Ambassadors’ open letter backs Hagel

Several former U.S. ambassadors to Israel and top diplomats threw their support behind Chuck Hagel to become the next defense secretary, with the below open letter released on Thursday. The surrogate battle over Hagel  -- before President Obama has nominated anyone -- has shifted from conservatives blasting him as too much liberal, too little hawk, to "pro-Israel" advocates concerned that Hagel is, well, not.

"Each of us has known the senator over the past twenty years and has found him invariably one of the best informed leaders in the U.S. Congress on the issues of U.S. national security. Senator Hagel’s credentials for the job are impeccable," write nine ambassadors. "He has invariably demonstrated strong support for Israel and for a two state solution and has been opposed to those who would undermine or threaten Israel’s security."

Read the full letter, below.

December 20, 2012

Ambassadors’ Open Letter:
Senator Hagel Impeccable Choice for Defense Secretary

We support, most strongly and without qualification, President Obama’s reported intention to nominate Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense. Each of us has known the senator over the past twenty years and has found him invariably one of the best informed leaders in the U.S. Congress on the issues of U.S. national security. Senator Hagel’s credentials for the job are impeccable. As a decorated Vietnam veteran, an extremely successful entrepreneur in the private sector and as a two-term senator, he brings unusually high qualifications and experiences to the Department of Defense at this time of budget constraint and challenges to reshape America’s military power while keeping it strong for the coming decades.

Senator Hagel’s political courage has impressed us all. He has stood and argued publicly for what he believes is best for the United States. When he was attacked for opposing the war in Iraq as “unpatriotic,” he replied, “To question your government is not unpatriotic – to not question your government is unpatriotic.”

Time and again he chose to take the path of standing up for our nation over political expediency. He has always supported the pillars of American foreign policy – such as: a strong NATO and Atlantic partnership; a commitment to the security of Israel, as a friend and ally; a determination to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons; and the defense of human rights as a core principle of America’s role in the world.

Each of us has had the opportunity to work with Senator Hagel at one time or another on the issues of the Middle East. He has invariably demonstrated strong support for Israel and for a two
state solution and has been opposed to those who would undermine or threaten Israel’s security.

We can think of few more qualified, more non-partisan, more courageous or better equipped to head the Department of Defense at this critical moment in strengthening America’s role in the world. If he is nominated, we urge the speedy confirmation of Senator Hagel’s appointment.

Sincerely,

Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to NATO and Greece

Ryan Crocker, former Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan

Edward Djerejian, former Ambassador to Israel and Syria

William Harrop, former Ambassador to Israel

Daniel Kurtzer, former Ambassador to Israel and Egypt

Sam Lewis, former Ambassador to Israel

William H. Luers, former Ambassador to Venezuela and Czechoslovakia

Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to Israel and Russia

Frank G. Wisner, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Ambassador to Egypt and India

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Image

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