Home/Daniel Larison/The Case Against Hagel Depends on Distortion and Ignorance of the Facts

The Case Against Hagel Depends on Distortion and Ignorance of the Facts

Peter Lawler doesn’t know very much about Hagel:

The Hagel nomination is pushing all the right buttons–unifying, as I predicted, the lefties at THE NATION with the isolationists at THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE–in support of the ANTI-MCCAIN. The “neocons” (well, of course, not just neocons) are interpreting the nomination as evidence that the president–contrary to what he said during his campaign–doesn’t care about Israel’s future or a nuclear Iran or even a resolute national defense. There is, after all, evidence from Hagel’s mouth that support those concerns. But the McCain perspective is really unpopular now, and so why not trick the Republicans into projecting it once more? Another issue, of course, is there’s little evidence that Hagel could actually RUN the Pentagon (I admit there’s not much McCain could do it either). The drop-off in quality from Gates and Panetta is pretty obvious, from an executive perspective.

This is just extremely poor analysis. No one is playing a “trick” on Republican hawks. They could refrain from panicking over the Hagel nomination if they weren’t so eager to denounce anyone who deviates even a hair’s breadth from hard-line policies. It seems that they cannot help themselves. These Republicans “project” the “McCain perspective” because they share it or because they think it is politically necessary for others to think that they share it. Why might the “McCain perspective” be unpopular at the moment? Perhaps because it is a perspective that incessantly demands the waging of unnecessary wars in countries where the U.S. has nothing at stake?

Like a lot of other people, Lawler buys into the caricature that Hagel’s critics have created. He might have made some effort to investigate Hagel’s record to find that there’s no “evidence from Hagel’s mouth that support those concerns” on Israel and Iran, but he’s clearly just reproducing what hawkish detractors have said without checking any of it. On the last point, Lawler doesn’t even pretend to have any evidence to support his claim. Perhaps he doesn’t know that Hagel has some significant executive experience in the private sector and from his time as president and CEO of the USO. That record suggests that there won’t be any “drop-off in quality” in the management of the department. Of course, no one gave the executive experience of Gates or Panetta a second thought when they were nominated, because they weren’t being subjected to ideological purity tests during their confirmation processes.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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