The Old Right is back, and in Hagel it has, perhaps, found a formidable and eminently electable candidate. ~Justin Raimondo
Put a lot of emphasis on that perhaps. First, there are some definitional problems: Hagel is not an antiwar Republican. How do I know? Because he never says he is against the war. There’s a mighty big difference between being antiwar and being opposed to the frustratingly incompetent way a war is being fought. There’s certainly a huge difference between opposing the war and opposing the “surge.” Hagel has distinguished himself, such as he has, as a critic of the war’s management, but you get no sense from any of his public statements that he would dream of proposing a withdrawal from Iraq or bringing an end to the war in the near future. In defense of his support for Biden’s resolution in the FRC the other day, he specifically argued later that he does not support “redeployment” in the foreseeable future, be it “phased” or “rapid.” He has endorsed the conventional wisdom that withdrawal would make everything even worse than things are now.
Furthermore, to the extent that he does advocate extricating the U.S. from Iraq, it is simply a Murthian sort of extrication not terribly different from Lugar’s regional watchman idea. As Prof. Bacevich noted grimly, there is no fundamental opposition in Washington to the underlying flawed, non-America First U.S. policy that has gotten us to this dreadful pass. Hagel certainly doesn’t hold to any such foreign policy view and he never has. He has come to deeply regret his authorisation vote, as well he might–should we give him a medal for realising the obvious four years too late? Nothing that he says tells me that he understands that the Iraq war came from the profoundly misguided internationalist foreign policy to which he has always subscribed and to which he still generally does subscribe today. Nothing tells me that he is really all that comparable to anyone who might have once been called Old Right.
Let me a couple words in defense of people who actually think there are other issues besides the war. First of all, there really are other pressing issues of national concern. If Hagel were right on the war from an antiwar perspective (which he really isn’t) and wrong on everything else, who would be the monomaniac if you supported him anyway? If libertarians find the drug war deeply offensive and a candidate’s support for the drug war a dealbreaker, as well they might given its long-running egregious violations of constitutional rights and its inextricable ties to an interventionist and meddlesome foreign policy in Latin America (not to mention its hitherto counterproductive effect on counterinsurgency in Afghanistan), this is not necessarily monomania (a weird charge coming from the editor of Antiwar.com). It could very well be a consistent extension of their commitment to non-interventionism. It is interesting how Sen. Hagel can now wrap himself in the Constitution complaining about national security infringements on protected liberties (especially since he originally voted to authorise the PATRIOT Act, as he must have, since only Russ Feingold opposed it in the Senate in 2001), when the drug war infringes on those same liberties using the same bad and transparent justifications.
Second, the political reality we face is that voters have more concerns than the war and those concerns have to be credibly addressed as well. One of the burning issues for many disenchanted Republican voters–and a potential opening for a candidate that is antiwar, committed to border security and opposed to amnesty (a tall order these days)–is obviously immigration. Sen. Hagel is, I’m sorry to say, one of the worst Republican Senators on immigration (Hagel-Martinez, anyone?).
If he ran in the GOP primaries or as an independent candidate, he would never gain any traction. That is the reality. Part of the reason why he would go nowhere is that he does not represent what one could reasonably call an America First position on immigration, and so he automatically alienates all of those people on the right most inclined to view his opposition to the administration favourably. I genuinely fail to see the Old Right reborn in Chuck Hagel. Granted, the alternatives may well be worse and it might be a case where we have to bite our tongues and accept a deeply flawed candidate for a greater good, but that’s no reason to kid ourselves that Hagel is either in real agreement with how we look at foreign policy or that he is actually electable. In truth, he is neither. If someone wants to make an argument that he represents the best chance antiwar conservatives and libertarians have of being represented, that is something else all together, but it would also a pretty sad statement about the continuing marginalisation of antiwar rightists that the best we can hope for is the candidacy of a pro-amnesty, disenchanted internationalist.