The Hagel Fight

Was it worth it?

Hagel’s errors about the innovations and strategic benefits the surge would provide and his unwillingness to revisit that view suggest our new defense secretary doesn’t have a clue about the key element of 21st-century war and preparedness — counterinsurgency.

But his failure to understand the surge, then and now, pales in comparison to his disastrous ideas about the key foreign-policy challenge facing the United States: a nuclear Iran.

Hagel is and always has been fine with a nuclear Iran, even though Obama says his administration is not. We’re told one of the reasons Obama chose Hagel was that he appreciated his heterodox views on Iran.

It was incumbent upon those of us who believe unthinkable catastrophe will result from a nuclear mullahcracy (and one whose leaders speak of making Israel disappear) to kick up a fuss about Hagel, if for no other reason than to prevent the administration from subtly and quietly downshifting into a policy of “containment.”

Perhaps most important, the nation and the world had to know there was a serious body of opinion in the United States that would not sit idly by in the face of Hagel’s long history of classic anti-Semitic insinuations about Israel’s supposed secret power over Washington’s decision-making process.

This is the worse foreign-policy team since…ever?

45 thoughts on “The Hagel Fight

  1. Michael Gersh

    FDRs Secretaries of War Dern and Woodring were (openly) pacifists whose performances in the run up to the war left us woefully unprepared for the conflict that followed their tenures. His Secretary of State, Cordell Hull spent his eleven years in office forming the United Nations before resigning in 1944. All three had a penchant for hiring Soviet agents to high positions under them.

    Presidents get the cabinet they want, and their picks are a reflection of their own prejudices. Obama likes Hagel and Kerry because, to Obama, incompetence is a feature, not a bug. I think that people who see evil or ideology in Obama are missing the fact that the only ideology Obama believes in is himself. If it is evil to appoint lesser men who will allow presidents more personal power then we have had A LOT of evil men in the White House, and an awful lot of incompetents beneath them as well.

    1. Paul Milenkovic

      There is one small datapoint that supports doubt in the President’s, don’t know if competence is the right word, let’s just say ability to act effectively based on the wisdom that comes with life experience.

      The President has spoken of expecting the “Republican fever to break” on such matters as tax and spending brinksmanship because something to the effect of “they no longer have the reason of trying to prevent my reelection”, hence Republicans will have every motivation to “do the right thing” and support the President’s leadership.

      OK Jim, Chris, Thomas, and others who set the record straight around here, would it be fair to say that there is a grass roots and motivated Conservative/Libertarian/Republican/Tea Party opposition to the President’s policies, and that this opposition is grounded in policy differences and not in to Mr. Obama as a person? For example, Hillary Clinton or one of the Cuomo brothers or even one of our heroes such as Chris Christie would see just as vigorous opposition if they differ on policy?

      Could we not agree that the President combines a certain degree of personal arrogance that the political disagreements are about him and not the policies?

      And for the sake of friendly discussion, suppose I stipulate that the Conservative/Libertarian/Republican/Tea Party opposition is entirely wrong about their view of policy, suppose so wrong as to be treasonous, suppose there is a major political movement that is so outside of reason that they could be the Iranian clerics.

      Mr. President, if the Republicans really are the Iranians, would you not suppose that their opposition is existential to their being, and that your expectation that the Republicans will acquiesce to your 2nd term program is, in the least politically naive?

      Or do you expect the “Iranian regime pursuit of atomic weapons fever to break”, that like in your view of the Republicans, the opposition to reason is mere posturing of which they will tire and come around to do what is the right thing?

      1. Jim

        this opposition is grounded in policy differences and not in to Mr. Obama as a person?

        I think that’s mostly true. But they’ve also made Obama a symbol of policies they don’t like, real and imagined, which makes it difficult for them to cooperate with him no matter what the policy issues are.

