January 11, 2013

Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel

“Chuck Hagel is out of the mainstream of thinking … on most issues regarding foreign policy,” says GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham. Neocon William Kristol concurs: Hagel is “out on the fringes.”

But where, exactly, is the mainstream on foreign policy in 2013?

Since the Bush II years, “the three amigos”—Sens. Graham, John McCain and Joe Lieberman—have clamored for new wars.

“We are all Georgians now!” thundered McCain when Vladimir Putin was thrashing the Georgians for attacking South Ossetia.

“Bomb, bomb, bomb—bomb, bomb Iran,” trilled McCain in 2008 in parody of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann.”

Ten days ago, McCain, Graham and Lieberman urged the U.S. to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, provide weapons to the rebels and send Patriot missile batteries to protect northern Syria. And what has been the response to their calls for air strikes and new wars? The sound of silence.

“But the amigos and neocons deceive themselves if they think that in their hostility to Hagel’s views they occupy the mainstream.”

George W. Bush ignored McCain on Georgia, and in 2008 McCain was crushed by a dovish Democrat who had opposed the Iraq War.

Like Hagel, who voted for the Iraq War, a majority of Americans have come to believe that 8-year war was a mistake. Even some neocons have expressed second thoughts.

Obama pulled all U.S. troops out of Iraq and is pulling them out of Afghanistan, and he won easy re-election over the more hawkish Mitt Romney. And has anyone heard any echo of the amigos’ call to plunge into Syria’s civil war, outside the editorial pages of The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, and the little magazines of the neocons?

Let’s do our nation-building here at home, Obama said in the debates.

Any doubt this idea had been poll-tested as a winner?

How many Americans today are saying that what we did in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan was worth doing and should serve as America’s model for dealing with Syria and Iran?

From 2001 to 2005, McCain, Graham and Lieberman were in the mainstream. Those were the days of bipartisan votes for war, of “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” of our goal being “to end tyranny in our world.” Those were the days of the democracy crusade of George W. Bush.

But that was yesterday. The crusade is over. Americans want the crusaders home.

This is not an argument for mindlessly seeking out and parroting mainstream thought. If the amigos believe that intervening in Syria and war with Iran are essential to the national security, they should continue to say so.

Nothing wrong with being out of step with majority opinion, if that is where one believes that truth and wisdom lie.

But the amigos and neocons deceive themselves if they think that in their hostility to Hagel’s views they occupy the mainstream.


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