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Re: The Hagel Insult

In the column Rick Richman links to below, Bret Stephens issues a challenge to Jewish Democrats that is also worth discussing:

Now President Obama may nominate Mr. Hagel to take Leon Panetta’s place at the Pentagon. As a purely score-settling matter, I almost hope he does. It would confirm a point I made in a column earlier this year, which is that Mr. Obama is not a friend of Israel. Perhaps the 63% of Jewish-Americans who cast their votes for Mr. Obama last month might belatedly take notice.

Alternatively, maybe some of these voters could speak up now, before a nomination is announced, about the insult that a Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel would be. Jewish Democrats like to fancy their voice carries weight in their party. The prospect of this nomination is their chance to prove it.

Obama wouldn’t just be burning his pro-Israel voters by nominating Hagel. The reputations of pro-Israel Democratic leaders–who took to the op-ed pages to reassure Jewish voters that, despite evidence to the contrary, Obama would get serious on Iran in a second term–are also riding on this.

Here was Alan Dershowitz defending Obama on Iran in the Jerusalem Post last summer:

There are some, in both parties, who wrongly believe that a policy of “containment” – that is, allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons but containing their use by the threat of tit-for-tat reprisal – is the right strategy. President Obama has explicitly rejected this benighted approach and has instead announced that his policy is to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it takes military action to do so. In the meantime, he has ratcheted up sanctions and diplomatic pressure while explicitly keeping the military option on the table.

Several months ago, President Obama invited me to the Oval Office to discuss his Iran strategy. He looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t bluff.” His actions with regard to Osama bin Laden and the Somali pirates who endangered Americans and threatened to kill them demonstrated his willingness to use force when warranted. So does his increased use of drones to target terrorists who are beyond the reach of capture. I believe President Obama when he says that Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons on his watch.

And Jeffrey Goldberg in October:

I run into people constantly who believe that the bluffer in this relationship is Obama. Their argument holds that Obama will move toward a strategy of containment soon after the election, and that there is no way he would ever use military force to prevent Iran from getting the bomb. 

I’m in the camp of people, however, who take him at his word, in part because he’s repeated himself on the subject so many times and in part because he has laid out such an effective argument against containment and for disruption, by force, if necessary. 

They insisted Obama was serious about using military force against Iran, if need be. Now, here’s what Chuck Hagel in 2006 had to say about the possibility:

“I do not expect any kind of military solution on the Iran issue,” Hagel told a news conference. “I think to further comment on it would be complete speculation, but I would say that a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.” 

And here’s Hagel in 2010, downplaying the possibility again: 

As to the use of military force, whether it’s for a political motive or not, I don’t think I have to remind the public that the United States of America is currently in two wars – two of the longest we’ve ever been in.  And before we finally wind our way out of each, they will be the longest wars we’ve ever engaged in. 

That has come at a very significant cost to this country.  I think it’s undermined our interest in the world.  You don’t need to go much beyond asking any general who’s in charge of men and women in the Pentagon, their families, or any metric that you want to apply – record suicides, record divorces, record homeless and all the rest – as to but one consequence of taking the nation to war. 

So I think talking about going to war with Iran in fairly specific terms should be carefully reviewed.  And that’s pretty dangerous talk.  It’s easy to get a nation into war; not so easy to get a nation out of war, as we are finding out.  I’m not sure that the American people are ready to go into a third war.

So what did all the promises from pro-Israel Obama supporters amount to? If one of Obama’s first moves after reelection is nominating someone to the top Pentagon post who has promoted conspiracy theories about the “Jewish lobby” and dismisses a military option against Iran, what does that mean for the Jewish Democrats who vouched for him?


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