Is Chuck Hagel a Hippie? Only if You Ignore His Record
It’s looking like President Obama will nominate former Senator Chuck Hagel to run the Pentagon on Monday. It’ll mean a fight: for the last month, conservative critics of the former Republican senator have called him a wimp, insufficiently bellicose toward Iran, Hamas, Syria, the Taliban and other global malefactors. All of that overlooks the Vietnam combat veteran’s record in the Senate.
Spying on Americans’ communications without warrants? Have at it, said Hagel. A ballistic missile shield? Yes, please, and who cares if it angers the Kremlin. NATO’s 1999 war in Kosovo? Hagel was willing to flood it with U.S. soldiers.
Hagel earned his reputation as a skeptic of American military adventurism, as anyone who remembers his consistent criticism of the Iraq war will remember. But that criticism has blown Hagel’s reputation for dovishness out of proportion: after all, he voted in 2002 to authorize the war. National Journal’s Michael Hirsch insightfully argues Hagel’s reward for asking hard questions about the war is to have official Washington forget the rest of his record. So consider this a refresher.
Even as Hagel was making himself George W. Bush’s least favorite Republican, he aided Bush in crucial moments in congressional showdowns over the limits of presidential power in wartime.