Dunsmore: The Hagel Nomination

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(Host) President Barack Obama’s nomination of former Republican Senator
Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense, will face stiff opposition in
his upcoming senate confirmation hearings. This morning commentator and
veteran ABC News diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore examines the
reasons behind that opposition.

(Dunsmore) Weeks before Chuck
Hagel was announced as President Obama’s choice to run the Pentagon, a
campaign against Hagel was launched by neoconservatives led by William
Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine. Kristol is
not just any neoconservative. His father was known as the godfather of
the movement of intellectuals who were once part of America’s far left-
who in the 1960’s began flipping to the far right over their
disenchantment with American liberalism. Irving Kristol used to joke
that a neo-conservative was "a liberal who had been mugged by reality."

feature of neoconservatism is that it advocates an aggressive, hard
line foreign policy. Another, is that it is strongly pro-Israel and
historically has had close ties with Israel’s current Israeli prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Those two policy goals came together when
neocons in George W. Bush’s administration pressed for the invasion of
Iraq. They wanted to show the world that with the end of the Cold War
America was The Top Dog and would not hesitate to use force to protect
or advance its interests. And the over-throw of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein
would make the neighborhood safer for Israel.

The opening shots
of the campaign against Hagel were that he was not supportive of Israel.
This past week Elliot Abrams, a noted neocon in the Reagan and Bush
Administrations, went so far as openly calling Hagel an anti Semite.
Abrams cited remarks Hagel once made, critical of the scare tactics of
the "Jewish lobby" in Washington. Hagel now admits he should have said
Israeli lobby because Christians, especially many Evangelicals, are also
strongly pro Israel.

But the insidious suggestions that Hagel
is an anti-Semite have been strongly challenged by a wide range of
prominent American Jews. As Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame put it this
week, being critical of the current hard-line Israeli government,
doesn’t make one an anti Semite. Bernstein added that many American
Jews, not to mention numerous Israelis, are unhappy with that

Actually, earlier this week two top officials from
the current Israeli government praised Hagel for his record of strong
support for Israel.

So what is going on here?

As a twice
wounded and decorated Vietnam vet, Hagel believes that war must be an
absolute last resort. He has been very cautious on the subject of a
possible Israeli and/or American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The neoconservatives apparently fear that if Hagel is secretary of
defense, he could become a roadblock to the use of force to prevent Iran
from becoming a nuclear power. They worry that he will encourage the
president to allow the Iranians to drag out negotiations that might
eventually involve American concessions that neither the neocons nor
Netanyahu will find acceptable. Perhaps.

But I believe most
Americans, including most American Jews, would find a negotiated outcome
in Iran far more preferable than another Mid East War- a war most
likely to be even more costly than Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

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