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Think Hagel represents meaningful change for US foreign policy? Think again.

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The nomination of Chuck Hagel is being celebrated in some circles (including here on this site) as a strike against war with Iran and a colossal failure for the Israel lobby. But even assuming he’s confirmed, there is very little evidence that Hagel will do much to shift an administration that has continued to press AIPAC-inspired pressure on Iran and maintains a foreign policy slanted heavily in favor of Israel and its interests.

On Wednesday Phil Weiss began a post celebrating the Hagel annoncement saying, “When Obama nominated Chuck Hagel Monday, I was jubilant for one reason: The military option is off the table, we will not attack Iran.” That same day the Associated Press ran a story saying that Hagel was working to reassure Pentagon officials that in fact the opposite was true:

President Barack Obama’s pick for defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, is meeting with senior Pentagon staff to try to set the record straight about his stand on Iran, saying he backs strong international sanctions against Tehran and believes all options, including military action, should be on the table, defense officials said Wednesday.

Of course, this may just be politicking. While it is conjecture at this point to know whether Hagel would support an attack or not, his line parrots that of the administration which continues to insist the military option is on the table. There is some daylight when it comes to sanctions, and to his credit Hagel does not support the draconian sanctions regime being supported and strengthened by the Obama administration. Although sanctions are commonly thought of as an alternative to war, here is what Obama administration policy means on the ground.

Associated Press:

For the first time in more than a decade, the black market pharmaceutical peddlers are back on Nasser Khosrow Street near Tehran’s main bazaar.

“Medicine, medicine,” the street dealers shout. “Any kind you want.”

Business is brisk. For many Iranians, such underground channels are now the only way to get needed — or even life-saving — drugs as Western sanctions over the country’s nuclear program have indirectly limited normal supplies to hospitals and pharmacies. . .

Scenes of overcrowded state hospitals are now common across Iran after fees for private health care have nearly doubled in recent months. The costs in state-run facilities are far cheaper, but that also comes with shortages and long waits.

“Sometimes we don’t even have serum for dehydrated patients, said a young doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was worried that comments to the media could jeopardize his job at a state-run hospital.

The prices for other items have soared in recent months: radiology film up 240 percent; helium gas for MRIs up 667 percent; filters for kidney dialysis up 325 percent. The cost of one round of chemotherapy for cancer has reached 200 million rials, or $65,000, from 800 million rials, or $25,000, last year.

The independent Hamshari daily quoted a father — who was not named in the article — as saying his child died because he couldn’t afford the higher price of an artificial heart valve.

At a major pharmacy in Tehran, a 53-year-old father slumped over — his head in his hands — as he looked at the prices for medicine for his teenage daughter, who is suffering from stomach cancer.

How can I afford buying medicine as prices have doubled over a week?” said Hooshang, who gave only his first name.


The board of directors of the Iranian Hemophilia Society recently informed the World Federation of Hemophilia that the lives of tens of thousands of children are being endangered by the lack of proper drugs caused by international economic sanctions. According to the Society, while the export of drugs to Iran has not been banned, the sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran and the country’s other financial institutions have severely disrupted the purchase and transfer of medical goods. Describing itself as a nonpolitical organization that has been active for 45 years, the Society condemned the “inhumane and immoral” U.S. and EU sanctions and appealed to international organizations for help.

Tens of thousands of Iranian boys and men have hemophilia and need certain drugs that must be imported. Many of them need surgery for a variety of reasons, but in the absence of proper drugs for their hemophilia, the surgeries cannot be performed. In fact, several reports from Iran indicate that all surgeries for all hemophiliac patients have been canceled.

But the problem is not restricted to hemophiliacs. Reports indicate that advanced drugs for a variety of cancers (particularly leukemia), heart diseases, lung problems, multiple sclerosis, and thalassemia cannot be imported, endangering the lives of tens of thousands of people. There are about 37,000 Iranians with multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease that can be controlled only with advanced medications; without them, the patients will die. And given that, even under the best medical conditions,40,000 Iranians lose their lives to cancer every year, and that it has been predicted by many experts that Iran will have a “cancer tsunami” by 2015, because every year 70,000–80,000 new cases of cancer are identified in Iran, the gravity of the situation becomes even more glaring.

