Washington could see the most contentious confirmation hearing of Barack Obama's presidency on Thursday, as former Senator Chuck Hagel fights for his chance to be the next Secretary of Defense. At least seven of the 12 members on the Senate Armed Services Committee have expressed some reservations on Hagel's nomination and a few have stated outright that they plan to vote against him. That may not be enough to shut down his appointment, but it could lead to some fireworks today as the Republican committee members get their chance to challenge him directly. Unlike John Kerry, Hagel didn't make a lot of friends during his time in the Senate and will not get the benefit of a rubber-stamp coronation.
So why do his haters want to keep Hagel—a brave enlisted man, a decorated veteran, and a former Senator like themselves—from running the Pentagon? Two reasons, really: Israel and Iran, nations for which Hagel does not appear to share the appropriate level of concern.
For Israel, the problem seems to be that Hagel has in the past seemed indifferent, or worse, openly hostile to Israeli leaders and the "Jewish lobby," as he unfortunately referred to its supporters. With Iran, he apparently hasn't been hostile enough, voting against sanctions several times as a Senator, and arguing that engagement with their government and "containment" of their nuclear program was the better course of action. Obviously, being insufficiently angry with Iran is another sign you don't care enough about Israel, but the intertwined issue of how Hagel feels about our Friends and our Enemies will make up the bulk of the questioning.