In looking for some of the speeches that Chuck Hagel neglected to turn over to the Senate Armed Services Committee, I stumbled across a 2004 piece for Foreign Affairs. By that time, Hagel had voted for the Iraq war, but his opposition to the surge to save that war effort was still in the future. Here, before he turned on his president, was his “Republican” foreign policy outline. He was all smiles for the Bush foreign policy, citing his action in Afghanistan and his pro-democracy vision.
Back then at least he understood that we had to fund our military. “Republicans recognize that strength abroad begins with strength at home. U.S. resources require wise and judicious management. Deficits and entitlement programs, if unchecked, will undermine confidence in our economy, impede economic growth and investment, make the United States less competitive, and erode our position as a world economic leader. U.S. policymakers will then be forced to make hard choices between national security and domestic priorities.” Hmm. Now he wants to join an administration that puts national security at the bottom of budget priorities.
Unfortunately, Hagel’s piece also reveals the sort of mushy platitudes that come to dominate group-think on foreign policy. In his hands, language becomes virtually meaningless. (“The strains of demography, frustrated economic development, and authoritarian governments contribute to radicalized populations and politics.”) Like his presumptive boss, he delighted in taking on straw men. (“No single country, including the United States with all its vast military and economic power, can successfully meet the challenges of the twenty-first century alone.” Is anyone saying differently?)
When it gets to specifics he goes haywire, however. Are we in a civilizational battle with radical Islam? Heck, no: “This is not a clash of civilizations . . . but one within cultures and societies about models of governance.” Iran? A friend, he says: “The United States and its allies must therefore develop a regional security order for the greater Middle East that includes Israel, our Arab allies, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan and Iran. Regional security can be a bridge to a U.S. dialogue with Iran and another means to address Iran’s support for terrorism and its nuclear program.” Really?
It only gets worse beyond the Middle East. On Russia: “Strengthening the U.S.-Russian relationship means developing more effective bilateral trade, which would ultimately create additional jobs, security, and prosperity in both countries. The United States should engage Russia as a strategic energy partner. Russia has proven oil reserves in excess of 60 billion barrels and natural gas reserves reaching some 1,700 trillion cubic feet. As U.S. energy policy seeks to ensure diversified sources of energy to meet the United States’ needs, we must seek a policy that includes Russia as a strategic trading partner.” Really, Vladimir Putin, whose power and wealth derives from oil money is going to be an energy partner with us?
Next up is China. He’s clearly in the China-hugging club: “The United States and China will not always agree, and the United States should not shy away from voicing its concerns about human rights and the rule of law. But its voice will be heard most clearly and constructively in the context of a bilateral relationship that is generally strong and confident.” And on North Korea: “China’s role and influence will be critical in helping contain the nuclear ambitions of North Korea. China’s special relationship with North Korea allows it to play a unique role in encouraging Pyongyang to make the right choices. Without China, our influence with North Korea is reduced.” Hmm. That didn’t work out too well.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), in a devastating explanation of his “no” vote for Hagel’s confirmation in the Armed Services Committee, said: ““There are very few people who have been this wrong about so many things.” How right he was.