As we await Act II– or is it 22?– of Obama’s endless dithering over Chuck Hagel, the Establishment is fighting back. Hagel is getting a lot of support from conservatives and members in good standing of what we used to call the ruling class.
Ryan Crocker, the former ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, has endorsed Hagel in the Wall Street Journal, saying “Chuck Hagel is a statesman, and America has few of them.” The piece seeks to give Hagel credibility as an Israel-lover, though it happily says nothing about attacking Iran and suggests that we should be negotiating:
Mr. Hagel understands far better than most the evils of Hamas and Hezbollah, both backed by Iran . He also appreciates the importance of looking in and among those groups for fissures that might lead to internal debate, dissension or division—or even to areas of agreement with the U.S. In the months after the 9/11 attacks, I negotiated with Iranian officials regarding Afghanistan ; it accomplished a little of both, spurring agreement on some issues and internal debate among the Iranians on others.
Bill Kristol, along with the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin probably Hagel’s most vociferous foe, has been unstinting in his praise for Crocker over the last four years, explicitly and repeatedly comparing him to Petraeus and promoting them as a winning team. In August, Kristol nominated Crocker to serve as ambassador to the UN in a Romney administration.
More establishment support: A bipartisan group of big realists and former Senators have signed a letter to Obama strongly supporting Chuck Hagel’s possible nomination to be Secretary of Defense and stressing his support for a resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict. The letter specifically defends Hagel from the anti-Semitism charge that was floating around thanks to the neoconservatives. It appeared as an ad in the Washington Post, and Carla Hills, Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, Gary Hart and Paul Volcker are signers, as is James Wolfensohn, former World Bank chair.
Here is Lobe’s report on that letter, which notes the job title that Obama praised Hagel for on Meet the Press the other day, being on his intelligence advisory board:
A new letter in support of former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination signed by a familiar list of eminences was published in the form of an ad in the front section of the Washington Post. Unlike other letters, this one specifically addresses the Israel-Palestinian conflict with a strong endorsement of the principles that underlie the so-called “Clinton parameters”. And, in a clear swipe at neo-conservatives, in particular, it asserts that attempts by some to claim that those who support these principles are either anti-Israel or anti-Semitic are “unacceptable.”
Signers include former Oklahoma Sen. David Boren, who is Hagel’s co-chair on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, former Republican Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum-Baker, former Democratic Sen. Gary Hart, former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills (George H. W. Bush), former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and UN Amb. Thomas Pickering, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski (Jimmy Carter) and Brent Scowcroft (Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush), former CentCom Commander, Gen. William “Fox” Fallon, former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci (Ronald Reagan), and former World Bank Chairman James Wolfensohn. Of course, most of these have signed other letters in support of Hagel, but Boren’s signature is particularly significant given his long history in the right-of-center Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), one of the central principles of which was solid support for Israel. Wolfensohn is also significant given his role after his departure from the Bank as the Quartet’s representative in dealing with Israel-Palestinian issue. He quit in frustration after only a year in 2006 and was succeeded by the egregiously cynical Tony Blair.
That’s refreshing: the egregiously cynical Tony Blair.
Relying on Lobe here, he also says that Michele Flournoy appears to be the choice of the neoconservatives for Defense, in part because she signed a Bill Kristol letter of 2005 that called for a much larger military so that we could take on our commitment to the greater Middle East. Guns not butter… Peter Beinart also signed this letter:
we write to ask you and your colleagues in the legislative branch to take the steps necessary to increase substantially the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps. While estimates vary about just how large an increase is required, and Congress will make its own determination as to size and structure, it is our judgment that we should aim for an increase in the active duty Army and Marine Corps, together, of at least 25,000 troops each year over the next several years.
There is abundant evidence that the demands of the ongoing missions in the greater Middle East etc
But I guess Hagel also needs neocon support, if he’s going to get nominated… Lobe observes that while neocons ought to be exiled from any serious policy conversation about the Middle East, they continue to get traction from the media “not only because of their own ideological predilections (American “exceptionalism” and all that), but also because of their polemical skills, notably their ability to break down any dimly understood overseas conflict into a moral struggle between good and “evil” or a question of U.S credibility.”
Meantime, the idea of Hagel is playing better overseas than in the U.S. Stephen Kinzer at the Guardian says the big problem is that Hagel is a realist, and militarists and the Israel lobby wield power in Washington. Kinzer:
Here is the heart of the case against Senator Hagel’s nomination.
Militarists in Washington, taking their cue from pro-Israel lobbyists, are trying to derail the appointment because Hagel doubts the wisdom of starting another war in the Middle East. Their evidence is his assertion, made several years ago, that:
“A military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.”
Hagel is absolutely correct. Like many thoughtful Americans, including some of our country’s most seasoned diplomats, he is eager to make a real effort to engage Iran. No American president has done that since Jimmy Carter’s presidency was immolated in the wake of the hostage crisis – except for Ronald Reagan, who tried sending Iranian leaders a cake and a Bible, to no avail.
Part of what has led Hagel to recommend a calm, reasoned, prudent approach to Iran is his own worldview. He is among the few in Washington who do not seem to have accepted the century-old principle that in order to defend its interests, the United States must be involved everywhere in the world, all the time.
Hagel is said to be “outside the mainstream” because he does not believe American power can solve people’s problems around the world. That is, indeed, outside the mainstream….
Hagel is in the great American tradition of the prairie populist. He has sought to speak a word or two of truth to power. Power is not amused. That is why his nomination is in trouble before it has even been announced.