        I think Obama is naive to expect Republicans’ “fever” to break just because he was re-elected. The Republicans will be less obstructionist in 2013 than they were in 2011 because they did so poorly in the most recent election, and because their positions are so unpopular. But I still expect them to obstruct most things; it’s a habit at this point, even when it hurts their interests, and they may hope that if they can hold out until the 2014 midterms they’ll pick up some seats and political momentum then.

        I think it’s unlikely that Iran will give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, no matter who is President or Secretary of Defense. A military strike won’t stop them either; it’d take a full-blown occupation, which would be an epic disaster. So I expect Iran to join North Korea, Pakistan, India, China and Russia in the club of countries that we really wish didn’t have nukes, but do.

      2. Jim

        I should add that on some subjects (health care mandates, cap-and-trade, immigration reform) the GOP opposition has not been grounded in policy differences, since Obama’s policy positions have been close to those previously espoused by leading Republicans. In those cases the opposition was to the idea of letting a Democrat claim credit for bipartisan policy accomplishments. Republicans changed their policy positions rather than give Obama bipartisan political cover.

        1. Paul Milenkovic

          Health care mandates, cap-and-trade, and immigration reform?

          Leading Republicans may have espoused those views, but the rank-and-file party has long chafed against those Republican leaders. When Republicans advanced those ideas, the troop kinda, sorta went along out of party loyalty. When Mr. Obama advanceds those ideas, well, you lose the party loyalty angle, and someone who doesn’t understand this situation is politically tone deaf in a high political office.

          To the extent that there are Republican moderates who support those ideas, Mr. Obama’s style of “spiking the ball” (think of his rally after the Fiscal Cliff deal), well, a person kind of gets the idea.

          1. Jim

            It isn’t just the rank and file that moved against health care mandates, cap-and-trade and immigration reform. The very GOP leaders who had advocated those policies turned on them as well. In that sense the opposition was personal/political, and had nothing to do with policy differences.

          2. Rand Simberg Post author

            Very few Republicans ever supported health-care mandates or cap’n’tax. Yes, there are some who resist the president’s policies simply because they’re the presidents, but most of the opposition to them is principled, and almost none of it is racist. What’s changed isn’t so much that the policies are proposed by Obama, but that many no longer have to hold their nose and support them because they were proposed by George Bush (particularly amnesty).

    2. wodun

      “Obama likes Hagel and Kerry because, to Obama, incompetence is a feature, not a bug.”

      I am sure Obama thinks they are supremely competent. He picked them because he shares their world view, which is the scary part.

    3. IcePilot

      The reason for Hagel’s appointment can be found in the expression on President Obama’s face during the July, 2010 joint press conference.

  2. John Schilling

    I still haven’t seen anyone propose the plan that results in any outcome other than:

    A nuclear Iran

    A nuclear Iran that has recently been the victim of an ineffectual and (to their eyes) unprovoked attack by the United States

    or

    A bombed-back-to-the-stone-age Iran, a few million corpses, and an entire planet (less Israel and Red-State America) that sees the United States as worse than the Nazis on account of the millions of corpses and nothing but “The CIA sez they had Weapons of Mass Destruction!” as an excuse.

    Iran is not Iraq. The Iranian nuclear program is well beyond the point where it can be shut down by a few smart bombs on a few key targets, and no, smart computer viruses or assassin’s bullets won’t do it either. There are a few vulnerabilities where attacks might postpone the inevitable by a few years in total, but only at the expense of increasing Iranian resolve – and increasing popular support for the current Iranian regime. Ultimately, the Iranian industrial base can support a broadly decentralized nuclear program that cannot be effectively stopped except by destroying the Iranian industrial base.

    I’m opposed to plans that have the United States cast as the Nazis of the 21st century. So, by process of elimination, I want a SecDef who can deal effectively with a nuclear Iran. Being able to accept a nuclear Iran is a necessary but not sufficient condition for this. If you want to convince me that Hagel is the wrong guy, find another argument.

