Realist Hagel and His Neo-Con Haters

Those who oppose Chuck Hagel for DoD, and either whisper or shout that he is anti-Israel/anti-Semitic are really saying that to be pro-Israel, you have to support absolutely everything that Benjamin Netanyahu wants and stands for.

It’s like saying that you’re anti-American unless you support the GOP or anti-British unless you support the Tories.

Suddenly support for Israel is limited to support for its far right.

By this bizarre standard there are a whole lot of folks in Israel and politicians in its Knesset who are anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham and newbie Ted Cruz are afraid of Hagel.  They want to stay in Afghanistan forever, and they know that Hagel will argue to get out sooner than the end of 2014, which is what this war-weary country wants.

Now sometimes being war-weary doesn’t mean you’re right, sometimes you have to suck it up and stick it out, but in this case, the mood of the country matches the strategic reality that we have nothing to gain by staying longer in Afghanistan.

The Hagel haters also fear that he will be an effective spokesman for making DoD more efficient.  They can see him on the Sunday talk shows convincingly arguing that some weapons systems can be eliminated, that the defense budget can be cut without making us less safe.  They can see him authoring cogent op-eds that will sway opinion leaders.

I am excited about the combo of Hagel at DoD and Brennan at CIA.  Brennan is our Drone Guy, and he and Hagel will continue to fight the War on Terror the way it needs to be fought, with more drones and special forces, not tens of thousands of troops stuck manning mountain outposts while Al Qaeda finds other homes.

As Al Qaeda and its affiliates move and spread, we have to be as flexible as they are.  We had as many drone strikes in Yemen in 2012 as we did in Pakistan because we are taking the fight to the enemy.  There is talk of drone strikes in Mali (and maybe they are happening as I write this) because that’s where Al Qaeda is.

Obama, Hagel, and Brennan get it.  They see the big picture of how everything fits together. They see the importance of our relationship with Pakistan, frustrating and infuriating as it is.  They see how the war in Iraq destabilized the region and upset the balance of power by taking away Iran’s biggest rival and constraint.    Now Iran and Iraq are friends, and Iran is freer to pursue its dreams of hegemony in the region.  Hagel is a realist like Bush 41, who recognized that we should kick Iraq out of Kuwait, but not continue to Baghdad because we were better off with Saddam Hussein in power.