Chuck Hagel has experience and vision; the neocons attacking him have nothing but ideology
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Secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel should be a wish-come-true for conservative Republicans. In the Senate, Mr. Hagel was 100 percent pro-life, voted for tax cuts, opposed affirmative action and special rights for homosexuals, and amassed an 87 percent pro-business rating. Mr. Hagel has stated that his only oath of allegiance as a senator was to the U.S. Constitution and not to any president or foreign nation. Unlike many Republican superhawks who may have suffered a few paper cuts in their fantasy-war games, Mr. Hagel is a decorated veteran who bears the scars of war and understands the mission of our military and the perils of war.
Yet the divine coalition of neoconservatives, Israel-first evangelicals and defense-pork profiteers have all unjustly slandered this American patriot. The shadowy "Emergency Committee for Israel" fronted by William Kristol and Gary Bauer -- not exactly alpha males themselves -- is out to destroy the reputation of Chuck Hagel. According to these purists, Mr. Hagel is not pro-Israel enough, not committed to preventive war with Iran and bent on "hollowing out" our military. In other words, he has the courage and realism to pursue a Dwight Eisenhower-like foreign policy completely at odds with neocon dogma.
America deserves this debate, not only because we need a fresh voice like Mr. Hagel's, but more importantly to expose the fringe and reckless policies of the neoconservatives. Unlike Ike, who presided over eight years of peace and prosperity, the neoconservatives have caused and will continue to cause nothing but carnage to our republic.
I believe the neocon preventive war in Iraq and nation-building adventure in Afghanistan have pushed us over a financial cliff that we may never recover from. And how have these trillion-dollar wars benefited America?
Far from creating stability, the neocon follies have created havoc in the Middle East, tarnished our credibility and prestige, and weakened our ability to defend ourselves in the future. Iran, not America, now has the most influence in Iraq.
The Old Right warned of this debacle, invading a country that did not threaten us, but the war lobbyists had their own agenda and were busy whipping up doomsday scenarios that misled the public and turned out to be quite false. When asked his thoughts on the calls for him to wage preventive war, Eisenhower replied, "I don't believe there is such a thing, and, frankly, I wouldn't even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing." Just why does anyone take the nonsense spewing from Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard seriously?
And they are at it again with the same hysteria, this time regarding Iran.
It is no secret that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the neocons have lobbied for the United States to strike Iran, but Mr. Hagel, our military leaders and our intelligence community have strongly warned against this and do not believe war with Iran is in our interests. Neither does Iran desire war with us.
Israel is an ally and has the right to defend itself, but the Israelis' fight is not always our fight. Eisenhower strongly supported Israel but when it clashed with U.S. interests, as in the 1956 Suez Canal crisis, Ike forced Israel to pull its troops out of the Sinai Peninsula declaring, "We cannot subscribe to one law for those opposing us, another for those allied with us. There can be only one law -- or there shall be no peace."
Moreover, some senators, such as Tea Party darling Ted Cruz, are lining up against Mr. Hagel for calling the Pentagon "bloated." How seriously can we take these new-age conservatives when they refuse to cut defense spending, which is about 20 percent of the budget.
Eisenhower slashed the military by 27 percent after Korea, balanced the budget and kept America out of war in a much more dangerous world than today. He fought Congress for defense cuts because "unless the budget is balanced sooner or later, procurement of defense systems will avail nothing." Do Ted Cruz and his neocon minions believe Ike was an "isolationist" or "soft" on defense?
Republicans are quite naive to think they can restore any sense of fiscal sanity without cutting the military-industrial complex while funding trillion-dollar-plus wars with paper money. History tells us that the two biggest reasons nations collapse are war and inflation.
There is plenty of Pentagon fat to cut without compromising or "hollowing out" our world-class military. One begins to see that Mr. Cruz's opposition to defense cuts has less to do with American security than it does with the pocketbooks of the war industry and his campaign chest. Something must give, for there can be no long-term security without the capital to back it up, and we may find ourselves unable to defend ourselves, let alone the world.
Finally, the notion that our leaders should not directly sit down and talk with Iran or anyone else is sophomoric and childish. Great nations and strong leaders do not behave this way.
President Eisenhower believed that all avenues of diplomacy must be exhausted before war.
Eisenhower negotiated with Khrushchev during the height of the Cold War; stood down England, France and Israel during the Suez Canal crisis; and freely engaged world leaders of all stripes. Eisenhower not only kept America out of war, but when he left office, America was an economic and military powerhouse, and the envy of the world. One can only imagine his reaction to the neocons and their new doctrine of "diplomacy by isolationism."
Chuck Hagel is not the problem. The hot seat at his confirmation hearing should be reserved for William Kristol and his allies; they are the ones who have the explaining to do.
First Published January 30, 2013 12:00 am