Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Hagelian Dilemma

Pat Buchanan, an ardent opponent of the neocons, has endorsed Obama's pick Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. But Ron Paul will not go so far, and seems to imply that the enemy of the neocons--Chuck Hagel--is not necessarily Dr. Paul's friend.

Hagel has shown some admirable willingness to advise caution overseas. He is seen as unenthusiastic over the prospects of a US war on Iran, which is certainly to be welcomed. But let us not forget that he did vote for the war against Iraq, he has expressed support for multi-lateral sanctions on Iran, and last year he wrote in the Washington Post that, on Iran, he supports “keeping all options on the table, including the use of military force.” Nevertheless because he does represent a more moderate voice in foreign policy than the neo-conservatives can tolerate, they are dragging his name through the mud. In choosing Hagel, then, we can hope the president is signaling that he will pursue a less aggressive foreign policy in his second term. But we cannot count on it.
This is a confusing issue because although Hagel may not be a Paul Wolfowitz-like neocon, he certainly is not on board with an ideal Paulesque/Buchananite noninterventionist foreign policy. Should someone vote against Hagel for being too pro-war? or vote for him to stick it to the neocons? Is Hagel as good as it gets in terms of aversion to war with Iran? It seems Ron Paul doesn't trust Hagel to avoid war but Buchanan does.
Paul gained his nickname "Dr. No" by holding every vote to a strict standard. This standard includes an opposition to militarism abroad. But holding to this standard may force Obama to nominate someone more pro-war than Hagel. This dilemma gets to the heart of politics as to whether compromise is ever justified.

Finally, the sad fact is that neocons and Ron Paul alike oppose Hagel for opposite reasons. Politics makes strange vote coalitions.

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