Watching yesterday's morning session of his Senate confirmation hearings on C-SPAN made me nothing if not uneasy. There are, I have to confess, aspects of Hagel's foreign policy that intersect with my own beliefs: those that stem from his apparently sincere drive not to see US troops wasted in foreign interventions that have nothing to do with American interests. I am alarmed, however, by his apparently visceral and unveiled attitudes toward Jews and Israel, which dovetail with the Arabist worldview.
Such a worldview, it should be noted, is not that dissimilar from that of Gen. Petraeus (see here, here, here, here) with the one crucial exception that has commanded the (misguided, I argue) support of all manner of pro-defense Americans: Petraeus has devised and applied the bloody-disastrous COIN strategy to fight/nation-build/bribe/Islamize to address the situation. Hagel for his own reasons would like to pull back from that strategy. It is in that immediate cessation of fighting and nation-building where I agree with Hagel.
What happens next is the problem. I would argue that just as Hagel is crippled by a failure to grasp the role and goals of expansionist Islam, and thus reaches for "engagement" as his non-military answer, proponents of intervention(s) similarly fail to grasp the role and goals of expansionist Islam, and continue to press for more interventions. (I laid out in brief an alternative to these views here.)
Sen. John McCain is a poster-boy of the Islam-blind and just-plain-blind interventionists (and most obnoxious).
McCain's "surge" questions yesterday created a sensation. Watching the sanctimony of the senior senator from Arizona as he pressed Hagel for a "yes" or "no" answer on whether "the surge" was a success, I was, yes, rooting for Hagel to smash McCain's arguments to smithereens. As a strategy, I have long argued (example here) that the surge was a disaster on many levels, a stopgap measure, not a winning war plan as it is promoted (practically worshipped). Hagel -- and, I would add, Sen. McCain's precious John Kerry (at whose confirmation hearings for SecState McCain was a beaming gent) -- further subscribes to the argument that the so-called Anbar Awakening was already in progress, thus making the "surge" an unnecessary expenditure in lives (1,200) and money and time. Both Hagel and Kerry voted against the surge.
There is also a strong case to be made that Kerry was a traitor -- something, one would think, that would be reason enough to oppose his confirmation as SecState, but that is forbidden history now.
More recently, Kerry also supported McCain's favorite misadventure, US support for jihad in Libya. Meanwhile, on March 21, 2011, former Sen. Hagel "spoke critically" about the no-fly-zone the US was supporting, the George Washington University Hatchet reported, and saw "wobbly objectives" in the mission. (I saw worse -- in spades.) Now, either Hagel changed his mind, which I don't think he's explained, or, like a good political appointee, he now calls US intervention in Libya a "success."
From his Senate questionnaire:
I believe the U.S. and NATO operations in Libya were a success. Operation Odyssey Dawn stopped Colonel Qadhafi's army from advancing on Benghazi, saved thousands of lives, and established the conditions for a no-fly-zone. Operation Unified Protector built on these accomplishments and created the time and space needed for the opposition to oppose, and ultimately overthrow, Qadhafi. Both operations had limited and clear objectives for the unique capabilities the U.S. military could provide, avoided U.S. boots-on-the-ground, integrated Allies and partners, minimized collateral damage and civilian casualties to a historically unprecedented extent, and enjoyed the legitimacy of UN Security Council authorization. This was all achieved at a fraction of the cost of recent interventions in the Balkans, Iraq, or Afghanistan.What was "all achieved" (Mali, Algeria ...)? Did Obama's disastrous "Arab Spring" policies as a whole even come up for Senate discussion? If so, I missed it. In Hagel's questionnaire, he also writes: "Additionally, the Arab Spring has created new opportunities for al Qaeda affiliates in Syria and North Africa." How, Senator, is Libya a "success" again?
On July 31, 2006,Hagel on the floor of the Senate said the following:
The United States will remain committed to defending Israel. Our relationship with Israel is a special and historic one. But it need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships. That is an irresponsible and dangerous false choice.Far from being "outside the mainstream," I would argue that this statement, tragically, sums up most of US foreign policy toward the "Middle East" -- the Arab-Islamic world and Israel -- particularly since the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973. To be sure, some policy-makers teeter more toward a pro-Israel policy, but those "Arab and Muslim relationships" remain a pervertingly contradictory feature of US foreign policy.
Why? The choice is not "a false and dangerous choice." It is, rather, a necessary choice of allies -- Israel not Islam -- and it is only logical. It comes from the recognition that overlapping and compatible culture strengthens Western civilization as a whole more than oil, corruption, and the sharia that comes with the demands of simultaneous "alliance" with Islam Ultimately, this supposedly "false" choice is the choice between liberty in the West and sharia everywhere. Why? Israel and Westernized and Judeo-Christian-based societies need one set of conditions to thrive, indeed, to continue to exist on earth and that is Liberty. Islam needs another set of conditions to expand into Israel and all other Westernized and Judeo-Christian-based societies: corruption-induced, sometimes anti-Semitism induced, sometimes fear-induced appeasement. Such appeasement leads to the surrender and shrinkage of Liberty.