The answer to that question might well have been more revealing about Hagel's perspective on current events than a debate over whether George W. Bush made the right decision in 2006 to put 30,000 more American troops into the fight in the Land Between the Rivers. Does Hagel -- a Vietnam War veteran -- think it was wrong that America honored its treaty commitments with the Republic of Vietnam? Does he recall that American combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam in 1972? Does he recall that the North Vietnamese invasion and victory April 30, 1975, came less than five months after the U.S. Congress cut off all military aid to the Republic of Vietnam?
America -- and the Defense Department Hagel wants to head -- is now commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. There is no question about the outcome. After 12 years of war, the North Vietnamese finally conquered their southern neighbor. Millions died and fled the country we pledged to defend. But the war wasn't lost on the battlefields of Vietnam. It was lost in the corridors of power in Washington. Does Hagel consider the "blunder" of Vietnam to be our getting into the fight? Or was it our precipitous withdrawal and removal of all support?
Those are the kinds of questions that should have been asked -- and that Israelis are now asking privately as they await the outcome of these hearings. Hagel says, inexplicably, that he isn't going to be a "policymaker" if he becomes secretary of defense. Officials here know better -- but none of them is going to go on the record about Barack Obama's appointments.
Privately, they note: "There is chaos and turmoil all around us. Washington tells us sanctions will stop the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons. Forty years of sanctions haven't kept the North Koreans from building atomic bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Will the U.S. honor its commitments to us?"
After news broke about Obama's plan to visit Israel, one of my friends shook his head, took out his smartphone and pressed a button. From the tiny speaker came Frank Sinatra singing "Send in the Clowns."
Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel and the author of the New York Times best-seller "Heroes Proved." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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