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Monday, December 31, 2012

Why liberals should oppose Chuck Hagel

At the New Republic, David Greenberg explains why liberals are making a mistake by supporting Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary.
The reasons why liberals should oppose Hagel are numerous. In the senate, he failed to distinguish himself except as John McCain’s Mini-Me (before Lindsay Graham assumed the role), a fairly conventional Republican who curried favor with the news media by striking a few maverick poses. Notoriously, he made an obnoxious reference to James Hormel, a Clinton-era ambassadorial nominee, as “aggressively gay” (Hagel apologized the other day, but Hormel remains unpersuaded). Then, too, it’s high time that Democrats stopped perpetuating the myth that they need a Republican to Defense to afford them certification as tough on national security.
Franklin Roosevelt, seeking bipartisan unity in a time of world war, might be forgiven for appointing the eminent Henry L. Stimson as Secretary of War, and the subsequent choices of Robert McNamara, William Cohen, and Bob Gates can also be rationalized (OK, maybe not McNamara). But after an election campaign in which the Democrat was widely deemed to be far more proficient in foreign policy than his Republican rival, the decision to award this seat, of all Cabinet positions, to the opposition is especially foolhardy. Put Hagel at Veterans Affairs if you must. 
Of course, none of these is the reason that the GOP foreign policy establishment has thrown obstacles in front of Hagel—or bestowed laurels upon Flournoy. The real reason, or the main reason, is that despite approving the Iraq War authorization in 2002, Hagel later broke with Bush and the GOP on the thrust of their Middle East policy, including their continued hawkishness on the Iraq war, their hard line against Iran and Hamas, and their staunch support for Israel. Simply put, Hagel’s stated positions on Iran, Israel, and other key issues deeply worry many Republicans. (They also trouble no small number of liberal Democrats, including me.)
Conservatives have thus come to oppose Hagel for the most sincere of reasons while promoting Flournoy for deeply cynical, if not perverse, ones. In contrast, many on the left have come to cheerlead for Hagel for an even more cynical and more perverse reason: the nature of his enemies.
Since the Iraq War, a sizable and apparently growing segment of the liberal punditocracy has lost its way on foreign policy. Politicians and writers on the left, including many liberals, have been so repulsed by the Bush administration’s policies abroad that they have often assumed, almost reflexively, that whatever Bush and the Fox News crowd favored was ipso facto wrong and its opposite ipso facto correct. This delusion seemed to turn many progressives into sour realists, intent on abdicating any American leadership role in the world, even a liberal and humane one. It especially infected their thinking on the Middle East, where they have been slow to recognize the dangers of Islamists like Recep Erdogan in Turkey and Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, eager to minimize the dangers of a nuclear Iran, and, in the case of one strain of progressives, displaying the inordinate animus towards Israel that was once confined to the far left, in places like the Nation and the Village Voice, but now finds a home on the New York Times op-ed page and other mainstream liberal outlets.
It is this same perversity of thinking that has led too many liberals to fall in love with Hagel.
Read the whole thing.

What Greenberg misses (or decided not to mention) is that in a way, the Hagel nomination is a perfect symbol for the Obama administration. After all, since the day he took office, so much of what Obama has done been without any rational thought, just to prove he's not George W. Bush.

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