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Matt Duss sees the strategy behind their repellent anti-Semite slurs. On assessing foreign policy these past few years:

Hagel’s record shows that he was ahead of the curve. Though he voted for the Iraq war, he was one of its earliest and most rigorous critics. Unlike Senator John McCain and other neoconservative supporters of the war, however, who continue to cling to what Georges_DantonMatt Yglesias and Sam Rosenfeld termed (in an influential 2005 article in the Prospect) the “incompetence dodge”—the war was the right choice, but badly executed—Hagel was willing to face up to the fact that the Iraq war was a strategic failure, one that significantly empowered America’s enemies and dramatically undercut America’s influence in the region. The fact that this view is now held by a strong majority of Americans—as well, interestingly, by Israeli leaders across the political spectrum—only seems to make neocons madder.

On the issue of Iran, Hagel has been calling for talks with the country since 2001, a position that Obama successfully defended as a candidate and implemented as policy when he became president. Again, the fact that a broad majority of Americans now see this approach as the correct one only seems to enrage Hagel’s critics all the more.

Hagel's journey has been very similar to my own, in response to the same set of damning facts over the same period of time – and we have both been smeared as Jew-haters for our response to empirical reality. For those reasons, perhaps I am overly fond of Hagel – because he represents a future, reality-based, non-group-think conservatism that can rid itself of the neocon cancer. And that's why Obama's possible selection of him for secretary of defense would not just broaden the range of views within the cabinet on military intervention, but could begin to craft a post-neocon conservatism in foreign policy, where defense – and not hegemonic offense – is the core American value.

(Photo: Getty Images. Painting: Georges Danton, referring to this post.)