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Jeune Afrique, France

Chuck Hagel: New Defense
Secretary and Big Mouth

By Jean-Michel Aubriet

Translated By Daniel Pick

22 January 2013

Edited by Kyrstie Lane

France - Jeune Afrique - Original Article (French)

It is to Chuck Hagel, an atypical Republican, that Barack Obama chose to entrust the keys to the Pentagon. That is, assuming the Senate agrees to it.

Could the nomination of Charles Timothy “Chuck” Hagel as secretary of defense, announced by the White House on Jan. 7, be blocked by the Senate? Obama’s choice of this atypical Republican, whom he came to appreciate in 2008 during a senatorial mission to Iraq and Afghanistan, serves a double purpose: 1) Loosening somewhat the bipartisan straitjacket, and 2) driving a wedge in the Republican ranks on the eve of drastic defense budget spending cuts by Congress.

Of course, Hagel is far from a unanimous choice. For many Republicans, he is a traitor. For the less perceptive Democrats, he is a somewhat suspicious ally. And then, one must also admit that he could often express himself more wisely. This would prevent him from making enemies for no reason.

Advocates of the homosexual movement reproach him for old (occurring in 1998) and inappropriate statements. Anti-Castro Hispanics, led by young Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, have not forgiven Hagel for judging the embargo against Cuba “obsolete.” Neoconservative ideologues have not forgotten his fierce opposition to the Bush administration in Iraq (which he called “beyond pitiful”) and are outraged today over his lack of enthusiasm for sanctions on Iran – military as well as economic – due to its nuclear ambitions. This is to say nothing of his wish to negotiate with Hamas. In 2006 Hagel accused certain members of the “Jewish lobby” (which he should not have said because it concerned the pro-Likud lobby) of “intimidating many Senators,” and the lobby has since sworn his loss and spread the word that he would make the least pro-Israel secretary of defense in United States history.

But Obama is making the wager that in full budget war, no Democratic senator will take responsibility for bypassing the nomination of Hagel, whom a limited but sufficient number of Republicans should not oppose. It is likewise symptomatic that the influential, conservative leaders of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee have not officially taken a position against the nomination. This is because they were not born yesterday. Knowing the uncommitted party in Senate, they are careful not to further poison relations between Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu by taking an ill-timed position.



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