Foreign Policy

Chuck Hagel Not So Hot as Non-Interventionist, American Conservative Explains

Don't believe the hype?


birds of a feather?
White House

In an article on the Hagel confirmation, "the most depressing episode in the Republican foreign-policy debate since George W. Bush was president," The American Conservative asks whether there might be a peace caucus in the war party and offers an explanation of why Chuck Hagel's non-interventionist credentials might be overrated:

Hagel himself represents the kind of realist Republican who hasn't always been particularly antiwar. He voted for the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, and national surveillance. In 2004 he called for reinstating the draft, albeit on the grounds of shared sacrifice across socioeconomic lines. Hagel's gradual shift on Iraq was certainly important, but less decisive—and less reflected in his voting record—than Rep. Walter Jones's.

Moreover, Hagel's own performance at his confirmation hearings left much to be desired. To be sure, much of this had to do with the fact that the Obama administration pushed him to disavow rather than defend many of his positions. Few of us would sound eloquent disowning our own opinions and embracing someone else's.

But how strong of a voice for foreign-policy restraint will Hagel be within the administration if he has already walked back many of his stands before taking office? And he seemed ill-prepared for obvious questions, something that cannot necessarily be blamed on White House efforts to censor him.

The American Conservative compares the former Republican Senator's foreign policy record (and how he's run from it) to some current ones:

By contrast, Paul and Lee have voted against the Patriot Act, in favor of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, and for measures designed to remove or dilute the indefinite detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act. They have both sought to impose checks on warrantless wiretapping. Paul introduced and voted for a resolution to revoke the authorization of the Iraq War.

For his part, Paul has argued that the issue of extrajudicial killings under the domestic drone program is of more importance than the Hagel confirmation fight. And he has implied that his Hagel vote was motivated in part to win Republican support for extracting information from CIA director nominee John Brennan.

Brian Doherty wrote about the criticism Rand Paul has faced from the anti-war right for voting against cloture on Hagel. Chuck Hagel's nomination looks like it'll be approved in the Senate despite the "historic" filibuster; John McCain, one of Hagel's fiercest critics, has said his confirmation is now imminent. No such word, yet, for John Brennan.