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Monday, January 21, 2013

Bill Keller, "Chuck Hagel’s War": Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

Are you familiar with the story of Amir Peretz? Peretz was an ordnance officer in the Israeli army prior to suffering serious injuries in an accident. After a period growing flowers and vegetables, Peretz joined Israel's Labor Party and made a name for himself as the firebrand chairman of the powerful Histadrut labor union. In 2005 Peretz became leader of the Labor Party, and in 2006 he joined the coalition government led by the Kadima Party. Peretz was appointed Defense Minister by Prime Minister Olmert, notwithstanding his non-combat, military credentials, and the Israeli public chuckled. During the subsequent Second Lebanon War, Peretz became a laughingstock throughout the world when photographed trying to look through capped binoculars. Peretz left the Defense Ministry in 2007, and his tenure there was largely forgotten until Israel's 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense, when Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket system neutralized attacks from Gaza against Israel's southern cities. Iron Dome saved dozens of civilian lives, prevented massive infrastructure destruction, and also enabled Israel to avoid entering Gaza with its land forces. Peretz? No one in Israel is now snickering. As Defense Minister, Peretz championed development of Iron Dome, despite senior defense officials' objections to massive expenditures on the system.

Bottom line, as I can personally attest: Combat experience as a "grunt," albeit noble, does not necessarily provide the makings of an effective secretary of defense.

Although I disagree with much of what Bill Keller writes in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Chuck Hagel’s War" (, Keller pointedly observes:

"Politicians, no less than generals, can be blinkered by experience. Vietnam made a whole generation wary of any interventions, however justified. Bill Clinton, who never fought but who was shaped by the catastrophe of Vietnam, took a lot of persuading before he did the right thing in Bosnia. He has said of his failure to send troops to stop the genocide in Rwanda that 'we just blew it.' This tendency to recoil from conflict was called 'Vietnam syndrome,' and Hagel may have the symptoms."

It is the responsibility of the secretary of defense to prepare the military to fight to the best of its ability, so as to enable the secretary of state to talk convincingly and avoid war. Or, as Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Regrettably, the Hagel nomination has conveyed to Iran the message that Obama is backing away from a fight (see:, which ultimately will result in a nasty fight.

With respect to talking with your enemies, sure, it's always wise to give dialogue a chance, particularly when you carry that big stick. However, you also need to know when talk is going nowhere. The P5+1 has already talked for more than a year with Iran concerning its nuclear ambitions with no results to show for their efforts.

Chamberlain also talked with Hitler.

In addition, as I have noted in the past, it is indeed important to prevent psychopaths from obtaining Bushmasters and indulging themselves in mass murders. However, why is it that so many people who favor strict gun control don't seem to care if a rabid Iran, which hangs homosexuals, stones women to death, persecutes Baha'is, oppresses Kurds, threatens Israel with annihilation, bankrolls Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, and funds terrorist acts around the globe, gets hold of the bomb and holds the world hostage?

Hagel was the wrong choice.

1 comment:

  1. Hagel's nomination borders on comical. Or rather it would be hilarious, if ...

    I would to add one comment. So called "progressives" tend to babble about the Ministry of Peace. We don't need this Ministry of Defense, we don't need defense, just Ministry of Peace. I am not surprised that Hagel is nominated by our progressive President, just scared.

    About these gun control people - they are logical - if we ban guns in this bad, imperial U.S., there will peace everywhere.
    It's not true that some ugly things happen somewhere else, but even if they happen now, they will stop the moment we ban guns in the U.S. See, it makes sense.

    Again, I preparing myself and learning Arabic, just in case better traditions of Islam win and I'll be able to spend the coming years as a dhimmmi and not as a very cold dead body.