While a military attack may be on the back burner for now, it seems the pain is already being felt in Iran. While some view Hagel’s nomination as a sign AIPAC’s power has been diminished, it should be remembered that Obama’s sanctions are the current centerpiece of the organization’s lobbying efforts. Hagel may not have been the lobby’s choice for Secretary of Defense, but its agenda moves forward regardless.

Similarly, Hagel has been busy making his position on Israel clear — and it’s nothing to be excited about. Hagel gave an interview with his hometown newspaper in which he said that his record demonstrates “unequivocal, total support for Israel.” He also added that there is “not one shred of evidence that I’m anti-Israeli, not one (Senate) vote that matters that hurt Israel.”

Hagel is speaking the truth, perhaps to the chagrin of those hoping against hope that his appointment would demonstrate a real break from the Obama administration’s deference to Israel. At every chance he had, Hagel voted in favor of providing billions of dollars in military aid to Israel. The neoconservative attacks against Hagel have been prompted by views of his that have at times struck out from the mainstream consensus on Israel in Washington, but the overall thrust of Hagel’s voting record makes clear he is a strong supporter of Israel.

Hagel’s protestations that he is indeed pro-Israel dovetails with what administration officials told BuzzFeed earlier this week. The publication reported that, as part of the “selling” of Hagel, they circulated “talking points prepared by Hagel staffers pushing back on attacks that he isn’t committed to Israel.”

One of the talking points was that Hagel “has said that Israel’s identity as a Jewish state must be protected as a part of any peace deal.” That talking point, BuzzFeed reported, was being pushed as part of “the administration’s outreach to pro-Israel groups.” The demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state has long been rejected by Palestinians, since it ignores the Palestinian citizens of Israel and refugees dispersed throughout the world.

The talking point that Hagel strongly believes in Israel’s Jewish character comes from a book in which he wrote: “A comprehensive solution [to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] should not include any compromise regarding Israel’s Jewish identity, which must be assured.”

The fact that Hagel is considered a controversial pick for the position is a clear reflection of the constrained nature of American discourse on Israel and U.S. policy in the region. Hagel represents a slight deviation from Washington orthodoxy, and while these shades of gray mean something in beltway power politics, the difference on the ground is close to meaningless.

So if you were expecting a real debate over Israel and Iran, you might want to think again. Rather, outside of a slight disagreement over sanctions, Hagel appears to be a status quo pick for a President who may not be looking to rush to war, but isn’t looking to alter U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East either.

(Thanks to Nima Shirazi for help with this post)

51 Responses

  1. ramzijaber
    January 11, 2013, 4:54 pm

    Adam and Alex, thanks for continuing the Hagel story as it seems it fell off the mainstream pages a bit. Two observations:

    1) Couple what you reported with the acceleration of US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan (as just announced by the President with Karzai ), it seems to me the hidden plan is to relieve the pressure on the military from Afghanistan and allow for a strike on Iran. Sen. Hagel would bring the best cover to the “Nobel Peace Prize” president not wanting to go to war but really having no choice in spite of his new reluctant warrior SecDef. Great play I must say.

    2) AIPAC is still playing behind the scenes to oppose Hagel through Sen. Kirk (R-AIPAC) as reported by Annie and Sen. Schumer (D-AIPAC), the new Liebrman the Senator from Tel Aviv, as reported here

    Just thinking………

    • James Canning
      James Canning
      January 12, 2013, 2:11 pm

      I think it fair to say that Aipac will continue to do all it can to block any engagement by American officials with Iranian officials, in its effort to enable Israel to do largely as it pleases in the West Bank. No matter how much damage this does to the standing of the US in the Middle East.

  2. pabelmont
    January 11, 2013, 5:07 pm

    We went into war with Afghanistan (and later with Iraq) in a heartbeat, no time out for thought, for caution, for planning. $1T or more down the drain, no gain whatever to the USA (as opposed, say, to the M-I-C and the generals).

    By contrast, we have not yet spent $100B — much less $1T — to combat climate change, despite the far greater threat to the USA (and the world, and “security”) from climate change.

    Let’s hope Mr. Hagel, if confirmed, will stress the threat to USA’s “security” of climate change and influence a shift in R&D from military weapons toward green-energy arrangements, for truly, there will be no security as we watch the fire and flood wash over us — ineluctably, because we waited too long to act — whether or not Iran (or Pakistan or N. Korea or Israel or India) has a bomb or two. That stuff is non-sense, and the mental incompetence which allows intelligent (but incompetent) men to spend ANY time on such trivia when the death-star is approaching us (that’s climate change in case you didn’t get it) is mind-boggling. My mind is boggled.

