President Obama’s pick as the next Secretary of Defense is the wrong one. Heritage’s defense and foreign policy experts have examined the record of Chuck Hagel, the Republican former Senator from Nebraska, and concluded he simply does not have the experience and skills for the job. What’s more, his vision for dealing with other nations is dangerous for America.
Here are the top three reasons Hagel is wrong for the job.
1. Hagel does not have the executive and managerial experience to lead a department as large and complex as the Pentagon.
James Jay Carafano, Heritage’s vice president for foreign policy, explained:
The Secretary must be a consummate leader, manager, and multi-tasker. Hagel’s resume betrays a lack of executive experience, and his inability to perform under pressure was on prominent display in his hearing…His Senate career evidenced a conspicuous lack of key leadership/executive skills. He simply is ill-qualified for this job. His laudable service as a young sergeant in Vietnam neither exempts him from criticism nor gives him a pass on his lack of skills. We have hundreds of thousands of honorable veterans who are not qualified to be Secretary of Defense, and Hagel is one of them.
2. He embraces dangerously naïve policies such as “nuclear zero,” the dream of a world without nuclear weapons.
Hagel was actually a co-author of the Global Zero report, which recommended that “All U.S. tactical nuclear weapons would be eliminated over the next ten years.” During his confirmation hearing, he tried to walk back his position, insisting that he was not for unilateral disarmament. Heritage’s Michaela Bendikovapointed out his inconsistency and denial of the Global Zero position.
3. He advocates talking to America’s enemies and beating up on our friends.
It’s worth asking: Why does Iran endorse Chuck Hagel?
Hagel has advocated more talks with hostile nations such as Syria and Iran, the latter of which recently rejected outright any idea of bilateral talks with the Obama Administration. Meanwhile, Hagel appears never to have missed an opportunity to beat up on Israel, one of the strongest allies of the United States.
As Heritage’s Steven Bucci, director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, has explained:
Hagel has called repeatedly for better relations with Iran, the worst state sponsor of terrorism in history. In several past speeches (some not provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee), Hagel was open about the “need” to reach out to and have a normal relationship with Iran. He makes it appear as if the differences we have with Tehran—which supplied military-grade weapons to our enemies in Iraq specifically designed to kill Americans—are somehow our fault.
The Senate failed to advance Hagel’s nomination last week, but some Senators tried to use the vote as a political bargaining chip to pressure the Obama Administration for answers on the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. The next vote could come as soon as Tuesday. After Hagel’s unsettling performance in his confirmation hearing, some Senators wanted more information, including financial records and speeches given by Hagel.
But the evidence on display is clear. As Carafano said, “What hangs in the balance of this nomination is the security of our nation. It is a job that requires a proven leader with executive experience and a sound understanding of global threats and workable defense policy. We can and must do better than Chuck Hagel.”
Helle Dale, Heritage’s Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy, contributed to this article.
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