    1. Karl Hallowell

      There’s been a lot of Nazi equivalents of the 20th century. The ones who get reviled today happened to lose badly.

    2. Michael Kent

      A nuclear Iran means a nuked Israel with millions of casualties, a nuked Iran with millions of casualties, quite possibly a nuked Fifth Fleet, and with Iran firmly in control of the Persian Gulf and Arabian sea.

      You find that a preferable outcome to someone calling us names?

      1. John Schilling

        You might look into what happened to the original Nazis. It was a tad worse than name-calling.

        Yes, yes, nobody would ever actually do that to us. They don’t have the spine for it, and they’ve mostly disarmed, so they’ll just do some silly irrelevant diplomatic posturing while leaving us to take care of serious business. That, also, is straight out of the original Nazi playbook.

        Iraq 2.0 was our Czechoslovakia. Iran, the way you would deal with it, seems likely to be our Poland. And maybe we can pull off what the original Nazis couldn’t; we do have some advantages they didn’t. But some of our potential enemies have arsenals of long-range thermonuclear missiles this time around. And I don’t look good in black leather dripping in blood, so you’ll forgive me if I vote to give this one a pass.

    3. wodun

      “So, by process of elimination, I want a SecDef who can deal effectively with a nuclear Iran.”

      How does Hagel meet this criteria?

    4. Bart

      I believe you are largely correct. I do not think the Iranian nuclear program can be stopped. We will have to live with it.

      For a time. Because that does not mean we should offer no resistance or pretend that the bloody regime in Iran is anything but what it is. The impulse to “get along” and avert our gaze from the reality of monstrous regimes just gives them more time to carry out their depredations. Reagan showed that if you stand firm, and do not shrink from recognizing their evil, you can accelerate their ultimate demise.

  3. Paul Milenkovic

    Actually, Mickey Kaus thinks it is worth it to lose on the Sec Def nomination. He thinks it is small potatoes compared to disasterous concessions on immigration reform, and that the Republicans should lose/cave/concede on a few more Chuck Hagels so as to (properly) rile up the grass roots.

    1. Alan K. Henderson

      How long has Kaus been an advocate of the Peter Principle?

      One of Hagel’s characteristics that came out in the hearings is that he’s a deer-in-the-headlights wuss. The image completely opposite that of the military which he’ll be overseeing.

      1. Rick C

        Kaus is a liberal Democrat who voted twice for Obama, while complaining about him for years, so you’ll pardon me if I don’t blindly take his advice on what Republicans should do.

  4. Gregg

    The impression I got was that some GOP held up the vote so as to extract concessions from Reid on things like actually submitting a budget. They got a few concessions so they let the dufus get the vote.

  5. Jim

    This is the worse foreign-policy team since…ever?

    The George W. Bush administration seems to have disappeared down a memory hole.

      1. Jim

        So within hours Hagel has already done more damage than starting a disastrous war under false pretenses? That was quick.

        1. ucfengr

          Can I get a “Bush lied, people died!”?!?! How about a “HO, HO, HO Chi Minh!!! Viet Cong is gonna win!”?!?!

        2. Karl Hallowell

          So within hours

          We have to consider the possibility here that Hagel will serve as Secretary of Defense for more than a few hours.

          1. Rand Simberg Post author

            I’ve been watching Chuck Hagel for years. There is no reason to think that he will be any more competent as SecDef than he was at anything else, and abundant evidence to think that he will be the blundering fool on display in his confirmation hearing.

          2. Karl Hallowell

            Jim, Hagel isn’t a blank slate. He’s on record as saying and doing some pretty stupid stuff.

    1. McGehee

      Somehow “unilateralist” Bush actually had allies supporting us when we went to war. Under Obama, if we end up at war we won’t even be able to support us.

