Hagel will be valued voice of reason in Obama Cabinet

January 7, 2013

J Street welcomes the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Defense Secretary of the United States and feels confident he will be a great addition to President Obama’s cabinet. We look forward to his speedy confirmation by the Senate.

Hagel brings to the job a long record of accomplishment and service to the nation, informed by a deep understanding of the appropriate uses and limitations of the exercise of US military power. Hagel’s personal experiences as a decorated war hero in Vietnam and his deep involvement in the debates over the military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan taught him that resort to military force must always be a last resort.

President Obama stressed today, Hagel “knows that war is not an abstraction. He understands that sending young Americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and mud, [is] something we only do when it’s absolutely necessary.” This record inspires confidence that he will be a trusted adviser to the president as the country faces its many challenges.

We also feel this has been an important moment for the country and thank President Obama for standing by his convictions in nominating Hagel, whose views on national security represent those of the majority of Jewish and other Americans. This sets an important precedent. Hopefully, qualified candidates will no longer be prevented from serving the nation by “Swift Boat”-style attacks that distort their records and caricature their beliefs.

Many of these attacks questioned Hagel’s commitment to Israel, but the overall record shows that he has been a staunch friend, standing with our community on the critical issues. Hagel has demonstrated that he is committed to Israel’s security and its future as a democratic state with a Jewish majority living in peace with its neighbors.

Today the President praised Hagel’s “courage and judgment, and his willingness to speak his mind… even if it defied the conventional wisdom.” The fact that Hagel has insisted on independent thinking, weighing each issue on its merits instead of blindly following along with the herd, we regard as an asset.

All these and other issues will appropriately be raised at Hagel’s confirmation hearing. This has been a trying time for the Senator as he observed the protocol of remaining silent while his critics and opponents had free rein. The hearing will provide him with the opportunity to respond and clarify all relevant issues. We feel sure that at the end of this process, he will win an overwhelming bipartisan endorsement from the Senate.