by Yoram Ettinger
The U.S. Senate vote on the nomination of John Brennan and Chuck Hagel to the positions of CIA Director and Secretary of Defense, respectively, will shape U.S. power projection and deterrence posture, global sanity, the war on Islamic terrorism and America's determination to avert the wrath of a nuclear Iran.
John Brennan presented his position on Iran in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science in July, 2008: ''A critical step toward improved U.S.-Iranian relations would be for U.S. officials to cease public Iran-bashing, a tactic that may have served short-term domestic political interests but that has heretofore been wholly counterproductive to U.S. strategic interests.''
Brennan believed that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, as reported in the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate report in 2007. He criticized then-President George W. Bush for refusing to ease pressure on Iran. Brennan opined that “preventing Iran from making a nuclear weapon could only be achieved through persuasion.”
On August 6, 2009, Brennan presented his worldview on counter-terrorism in a speech titled “A New Approach to Safeguarding Americans” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies: “President [Barack Obama] does not describe this [war on Islamic terrorism] as a ‘war on terrorism.’ That is because ‘terrorism’ is but a tactic... The President does not describe this as a ‘global war….’ It plays into the misleading and dangerous notion that the U.S. is somehow in conflict with the rest of the world... Nor does President Obama see this challenge as a fight against ‘Jihadists.’ Describing terrorists in this way – using a legitimate term, "Jihad," meaning to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal – risks giving these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek…”
Brennan’s ideological ambiguity/confusion towards Islamic terrorism – and his misrepresentation of Jihad and ignoring the dominance of hate education in the Muslim Middle East – could be transformed into operational ambiguity/confusion in the battle against Islamic terrorism.
At the beginning of Bill Clinton’s second term as president, Senator Richard Shelby placed a “hold” on the nomination of Anthony Lake, then the National Security Advisor, to head the CIA. Shelby succeeded to block the nomination, contending that Lake was an ideologue, while a CIA director should excel in management and operations.
According to a Washington Post editorial from December 19, Brennan and Hagel approach Iran in a similar manner: “Mr. Hagel’s stated positions on critical issues, ranging from defense spending to Iran, fall well to the left of those pursued by Mr. Obama during his first term – and place him near the fringe of the Senate that would be asked to confirm him... Mr. Hagel was similarly isolated in his views about Iran during his time in the Senate. He repeatedly voted against sanctions, opposing even those aimed at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which at the time was orchestrating devastating bomb attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq. Mr. Hagel argued that direct negotiations, rather than sanctions, were the best means to alter Iran’s behavior.”
Hagel serves as a co-Chairman of the Presidential Intelligence Advisory Board and a Senior Director of the U.S./Middle East Project, promoting his worldview at-large and on the Middle East in particular.
Hagel considers the Palestinian issue to be the core cause of turbulence in the Middle East, a root cause of anti-U.S. Islamic terrorism and the crown jewel of Arab policy makers, irrespective of the seismic, stormy Arab Winter which has erupted independent of the Palestinian issue, refuting such oversimplified and misleading assumptions.
As senator, Hagel was – along with Senator John Kerry – one of the few supporters of Hafez and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Capitol Hill. In October, 2009, Hagel stated: “I believe there is a real possibility of a shift in Syria’s strategic thinking and policies... If we can convince Damascus to pause and re-consider its positions and support regarding Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and radical Palestinian groups, we will have made progress for the entire Middle East, Israel, and the United States. Syria wants to talk – at the highest levels – and everything is on the table... The next bi-lateral peace treaty for Israel is with Syria.”
As Chairman of the Atlantic Council, Hagel has subscribed to the centrality of the U.N. – which is not the home court for U.S. interests – in the conduct of international relations. He does not believe in U.S. exceptionalism in the international arena and espouses the superiority of multilateralism over unilateral, independent U.S. national security measures.
Both Brennan and Hagel are outside the American mainstream on crucial national security issues. What does that portend for global stability and U.S. national security?
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