Chuck Hagel Failure May Haunt Hawks

Obama May Be Emboldened To Take Own Path on Peace, Iran

All Smiles: By nominating Chuck Hagel, President Obama showed he was ready for a fight. If and when he wins, it may embolden him to pursue his own path on the Mideast.
getty images
All Smiles: By nominating Chuck Hagel, President Obama showed he was ready for a fight. If and when he wins, it may embolden him to pursue his own path on the Mideast.

By Laura Rozen

Published January 09, 2013, issue of January 18, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Hawkish groups that sought to pre-emptively sink Chuck Hagel’s candidacy for secretary of defense may have been trying to teach President Obama and his supporters a lesson — but it seems they’re the ones who may look back at this episode as a cautionary tale.

“You don’t want to wound the king,” Joseph Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, told me. The anti-Hagel camp miscalculated, he said, and will likely “lose this fight, and look impotent.”

Ultimately, that may give Obama, and those urging him to be bolder in his efforts to get a diplomatic deal with Iran, “more space” for his national security priorities, Cirincione said.

“When I look at what he is doing: There were other capable candidates for secretary of defense, but they didn’t bring everything Chuck Hagel brought, and that level of trust and comfort,” he said. “And when you look around, you see that Obama is basically assembling his own gangster squad. John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, John Brennan, added to Biden, Denis McDonough. These are his guys.”

This new team — if Obama indeed wins Hagel’s confirmation battle — may give him the opportunity to more aggressively pursue goals such as global nuclear arms reductions and bolder diplomacy to try to strike a nuclear deal with Iran. “It looks like he is positioning himself to make the dramatic change in national security policy that he promised [in 2008] and that he wants to make,” Cirincione added.

The Obama administration knows that the Hagel nomination “is like picking up a rock and discovering all the nasties underneath,” a Democratic source close to the administration told me on condition of anonymity. The administration “may not have wanted to have a fight at the outset, but I think at least some want to have this fight now, to shine a light on some really awful, blackmail-style politics. They are sick of these groups boxing them in and want a public fight to expose them and hopefully put them in their place.”

“If they win, it may expand space for actual ‘moderate’ voices on Israel [and] Iran,” the Democratic source said. “The stakes are really high — so they better go all in and win.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.