Why Hagel Matters

Former Senator Chuck Hagel

As I’ve written before, a huge amount of this is opposition to any US defense secretary who doesn’t see Israel as a 51st state or somehow subject to evangelical theological doctrines that over-rule any diplomatic ones. And insofar as Israel is an issue, they particularly oppose a defense secretary who believes that Israel’s continued settlement of the West Bank is a huge liability for the US in its relationship with the entire Muslim and Arab world and a constant recruiting mechanism for terrorists to attack the West. Then there’s Hagel’s deadly combination of two Purple Hearts and a foreign policy realism versus Dick Cheney’s five deferments in Vietnam and “ignorant interventionism”.

But Josh Marshall also notes the broader generational fact that Hagel and Obama do not see the Middle East as the center of America’s security challenges. As our oil independence grows, the relevance of all those oil-producing despotisms or democracies or failed states declines. And so the worldview that was defined as “mainstream” only a few years ago seriously is being challenged:

Hagel in himself is no singular figure. But he’s part of the Scowcroft/Brezinzski et al. running critique of Bush era foreign policy. It’s not just that he didn’t vote for this or that declaration about the Iranian government or doesn’t toe the Likud line on the Israel/Palestine front. He’s one of those people who just don’t think these issues should be the be all and end all of our role in the world at all. And that’s extremely threatening to some people.

Indeed it is. For that is one reason they get up in the morning. I see Hagel’s nomination as the natural evolution of Obama’s slow but relentless shift of US foreign policy from neconservative dogma to conservative pragmatism (with a few small splotches of idealism). Of course, the neocon fanatics are threatened. As history unfolds, their catastrophic ideology will come to seem the temporary and horrifying exception, not the new rule. And when a member of their own party helps advance their consignment to the dustbin of failed ideologies, you can see why they are having a conniption.

Meep meep.

(Photo: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) listens to answers from former two-term Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill Thursday, January 31, 2013. By Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images).