National Journal reports on the “overwhelming” support for Hagel among “national security insiders.” The report quotes one of them saying this:
Hagel’s survival would represent glasnost on the right.
I would like to believe that Republican foreign policy debate can improve and incorporate a much wider range of views, but would this happen because of a Hagel confirmation? Will the many foreign policy dissidents inside the GOP this person mentions become more willing to make their arguments publicly after the campaign against Hagel, or will the intense hostility towards any and all dissenters that has been on display in recent weeks convince them to remain quiet? Assuming that there are “lots of foreign policy dissidents” out there, how does Hagel’s confirmation make them less fearful of the hard-liners? If they are still intimidated by hard-liners after the Iraq debacle and three electoral defeats in the last six years, what would encourage them to speak up now? This raises the question: what have they been waiting for? Dissenters against the hawkish party line should take advantage of the hard-liners’ apparent failure to derail Hagel’s nomination to challenge their policing of the foreign policy debate. If they don’t, everyone will assume that these dissenters don’t exist and that the hard-liners’ views are representative of the party as a whole.
The article quotes another “insider,” who says:
Hagel comes from the school of foreign policy that Republicans used to be able to display proudly — including during elections. Those opposing him should ask why the GOP hasn’t been able to talk about foreign policy in a winning way in the last two presidential elections [bold mine-DL].
There are several reasons why the GOP hasn’t been able to do that. The party tied itself to a belligerent and triumphalist nationalism that was politically useful in the short term in the early 2000s but intellectually bankrupt and exhausting after just a few years. Republican hawks assumed that the party’s advantage on foreign policy and national security derived from a willingness to make demonstrations of military strength, but this was the opposite of why most Americans trusted Republicans on these issues. They failed to see that the party’s advantage depended much more on the sober defense of national interests without resorting to force and the competent conduct of international relations that allowed the U.S. to advance those interests peacefully. Finally, having plunged into an unnecessary war and then horribly mismanaging it, Republican hawks refused to acknowledge error or failure and continued denouncing the Republicans and conservatives that had been right on Iraq all along. Republican hawks can’t talk about foreign policy in a winning way because they have still not come to terms with the fact that a majority rightly regards them as both incompetent and dangerous. As long as the hawks define the party’s foreign policy, the party will fail to win the public’s trust.