    • James Canning
      James Canning
      January 12, 2013, 2:13 pm

      pabelmont – – It cost the US fairly little to overthrow the Taleban (with help from Iran). The blunders costing such fantastic sums came later.
      We can thank Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton for much of the squandering on the quagmire in Afghanistan.

  3. Dan Crowther
    Dan Crowther
    January 11, 2013, 5:13 pm

    Thanks fellas, this was a well needed post.

    • January 11, 2013, 9:35 pm

      Hagel will grovel before the Lobby — as he already has been doing — and they will put the knife in him anyway. This has long been the pattern when any public figures verbalizes ideas or facts that the Lobby does not want aired.

  4. W.Jones
    January 11, 2013, 5:28 pm

    Do you agree with the statement that during the discussions of Hagel’s nomination the special relationship was being discussed critically and openly?

    Raimondo claims:
    “That has never happened before. The issue of Israel was always considered to be beyond debate, the most recent example of this uniformity of opinion being the last presidential debate between Obama and Romney in which the candidates spent a great deal of time competing with each other to see who could be more effusive in their undying support”

  5. ToivoS
    January 11, 2013, 5:36 pm

    Everything you say is correct. However, politically Obama cannot use Hagel’s nomination as a platform to argue for a reversal of US policy towards Iran. If Obama wants to do that, and I happen to believe he does, the debate will have to be held later. For now Hagel must say he supports existing policy. Changing that policy is going to be a much more difficult task than getting Hagel in.

    • just
      January 12, 2013, 6:03 pm

      Agreed. But, isn’t it sad that we have to “toe the line”? We have committed horrible, horrible sins against innocents in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

      All the while dancing to the Pied Piper.

  6. tombishop
    January 11, 2013, 5:51 pm

    The Hagel brouhaha is bringing on a serious case of dé·jà vu for me. Many held their noses and voted for Obama because they couldn’t imagine Romney as President. Since the election Obama has moved even more to the right, doing things that would have brought people into the streets under GW Bush.

    Could the same thing be happening with the Hagel nomination? I certainly would like to see the ne0-cons, the religious zealots of every variety, and the Zionist amen corner be cut down to the size of their true support, but I can’t help but wonder if this appointment may be fool’s gold, someone in Defense who will use people’s illusions about him to advance an agenda someone from the extreme right would have had trouble doing.

  7. doug
    January 11, 2013, 5:55 pm

    Steve Walt has pointed this out as well. We are reading way too much into the frantic, unhinged attacks by the neos. Hagel is not a neocon but he’s not the polar opposite either.

  8. Sin Nombre
    Sin Nombre
    January 11, 2013, 6:15 pm

    All this piece demonstrates is simply how utterly bleak the situation was before, but it’s just as clear that of all reasonably possible nominees Hagel is the one putting a war with Iran on the furthest backburner reasonably possible. And the one with the most guts to say what’s going on in terms of our relationship with Israel.

    Even the longest trip begins with a single step, some Chinese sage once said.

    • Rusty Pipes
      Rusty Pipes
      January 11, 2013, 9:21 pm

      First they sneer at you, then they fight you, then you gain a step. Then they deny that they ever impeded you and claim that since you haven’t run a marathon, your step is irrelevant — until they notice you preparing to take another wobbly step, which they mock …

  9. American
    January 11, 2013, 6:39 pm

    Things that don’t matter in the Sec of Defense appointment no matter who it is.

    1) No US official is ever going to take the military option ‘off the table’ on anything, ever.
    2) The entire US policy on war, peace and defense or FP is Not going to change by appointment of a Sec of Defense no matter who it is, that still belongs to the WH.

    So imo it’s pointless to conflate those concerns/issues and insert all kinds of wishes and gripes in this appointment. All the things except winning this ‘small step’ on Hagel are a much longer fight that involves taking out/on much of congress, both political parties, the Lobby, a slew of Neo Think Tanks and a number of neo media organs.

    What it is about is,

    1) Giving Obama some extra backup in his (to date) reluctance/refusal to bomb Iran.
    2) Giving a US ‘Realist” a ‘Official Office to speak from. To date the only other people grounded in reality –that have spoken publicly, with official authority—–and contridicting the neozios in congress —-during O’s term have been the US Military Command on Iran.
    3) Opening up, exposing the I-Firstdom-Foreign Lobby vr the USA-Firstdom fight to the public.

