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Coats Opposes Hagel

5:20 PM, Feb 1, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Senator Dan Coats delivered these remarks on the floor of the Senate in opposition to Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense:

I have reviewed the 130 pages of answers submitted by Senator Hagel in response to policy questions presented by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

Based on his written answers, it’s clear that he is willing to execute the policies established and endorsed by the president.

But the idea that he contributes what the president has described as a ‘bipartisan balance’ to consideration of these critical issues is absurd. 

It is obvious that I and many of my Republican colleagues disagree with many of the views and policy positions taken by the Administration and Senator Hagel. All of this is to be expected. Most policy differences should not be sufficient reason to oppose a nomination of a president’s preferred cabinet appointment. Elections have consequences and a president has a right to his own advisors.

However, this usual tolerance of alternative views has its limits. For me, the limit is when a nominee for such a high position as the secretary of defense holds a point of view that places the United States in greater danger. I believe this is the case with this nominee.

Senator Hagel’s views about the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the best way to counter that threat are significantly inconsistent with my own; inconsistent with America’s responsibilities at this moment in history; and inconsistent with the security needs of our country and the survival of our friends.  

I have been focused on the Iranian nuclear threat for more than five years. After I left my position as ambassador to Germany and returned to the private sector, I joined former Senator Chuck Robb in co-chairing a project on Iran at the Bipartisan Policy Center. 

This organization has been on the frontlines of those ringing the alarm bells about Iran.  We issued our first report in 2008 entitled, “Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy toward Iranian Nuclear Development.”  I was involved in producing a second, more urgent report in 2009 entitled, “Meeting the Challenge: Time is Running Out.” 

After I left the Bipartisan Policy Center and returned to the Senate, the organization produced two more reports on the subject, each more urgent than the last, and each demanding clearer, more vigorous and determined U.S. policy to avert this danger. 

Each year since the beginning of my involvement in this Bipartisan Policy Committee project, I have become increasingly worried about Iran’s continuing irresponsible and dangerous behavior, and the administration’s inconsistent, unsure policies to respond to the growing threat. 

Preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capability is the most urgent matter facing U.S. and international security. The consequences of a nuclear weapons-capable Iran are not tolerable, not acceptable, and must motivate the most powerful and effective efforts possible to prevent it from happening.

Based on his record as a U.S. senator and subsequent public statements, I do not believe Senator Hagel agrees with this assessment.

Since returning to the Senate, I have joined many colleagues in pressing for a robust, comprehensive, three-track effort to raise the stakes for the Iranian regime and compel it to live up to its commitments and halt its weapons program.

The first track is enhanced diplomatic efforts. We have pressed the administration to create, invigorate, and motivate a much enhanced international coalition devoted to the same objective: to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. 

This does not mean simply repeated outreaches to the Iranian regime itself to engage them in dialogue. The Obama administration came into office promising such discussions, but this has gone nowhere, nor have any other diplomatic efforts, either unilateral or multilateral. All such diplomatic efforts have failed in achieving the goal of preventing Iran from its continuous and relentless pursuit of developing nuclear weapons. 

Senator Hagel, whose life story brings him to a justifiable reliance on dialogue before force – a preference we all share – has, in my opinion, an exaggerated and unrealistic belief in what dialogue and diplomacy can accomplish. This is especially so when the dialogue partner is a revolutionary regime of zealots with a self-declared historical mission, rather than rational leaders of a nation state.   

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