared for what is a neutral position on Israel or for an ideology with no war rhetoric? Those who know Hagel’s records in the Senate see no reason why he should be antagonized for showing an independent thought on the subject of U.S.-Israel relations. Perhaps, the goal here is to silence another Obama’s choice, just as they did with the President’s preference of Susan Rice as Secretary of State.
Hagel has been called anti-Semite because some in the GOP think he is not militaristic enough, to deal with Iran and its nuclear program. It seems those with such views prefer a path of war to a multinational diplomacy on Iran, which Hagel has so far advocated. With two Purple Hearts, Hagel is as qualified as any Defense Secretary can be and the fact that the war veteran is cautious or skeptical about the United States going to war with Iran seems not a reasonable reason to deny his nomination. Hagel shares the same ideology as the President, the principle that the United States will not go to war unless it is necessary. This is Obama’s war doctrine and what the President needs is a Secretary of Defense able to weigh both the pros and cons of fighting an unnecessary war.
Both the President and Hagel did not dispute the fact that a military option is on the table should Iran, become a hard nut to crack with its nuclear program. However, as the most powerful military on earth, the United States must use its capability wisely and must only wage a war of necessity. Hagel knows the art of war. He fought along his brother in Vietnam and understands what it takes to put American blood on the line. To give him a rough ride on his path to the Pentagon just because he advocates caution on wasting American lives and resources, sound ludicrous.
Hagel has also been criticized for the comment he made in the late 1990s, when he opposed a Clinton administration’s ambassadorial nominee for being “openly, aggressively gay.” He recognized his mistakes and has since apologized. In fact, in a recent statement, he indicated his support for gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military so, why he is still facing opposition on a remark he has since apologized for remains unclear.
The President needs a thoughtful Secretary of Defense, a person who shares his beliefs on war issues and though, his position on unilateral American sanctions against Iran may be at odds with the White House, there is room for consensus and a point at which Mr. Hagel as Secretary of Defense, would recognize that the administration’s policy of tough sanctions against Tehran, is instrumental in forcing the Islamic nation to reverse course on its nuclear aspirations.
Dr. Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD} is an expert in general law, foreign relations and the United Nations. He is the author of ‘SAVING LOVE’ available at http://www.amazon.com/author/adeyemioshunrinade. follow on Twitter @san0670.