'Anti-Israel' Hagel and Bush-era Brennan

Is it a tactical move to build bridges with his Congressional opposition, or simply the selection of a candidate whose views closely mirror his foreign policy perspectives?

Either way, U.S. President Barack Obama’s gambit in picking the Republican moderate Charles “Chuck” Hagel as his nominee for Defence Secretary in his second-term is poised to run into serious roadblocks, and could leave the President in a morass of nomination-frustration even before his inauguration.

The President’s pick for another top role that could shape America’s covert offensive prowess, the Directorship of the Central Intelligence Agency, is also likely to come under fire from Mr. Obama’s more liberal support base.

Torture endorsement

His intention to elevate his counterterrorism advisor and former CIA Station Chief, John Brennan, has raised eyebrows as some consider Mr. Brennan to have played a central role in the second George W. Bush term’s tacit endorsement of torture and rendition programmes in the War on Terror.

Mr. Hagel — a former Senator from Nebraska and Purple Heart-awarded Vietnam War veteran — has earned the wrath of his colleagues in the Grand Old Party for what some have labelled his anti-Israel views; his willingness to negotiate with Iran rather than challenge it militarily; and, relevant to his future career as Defence Secretary, his belief that the Pentagon’s budget is “bloated”.

After suffering injuries when his armoured personnel carrier hit a land mine in Vietnam, Mr. Hagel is said to have contemplated “the horrors he had experienced during combat” and later said to his biographer, “If I ever get out, if I ever can influence anything, I will do all I can to prevent war... War is a terrible thing. There’s no glory, only suffering.”

Against troop surge

Mr. Hagel went on to oppose the troop surge in Iraq and “similarly opposed Obama’s surge in Afghanistan and called for deep cuts in defence spending”. Further, he called for U.S. negotiations with the Hamas in Palestine, and voted against some Iran sanctions.

‘Bloated’ budget

While he has on record criticised unnecessary items on a “bloated” U.S. defence budget, attacks against his views in this regard may be blunted by the looming budget deficit and its potential implications for the economy.

Under the second Obama administration, there are prospects for drastic cuts in the military funding for fighter aircraft, tanks, submarines, and nuclear weapons as opposed to drones and other intelligence-related technology.

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