Fifty former U.S. ambassadors and national security officials who served Democratic and Republican presidents are rallying around Chuck Hagel, urging senators to confirm President Obama’s pick for defense secretary.
The former senior diplomats and officials dubbed Hagel’s qualifications for the Pentagon’s top civilian post “impeccable” in a letter delivered Jan. 16 to Senate leaders and each member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which will conduct his confirmation hearing on Jan. 31.
“We support, strongly and without qualification, President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense,” states the letter. “Most of us have known the senator for a decade or more and consistently have found him to be one of the best informed leaders in the U.S. Congress on national security issues. Sen. Hagel’s credentials for the job are impeccable.”
The letter states that most members of the group have worked closely with Hagel over the years. As a GOP senator from Nebraska, Hagel was a member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.
“Time and again, he has chosen to take the path of standing up for our nation, rather than the path of political expediency,” states the letter, an apparent reference to charges from GOP lawmakers and pro-Israel organizations that Hagel harbors too many anti-Israel views to take a senior U.S. national security post.
To that end, the letter states the group’s beliefs that Hagel “has repeatedly demonstrated his strong support for Israel and for a two-state solution, and has opposed those who would undermine or threaten Israel’s security.”
The group also highlights Hagel’s Vietnam War experience, where he saw heavy combat, as well as his private-sector experience. The latter, the group writes, should help him in an era in which the Pentagon’s budget is slated to shrink or grow less quickly than in the post-9/11 period.
“As a decorated Vietnam veteran, a successful entrepreneur in the private sector, and a two-term United States senator, he brings exceptional qualifications and experience to the Department of Defense, particularly at this time of budget constraint and challenges in reshaping America’s military power while keeping it strong for the coming decades,” states the letter.
Some Hagel critics have said he is ill-suited for the defense secretary job because his views are “outside the mainstream” of the U.S. foreign and national security policy realms. Not so, say the former ambassadors and officials.
“He has stood and argued publicly for what he believes is best for the United States,” the group writes. “He has always supported the pillars of American foreign policy: a strong military; a robust Atlantic partnership; a commitment to the security of Israel, as a friend and ally; a determination to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons; and the defense of human rights as a core principle of America’s role in the world.”
The group urges the senators to conduct a “speedy confirmation” process.