    Imo we should just focus on what we can get out of this one battle…..exposing and socking it to the neos and zios. They are giving us an opportunity on a silver platter…a gaggle of mostly cowardly chicken hawks vr a all American Veteran of war who says he is against needless war.

  10. Kathleen
    January 11, 2013, 7:29 pm

    Now I am not where Phil is on the Hagel nomination thinking that this means the US will not attack Iran. But there is not doubt based on what Hagel has said in the past ( I was able to ask him direct questions about the situation with Iran at the Univ of Colorado some years back) and in many interviews Hagel has said very similar things. That the US should do everything diplomatically that they can to make sure there is not an attack. He even went along with what I had said in my comment before my question to him that Iran is a signatory to the NPT has the right to enrich uranium and that it is a problem that Israel continues to refuse to sign the NPT and has massive stockpiles of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons that go un inspected by the international community. He also threw in that every option is on the table at all times Hagel has to be politicking right now with the Pentagon. Hagel was by far the best choice..

    Hagel is not “status quo” that is as extreme and as extreme as Phil saying the US will not attack Iran because of the Hagel nomination, Just based on what Hagel has been willing to say about Iran and the I/P issue and the Israel lobby demonstrates that he is not “status quo”

  11. James Canning
    James Canning
    January 11, 2013, 7:48 pm

    The Palestinian Unity government of Hamas and Fatah endorsed the 2002 Saudi peace plan, calling for recognition of Israel within its pre-1967 borders.
    All Arab countries have agreed to accept Israel within its pre-1967 borders. And the notion Israel can be forced to accept millions of non-Jews as immigrants, simply is not realistic. As is privately conceded by many if not most Arab leaders.

    • January 12, 2013, 3:05 am

      “the notion Israel can be forced to accept millions of non-Jews as immigrants, simply is not realistic”

      Ohhh, yea… Here we go again. Bringing in hundreds of thousands, or millions, or ILLEGAL Russians and Bessarabians and Lithuanians and who knows what else, and organizing terrorist attacks to force Arab Jews to leave their countries was all OK, wasn’t it? It was all “realistic”!

      Now that we are talking of implementing the legal obligation to let the owners of the land get their due, it’s unrealistic, eh?

      Well, screw that realism, and the horse it rode in on.
      All these illegal invaders can bloody well go back where they came from. They all rate a second passport anyway and let their Sugardaddy Uncle Sam provide for thos who don’t! At a certain moment enough is sufficient and propaganda puppets get on everyone’s nerves.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        January 13, 2013, 1:11 pm

        Sardelaspi – – Most Arab leaders have simply concluded that the theft of 78% of Palestine is a fact of life they have to accept, for peace to be achieved.

      • January 14, 2013, 1:22 am

        “Most Arab leaders have simply concluded that the theft of 78% of Palestine is a fact of life they have to accept, for peace to be achieved.”

        Most are agreed on the need for a compromise indeed, but that is not, for many of them, giving up basic rights. The difference is very simple: you may let your bullying neighbor drive your car for a day or a week, but that doesn’t mean that you are relinquishing its property. Also, the counterpart has not ever made any gesture or compromise in any way or wise and cannot give up its final objective of “Greater Israel”, so discussing understandings is good and proper, but signing off on that kind of one-sided compromise without getting anything in exchange (“peace” indeed…), as in Oslo, may one day be seen as another huge treason.

        Then, “Arab” leaders have nothing to say here. Zilch. We are talking about Palestinians. Not Saharan or Chadian “leaders” or Lawrence of Arabia or even the King of Jordan.

        As for Palestinian “leaders”, time will show who deserves that name.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        January 14, 2013, 3:02 pm

        If all Arab countries ratify Israel’s borders (pre-1967), so will the Palestinians. Yassir Arafat privately admitted, four decades ago, that Israel would have to be allowed to keep the 78% of Palestine taken by 1949.

      • January 16, 2013, 2:10 pm

        Canning: “If all Arab countries ratify Israel’s borders (pre-1967), so will the Palestinians. ”
        Wouldn’t be surprised if the signers in Palestine got lynched

        “Yassir Arafat privately admitted, four decades ago, that Israel would have to be allowed to keep the 78% of Palestine taken by 1949.”
        And that’s why the Zionists were morons to poison him: he even signed on Oslo. But you still don’t get the difference between letting a carjacker drive while holding a gun and officially relinquishing your car’s property.

