Among the highly skeptical political appointments over the past month, Chuck Hagel’s appointment to the secretary of defense position has been the most controversial. Why is that?
Hagel, a former republican U.S. senator from Nebraska, is a decorated Vietnam War combat veteran and a recipient of two Purple Hearts.
Hagel has mostly stayed conservative over his career in politics on issues ranging from abortion to school prayer and school vouchers. Be that as it may, his track record on foreign policy and defense is somewhat liberal.
Hagel called on his military experience on the Senate Foreign Relations committee in the late 1990s to support a treaty against land mines and accused the Bush administration of a “cavalier approach” to the rest of the world in the months leading up to the Iraq War.
The current Georgetown University professor has long been considered an isolationist in regard to foreign policy. In 2002, he wrote that the U.S. should be inspiring allies to work on “making a better world” as opposed to ruling by a sense of “divine mission,” particularly when accusing a country of having weapons of mass destruction without clear evidence — something Hagel was clearly skeptical of.
The Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last Thursday brought together a shameful narrow spectrum of ideas, and here’s why: With the plethora of unique opinions Hagel has held on various issues, the most overwhelming topic of discussion wasn’t his support of chemical weapons in 1997, nor was it his opposition to 2007 surge in Iraq. No, it was Israel.
Conservatives, such as Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Republican Sen. John McCain, stamped Hagel as the biggest threat to Israel’s national security in ages, claiming he was soft on terrorism and a modest supporter of the Israel state. Democrats bombarded Hagel with questions, using the hearing as a time to exhibit their full-fledged support of Israel.
Hagel claimed that, above all, he was a U.S. Senator, not an Israeli senator. This, of course, is referring to the Hagel’s controversial opinion that the influential “Jewish lobby” intimidates lawmakers into supporting Israel’s foreign policy, even if it’s detrimental to U.S. interests.
Israeli lobbying has been a large part of American politics since the beginning of the 20th century. After all, Zionist lobbying in the U.S. aided in the creation of the State of Israel in 1947-48.
Our Middle East ally has received the most U.S. foreign assistance — mostly in the form of military aid — of any other country in the world: roughly $115 billion. This comprises only a small percentage of the U.S. budget every year, but when everything is on the chopping block — or supposed to be — it’s hard to look away from such a substantial cash flow.
Lobbying groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Christians United for Israel funnel millions of dollars into American campaigns each year. Organizations such as AIPAC and CUFI spend countless hours traveling to Congressional offices of both parties just before appropriations take place, keeping checks on those who are beginning to waver their support.
The consequence of lost support is a flood of donations to a candidate’s opponent in the next election. At a time when donations and special interest have clouded honorable campaign tactics, this has simply added fuel to the fire.
These claims simply define the background of Hagel’s argument and they don’t necessarily represent my opinions. However, Hagel does represent a new era of American defense — one that is beginning to represent our generation, one that is a bit more isolationist-friendly and one that begins to question our previous ties to other countries.
Because what’s the point of staying true to traditional conformity when it’s not questioned once in a while?
If Israel needs $2-3 billion of our tax money every year to comfortably defend our nation’s best interest, then so be it. Our mutual allegiance is an integral and strategically unique piece in the puzzle of world affairs.
If not, it may be beneficial to bring some back to those suffering within our own borders.
Logan Nee is a third-year economics and political science student.