In Your Face: Obama’s Nomination of Hagel to head Defense

Although a former Republican senator, Hagel’s prime qualification for the job is that he holds similar views to the president in the areas of U.S. policy towards Israel, Iran, terrorist organizations and unilateral nuclear disarmament.


By Morgan Norval | January 30, 2013

President Obama and Chuck Hagel

In March 2012, President Barack Obama told then Russian President Dimitri Medvedev, which was unexpectedly picked up by an open mike: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility” And Medvedev responded, in English, “I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.” Obama was then referring to slicing our missile defense capability to the bone, but today his “flexibility” is on display with his in-your-face nomination of former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel to become the next Secretary of Defense.

In his first term, Obama ran his disastrous foreign policy from the White House. In view of the fact that U.S. military power is the ultimate guarantor of our foreign policy, the Hagel nomination becomes critical to America’s future security and national defense strategy over the course of Obama’s second term in office. Although a former Republican senator, Hagel’s prime qualification for the job is that he holds similar views to the president in the areas of U.S. policy towards Israel, Iran, terrorist organizations and unilateral nuclear disarmament.

Hagel, however, has a long public record to review that was established throughout his years in the U.S. Senate and thereafter, including his voting record, public statements, resolutions and letters he has signed and refused to sign. His hostility towards Israel, along with his accommodationist views of the Palestinian Authority, Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah, make his policy of constructive engagement with America’s enemies incompatible with our nation’s national security interests. Constructive engagement with America’s enemies is a losing proposition when countries like Iran have been at war with the U.S. since its inception in 1979 and has waged asymmetric warfare against America throughout the Middle East.

Iran’s proxy war began with the student attack and seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979; it continued with Hizbullah’s 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon; Hizbullah’s 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers housing U.S. Air Force personnel in Saudi Arabia; and, the arming of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Quds Force supported Shiite militias in Iraq, who have been responsible for the targeting and killing of American soldiers since 9/11. Iran, along with its progenitor Hizbullah, designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State, poses a serious threat to our national security within the Western Hemisphere, including both Latin America and inside the United States.

In 1999, the senator from Nebraska accused Israel of causing Palestinian terrorism. In 2000, Hagel refused to sign a Senate letter showing our strong support for Israel. In 2001, Hagel voted against extending the sanctions against Iran. In 2004, Hagel refused to renew Libya-Iran sanctions. In 2006, Hagel was against pressuring the EU to declare Hizbullah a terrorist organization as does the U.S. And in 2009, Hagel signed a letter addressed to President Obama asking him to negotiate with Hamas.

In a 2009 interview with Al-Jazeera, Hagel called for Russia and the United States to move closer to nuclear disarmament and in 2012 he co-wrote a paper for Global Zero a disarmament organization advocating an 80% reduction down to 900 weapons, with only 50% deployment.

Senator James Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee has come out to oppose Hagel’s nomination to become Secretary of Defense. Freshman Senator Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, in announcing his opposition to Hagel, said he “has repeatedly been soft on our enemies. Bullies do not respond to weakness and Hagel’s stance on Iran—the most serious national security challenge America currently faces—makes conflict more likely, not less likely,“ he told the Washington Free Beacon. As a result, Cruz feels that Hagel as Secretary of Defense would make war with Iran “more likely.”

Obama says he is committed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Why did he, then, choose to nominate Hagel? By choosing Hagel, it shows Obama’s words are hollow. Hagel’s policy at Defense will not be an independent defense policy geared to protect and defend the U.S. It will be an Obama defense policy—slash defense spending to the bone, which will weaken the U.S. military when there are looming problems ahead in the Middle East and in Asia. Obama will not use the funds taken from the defense budget to pay down the U.S. debt. Instead, he will use the funds to reward his union and social policy supporters. Hagel’s policy will be Obama’s policy: hosility towards Israel that borders on anti-Semitism; reaching out to Palestinian terrorists like Hamas and the Islamist fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; and, Iranian surrogates like Hizbullah. All of these hate the U.S. and advocate the destruction of the State of Israel. Under Hagel as Secretary of Defense, Iran will be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and the Obama Administration will work overtime to shackle and restrain Israel from taking any military action against Iran.

Obama’s thinking goes like this: a Secretary helps a boss do his job. I’m the boss and your job is to support and help me. I don’t like Israel at all, neither do you. I think the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas represent the democratic desires of the Arab Spring. You agree—don’t you? This is Obama’s show and this is what the American people must have wanted otherwise they wouldn’t have re-elected him. It will, however, result in a poorer, weaker, less safe and secure America. Unfortunately, the American people made their choice clear and our nation will suffer the consequences.

Hagel doesn’t seem to fear Iran as a dangerous enemy of freedom and liberty. Instead he wants to sit down and talk with them, feeling this policy of constructive engagement will reduce their third-of-a-century vicious hostility toward us. Hagel wrote in his 2008 book, America: Our Next Chapter: “An unwillingness to engage adversaries only isolates them more and strengthens the hand of extremists. Look at Iran . . . Although we strongly disagree with their nuclear policy, we cannot refuse to speak to them as if we were angry parents sending a misbehaving kid to his room without dinner.” (As quoted in the January 8, 2013 Wall Street Journal, p. A-4).

Iran likes Hagel. His choice to be Secretary of Defense has increased Iran’s feeling of invincibility from U.S. or Israeli attacks. On January 8, 2013, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said that Iran’s leaders “hope that practical changes would occur in U.S. foreign policy and respect for nations’ rights would become Washington’s approach.” Iran’s “rights” would presume to be continued support of terrorism and the pursuit of its policy to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

Hagel is the wrong choice for the job but the American people gave Obama the “flexibility” with their votes in the November 2012 election. This “flexibility” will lead America down a dangerous path as Obama utilizes his “flexibility” to weaken and turn America into another dreary socialist “paradise.” Hagel and his echo chamber support of Obama is bad enough but worse is likely to come of it.

The Obama-Hagel idealistic view of U.S. foreign policy is not the realism America needs during these dangerous times in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the continuing global jihadist threat.


Morgan Norval is the founder and Executive Director of the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research and a contributor to

SFPPR News & Analysis.