Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Fight over Hagel

Josh Marshall offers an interesting take on the reasons behind opposition to the Obama adminstration's nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) for Secretary of Defense on Talking Points Memo.

So we stand at a crossroads between two very different visions of the country’s future — its security challenges and economic future. Let’s start with what we might incompletely call the Bush/neoconservative approach. It is a belligerent unilateralism, a vision based on an abundantly powerful and yet deeply endangered America, and — very significantly — one that sees almost all the big issues and future security of the country emanating out of the zone of conflict stretching from North Africa into Pakistan. In other words, it’s about oil, Islam, the Middle East and Israel.

The people around Obama have a different take on goals, threats and tactics. It’s not just that we can’t continue — either in security or fiscal terms — with open-ended occupations of Middle Eastern countries or hapless efforts to ‘transform the region’. It’s that the Middle East is fundamentally more yesterday’s news than tomorrow’s and that we need to be in the business of making it more yesterday rather than less. The Persian Gulf is still the choke point for the world energy supply. Any American President and foreign policy will focus on that for the foreseeable future. But more oil is now being drilled in the United States; and the world is trying to move away from oil. So for the last decade, as the US has bled itself dry in the Near East completely different futures are being created by the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries, with the US at risk of being left behind.

Hagel has been an outspoken critic of the Bush/neoconservative approach.  Marshall thinks the back-story behind a significant amount of the resistance to his nomination comes from proponents of that foreign policy philosophy.

UPDATE: Peter Beinart makes a similar case on The Daily Beast.

The right’s core problem with Hagel was that he had challenged the Bush doctrine. Against a Republican foreign-policy class that generally minimizes the dangers of war with Iran, Hagel had insisted that the lesson of Iraq is that preventive wars are dangerous, uncontrollable things. “Once you start,” he warned in 2010, “you’d better be prepared to find 100,000 troops.”

The second reason hawks find Hagel’s view so frightening is that it concedes the limits of American power. Although Bush said that after 9/11 the United States no longer could afford to rely on the deterrence and containment of hostile states, what he really meant was that the U.S. no longer needed to rely on deterrence and containment, because it was now strong enough to prevent nuclear proliferation via force. For many hawks, conceding that the U.S. can’t do that means conceding American decline.

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