    • Kathleen
      January 12, 2013, 6:59 am

      Yes. And we hear the neocons and even NPR repeat that Israel based on the 67 border has not been recognized by Hamas, Fatah and other Arab nations

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        January 13, 2013, 1:14 pm

        Kathleen – – Yes, indeed. Neocon warmongers lie time and time again, to deceive the American people into believing Hamas will not accept Israel and therefore Hamas deserves to be destroyed.

  12. James Canning
    James Canning
    January 11, 2013, 7:50 pm

    I think Chuck Hagel and John Kerry will try to engage with Iran. Aipac, of course, and its many stooges in the US Congress, will try to block any engagement with Iran.

  13. James Canning
    James Canning
    January 11, 2013, 7:53 pm

    Perhaps one should note here that the Iranian Intelligence ministry believes Obama accepted the programme of sanctions against Iran, as a better alternative to war. Which of course obviously is true.

    • Kathleen
      January 12, 2013, 7:13 am

      Pathetic and telling that the neocons and Israel were able to get unnecessary and destructive sanctions against Iran through our Israel lobby controlled congress when it comes to foreign policy. Squeezing Iran for what reason? Because Israel wants to be the dominant power in the region. So hundreds of thousands die in the region so Israel, the US and oil and gas companies can gain even more control in that neighborhood

  14. radii
    January 11, 2013, 8:09 pm

    Hagel is the Emergency Brake – he is not navigation

  15. ToivoS
    January 11, 2013, 8:22 pm

    Just saw this on Sullivan’s site

    Schumer is apparently not convinced that Hagel will be Israel’s advocate. Can you see what this nomination is up against? There is no way for Hagel to say anything critical of Israel in weeks ahead or to even say he opposes our current Iran policies.

    • Kathleen
      January 12, 2013, 6:30 am

      Schumer is absolutely one of Israel’s representatives in the US senate. If not the MAIN Rep. Schumer does not have dual loyalties when it comes to the US and Israel he has ONLY Israel’s interest as his focus in foreign policy issues. He is not a dual loyalist he has only one loyalty at that is Israel. He is a shaker, mover and a back stabber. He played a huge part in taking Charles Freeman out. You can be sure he is and will continue to try to take Hagel out behind the scenes. If Barney Franks self appointment goes through then that will be one more vote against Hagel during the hearings. Going to be really gruesome to watch Hagel have to bend over to the I lobby. Hope he can maintain his integrity and not have to grovel.

      Even John Kerry made a statement questioning Hagel on some of his middle east statements. Pathetic.

      i think Adam and Alex are way off on this one. The fact that Hagel has expressed realism and sanity on the Iranian issue and has somewhat called Israel out on the settlements etc and has been nominated for Secretary of Defense is a huge shift. Demonstrated Obama has some nerves of steel on this. Think he is tired of getting kicked in the cajones by Israel and the I lobby. Making a stand. A wise stand for the US

      • Kathleen
        January 12, 2013, 6:57 am

        When you have General’s Scowcroft, Colin Powell, James Jones, Dr. Brzezinski, Former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates all endorsing this nomination Hagel is backed up by a wall of strength that is going to be tough to mess with. The yellow bellied neocons are looking more and more foolish and demonstrating their lack of commitment to US national security.

        Over at THINK PROGRESS they have a run of pieces on this issue. Feinstein and Levin have come out in support of Hagel. A very good sign. In one of the articles over at Think Progress they report that only five Senators have come out and said that they will vote against Hagel. Cornyn, Wicker, Coburn, Ted Cruz, David Vitter (is he the one caught with a prostitute). Are these guys all pushing for what they believe is the second coming of Christ?

