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The Hagel Pick Telegraphs Weakness

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Editor's Note: This column was co-authored by Bob Morrison.

President Obama’s choice of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel for Sec. of Defense is a

dangerous choice that telegraphs weakness toward Iran. In the Senate, Mr. Hagel compiled a worrisome record toward the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.


It is Iran that backs Hezbollah in Lebanon. We haven’t heard much about the Cedar Revolution in that war-torn country. That’s because Hezbollah murdered the democratic leaders for reform. Iran is behind Hamas in Gaza. Hamas defeated the corrupt regime of Mahmoud Abbas in elections in Gaza that soon degenerated into civil war. Abbas has papered over those differences and now seeks to present a united front to the ruling Muslim Brotherhood-backed party in Egypt and the UN.

But all efforts to de-legitimize, surround, and eliminate Israel--what they call “the Zionist entity”--are fueled and financed by the mullahs in Tehran.

What has been Sen. Hagel’s response to all this? He has ruled out the use of force against Iran, even as he opposes economic sanctions. We have argued that economic sanctions against Iran will not work. But others whom we respect believe they will. It’s a legitimate debate. What should not be up for debate is the need to do something to stop the mullahs from getting a nuclear weapon.

What has Chuck Hagel suggested? He wants us to open an interest section in Tehran. That would be a first step to sending an ambassador there. Question: Where is the U.S. Ambassador the Obama administration sent to Syria with such fanfare several years ago?

We all know, tragically, what became of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya.

Former Sen. Hagel seems to have forgotten that we once had an ambassador in Tehran. And while that ambassador was away from his station, the entire U.S. Embassy was overrun by radical “students” doing the bidding of the same mullahs Hagel would appease. Our diplomats and U.S. Marines were held hostage for 444 days, an act of war against this country. The mullahs ruling today are the same clique that ruled Iran then.


It would be tempting to say this is the worst move in U.S. diplomatic history. But in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson agreed with his personal adviser, “Colonel” Edward M. House, that it would be OK to let the Germans use our U.S. State Department cables to transmit peace proposals to their embassy in Washington, D.C.

The Germans, then at war with Britain, complained that their enemies had cut their Atlantic cable and were intercepting their radio messages. So, President Wilson accommodated them. He let the Germans send encrypted messages via our own State Department cable!

German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann in 1917 transmitted the now infamous “Zimmermann Telegram” through this channel which Wilson had unconscionably provided for him. The encrypted German message was relayed to their embassy in Mexico City.

In that Zimmermann Telegram was an offer to Mexico to join Germany in a war against the United States. To further tempt Mexico, Zimmermann offered German backing for a reconquista of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. (California was reserved for the deal Zimmermann planned to offer Japan to enter the war against us.)

When this Zimmermann Telegram was uncovered, the German Foreign Minister expected no trouble with the U.S. administration. “President Wilson will do nothing. He only wants peace,” said Zimmermann. It was one of history’s classic miscalculations.

America was plunged into the First World War. And Wilson’s weakness had tempted the Germans to think they could get away with all this. We were unprepared for that war because Wilson’s Cabinet members—State, War, and Navy—were pacifists. They bragged that being unprepared was a sign of our peaceful purposes.


Chuck Hagel is backed by today’s Unpreparedness Lobby. For all those who think we can have peace by disarming America and sitting down for talks with known terrorists, Hagel is their man.

This poignant painting by the great American artist, John Singer Sargent, shows just a portion of the price we paid for Wilson’s weakness. Must we re-learn these bitter lessons in every generation? Must we telegraph weakness with the nomination of Chuck Hagel?

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