Novus Ordo Seclorum, Politics, War & Peace

COTTON IN TALL COTTON

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by David Beilstein

Republican Congressmen Tom Cotton of Arkansas wrote over at National Review Online, a piece about former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s shifting foreign policy views on Iran and the broader Middle East.

Rep. Cotton takes Mr Hagel to task about flip-flops, concerning the danger of the Theocratic Iranian regime,

According to his advocates, Chuck Hagel is both a maestro of geopolitics and a lonely voice of political courage. But one supporter, Senator Chuck Schumer, has done Mr. Hagel no favors by implying him to be either massively ignorant of history or willing to say anything to become secretary of defense.

In a recent interview, Mr. Schumer said Mr. Hagel is explaining his past conciliation toward Iran by claiming Iran is more dangerous now than it was when he was a senator: “He basically said, look, the bottom line is the world has changed since 2005, ’06, and ’07. Iran is far more dangerous and far more militant than it was then. He said Hamas and Hezbollah are closer to Iran and more militant and worse.”

Iran was less dangerous in 2005, 2006, and 2007? That would come as a surprise to the soldiers killed by Iranian weapons in Iraq. In those years, Iran was smuggling a particularly lethal kind of roadside bomb into Iraq. Known as an explosively formed projectile (EFP), this bomb could penetrate even an Abrams tank. I led an infantry platoon in Baghdad in 2006. We had a fatalistic view of EFPs; unlike many bombs, the only way to survive an EFP was not to hit one. I reviewed post-blast analyses with gruesome pictures of blood-soaked, twisted, charred steel of something that once resembled a Humvee. To be fair, though, perhaps Mr. Hagel didn’t think these acts of war made Iran dangerous at the time. After all, he voted in 2007 against designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organisation, even though it was responsible for the EFPs.

With all due respect to Rep. Cotton’s service, he seems to be missing the point here. Mr Hagel did what he did partly out of conviction (Iraq being badly mismanaged with bad rules of engagement) and partly to increase his own political power.

I have never thought Mr Hagel a maestro of foreign policy brilliance. That’s not the point. Neither is it the point that Iran – and it is – is dangerous.

What Rep. Cotton does not seem to comprehend is that the American people do not want Republican foreign policy – they do not want more wars, for they are still radically displeased with the last two and how they were handled.

It’s that simple.

It does not matter how bad Mr Hagel’s foreign policy views are. They are popular because they steer in the opposite direction of neo-Conservative ideas – Wilsonian, not of the Framers – about intervening around the world, shaping and building democracies.

Republicans had an opportunity to offer a substantially different foreign policy than the failures that led to the Iraq and Afghanistan troop sumps… they did not. Presidential nominee Mitt Romney pulled a Sen. John Kerry from his failed 2004 presidential venture – the “I can do it better” card.

American voters reacted by reelecting a failed community organiser Commander-in-Chief.

Doing it better, it seemed, meant more intervention around the world. If America chooses to fight wars in the manner it has for the past ten years, it will continue to lack success in its military adventurism.

It is not a matter of President Obama’s foreign policy being good – it concerns Republican foreign policy, being even less popular. Neither the president’s foreign policy nor GOP foreign policy has been wise. But because Republicans mismanaged two wars, the American people rejected the Grand Old Party’s take on matters foreign and domestic on Nov. 6.

Political parties have to be more than right.

Competency matters.

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