It seems that during yesterday’s nomination hearing of Sen. Chuck Hagel before the Senate Armed Services Committee, many Senators were more interested in grandstanding than actually concentrating on real national security concerns. Time after time, question after question, Sen. Hagel was asked to clarify past comments . While these are legitimate concerns, did we really need eight repetitive hours on these few topics?
Members of the committee missed a real chance to find out just what the nominee thinks on some of the other most important issues the next Secretary of Defense will face. What is his view of the Department of Defense’s role in ongoing targeted killing and drone operations? How would he assist the President in fulfilling his long-overdue promise to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay? How does he plan to lead the military as the nation transitions out of a decade of war? How can the administration continue to defend the use of military commissions to bring terrorism suspects to justice when two out of only seven convictions were just recently thrown out?
Hagel’s past positions are important, but perhaps the senators should also be concerned by the current lack of transparency in targeted killing, or the fact that civil society and freedoms in Bahrain, the home of America’s fifth-fleet, are currently eroding.
As Senator Hagel himself wrote in a 2008 Washington Monthly feature, “ …in our effort to protect the nation, we must remember our greatest strength: the principles of human rights that we have upheld throughout our country’s wars and conflicts. It is vital that the world can trust what we say and have confidence in what we do.” The Senate Armed Services Committee missed an opportunity to find out how the nominee plans to promote these American ideals and hold him to this account.