Charles Krauthammer’s explanation of the “meaning of Hagel” gets off to a horrible start and never recovers:
The puzzle of the Chuck Hagel nomination for defense secretary is that you normally choose someone of the other party for your Cabinet to indicate a move to the center, but, as The Post’s editorial board pointed out, Hagel’s foreign policy views are to the left of Barack Obama’s, let alone the GOP’s. Indeed, they are at the fringe of the entire Senate.
If a center-left Democratic president appoints a center-right Republican to his Cabinet, almost by definition he cannot be doing anything other than moving to the center or the right. The Hagel-is-left-of-Obama idea is ridiculous for many reasons, but this is the most obvious one. Hagel’s appointment is a puzzle only to those that can’t or won’t comprehend that he wasn’t on “the fringe of the entire Senate.” Indeed, I suspect that many of the people making this charge know it to be nonsense, but find it useful for the moment to promote it. Hagel belonged to a group of moderate Republican internationalists that have all but vanished from the Senate GOP. When they were there, they were arguably among the more reliable supporters of most consensus views than many of their other Republican colleagues. While most Republicans tried to stop the ratification of New START in 2010, for example, it was the remaining relative moderates that provided enough Republican support to approve the treaty.
Are Republican realists and moderate internationalists to Obama’s “left” on foreign policy? The question shows how useless right/left labels can be and how easily they can be abused. Is it only a view of “the left” that unilateral sanctions are ineffective? No, it isn’t. Anyone who gives the issue a moment’s thought will understand why multilateral sanctions are less likely to be evaded than unilateral sanctions. Likewise, one doesn’t have to be on “the left” to be appalled by the senseless waste of unnecessary war or to recognize the futility of continuing to wage such a war after it has proven to be a disaster.
Republican hawks want to accuse Hagel of moving to “the left” because he has become even more skeptical of military action than he was in the past, but one might just as easily say that he had moved towards the right of traditional and dissident conservatives opposed to unnecessary wars and hyper-activist foreign policy. Hard-liners in the GOP have long wanted to portray any conservative and Republican dissent against unnecessary wars as “leftist,” which they have to do to obscure the reality that the policies they favor are antithetical to conservative principles of restraint and prudence. This is necessary for them to maintain the fiction that hard-line foreign policy is the proper conservative view and that conservatives should be hard-liners when the opposite is the truth.