In the run-up to the Senate Armed Services Committee's hearing this Thursday on Chuck Hagel's fitness to become the next Secretary of Defense, its members have been treated to the spectacle of the nominee spinning at the RPM of a prima ballerina.
Evidently, the former Nebraska senator has very low regard for those now serving in the Senate. He seems confident that they will either not see through - or at least not object to - his concerted efforts to: disavow his well-documented public record; obscure his serial, faulty judgments; and ignore the harm both suggest he is prepared to do, if confirmed, to the national security.
The question is: Will Mr. Hagel's cynical and contemptuous gambit be rewarded by the Senate? Or will it be properly repudiated?
For example, will the Armed Services Committee membership really accept Mr. Hagel's current insistence that he is a strong supporter of Israel when the evidence to the contrary is manifest from his plethora of votes, resolutions, letters, and public statements? Will Senators on and off that committee trust him to execute Obama administration policy towards Iran's nuclear threat - which their colleague, Sen. John Kerry, last week insisted was "prevention, not containment" - given his longstanding opposition to both meaningful economic sanctions and military action?
Can legislators who are alarmed at the hollowing-out of the U.S. military now becoming ever more palpable really take at face value Sen. Hagel's current assurances about his commitment to a strong U.S. military? After all, prior to his nomination by President Obama and his attendant "confirmation conversions," Mr. Hagel insisted that the Pentagon budget is bloated and can safely be "pared."
Now, Hillary Clinton might ask, "What's the difference?" Unfortunately, the difference could be a Secretary of Defense who will actively encourage, rather than steadfastly oppose, the devastation arising from: the elimination, or dramatic slowing, of virtually all Pentagon modernization programs; the reduction in maintenance of worn-out weapon systems and other equipment; the dissipation of much of what is left of the defense industrial base; the evisceration of training and other benefits, etc.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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