15 January 2013

Chuck Hagel controversy and beyond

There is so much that was already said about the Hagel's nomination that the hearings in his case could be canceled in favor of quick ballot, I would suggest. In any case it seems that the nominee will pass the ballot fairly easily, judging by the balance of power in the Senate.

The concern about Hagel as the future secretary of defense is shared by both right- and left-wing people who care about Israel, Iran, the appropriate way to conduct USA affairs in view of threats from several directions etc. As proof I can offer the excellent essay on the subject by Joshuapundit, a short one by Texas Scribbler and, on the other side of the political spectrum, two articles by A. Jay Adler: The Hagelian Dialectic and Why Obama Hearts Hagel. (While I suspect that some of the mentioned above will not be too happy to coexist on one page, there is no chance of physical contact between them and, especially, between them an me in the near future.) So read all of that.

I am not exactly disagreeing with the thrust of their concerns. It is that, in my opinion, focus on Hagel* is serving a wrong purpose, obscuring at least two other real problems. One of those is the fact that the person behind the nomination, Barack Obama, is the commander in chief and that the buck doesn't really stop at the table of secretary of defense. As AJA himself rightly remarks:

About Hagel’s ultimate influence over Israel policy, a best case scenario might recall Obama’s obvious desire to surround himself in his cabinet with varied figures of name and stature, among whom he will still make his own final decision.
I strongly suspect that it is the only scenario, and the most important decisions, including a possibility of withholding military assistance from Israel in the time of need (Texas Scribbler) will not be made by the secretary of defense. So neither the man (Hagel) nor his future behavior should be of too much concern - it is the person who nominated him who should stay in the focal point of the worriers. And for another good reason - and the other real problem. Which is the whole new team that will be, most probably, working together with and surround the POTUS for the next four years.

It is the team in general, more than any single particular choice, that is extremely perturbing. So far the only article that shows the broader view of Obama's nominations: Defense, State Dept, CIA - comes from a harsh and pessimistic (my kind of people) article by prof Barry Rubin: Noxious Nominations: The Four Horsemen of the American Foreign Policy Apocalypse.

Yeah - to make sure, Rubin's count of four includes Obama himself. But the three Obama's nominees: John Kerry, John Brennan** and Chuck Hagel are very much the center of his attention in that piece. I will paste here a fairly long passage from the article that summarizes his view of the "troika", but I strongly recommend to read all of it for its devastating impact:
Their ideas and views are horrible. This is especially so on Middle Eastern issues but how good are they on anything else? True, they are all hostile to Israel but this isn’t the first time people who think that way held high office. Far worse is that they are pro-Islamist as well as being dim-witted about U.S. interests in a way no foreign policy team has been in the century since America walked onto the world stage.

Brennan is no less than the father of the pro-Islamist policy. What Obama is saying is this: My policy of backing Islamists has worked so well, including in Egypt, that we need to do even more! All those analogies to 1930s’ appeasement are an understatement. Nobody in the British leadership said, “I have a great idea. Let’s help fascist regimes take power and then they’ll be our friends and become more moderate! That’s the equivalent of what Brennan does.

--They are all stupid people. Some friends said I shouldn’t write this because it is a subjective judgment and sounds mean-spirited. But honest, it’s true. Nobody would ever say that their predecessors—Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and David Petraeus—were not intelligent and accomplished. But these guys are simply not in that category. Smart people can make bad judgments; regular people with common sense often make bad judgments. But stupid, arrogant people with terrible ideas are a disaster.
It doesn't look good, does it? And if you came to a conclusion that this post (or, indeed, prof Rubin's article) are written having in mind solely Israeli interests, you couldn't be more wrong. A quartet like this could indeed bring the United States of America to a disaster in these four oh so long years.

And I only wish that more people heeded the grim prophecy of this:
When it comes to Obama Administration foreign policy’s damage on the world and on U.S. interests one can only say, like the great singer Al Jolson, folks, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Too bad.

(*) Another reason not to worry too much about Hagel is that, according to the interesting article by Bret Stephens: Chuck Hagel's Courage (hat tip to Texas Scribbler), Hagel the politician is very much a chameleon, changing his views quite easily:
In each case, Mr. Hagel was articulating a view that was exactly in keeping with received Beltway wisdom. In each case, he was subsequently disproved by events. In no case was Mr. Hagel ever held to any kind of account for being wrong. In no case did he hold himself to account for being wrong.
While not particularly complimentary to the man, the quote above only strengthens what AJA said about Obama's decision-making process: Hagel will be only too happy to carry out the chief's wishes.

As for his alleged antisemitic leaning - I wouldn't be too hasty. Some people are indeed overusing this old stick. As long as even ADL is quiet on the subject and "Jews in Nebraska on both sides of Hagel’s confirmation fight emphatically refute the charge", I would advise to drop this line of attack. If Hagel himself sometimes mixes Jews in general with Israelis in particular, this by itself is not yet a sign of anti-Semitism.

(**) In my humble opinion it is Mr Brennan who should be of the most serious concern to Obama, compared to the other two. There are too many cases in history when incomplete or skewed (or both) information was provided to the decision makers or when information was withheld from the latter for political reasons or because of political views held by the intelligence chiefs. Rubin is fully aware of this. Is Obama?


yitzgood said...

I appreciate it, but the link on the words "excellent essay" points to a Joshuapundit article, not a Judeopundit one.

yitzgood said...

Hagel has a case of Pat Buchannan syndrome: The subject of Jews provokes certain nativist-isolationist feelings of irritation in him. That's not exactly anti-Semitism, but he isn't exactly a friend of either the Jews or the US military. But yes, the real problem is the new post-election Obama, not Hagel.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Oops... sorry, Yitzchak, but it shows you are in my thoughts.

SnoopyTheGoon said...


Dick Stanley said...

Thanks for the link. But I admit to being more worried about Morsi's latest charge. I mean, really now, did y'all steal $50 billion worth of sand from Sinai? And how would they calculate that, exactly?

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Thanks for the tip, I am looking it up.

Noga said...

Even more depressing than I had imagined ...

SnoopyTheGoon said...