    • Kathleen
      January 12, 2013, 7:15 am

      Thanks for the link. Sullivan nails it once again. Chris Matthews used to have Sullivan on a fair amount. Hope he has him on to discuss this issue. Clearly Schumer is behind the scenes trying to take down Hagel. You can bet Barney Frank is doing the same and if his self appointment goes through that will be one more vote against Hagel. You know those liberal types who turn radically wrong on Israel and Iran..Schumer and Frank are two of them who fall into this category

  16. Blownaway
    January 11, 2013, 9:58 pm

    Absolutely true. Instead of validating the truth of what Hagel is saying they are defending him by repudiating his own words…

  17. Opaleye
    January 11, 2013, 10:20 pm

    So the AP is reporting that ” … Chuck Hagel, is meeting with senior Pentagon staff to try to set the record straight about his stand on Iran, saying he backs strong international sanctions against Tehran and believes all options, including military action, should be on the table… ”

    This piece of Kabuki theater evidently relies on the notion, believed by most Americans, that the Pentagon desperately wants to attack Iran and thus requires assurances from Hagel that he is on board with such plans.

    Can I just point out that if the Pentagon really was so keen on attacking Iran, there was nobody to get in their way during the Bush years when Cheney spent every waking minute trying to get that war on.

    So who really did stop that war? The Pentagon stopped it, obviously. There was nobody else who could stop it. They stopped it because unlike Cheney and assorted neocon fruitloops, the military actually has a clue about the consequences.

    So it is obviously not the Pentagon being reassured during the theatrical events in Washington. There is an intended audience, certainly, but it isn’t the military.

    As for the idea (in a comment above) that withdrawing from the Afghan mess would relieve pressure on the military and make room for an Iranian war… let me just put it this way: a war with Iran would be a real, actual war. They would actually fight back. Unlike the Iraqis and Afghans, the Iranians would hit the US at home. There is also the possibility that China might decide it didn’t like one of its major energy suppliers being messed with. The Iranians have submarines, so if Chinese submarines sink a few aircraft carriers, they could simply say it was the Iranians hitting back and while the US might know otherwise, what would they do, declare war on China? There are dozens of scenarios like that. The Pentagon would rather keep those scenarios strictly theoretical , especially since they know there are no actual American interests at stake.

    This is not to say that the US won’t strike Iran. I don’t trust Obama if he gets desperate but if Bush didn’t do it there’s a decent chance Obama won’t do it either and it certainly won’t happen due to the Pentagon agitating for it … they are the ones who will have to deal with resulting disasters.

  18. ritzl
    January 11, 2013, 11:40 pm

    Think potential inflection point. Nothing more.

    But a potential inflection point that would not have happened otherwise, given the alternative candidates.

    Obama does seem to be girding himself with a team that is capable (on the Hill and in media) of resisting wars of choice. Though, who knows what that actually means in concrete policy terms or directions. Probably not much at first, but the resistance has to start somewhere/somehow, or it’s just a joyride to irrelevance, for the US as a global power, and maybe more significantly, for O’s proverbial “legacy.”

  19. HPH
    January 12, 2013, 1:05 am

    I like this article and its different interpretation of the meaning of the Sen. Hagel nomination. However, I tend to side with Phil’s optimistic point of view, and I echo the comments by ToivoS. In my comment, I start with an observation about the AP item quoted in the article concerning the military option. Sen. Hagel states that the military option is on the table. To me, it’s obvious that it is on the table for any nominee for that position, and thus there is no conclusion to be drawn from his statement. However, the reason I’m optimistic about Sen. Hagel is that if he were the Sec. of Defense, a process involving facts and assessments about costs and outcomes will be undertaken before a new war is started. Furthermore, the confirmation process itself will not be one that the warmongers would prefer. I think that in the end, they will wish that they had confirmed Sen. Hagel by voice vote so they could have avoided all the discussion about the military budget and the failures of neocon ideas. Finally, I think the whole point of the war talk is to divert attention from the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. My expectation is that a realist, such as Sen. Hagel, will reduce the probability that war chatter can lead to a real war. It’s not a huge expectation, but it’s enough to make me hope that he survives the confirmation process.

  20. Kathleen
    January 12, 2013, 7:34 am

    Alex and Adam ” Hagel represents a slight deviation from Washington orthodoxy, and while these shades of grey mean something in beltway power politics, the difference on the ground is meaningless” I believe this statement could not be further from the truth. Hagel has clearly stated that he basically opposes a military strike on Iran and does not support Israel doing so. If you live in Iran on the ground which is where most people live this is not a “meaningless” difference. This is a monumental difference. Life altering difference.

