2013 January 21 Monday
Neocons Oppose Chuck Hagel: Probably Good SecDef Choice
At The American Conservative Philip Giraldi looks at the neocon enemies of Chuck Hagel's nomination as Defense Secretary. I'd like to thank the neocons for letting me know that Chuck Hagel has the right stuff to be SecDef.
More recently, however, critics have taken to characterizing Hagel’s strengths as weaknesses. One of the most unusual pieces to take that line was an op-ed in The Washington Post by leading neoconservative Eliot A. Cohen, “Hagel’s military service is a scant qualification for defense secretary,” which was then essentially replayed by Jennifer Rubin on her Post blog as “Old soldiers don’t make for good Pentagon chiefs,” lest anyone miss the point.
The United States of America can not afford its current military or its current entitlements programs. The people who want to use the United States to pursue their own foreign interests do not want to accept that.
What's especially foolish about the interventionists is that they exaggerate what the US could achieve abroad even if it had an extra trillion dollars a year to spend on foreign interventions. It is not in the range of morally acceptable by today's mainstream moral sensibilities for the US military to set up the US as a colonial power to give some other nation the quality of government needed to make a substantially positive difference. Plus, even if the US was willing to intervene and set up a full on colonial administration (and e.g. Haiti would benefit from nothing less) the reasons lots of countries are messed up are so baked in that a large positive net effect is still against the odds.
Furthermore, the United States can not reengineer the Arab countries to make them friendly to Israel. So the biggest goal of the neocons isn't attainable. Even worse for the neocons, US support for Arab democracies produces elected Islamist regimes which are then harder to buy off with US foreign aid.
The folly of the neocons is mind boggling. For my peace of mind I've lost my interest in US foreign policy follies in the Middle East and Africa. The US has such big (and seemingly intractable) domestic problems that I'm pretty well diverted away from thinking about foreign follies.
By Randall Parker at 2013 January 21 06:55 PM
I agree that Hagel is most likely a good choice. How important is past military service as a qualification for Secretary of Defense? Probably not very. Indeed, I would be suspicious of anyone who had achieved high rank, as he would likely already have been captured by the entrenched military bureaucracy. But let's take it for what it's worth and look at the military service of some recent Defense Secretaries -
Leon Panetta - two years as a lieutenant in Army Intelligence - never saw combat
Robert Gates - two years as a lieutenant in Air Force Intelligence - never saw combat
Donald Rumsfeld - three years as a naval aviator - never saw combat
William Cohen - trial lawyer (!) who never served in the military - unanimously confirmed by Senate
Probably the greatest SecDef, James Forrestal, was a Wall Street investor who served for two year in WW I as a naval aviator but never saw combat.
So as military experience goes, Hagel's two years as a sergeant with combat experience in VietNam looks pretty good.
Good points, but the flip side is that the massive American military spending, which is larger than the second to tenth largest military budgets of other countries combined, along with the foreign aid, has more or less bought world peace for the past sixty years -- because of America's overwhelming dominance, countries have been less likely to go to war. America's decline as a superpower will be met with increased instability and conflicts worldwide, which increases the odds for regional or global conflicts. Every action, an unintended consequence and reaction.
Overall I don't like Hagel. His comments on Iranian sanctions bely deep ignorance about the way countries and people function on a basic psychological level. Like Obama, I think his actions will rapidly give way toward greater global instability and undercutting of America's allies, regardless of the fake apology tour he's currently embarked on.
America's ROI on keeping most of the world stable is low. Conflict escalation: I do not see it. Besides, most of the countries willing to duke it out with each other are not well developed. Taking them out of the world economy will have minimal impact.
I ask: what is in it for us? What real security needs do we need to protect? I think we can do that protecting for far less money. Overthrowing Saddam bought us nothing. He would have been quite happy to ally with the United States. Most dictators are.