Wrote Hagel in his memoir: "If you listen to the tapes released by the Johnson Library, on which President Lyndon B. Johnson and Senator Richard Russell discuss Vietnam in the mid-1960s, you will hear President Johnson confess that we couldn't win in Vietnam, but we couldn't pull out because he didn't want to be the first president to lose a war." At the time President Johnson spoke those words to Senator Russell he had not begun the Vietnam buildup or even signed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. Senator Russell goes on to express his misgivings about Vietnam, but nonetheless he eventually signed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. Senator Hagel concludes: "The cold political calculation I heard on those tapes made me vow that I would never -- ever -- remain silent when that kind of thinking put more American lives at risk in any conflict."
Hagel has been unreliable on other matters. He famously said in 2002 that, "Both Israelis and Palestinians are trapped in a war not of their making." Yet when he said that, he overlooked that the Palestinians were indiscriminately slaughtering Israeli civilians. The Israeli Defense Force was defending them and fighting Palestinian militiamen. There was no equivalence.
Since those days Hagel has said many things about the "Jewish lobby" and Israel and the war on terror, but for my money I would look to his memoir first. It reveals a slipperiness of character that suggests our present would-be epochal president has chosen an eminently useful candidate to head his Department of Defense. The question is: Is Hagel useful to America?
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