The Prospect of Chuck Hagel; There's a Precedent for Dismantling Defense

Article excerpt


Chuck Hagel humiliated himself with rambling, evasive, stumbling answers to questions from his old Senate colleagues in hearings on his nomination as secretary of defense. He embarrassed Barack Obama, to the extent that the president can be embarrassed by gross incompetence in his administration. Mr. Hagel's performance was so bad that it raises the question, why does the president want this man in his Cabinet?

Perhaps the president wants a man with a naive worldview, similar to his own, eager to trust the word of troublemakers in the Middle East who encourage jihad against the West, if only to prove that soft and squishy answers will turn away unholy wrath. Perhaps the president wants a man regarded by his old Republican comrades-in-arms as a rogue and turncoat, the better to enjoy driving the Republicans into permanent oblivion. Perhaps the president wants to dismantle American defenses and trust international organizations to protect us. Or perhaps it's all of the above.

Mr. Hagel boasts of his consistency of viewpoint over the years, and indeed, he has been consistent: skeptical of the Iraqi surge that saved Iraq, skeptical of sanctions against Iran, skeptical of the American nuclear deterrent, skeptical of our ally in Israel - skeptical, in fact, of everything but his own moral certitude. A man with such consistent skepticism ought to be able to defend those views. But the more his Republican inquisitors pushed, the more he rambled, evaded and stumbled. The Democratic senators who tried to help him did not seem to have their hearts in it.

There's a fascinating precedent at the Pentagon. When the United States emerged from World War II as the only nuclear power, President Truman imagined that the atomic bomb was all the nation would ever need to defend itself. …