The Neocons Rally Against Hagel, Ctd

Peter Feaver argues that that "battle over Hagel is a battle over the meaning of Iraq":

The debate over the historical meaning of Iraq matters because it has such obvious implications for the analogous challenge with Iran. Many of the pro-Hagel supporters openly acknowledge that they hope Hagel's pick signals that the President is willing to abandon the military option in dealing with Iran, for much the same reasons that they argue the option was disastrous in Iraq. President Obama has not publicly connected those dots, but I expect he will be challenged to explain whether that interpretation makes sense in the days to come.

And I expect him to keep his options open. Reihan explains why he remains a neocon who wants more of a neo-imperial presence across the globe:

I object to Hagel primarily because I see him as a faithful adherent to President Obama’s approach to foreign and defense policy and I disagree with what I take to be the president’s approach. Like Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan, for example, I believe that the U.S. should have made more of an effort to retain a sizable military presence in Iraq. And though I support cuts to some defense expenditures, e.g., I favor an overhaul of personnel policies to more effectively deploy human capital and resources across the military … I also support the recapitalization of the armed forces, and I believe that defense expenditures should have been a central part of fiscal stimulus efforts.

"Recapitalization of the armed forces". And where will that money come from? Frum fears – yes, fears – that Hagel would prevent another Middle East war:

[H]e would have substantial control over the information, advice, and policy options available to the person who does determine foreign policy. Suppose a president were to request an assessment of a hypothetical strike on Iran. Suppose the secretary of defense delivers to him a plan requiring the insertion of US ground forces into Iranian cities to be sure of destroying relevant facilities. That "plan" is as much a veto of a strike as any decision. Donald Rumsfeld enabled the Iraq war by producing estimates it could be won with as few as 135,000 troops. Had he instead on 300,000, the war would not have occurred: it would have seemed too heavy a lift. (As indeed it proved.) A Secretary Hagel could similarly thwart policies he disapproved of by magnifying their cost and difficulty. That's why his views matter, and that's why it's so disingenuous to claim they do not.

I take the point that the defense secretary is an important voice at the table. But I've seen no feasible plan that could accurately target Iran's nuclear sites without boots on the ground, and all that entails. And is David actually using Rummy's utopian over-ruling of Shinseki as a reason to oppose someone who will precisely not engage in such wishful thinking? Does David really want a defense secretary who will always lean in favor of intervention – even after the catastrophes of Iraq and Afghanistan?

It's as if the Iraq war never happened, isn't it? Which is why the three most powerful attributes of the neocons are amnesia, ignorance and denial.

AIPAC Won’t Fight Hagel?

Goldblog made the calculation, staying politically neutral (which is itself a political decision for him to retain access with both the Obama administration and the American Jewish Establishment):

I’m not so sure AIPAC will be throwing itself into this fight.

The less compromised Beinart puts the decision in context:

It’s easy to exaggerate how big a defeat all this is for AIPAC. The Hagel nomination isn’t a good test of AIPAC’s strength precisely because it’s a cabinet nomination—a topic on which presidents usually get their way. It’s much easier for AIPAC to rally members of Congress behind resolutions that limit the Obama administration’s room to maneuver on actual policy questions, where opposing the president doesn’t look like such a direct slap in the face. (It’s also easier for the Israeli government to lobby Congress on policy questions like settlement growth and Iran sanctions than on cabinet appointments.) Furthermore, the Hagel struggle hasn’t been a complete loss for hawkish Jewish groups. His political near-death experience may leave Hagel more cautious when it comes to U.S.-Israel relations than he would have been otherwise (though I doubt that means he’ll turn hawkish on Iran).

I’ll wait and see. I don’t see the Greater Israel lobby ever taking a pass to defend the settlements or advance a new war in the Middle East. What I’m interested in is whether Senators, in discussing the nuclear balance in the Middle East, will ever mention Israel’s hundreds of nuclear warheads, pointed at Iran. At some point, portraying Greater Israel as merely a victim stretches credulity.

Hewitt Award Nominee

"I'm sure that the Arabs are drinking orange juice and toasting Hagel’s good health," – former New York mayor, Ed Koch, on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to head the Pentagon.

