There is a persistent gene in today’s Republican Party. It’s a trait that has been passed for a long time and sometimes for good reasons. It originated in the Cold War and it’s still alive to this day. That pesky gene is neoconservatism.
This modern branch of American conservatism was founded by political theorist, Irving Kristol. He was a fervent anti-communist who believed that the U.S. had to increase military spending in order to defeat communism around the world. Communism required the U.S. to increase military spending just like global terrorism back in 9/11. Military spending has only been trending up. But his advocacy for abundant military spending came especially from his dogmatic support of Israel.
When Senator McGovern ran for president, Kristol made it clear that defending Israel was an American responsibility. He opposed McGovern by saying, “We don’t want to cut the military budget, it is important to keep that military budget big, so that we can defend Israel.” He said that back in 1973. But you could easily hear that same kind of argument from today’s Republican senators.
Just look at the latest nomination made by President Obama.
Senator Chuck Hagel is opposed by many Republicans up on Capitol Hill even though Hagel is a former Republican senator from Nebraska. That’s right, a Republican opposed by his own party. Usually when someone is opposed by his or her own party, he or she must have committed a mortal sin. But Hagel’s mortal sin is not even close to an unintentional sin.
Hagel criticized U.S. foreign policy on several occasions. He’s at odds with the War on Terror and the American role in Israel. But his statements on Israel are the ones that get most attention. In a 2006 interview, Hagel said, “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here … I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator.” Hagel insinuated that politicians cannot criticize America’s involvement with Israel because of the Israel lobby’s magnitude in current foreign policy. Apparently a slight critique of Israel is automatically considered anti-semitism.
Thank no other than neoconservatism. Hagel’s criticism of Israel is clearly taboo in today’s current Republican Party because of men like Irving Kristol. His son, Bill Kristol, came out in opposition of Hagel. Mr. Kristol said that Hagel and Hagel’s supporters “are suffering from ‘neoconservative derangement syndrome.’” Well, I guess I have a disorder then.
Chuck Hagel should be our next Secretary of Defense. The fact that he criticized Israel brings fresh air to the Pentagon and a fresh perspective to our political discussion. Hagel is a man of realism just like his friend Colin Powell who endorsed Hagel’s nomination in the last Sunday news shows. Powell couldn’t be more right.
American foreign policy should not depend on another country. This is the U.S. Secretary of Defense we are talking about, not Israel’s Secretary of Defense. With all due respect to those on the right, you are wrong. Hagel is the ideal nomination. He’s someone who is weary of American interventionism around the world. Hagel is also weary of the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower so vilified. He understands that foreign policy decisions are executed by statesmen and not military officers. That’s why we elect representatives. Generals, unlike Eisenhower, are not elected and they do not represent the will of our republic.
There is no issue with Hagel. The problem is the Republicans Party. Republicans keep missing obvious opportunities to show the American public that they are not the party of President George W. Bush’s military adventurism. We should put Bush behind us and embrace a foreign policy that puts our national interests first, and not Israel’s, Iraq’s, Afghanistan’s, Libya’s or Iran’s.
Isolationism is not the answer, but our government should reevaluate our role in the world.