It looks as if the anti-Chuck Hagel lobby, despite a successful day yesterday at his confirmation hearings, won’t prevent their nemesis from becoming US Secretary of Defense. Yesterday Hagel seemed unsure of himself and a bit hopeless at repelling wild suggestions that he is some sort of anti-Israel zealot and a friend of Iran.
But he didn’t mess up enough to derail his nomination. His fiercest critics still seem barking mad. But his admirers do now have added reason to be concerned. Hagel has been trumpeted as a great realist, refreshingly pragmatist, a safe pair of hands who would manage America’s changing role on the global stage with intelligence and caution. But the truth, if yesterday’s evidence is anything to go by, might be more dreary. What if he is neither an enemy of the Jewish state or a 21st century Eisenhower? What if he’s just another plodding politico?
Ahead of yesterday’s hearings, the Washington Free Beacon ran a hysterical piece saying that ‘as a professor at Georgetown University, secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel taught a foreign policy course based primarily on anti-Israel materials and far left manifestos that castigate America’s role in the world.’
That’s twaddle. However, as the International Relations Professor Daniel Drezner points out, Hagel’s recommended student reading included such worryingly pedestrian titles as Tom Friedman’s The World Is Flat and George Friedman’s The Next 100 Years. ‘Now I’m not above assigning the occasional hack piece in a class to let my students chew up and spit out,’ says Drezner. ‘That’s actually a useful pedagogical exercise. Hagel, however, seems to think that the hack stuff is actually quite good.’