The most surprising criticism that I’ve heard against Chuck Hagel as potential Secretary of Defense is that he is to the left of President Obama on the issues of foreign affairs. I don’t even know that this is true. I suspect it is just that Hagel is to the left of the president in some ways and that is enough to label him a flaming liberal. But here’s my question: isn’t it the president’s decision as to whether Hagel is too far to the left of him? Because that is the issue. The assumption of this line of argument is that the president is the most liberal man that we can stomach. Unless he chooses to work with people who are more conservative than he is, it is unacceptable.
Matthew Duss writes over at Salon (originally, The American Prospect), Why Are Neocons So Down on Chuck Hagel? He says there are two reasons. First, he says that the neocons want to stop all talk of approaching the Israel-Palestine issue anyway but as we always have. That is: unsuccessfully.
More important that this (and the repellent claim that Hagel is antisemitic), the real issue is that neocons don’t like anyone who claims that the United States should be going to war anywhere and everywhere. And nowhere is more important than Iran. Most recently, John Cornyn has claimed that he will block Hagel’s nomination because Hagel said he wouldn’t put “everything” on the table regarding Iran. Now it turns out that Hagel said no such thing. So this is more random smearing in this very troubling campaign against him. But I have to ask: shouldn’t some things be taken off the table? Isn’t it perhaps a bad idea to start a nuclear war in the name of stopping Iran from maybe trying to get nuclear weapons? Wouldn’t doing that just cause a nuclear arms race in that region of the world?
In the end, I’m not sold on Hagel. There are things I like about him and things I don’t like. But I suspect he would be fairly good at the job. The main thing, as Duss points out, is that we ought to be able to consider him. We certainly shouldn’t disqualify him based upon the people who brought us the worst foreign policy decade in my lifetime.