REPUBLICANS in the U.S. Senate are wrong to filibuster the confirmation of Chuck Hagel as U.S. secretary of defense. They should let a vote go forward without delay, and confirm him.
Hagel is a former member of their caucus, and on matters of war the two-term senator from Nebraska was the most levelheaded among them. He saw combat in Vietnam and was twice wounded.
He knows war. He knows how war so often turns out much more painfully than the visions of the keyboard belligerents who promote it. Hagel was the first Republican in the Senate to come out against the Iraq war, and he was right.
Sen. John McCain, who ought to know better, now badgers Hagel for doubting the “surge” in Iraq. Wasn’t it a success? Short term, it was, just as President Nixon’s bombing in Vietnam was. Long term, it is unlikely the surge made any difference in Iraq. That country has it own political culture. So does Afghanistan.
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The Senate obstructionists want an America with more boldness and resolve. Sometimes that’s what a country needs. Not now. Our government has been bold on bad advice. Its resolve has become an unwillingness to see. Our leaders need to think more and shoot less.
There is also the matter of federal spending. The budget is still $900 million out of balance almost four years after the recession’s official end. Spending has to come down, and that includes the military. Hagel understands that.
Our Democratic president ran in 2008 as an opponent of the Iraq war. In practice, President Obama was not nearly as skeptical of war, especially in Afghanistan, as many of his supporters hoped. With Hagel, the president has a chance to pursue a more cautious policy about overseas military commitments and focus on reform and recovery at home.