    A “slight deviation” of monumental proportions goes a long way these days

  21. DaveS
    January 12, 2013, 8:47 am

    Interestingly, this post by Adam and Alex conflicts with a similar post by Max Ajl on Hagel’s nomination, on the question of war with Iran. Phil sees Hagel’s selection as diminishing the chance of war, A & A do not, and Ajl says there wasn’t going to be a war anyway, despite all the saber-rattling. I agree with Max on that.

    I am mostly in agreement with the skeptics who think that Hagel will not represent a dramatic departure from insanity as usual, but I still strongly feel that there are benefits to his nomination, including demonstrating that such a pick could be made over the objections of the Israel lobby, which sets an example for the future. Phil may be making too much of Hagel, but he often is more optimistic about events that I am. It’s reasonable for Max, Adam and Alex to take a more cautious view, but I think they go too far in ignoring the significant value of Hagel’s selection over the strong objection of some truly awful people.

  22. tommy
    January 12, 2013, 11:41 am

    Hagel’s appointment is a tactic by the president to manipulate Democratic liberals into supporting his conservative foreign policies because of their reflex to support whatever and whomever is opposed by neo-conservatives. Hagel is not a liberal and has always embraced the role of America as world hegemon. The president would not appointment Hagel to become Sec. Defense unless he was acceptable to most of the big war contractors and their financiers; factions liberals should fear and oppose.

  23. fillmorehagan
    January 12, 2013, 2:36 pm

    If war with Iran is perceived to be a cakewalk like Iraq there would be little opposition to a US attack from the ruling establishment.

    But with a US-Iran war likely to be very costly for BOTH sides, only the crazies are pushing for such a conflict.

    Imagine what would happen to the dollar if Iran managed to sink or severly damage a US carrier with anti-ship missiles.

  24. dbroncos
    January 12, 2013, 3:51 pm

    @David Samel

    I agree, David. In nominating Hagel, Obama sent a message to the very vocal and powerful “bomb Iran” crowd. Hagel’s nomination also means that, if he’s confirmed, Obama will be getting advice from a Defense Secretary who is on record for opposing war with Iran. These things don’t mean that Barack “the decider” Obama won’t wage war on Iran, it just means that he’s not likely to get a nod of encouragement from the Pentagon chief. Leaving aside the war with Iran issue, Hagel doesn’t represent a significant departure from American Imperial MO and I don’t remember Phil or anyone else saying that he does.

  25. mcohen
    January 12, 2013, 4:03 pm

    i think that some have made the mistake of looking at hagel through the i/p conflist lens instead of taking in the whole picture

    this from asia online-

    Hagel cordial, but outdated on China
    By Brendan O’Reilly

    News of Chuck Hagel’s nomination to Secretary of Defense has been warmly received in China. Hagel, like most of the contemporary leadership of the American military, favors closer engagement with his counterparts in the People’s Liberation Army. China’s top leadership has interpreted Hagel’s recent public statements as reassuring signals of American cordiality.

    there is a bigger game on and the i/p conflict is just one small piece in that game
    the board has changed from black/white to green/red
    tension between china and japan and china,s rising demand for resources will change americas foreign policy leadership not israel

    • James Canning
      James Canning
      January 12, 2013, 4:58 pm

      The biggest danger currently faced by the US is yet another idiotic military adventure in the Middle East, and there is no doubting Israel has tried to block any improvement of America’s relations with Iran. The Israel lobby has blocked numerous Iranian efforts to re-establish normal relations with the US.

      We should thank China for trying to help resolve the Iranian nuclear dispute, through negotiations.

  26. TC1995
    January 12, 2013, 4:24 pm

    I agree and disagree. I agree because the nomination of a Secretary of Defense will never inherently change foreign policy. It could Noam freakin’ Chomsky, it doesn’t matter. Meaningful change in foreign policy has to come from Obama and Kerry. However, I think the nomination suggests that Obama wants to make some changes. I have to think he would’ve nominated any old neo-con if he didn’t.

    • mcohen
      January 12, 2013, 8:17 pm

      keep in mind that china has just gone through its own leadership changes and it is obama that would be looking to meet the challenges that the chinese leadership changes bring ,but more importantly i believe that north africa is starting to boil and by the end of this year there will be full scale conflicts going on in several countries.this will be bad for business and all round-look what has happened in mali -if islamic insurgency spreads to nigeria then that will be of real concern to europe and that could lead to direct intervention in north is here that china would need to pay for military intervention on its behalf to secure its commercial interests.thats what i see developing in the next 3 months

      • ToivoS
        January 12, 2013, 9:45 pm

        Trying to change the subject Mr Cohen. Hagel’s appointment is all about Israel and Iran right now. It is true Obama would like to “pivot” to East Asia but the ME fires still have priority.

