A related concern is what I believe to be Senator Hagel’s views about the so-called “containment option.” This is related to his nearly notorious views about nuclear proliferation in general. He has famously said that “the genie of nuclear weapons is already out of the bottle, no matter what Iran does.”
I fear that Senator Hagel holds the mistaken view that a nuclear-armed Iran is more tolerable than the consequences of going to war to prevent it. This is a dangerously corrosive idea.
Indeed, my concern was heightened this morning when Senator Hagel, in testimony before the Armed Services Committee, referred twice to his support for containment. Only when someone handed him a note presumably reminding him that the administration’s formal position did not support containment did he correct himself and say he didn’t support it either.
What are we to conclude relative to what he truly believes and where he actually stands on a number of issues vital to our national security?
The supreme fallacy of the containment option as modified is that it severs the spine of all of our friends and allies who are justifiably appalled by the contemplation of real military action. They will eagerly leap toward a containment option should others fail. But we must all see clearly that, in fact, containment means toleration.
A nuclear weapons-capable Iran that we believe can be contained is one that we are therefore prepared to tolerate. This is an illusion and one that makes our task much harder. If others, especially Iran, but also including our allies and other coalition partners, come to believe that we would consider ever tolerating a nuclear Iran because it can somehow be contained, then none of our efforts to prevent it will work.
This is why a nominee for secretary of defense who is less than firm on this key point is a dangerous choice.
It has been said by Senator Hagel’s supporters that, whatever his personal views and past statements on these important issues, as secretary he will toe the line; he will not be making these basic policies himself. In other words, those of us who find his policies objectionable are encouraged to support the nominee despite his views, not because of them.
I cannot bring myself to support a nominee based on the assumption that his own views will become irrelevant once he is under the policy yoke imposed by the White House.
Finally, the most worrisome consequence of confirming Senator Hagel to be Secretary of defense is something that the Ayatollahs in Tehran and I can agree on: The confirmation will tell the Iranian regime that their fear of US military action in Iran is now unjustified. They can rest more comfortably that their pursuit of nuclear weapons is less likely no to provoke the military option that, until recently, may have seemed more credible.
The Iranians will therefore feel less constrained in pursuing their dangerous nuclear ambitions. That – more than any other reason – is why I am voting no on the Hagel nomination.