Consider Hagel

Chuck HagelThe 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.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Consider Hagel

  1. When, recently, Republicans rejected a plea by none other than Bob Dole to certify a UN resolution supporting rights for people with disabilities, a co-worker asked me "why?" Who could, possibly, be against rights for people with disabilities? Or against an utterly non-binding resolution in favor of such rights? It’s like being against "National Red-Heads Are People Too" day.

    The UN, flawed and impotent though it is (and perhaps always was doomed to be) does represent something real and anathema to neocons. The idea, simply, that there should be some standard by which the morality of international aggression is judged, aside from "might makes right."

    In other words, nations should not be invaded nor their governments overthrown because United Fruit, or ITT, or the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) wishes it so be so.

    This is why Republicans hate the UN with unbridled fury. The argument they commonly use is wanting to protect "US sovereignty," the same reason they whip out to reject international climate agreements. (They do not, of course, reject international trade agreements that make it hard for the US to, say, impose tariffs on nations which abuse or enslave workers.) None of this has anything to do with protecting American national security, as we know.

    The debate these days is not, however, about the UN or the concept of international law/morality. It is, I fear, between those who believe the US should act to support business interests whenever feasible and those who believe the US should act to support business interests whenever possible.

    The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were only failures if one looks at casualties (ours/theirs) and economic destruction (there/here.) If one looks at the profit windfall garnered by specific military contractors, both campaigns were an unqualified success.

    The Obama camp is strictly 1950’s — US power should be used, if and when we want, to further US economic and strategic interests. The neocons will have none of this; America, as a nation of people or center of enterprise, is a meaningless concept to them. They see war (and government in general) as a means of transferring wealth to the most influential campaign donors (in their terms, from the unimportant to the deserving.) Anything that gets in Halliburton’s way (to pick one master of electoral bribery from a ten-barrel hat) offends their vision of "America," ultimately an ethereal ideal of naked power worship.

    Hence, the hatred of pragmatists like Hagel. Hence the rejection of something so seemingly innocuous as that UN resolution Dole (to his credit) supported.

    Naked power worship, in whatever form, refuses to accept that good can come from any other method or philosophy. Fundamentalist religion must insist that crimes it commits are not crimes and virtues possible outside of its rule are not virtues. The same with true-believing, market-worshipping neocons. If rights for the disabled are a worthy goal, than somehow bolstering corporate power (including the power to make war for corporate benefit) will ensure them. If not, they were unworthy of being ensured.

    I hate to be so long-winded. Yet you have written, more than once, about how you feel Republicans to have no ideology save sheer power worship. I don’t disagree, but I’d argue that power worship is, in itself, an ideology.

    I know and respect people who believe that, collectively, the mass of American business leaders and wealthy individuals are smarter and wiser and better-equipped to run a nation than the mass of American workers. I disagree, strongly, but I sense they have the country’s best interests at heart. (And when the ones I know see that a policy has been ruinous, they want it changed — although they take suggestions for change from similarly inclined business leaders and wealthy individuals, naturally.)

    The neocons — this fanatic breed — would damn not only every worker but every business leader and wealthy individual to boot if merely one had more money and political influence than any other. All, frighteningly, in the name of an ideological fixation that can really only be described as terminal. Whether or not it works does not matter; it is right. It must be pursued, to the end. "Holy wars," William Buckley wrote in his principled NR issue denouncing the drug war, "do not have to be won to be successful."

    Too bad that verbose and intelligent man lacked enough sense to realize those words described everything wrong about the broader movement he championed. Then again, if he had, he wouldn’t have been a hero of the American far right — just another bright guy in a broad sea of bright gals and guys who tilt at windmills. Emoticon time . . . ;)

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