Why Chuck Hagel Should Tell Obama to Go to Hell

Leadership is reflected in the will to disappoint at least a few
friends with clear decisions in pursuit of principle. It’s not
about safely laying back and gathering acolytes by splitting every
difference.Barack Obama is a congenitally split personality. His interest
in naming Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and former Sen. Chuck Hagel
(R-Neb.) to his cabinet demonstrates once again that he has no
appetite for leadership on the life-and-death decisions presidents
make since Congress ceded its war-making powers to the Executive
branch after World War II.As he did in a smarmy, stage-crafted 2009 speech
to teenage cadets at West Point, Obama is once again punting on
foreign policy. Instead of saying and doing what he
believes, our president wants to assemble another sort-of team of
rivals. Abusing that popular Doris Kearns Goodwin construct

about Lincoln’s cabinet, Obama indulges himself in the luxury
of leading from behind. It enables him to avoid a decision to
withdraw immediately from Afghanistan the young men and women who
are sacrificing life and limb for American empire-building that
serves no clear moral or national-security purpose.Our always-conflicted leader has chosen to nominate John Kerry,
the ultimate Washington foreign policy consensus expert, to
be Secretary of State. That’s the same John Kerry who was both
for and against the war in Vietnam, and for and against the war in
Iraq. The very same presidential candidate who told us in August of
2004 he would have voted for the resolution authorizing
Bush-Cheney’s elective war in Iraq – even if he had known there
were no weapons of mass destruction. The same John Kerry who told
Congress in 1971, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die
for a mistake?” And who said in March, 2004, “I actually did vote
for the $87 billion [supplemental appropriation for operations in
Iraq and Afghanistan] before I voted against it.” The same John
Kerry…well, you can look up additional dithering by the senator
from Massachusetts.President Obama wants to nominate another wounded and decorated
Vietnam vet, Chuck Hagel, for Secretary of Defense. Unlike Kerry –
and to his credit – Hagel used his Senate seat to speak against his
own party’s elective wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.Hagel has conflicts of his own and Washington’s conservatives
have made it clear that they don’t
want Hagel anywhere near the Pentagon. He voted for the Iraq
War resolution, but on reflection spoke out against that neo-con
nightmare. Like many, he supported taking out the Taliban in
Afghanistan, but then questioned why we were still there a decade
later under Obama’s presidency. Hagel is no saint or unerring
savant, in our saintless and savantless Federal City.But there are important differences between Hagel’s revisions of
his thoughts and those of President Obama and John Kerry. The
Nebraskan risked offending his own militaristic Republican base. As
a senator – not just a young, ambitious, camera-friendly,
anti-Nixon, anti-Vietnam war veteran – Hagel wasn’t content to let
a last man die for mistakes of a weekend warrior, a dilettante
Constitutional law professor, or a born-to-the-manor foreign policy
expert.Recall that Barack Obama was nominated and elected in 2008 as
the candidate who was opposed to “dumb wars.” But he was an
anti-war poseur. Within 10 months of inauguration, Obama reversed
course to please the bipartisan industry that demands a permanent
state of military conflict and rising defense outlays as a jobs
program for AFL-CIO congressional Democrats and as corporate
welfare for K Street Capitol Hill Republicans.And John Kerry? Could there be a purer human distillation of
the Washington
Rules described by our most eloquent anti-war voice,
Andrew Bacevich, in his book of that title? Since he arrived in the
Senate in 1985, Kerry has been a primary player leading us down
“America’s Path to Permanent War,” as Bacevich’s
subtitle puts it. Assuming his nomination isn’t proactively yanked by the
president, here’s the question that Hagel first needs to answer:
Should he allow himself to be used as a pawn in Barack Obama’s
continuing deflection of presidential responsibility?Tempting as it may be to get inside the tent, Hagel should
decline. Given Obama’s uninspiring track record, he won’t have a
major impact on policy. Far more likely, he’ll serve as a prop for
a president who asserts the right to kill even American citizens
without judicial oversight and to send manned and unmanned planes
anywhere he chooses.By refusing to become part of Obama’s war machine, Hagel can
trumpet an important statement: Bring the troops home now.
Not in 2014. Not in 2013. By noon tomorrow. Hagel can demand that
not one more young man or woman be the last to die for a horrific

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Why Chuck Hagel Should Tell Obama to Go to Hell

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