      1. Jim

        The “somehow” is that he told them falsely that Iraq had WMD, because the UK wouldn’t have come along otherwise. He gave others various financial inducements. In sum, he spent whatever diplomatic capital and intelligence credibility we had in support of an utterly disastrous decision. When a fool blows his savings at Vegas, it’s no mark in his favor that he talked some friends into joining him.

        Under Obama, if we end up at war we won’t even be able to support us.

        What does that even mean?

          1. Jim

            So Bush’s great achievement was getting them to believe something they already believed?

            You want to give Bush credit for assembling a coalition. You want Bush to bear no blame for the fact that he did so under false pretenses, in order to start an unnecessary, disastrous war.

          1. Jim

            Is it really tired and stupid to recall what a disaster the Iraq war was, and continues to be? Remembering huge mistakes, and questioning the judgement of those who made them, is one way to avoid repeating them. The fact that the people who were most wrong about Iraq have led the charge against Hagel strikes me as a point in his favor.

          2. Leland

            You claim Bush falsely mislead allies, but I don’t recall any rebuke from said allies along those lines. No ally served sanctions for supposedly being mislead. And let’s not forget that the previous Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, also promoted as true, the things you now claim to be a lie.

          3. wodun

            Jim, Iraq is looking pretty good right now compared to other countries in the region. You actually need a metric to measure whether it was a disaster or not other than your opinion, republican war bad.

            Clinging to flimsy conspiracy theories about why we went to war doesn’t lend an credence to your analysis.

          4. Jim

            I don’t recall any rebuke from said allies along those lines

            The UK had major parliamentary investigations, aimed at Blair and his willingness to believe bogus US intelligence.

            Iraq is looking pretty good right now

            They still have weekly car bombings, and sectarian civil war is a constant possibility. Meanwhile, Iran has gained new influence there. No sane person would choose to invade Iraq in 2003, knowing what it would look like (and the cost paid, in lives and money) in 2013.

            You actually need a metric

            The #1 reason for the war turned out to be false. We have thousands dead, tens of thousands maimed, and hundreds of thousands suffering psychological damage. We spent $1T, and did not improve US national security one bit. By what metric was it anything but a disaster?

            republican war bad

            Iraq was bad, Vietnam was worse. Foreign policy stupidity is not confined to one party, but right now it’s the GOP that’s more prone to it.

          5. Jim

            Giving Iraqi terrorists ten years of on-the-job training in making IEDs and car bombs has made us safer? Do tell.

    2. wodun

      Bush’s foreign policy team is looking pretty good right now. What are Obama’s signature accomplishments, secret drone basses and extradition for “interrogation” agreements? Turing our back on Poland and Georgia? Reset with Russia? Defeating AQ? Arab Spring?

      Every time Obama goes to some former 3rd world dictatorship he laments how he doesn’t have the power to dictate what he wants and that he has to work with different branches of the government so he understands how hard their transformation to democracy will be.

      Obama treats his fellow country men and women as his most bitter enemies and our country’s most bitter enemies as his closest friends. He has his priorities backwards.

      1. Jim

        Bush’s foreign policy team is looking pretty good right now

        You can’t be serious. They ignored Al Qaeda until 9/11. They started two wars which ended up being expensive, pointless, incompetently run disasters. They made the US synonymous with phony intelligence, invasion, torture and detainee abuse.

        Obama’s foreign policy hasn’t had any great successes, he’s mostly been busy repairing Bush damage, but at least he’s avoided big mistakes. And he did manage to get Bin Laden and START II. He’s also kept the US safe from terror attacks; I remember when that was Bush’s great claim to fame (because 9/11 didn’t count).

  6. IcePilot

    Just review the history of Chuck Hagel and his mouth. President Obama is laughing now at his revenge on Netanyahu, but will rue the day picked a loudmouth incompetent the caliber of Hagel.

  7. Josh Reiter

    I think were giving Obama too much credit. What does he know about picking someone for SecState? He probably just turned to the democrat regime and said, “Who’s next in line for secretary?”

Comments are closed.