GAFFNEY: Hagel a dangerous choice for defense

Illustration Hagal by Alexander Hunter for The Washington Times

The conventional wisdom is that President Obama dodged a politically perilous “bullet” when he declined to nominate Susan Rice as the next secretary of state. Had he done so, the president would have provided his critics a high-profile platform for exposing and critiquing his administration’s conduct with respect to Benghazigate and the larger, dangerous practice of “engaging” Islamists, of which it was a particularly dismal example.

Yet Mr. Obama reportedly is intent on creating what may prove to be a similar “teachable moment” by nominating former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to replace Leon E. Panetta as secretary of defense. Mr. Hagel has been an outspoken champion of controversial and even radical policies firmly embraced by Mr. Obama during his first administration. Worse yet, they are likely to be priorities for his second term now that the president has, as he put it in his overheard conversation with Russia’s Dmitri Medvedev last March, “more flexibility.”

In the event Mr. Obama taps the former Nebraska senator, he will be inviting the sort of national debate that has long been needed — but generally missing — about his administration’s positions in several areas vital to U.S. security. As there is no evident daylight between Mr. Hagel’s views and those of this president, the opportunity must be seized to expose both. Consider several topics that cry out for such high-profile, critical examination:

Mr. Hagel would be a Pentagon chief who favors U.S. disarmament. As Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon has reported, Mr. Hagel has said the following: “The Defense Department, I think, in many ways has been bloated. So I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down.” Do Republican senators want a former colleague to give political cover to Mr. Obama’s insistence that the United States use reductions in defense spending as a source of half the revenue given up pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011 — even though the Pentagon receives only 20 percent of federal expenditures? Do they want to be implicated in the inevitable, attendant dismantling of the sort of freedom-protecting presence the American military has had around the globe since the end of World War II, its ability to project power and its vital modernization programs?...

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