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08 January 2013

Is Chuck Hagel the man for the job?

As Obama picks his new national security chiefs, we examine the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defence secretary.


"How can we preach to other countries that you can't have nuclear weapons but we can and our allies can. There's no credibility, there's no logic to that argument."
Chuck Hagel, the nominated US defence secretary

For his independence and commitment to consensus he's earned the respect of national security and military leaders, Republicans and Democrats, including me. In the senate, I came to admire his courage and his judgement, his willingness to speak his mind, even if it wasn't popular, even if it defied the conventional wisdom. And that's exactly the spirit I want on my national security team," said the president.
"I'd take the president's word that he likes and trusts former Senator Hagel, got to know him in the Senate, likes and trusts his position and his candour on a range of issues. But I think the calculus to go ahead and in the way that they are going ahead is that Senator Hagel for all of the courageous positions he's taken on Iran, on Israel, Hamas, lots of issues, that he will assure his fellow senators that those are positions that he held as a senator and they really will not have very much to do with his position as secretary [of] defence."
- Hillary Mann Leverett, a former US state department official
But the nomination still has to be approved by the senate and that is far from a formality.

Many Republicans have criticised the nomination, saying Hagel is too soft on Iran and not soft enough on Israel. And it has also drawn criticism from some Democrats too, who want one of their own in the post.

Obama also named longtime Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) staffer John Brennan to head the agency.

But why is Hagel's nomination so controversial?

Chuck Hagel has been criticised by Republicans for being "outside mainstream thinking on most foreign policy issues".
So where does he stand?

Hagel initially supported the US-led war in Iraq, but later sharply criticised how that war was managed.

As a senator, he called unilateral sanctions on Iran "counter-productive". But he has supported some sanctions and also endorsed labeling Iran a state sponsor of terrorism.

Hagel's support for Israel has come under scrutiny.
"It is a controversial nomination and in a lot of ways, a curious one .... Any time managing the Pentagon is a very difficult job to do. It is going to be particularly difficult over the next four years because of the cuts .... Chuck Hagel has never managed a large organisation, he's never managed anything larger than his senate office."
- Clifford May, a national security analyst
Many Republicans point to comments he made in 2008, when he said "the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here". On the flip side, he has also voted in favour of billions of dollars in military aid to Israel.

After the 9/11 attacks the US government began monitoring some Americans -  without their knowledge. As a member of the senate's intelligence committee, Hagel defended the government's actions, saying it struck a "delicate, but effective balance".

Hagel supported US involvement in a NATO force in Kosovo - during that country's war in 1999.

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Kimberly Halkett, discusses the new appointments with guests: Larry Korb, a former US assistant secretary of defence and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress; Clifford May, a national security analyst and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; and Hillary Mann Leverett, a former US state department official and also co-author of a new book: Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic.
"How can we preach to other countries that you can't have nuclear weapons but we can and our allies can. There's no credibility, there's no logic to that argument."
Chuck Hagel, the nominated US defence secretary
http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestoryamericas/2013/01/201318649274922.html
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Choosing Hagel sends an important message

MJ Rosenberg
MJ Rosenberg
MJ Rosenberg served as a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow with Media Matters Action Network and prior to that worked on Capitol Hill for various Democratic members of the House and Senate for 15 years. He was also a Clinton political appointee at USAID.
US interests are being damaged by Israel's current shift to the extreme Right, so why not nominate Chuck Hagel?
Thus far, President Barack Obama is sitting out the January 22 Israeli elections. There is no indication about who he hopes to see as the next Israeli prime minister. His noninterference, even disinterest, is not surprising except when contrasted with Prime Minister Netanyahu's open preference for the Republicans in the US election two months ago. One might have thought that a little payback would be in order.

One reason for Obama's apparent indifference may be that there is almost no possibility that Netanyahu will not be the next prime minister. The only question is whether Netanyahu's next government will be as far right (and pro-settlement expansion) as his current government or much farther to the right.
To put the Israeli election in US terms, it is as if the choice two months ago was between the right-wing Republican Party and the ultra-right-wing Tea Party with the Democrats merely hoping to win enough support to compose a credible opposition or to get a cabinet post.

But that is the case in Israel where Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Likud-Beytenu coalition is being challenged by a new party to its right, the Jewish Home party. The Jewish Home party is led by 40-year-old Naftali Bennett who is running on an openly annexationist platform, in contrast to Netanyahu and Lieberman who, although also expansionist, occasionally pay lip service to the idea of reaching a two-state agreement with the Palestinians.
Less attention to the Israeli election
Bennett favours the immediate annexation of 60 percent of the West Bank immediately which would make the creation of a viable Palestinian state impossible. His 60 percent plan is rejected by other leading figures in his party - even more radical - who favour a 100 percent annexation just to make sure. 
Inside Story US 2012What role does the pro-Israel lobby play?
Needless to say, the new party is dominated by ultra-nationalist settlers and religious fanatics who, in addition to supporting land grabs, vehemently oppose equal rights for gays, women, Arabs and non-Jews in general. Nonetheless, Jewish Home is the first choice of Israelis under 30, who are abandoning the old right-wing parties for the extreme right.
Perhaps the craziest thing is that the new ultra-right party is rising as the Netanyahu/Lieberman party has shifted rightward, too. Gone are the more pragmatic Likud types like Benny Begin and Dan Meridor. In their place are the likes of Moshe Feiglin who told the Atlantic's Jeff Goldberg:
"Why should non-Jews have a say in the policy of a Jewish state?" Feiglin said to me. "For two thousand years, Jews dreamed of a Jewish state, not a democratic state. Democracy should serve the values of the state, not destroy them." In any case, Feiglin said, "You can't teach a monkey to speak and you can't teach an Arab to be democratic. You're dealing with a culture of thieves and robbers... The Arab destroys everything he touches."
Feiglin isn't alone either. Take a look at this list of rightist extremists who top the Netanyahu-Lieberman list, yet who are seen as too moderate for voters drawn to the up and coming new party.