Note his use of the phrase "the Arabs." One amorphous entity. Do you think any public figure could use the equally foul term "the Jews" when discussing those with whom he disagrees? Or do you think he'd be called a bigot – and deserve to be?

Kristol vs Hagel: Flashback II


A quote from 2002 worth re-reading today:

"If disarmament in Iraq requires the use of force, we need to consider carefully the implications and consequences of our actions. The future of Iraq after Saddam Hussein is also an open question. Some of my colleagues and some American analysts now speak authoritatively of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in Iraq, and how Iraq can be a test case for democracy in the Arab world. How many of us really know and understand much about Iraq, the country, the history, the people, the role in the Arab world? I approach the issue of post-Saddam Iraq and the future of democracy and stability in the Middle East with more caution, realism and a bit more humility… Imposing democracy through force in Iraq is a roll of the dice. A democratic effort cannot be maintained without building durable Iraqi political institutions and developing a regional and international commitment to Iraq's reconstruction. No small task."

Now let's take a look at the record of Bill Kristol, who, unlike Hagel, didn't serve in uniform. Here's how he attacked Hagel at the time:

Iraq's uncertain future, as opposed to its totalitarian present, has become the principle [sic] concern of many realists. "What comes after a military invasion?" Senator Chuck Hagel would like to know. "Who rules Iraq? Does the United States really want to be in Baghdad, trying to police Baghdad for twenty or thirty years?" … Predictions of ethnic turmoil in Iraq are even more questionable than they were in the case of Afghanistan. Unlike the Taliban, Saddam has little support among any ethnic group, Sunnis included, and the Iraqi opposition is itself a multi-ethnic force…

[T]he executive director of the Iraq Foundation, Rend Rahim Francke, says, "we will not have a civil war in Iraq. This is contrary to Iraqi history, and Iraq has not had a history of communal conflict as there has been in the Balkans or in Afghanistan…"

Which one would you trust to have input on foreign policy in the coming years? A pro-Greater Israel fanatic who has been proven definitively wrong about almost everything in the past decade? Or one of a handful of senators who stood up against the tide for war and his own party and asked all the questions I didn't?

(Photo via TPM: "Chuck Hagel and his brother Tom sit on an armored personnel carrier in Vietnam in 1968. More photos here.")

Why Hagel Matters, Ctd


In one of their more desperate moves, the neocons, who have shown zero interest in the plight of gay servicemembers in the past, decided to play the gay card. Some of them may even have shoveled money at the Log Cabin Republicans to get them to reverse position on the Purple Heart Republican (LCR won't tell who financed the Hagel smear ad in the NYT). But the reality is that Hagel has clearly evolved, which again offers an opportunity, not a threat:

The charges of Hagelian insensitivity to gay rights, based on several of past votes and one 1990s comment, have largely evaporated. Hagel, like most of the country, has “evolved” on the issue. If the question comes up in the hearings, it will be as a coming out party for  acceptance of the gay rights revolution by the Republican establishment. Those who have  been involved in the struggle will cheer, as indeed will many who have done no more than observe, often skeptically, from the sidelines.

It seems to me that politically-attuned gays, far from engaging in AIPAC-style smearing, should be thrilled to see a Republican military figure openly backing open gay military service as a nominee for defense secretary. He's a blow both to the neocons and the Christianists. Which, believe it or not, is why many of us supported Obama in the first place: a voice of reason against the fanaticism, utopianism and cant of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld years.

(Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) during a personnel announcement in the East Room at the White House on January 7, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama has nominated Hagel for the next Secretary of Defense and Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan to become the new director of the CIA. By Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Quote For The Day

“Hagel’s critics have helpfully informed us that Paul Wolfowitz considers someone else a better choice. Were Dick Cheney and Paul Bremer not available for advice? ” – Jim Fallows.

Let me add that this nomination is actually, in my view, a strike against anti-Semitism. For it’s highly reckless to throw that epithet around so promiscuously on such flimsy grounds simply because of a difference of opinion on foreign policy. The more the neocons’ self-serving trivialization of real anti-Semitism is ignored, the sooner we may get to the point of identifying actual anti-Semitism and its poisons.