I was reminded of a few key things today. The first is that the Republican party in Washington has no regrets about the Iraq War. McCain and Butters reveled in the same utter certainty of their moral and strategic high ground today as they did in the run-up to the worst foreign policy mistake since Vietnam, after the worst national security lapse since Pearl Harbor. Sure, we were so negligent we allowed more than 3,000 innocents to be mass-murdered not far from where I am typing this; yes, we reacted to the atrocity by bungling the search for the actual culprits, brutally torturing countless suspects (some to death), and then starting a second war on false grounds that cost a trillion dollars and tens of thousands of American and Iraqi lives. But you, Mr Hagel, were wrong about the surge!
He wasn’t, as I have long argued. The promise of the surge was to buy enough time and peace to get the sectarian mess of post-Saddam Iraq to resolve itself peacefully and form a viable non-sectarian polity. That hasn’t happened. What we have is a Shiite authoritarian government in open conflict with both the Sunnis and the Kurds – and greater Iranian influence in the country. The surge did dampen some violence, but the collapse in mass murder was more a result of a political decision by the Anbar tribes to turn against the Sunni extremists, exhaustion after a long period of ethnic cleansing and segregation, and American money to bribe away the rest. It was a face-saver for a war that had manifestly failed.
Then there is Hagel’s heresy on the question of Israel. Although he is, like most of us, a supporter of the Jewish state, he recoiled in the Senate at the way in which the Greater Israel Lobby choreographs the voting. He just refused to do the necessary grand plié whenever AIPAC’s emissaries came with their bills and resolutions to be rubber-stamped by the Senate. He dared to think outside the box of American foreign policy options called “What The Israeli Far Right Wants”.
He even at one point raised the possibility – are you sitting down? – of containment in foreign policy, the doctrine that guided the Cold War for generations. This puts him waaay outside the mainstream that gave us the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It made him, in James Inhofe’s view, a virtual emissary of the Revolutionary Guards or in Ted Cruz’s fetid brain, an ally of Jihadism. But if you are McCain and Graham and go to a foreign country, Israel, and on foreign soil, side with that country’s prime minister in a diplomatic showdown with your own US president, you are fine and dandy, and any implication that they might be putting another country’s interests above your own is a disgusting anti-Semitic slur. But if you are a Nebraskan war hero who dares to think about containment, rather than a new cycle in a global religious war, you are effectively called an Iranian double-agent in the Senate itself:
“Why do you think the Iranian foreign ministry so strongly supports your nomination to be the Secretary of Defense?”
John Avlon is rightly incensed by this disgusting insinuation – and the whole fracas. But the Senate GOP does not surprise. Even after the catastrophes in Iraq and Afghanistan, neoconservatism in its most paranoid and aggressive form still reigns supreme. We won both wars; we never tortured anyone; there is no such thing as the Greater Israel Lobby and it never intimidates anyone and has never defended any dumb idea (like settling half a million Israelis in a conquered territory). And the proof that the fever still has not broken was Hagel’s dreadful, inarticulate surrender on anything he had ever thought or said. Or as Weigel so delicately put it today:
Lindsey Graham had wanted to know who had ever been spooked by The Lobby and what stupid things they’d done out of panic. The answer was right in front of him, at the witness table.
In the end, they all give in. Or have to pretend to.