The interesting thing is that few Americans are paying any attention to the Israeli election, a sign that even the pro-Israel community is losing interest in and hope for Israel. A country that once was a source of joy for so many Americans is now a source of pain; the prevailing attitude seems to be to just look away and hope that things will improve by the next time they pay attention.

But then it doesn't really matter what most Americans think or don't think about what is happening in Israel. Except for one.
The President of the United States matters very much. Every Israeli is aware that without the support of President Obama, Israel would be in desperate straits. The United States provides Israel with billions of dollars of aid a year, aid which is used to purchase the weapon systems that sustains Israel's "military edge" which enables it to both maintain the occupation and defend itself.

That aid also provides Israel with the economic cushion it needs to preserve its immunity to the recession that has afflicted most of the world. It is the President of the United States who decides whether to stand (virtually alone) with Israel at the United Nations, using our veto to block any resolution that Israel opposes. It is the President who has adopted Israel's position on Iranian nuclear development as our own, leading the effort to punish Iran with sanctions and reiterating Israeli threats that there will be war if Iran develops nuclear weapons (despite the fact that Israel is said to have some 200 warheads).
Dependent on the US President 
In short, Israel is almost entirely dependent on the President of the United States. As for Congress, it matters too but, on all foreign policy matters, it is the President who leads. That is how the United States Constitution works. It is the President who defends the national interest abroad. 
"An Israeli government dominated by ultra-nationalists, racists and fascists impacts on our standing throughout the world."
And the fact is that US interests are being damaged by Israel's current course. Whether we like it or not, the United States is viewed as linked at the hip with Israel. An Israeli government dominated by ultra-nationalists, racists and fascists impacts on our standing throughout the world. After all, the world (and not just the Muslim world) understands that we are Israel's enabler.

That is why it is time for President Obama to send a clear message to Israel by nominating former Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defence. That is not because Hagel is anti-Israel. He isn't.

The reason to nominate Hagel, in addition to his qualifications for the post, is that the Israel lobby has decided to demonstrate its clout by preventing his nomination. Like the National Rifle Association, the lobby has an intense need to demonstrate that it's in charge. It does not like Hagel, so he will not get the post. Successfully blocking him will demonstrate that no matter how far Israel lurches toward the right, no matter how many settlements are built, no many how many Palestinians are thrown off their land or just abused, the United States will simply grin and bear it.
Obama could, of course, issue a statement or deliver a speech re-stating US policy on settlements, a Palestinian state, and the need for peace. But the sad fact is that no one believes that this administration will ever back up its fine words on Israel and Palestine with deeds, not after the past four years of giving in to Netanyahu over and over again. There is only one way to send a message to Israel that will be heard: It will be by nominating Hagel. It is Israel and the lobby that created the Hagel issue. Why not use it to America's advantage? And Israel's too. After all, it is Israel not the United States that seems to be going over a cliff and, sadly, it is not just fiscal.

Mr President, nominate Hagel. And fight for his confirmation. As for the lobby, let it do what it wants. Out in the open, for a change.
MJ Rosenberg served as a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow with Media Matters Action Network and prior to that worked on Capitol Hill for various Democratic members of the House and Senate for 15 years. He was also a Clinton political appointee at USAID.
Follow him on Twitter: @MJayRosenberg

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/2013159114491198.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Hagel

Opinions divided over US president's nominations of Chuck Hagel and John Brennan to head Pentagon and CIA respectively.

Hagel: A Different Kind of Defense Secretary

Senator Chuck Hagel's nomination and inevitable appointment as Secretary of Defense is stirring controversy in the Senate. It should.

"Palestine is a country under occupation. What was Norway, Finland, Holland, France, Korea, Philippines between 1939 and 1945 - nation states under occupation. Today, the state of Palestine is officially a state under occupation. It has 192 member countries that recognise this and a nation state, Israel, which is the occupying power; these are the new realities."

 - Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator

"Israel won't be happy about it because anything that undermines the peace process, any unilateral act, is not helpful. We have very serious and difficult issues that we face and that the Palestinians have to face that will have to be settled with negotiations."

- Robbie Sabel, a former adviser to Israel's foreign ministry
Read full>>> http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2013/01/2013186722389860.html


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