        BTW, a fundamental basis in Chinese FP is non-intervention in the affairs of foreign nations. There is no way they will involve themselves militarily in Africa to protect their commercial interests. It would be totally unprecedented. All they need to do is watch the US bankrupt itself in ME wars and realize their best strategy is to sit back and watch the US defeat herself.

  27. Blank State
    Blank State
    January 12, 2013, 11:24 pm

    Gads….all this horseshit about Iran defies the imagination. Ironic that it is the neo-con wackjobs that enabled Iran to gain a strong foothold in Iraq, by the military misadventure the invasion, (and subsequent attempted corporate looting of Iraqi assets, blocked by Sistani), that enabled the Shiites to assume power.

    Truth be told, that pathetic monkey Bush, and his neocon handlers fucked this country up beyond repair, both domestically, (economics), and in regards to foreign policy. Any middle eastern Muslim that doesn’t hate our guts by now is either in a coma, in the employ of the CIA, or being offered a fortune to be one of our puppets.

    And this spineless previous nobody Obama??? On EVERY issue he has proven to be a lying worm. Renditions. Torture. Accountability. Transparency. Signing statements. Executive orders. Everything he promised to do, and everything he promised NOT to do, was ALL horseshit. He started his tenure by REFUSING to hold the Bush criminals accountable before the law. In so doing he joined thier ranks, and became one of them. He is a fraud, a marrionette for the same power players that operated Bush’s strings.

    This Hagel crap is simply theatre. Ask your grocer, your neighbor, your co-worker, your mechanic about Hagel or AIPAC, Israel or Iran. You’ll get a blank stare, ot a verbatim rendition of whatever line of crap MSNBC or Fox News is peddling this week. Everytime I turn around, there is some new “Ohhhh, this time AIPAC’s gonna get it” event being slobbered on by those that know the TRUTH about the lobby’s corrosive affect on our own security. It amazes me that those astute enough, and informed enough, to form a realistic opinion are still taken in by these frequent skits the scumballs in DC and the media stage for our consumption .

    AIPAC owns Congress, and therefore, our policies towards the Middle East. And it will be a cold day in hell when someone as false and cowardly as this Obama embarrasment is takes on Israel’s stranglehold on the United States’ Middle Eastern policies and players. If Hagel is in, then he had to sell out to get in.

    Get a grip, folks.

    • Kathleen
      January 13, 2013, 10:45 am

      I agree with you that Obama (who I never had high hopes for in the first place after watching him be a fence sitter while in the Senate) has been a great disappointment when it comes to false WMD/invasion of Iraq accountability, Wall Street accountability etc etc. I totally disagree with you that this Hagel nomination “is simply theater.” I think it took some steel nerves for Obama to follow through and select Hagel. And if you are living on the ground in Iran and there is less of a chance that the US or Israel may be dropping buster bunkers or other bombs in your country the chance that via the Hagel nomination the US is even less likely to go along with Israel and the I lobby to attack Iran. Huge difference…monumental. I think we should give Obama some credit on this one

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        January 13, 2013, 5:50 pm

        Kathleen, I would not be surprised if Obama regrets naming Robert Gates to Defence in 2009, rather than Hagel.

  28. NickJOCW
    January 13, 2013, 5:10 am

    I would suggest that the US relationship with Israel is increasingly seen as tactical rather than strategic, and tactics imply flexibility. What is obvious is that achievement of the US strategic objective, something just one pip short of ideological, is faltering and it is possible to trace much of that to circumstances in the ME, and specifically the festering ‘dead end’ relationships the US has with the Arab world.

    Being committed to Israel’s security sounds fine but commitment to a nation’s security is what being an ally means and the US has many allies. Similarly the business of ‘all options being on the table’ with Iran is another empty convolution since being on the table is what makes something an option and conversely being an option means precisely that it is on the table. It’s a bit like saying, I’m married to my wife. Negotiation with Iran, which the US has yet to try, is presumably another option on the table and since Ahmadinejad’ s tour comes to an end in June there is an obvious opening for face saving de-escalation there. I see grounds for cautious optimism.

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