09 January 2013

While there is Hagel, there is yet hope

When I first heard the name of Chuck Hagel, I was still in high school, and it was in the context of the Iraq War: he was among those few brave moderate and ex-Republicans - others (at the time) being Lincoln Chafee and Jim Jeffords - who went on record speaking out openly against the war. Hagel did vote to authorise the war, true, but he very quickly realised his error and spent the duration of the war critiquing most aspects of it. In my mind, he was far from a perfect statesman, but he was in fact a far sight better than many Democrats (including, it should be noted, either of the Clintons). Well, Mr President, if you had wanted my vote this past election (not that you ended up needing it), you ought to have told me you were planning to nominate a Secretary of Defence like Chuck Hagel! For a stolidly anti-war voter like me, that is certainly ‘change I can believe in’... John Brennan, though, not so much.

Predictably, both Obama and Hagel are being attacked, both from neoconservative and from civil-libertarian quarters, over this nomination. The neoconservative smears that Hagel is an anti-Semite over his comments to Aaron David Miller are, of course, so thin, so lame and indeed so clichéd at this point as to be utterly risible; and the claims that Hagel is anti-gay are utterly frivolous and vicious non-sequiturs. If one really cares about legal equality for homosexuals, picking a fight over the confirmation of a Secretary of Defence, who will not be in any position to influence legislation pertaining to same-sex rights, seems (to put it mildly) rather unwise to me. As Richard Cohen put it, ‘Hagel will be an implementer of policy, not its originator’.

At the very least, the fact that Hagel was Obama’s first choice as Secretary of Defence would indicate that no war with Iran looms on the horizon; blessed news in any case for the people who live there, and for the Israelis and Americans who oppose any such war. To quote Pat Buchanan (something I fear I do entirely too much these days), ‘let’s get it on’, Mr President!

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