I appreciated Rod’s continuation of the discussion of Hagel and his record. Rod writes:

But I fail to see where being inside the supposed “mainstream” of US foreign policy and national security decisions over the past 12 years has been advantageous to the US.

Indeed, it is a fairly good rule that the more conventionally “mainstream” Hagel’s past votes and views have been, the more likely they were to have been wrong according to realist and non-interventionist standards. What distinguishes Hagel from most of his colleagues is that he has been more willing than they are to entertain and hold views that the rest of them avoid for fear of appearing to be moving outside of “the mainstream” as defined by the likes of Graham. Of course, as Greg Djerejian notes today, this relies on a definition of “mainstream” that is itself extremely limited and stifling:

Posturing aside, I do not understand how Hagel can be out of the “mainstream”, unless one means the suffocating clutches of supine group-think that have eviscerated much of the foreign policy class [bold mine-DL]. I believe skepticism about a military adventure in Iran is eminently “mainstream”. Indeed, I would go further, and would think that fuller consideration of a “containment” doctrine vis-à-vis Iran should be “mainstream” too—if ultimately diplomacy and sanctions were to run aground, only leaving potentially less desirable military options, and as done with arch-foes in the past of far greater geopolitical strength than Iran (even if the President has ostensibly removed this policy option from the table). I believe skepticism about unilateral Iran sanctions—as compared to the multilateral variety that Hagel more typically has supported—is “mainstream” and indeed, far more intelligent, as unilateral sanctions can be avoided with ease and so have materially less bite.

Absolutely. When Lindsey Graham complains that Hagel’s views are not “mainstream” enough, he is speaking for a very limited range of opinion within the political class and within his own party. He is speaking on behalf of what Djerejian calls the “suffocating clutches of supine group-think.” The closer that one looks, the more that one sees that Graham’s “mainstream” is very narrow and excludes large parts of his party’s own rank-and-file and a majority of the public on many issues.

When Graham lectures someone else for their supposedly marginal or “fringe” views, we are treated to the spectacle of an ideological hard-liner representing the view of a small faction who is trying to pretend that he represents the broad majority of Americans. He represents no such thing. Graham has hardly ever seen a foreign crisis or conflict in the last decade that he didn’t want the U.S. involved in, and he usually favors military action as a desirable way to handle major international issues. Compared to Graham’s record, Hagel has been far more “mainstream” in his views in that Hagel’s views are the ones much more in sync with those of the public than Graham’s. The bipartisan foreign policy consensus helped lead the country into the disaster of the Iraq war, but unlike Graham et al. most of its adherents were able to acknowledge that it had been a terrible mistake. Graham represents the people who still refuse to acknowledge the reality of what their preferred policies did and would do do again if they are repeated. We shouldn’t be interested in what such people consider “mainstream,” and we certainly shouldn’t take their advice on who should serve in important government positions.