One part of Sen. Cornyn’s “case against Hagel” is most revealing for showing how dangerously hard-line Hagel’s critics are:

The same person who urged President Bush to offer Iran “direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks.” The same person who called for establishing a U.S. diplomatic mission in Tehran. The same person who dismissed “a military strike against Iran” as “not a viable, feasible, responsible option.” The same person who wrote that a nuclear Iran might be tolerable because “sovereign nation-states possessing nuclear weapons capability (as opposed to stateless terrorist groups) will often respond with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior.”

Cornyn lists these things as if they are proof that Hagel should be disqualified from the position. Would such talks have succeeded? Maybe not, but they might have created an opening to resolve some of the outstanding issues between the U.S. and Iran. To that end, establishing a mission in Iran could have created more normal, stable relations that would make a crisis less likely. It shouldn’t be considered some sort of thought-crime to urge the U.S. to pursue diplomatic solutions, but for Cornyn that’s exactly what it is. At the time when Hagel dismissed military action against Iran, the U.S. was still at war in Iraq. Would Cornyn like to defend the proposition that attacking Iran at that time would have been a responsible thing to do?

Of course, attacking Iran wouldn’t be wise or responsible now, either, but it would have been even more reckless five or six years ago. Finally, nuclear-weapons states are likely to act for their own preservation, and no self-interested regime is going to usher in its own annihilation. The fact that Hagel has said or believed all of these things in the past suggests to me that he has some connection with the real world and that he isn’t interested in starting wars that can be avoided. In the end, that is what riles Hagel’s hard-line critics more than anything: they assume that he will make it at least a little harder to push the U.S. into another unnecessary war.