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Friday, January 11, 2013

Krauthammer on the meaning of Hagel

Here's Charles Krauthammer on the meaning of the Chuck Hagel nomination to be Secretary of Defense.
So what’s going on? Message-sending. Obama won reelection. He no longer has to trim, to appear more moderate than his true instincts. He has the “flexibility” to be authentically Obama.

Hence the Hagel choice: Under the guise of centrist bipartisanship, it allows the president to leave the constrained first-term Obama behind and follow his natural Hagel-like foreign policy inclinations. On three pressing issues, in particular:


Hagel himself doesn’t matter. He won’t make foreign policy. Obama will run it out of the White House even more tightly than he did in the first term. Hagel’s importance is the message his nomination sends about where Obama wants to go. The lessons are being duly drawn. Iran’s official media have already cheered the choice of what they call this “anti-Israel” nominee. And they fully understand what his nomination signals regarding administration resolve about stopping them from going nuclear.
The rest of the world can see coming the Pentagon downsizing — and the inevitable, commensurate decline of U.S. power. Pacific Rim countries will have to rethink reliance on the counterbalance of the U.S. Navy and consider acquiescence to Chinese regional hegemony. Arab countries will understand that the current rapid decline of post-Kissinger U.S. dominance in the region is not cyclical but intended to become permanent.
Hagel is a man of no independent stature. He’s no George Marshall or Henry Kissinger. A fringe senator who left no trace behind, Hagel matters only because of what his nomination says about Obama.
However the Senate votes on confirmation, the signal has already been sent. Before Election Day, Obama could only whisper it to his friend Dmitry. Now, with Hagel, he’s told the world.

Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Project at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies agrees that Hagel's appointment may constitute a shift toward containment in Obama's Iran policy.

“Without economic hardship and the threat of attack on its facilities, why should Iran negotiate? If it can reach its goal on its own, why would it want to make a deal that means giving up that goal, unless it was suffering and afraid of attack? This is where Obama’s choice for secretary of defense – Chuck Hagel – becomes relevant to the debate,” said Landau.
Landau wondered whether the choice of Hagel reflected a move by the second Obama administration toward containment as an acceptable position vis-a-vis a nuclear Iran. Containment is a stance that is in direct contradiction to Obama’s statements on Iran made in March 2012, when the American president vowed to prevent a nuclear Iran, rather than contain it.
Should the appointment signify a change, “Israel’s uncertainty as far as its ability to trust that Obama has ‘its back’ on the Iranian nuclear issue would prove to have been well-founded.
“Moreover, it would be a sad day for nuclear non-proliferation and American leadership on crucial international security issues,” Landau added.


Two months after the US elections, President Obama has shown no urgency in pushing forward with the Iran issue, Landau said, citing remarks he made in mid-November about getting back to talks with Tehran “in the coming months.” There are no signs of progress on US-Iran bilateral talks, or on discussions between the P5+1 countries and Iran.

Some of us tried to warn that this was coming. But 70% of American Jews decided that they knew better or didn't care enough. If you're Jewish and you voted for Obama, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. You've put the lives of six million of your brethren at risk, God forbid.

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