September 13, 2007

The Democrats were pretty cautious in their handling of General Petraeus during the Senate hearing on the “surge” in Iraq: they are easily intimidated by a man in uniform. The Republicans, however, weren’t quite so shy.

“€˜”€˜In my judgment, some type of success in Iraq is possible, but as policymakers, we should acknowledge that we are facing extraordinarily narrow margins for achieving our goals,”€™”€™ said Sen. Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Norm Coleman averred: “€˜”€˜Americans want to see light at the end of the tunnel.” he said. Senator John Warner asked Petraeus whether his proposal would make the United States safer. “€œSir, I don”€™t know, actually”€ the general answered, in an unusual admission. “€œI hope in the recesses of your heart that you know that strategy will continue the casualties, the stress on our forces, the stress on military families, the stress on all Americans.”

Least shy of all was Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska), who recently announced he was retiring from the Senate and would not run for President (as he had previously hinted at):

“€œAre we going to continue to invest American blood and treasure at the same rate we”€™re doing now? The president said, “€˜Let’s buy time.”€™ Buy time? For what?”€

Go here to read his remarks in their entirety: they are certainly worth reading. Hagel, a former Marine and Vietnam vet, is a formidable character, and one whose anticipated absence from the national political scene is, in itself, a commentary on the dark times we live in. There is no room, apparently, in the GOP for a man of his caliber: in spite of the fact that no more loyal Republican existed in the Senate, he was driven to break with the President and our crazed foreign policy precisely because of his virtues: his patriotism, his concern for the future of the US military—and for the future of this country. While opportunist windbags like John McCain rise, more thoughtful patriots such as Hagel find they have no place in the GOP, in politics, or in public life.

Some have criticized Hagel for not voting in accordance with his own rhetoric, and yet he did try to forge a legislative solution to our Iraqi conundrum with the “Hagel amendment” to the Defense Authorization bill that would have had most of the troops out by March, 2008—more radical than most of the Democratic proposals. His amendment was defeated.

Chuck Hagel is a man of integrity, someone whose views have taken a new turn with the lessons this rotten war is teaching him. It is a tragedy that he will be leaving the Senate, and public life: but that, alas, is part and parcel of the tragedy that has befallen our nation. Bad drives out the good, in economics and in life.

The Hagelian dialectic, however, is working: even as Republicans who disdain the neoconservative takeover of their party drop out, discouraged and defeated, a new generation—perhaps embodied in the campaign of Ron Paul for President—is rising to take their place. In tragedy, there is hope: and thank the gods for that …


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