I watched the entire eight-hours-long confirmation hearing of Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee for the new Defense Secretary, at the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. I watched it with disgust and delight at the same time.
Disgust is actually too mild an adjective to describe my feelings as many Committee members, mostly Republicans, as well as some Democrats, were pummeling Mr. Hagel and attempting to force him to capitulate to their relentless inquisitorial barrage. I wouldn't have felt so disgusted if these attack dogs were all honest, patriotic Americans sincerely concerned about Mr. Hagel's qualifications, track record and attitudes before endorsing or opposing his nomination.
One could be very honestly misguided, misinformed or simply stupid, and still manage to get elected to a high office; this happens more often than we'd like to believe where money and special interest influences rule supreme. But people like Lindsey Graham or John McCain are not stupid or misinformed, which might not be the case with Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, and some of the other agenda-driven inquisitors.
The charade, which is exactly what it was, couldn't have been better staged to expose the core problems at the highest levels of our government. Those who actually bothered to watch the process on television had a chance, perhaps for the first time ever, to observe what powers and motivations are at play that drive America's foreign policy in the direction it has been heading, i. e., counterproductive and potentially disastrous.
John McCain's own Vietnam war record speaks volumes about his attitude and confrontational stance against Chuck Hagel. McCain flew bombing missions over Vietnam, and was finally shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese and spent the rest of his time there in detention. His mission was to bomb, bomb, bomb, without any direct awareness of what exactly he was bomb, bomb, bombing or how it must have felt to be on the ground being bombed, bombed, bombed!
Chuck Hagel and his brother Tom, in the meantime, were on those grounds as infantrymen experiencing the horrors of combat firsthand. Chuck was awarded the Purple Heart twice, along with several other combat related honors. I wonder what was going on in Chuck Hagel's mind looking at the Senator from Arizona and recalling his dancing around like a cartoon character or Fiddler on the Roof and singing "bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran" a few years ago.
McCain was very persistent on two points: First, he wanted to know why Mr. Hagel had expressed the view that the "Surge" in Iraq had been a big mistake when, as McCain maintained, it was the pivotal event that had turned the tide in our favor in that war. His second problem with Chuck Hagel was the latter's lack of enthusiasm in getting more forcefully involved in Syria's civil war and enforcing a no-fly zone to help the rebellion against the regime.
McCain, perhaps believing that the United States was the winner in the Vietnam war, is also of the opinion that the "Surge" brought us the final "victory" in Iraq, notwithstanding the fact that hundreds are still dying daily, almost every single day, in that lawless land, and it is not clear what was "won" as the result of that "Surge". On Syria, this worn-out former warrior is again showing his recklessly irresponsible side by promoting an involvement in that fragmenting country without weighing all the pros and cons of that action. He is obviously figuring we should start bombing this and supporting that, and if those we have supported turn out to be the bad guys, well, we should bomb, bomb, bomb them, too!
Well, the former bomber pilot had no problem with such cavalier statements, not years ago when he was sitting in the pilot's seat and certainly not these days when one could bomb, bomb, bomb by remote control! Could we expect more from a former presidential hopeful whose running mate was the brave moose hunter and the pit-bull wearing lipstick, Sarah Palin?
When Lindsey Graham challenged Chuck Hagel to name anybody in the US Congress who was influenced or swayed by the Israel lobby, as Mr. Hagel had stated several years ago, I was hoping that Chuck Hagel would not stand up and point finger at the entire panel in front of him; and, thankfully, he did not. It took great courage on his part to swallow his pride and let that neoconservative attack dog humiliate him over and over again. He showed true courage, not the kind Mr. Graham takes pride in while he was serving as a non-combatant Judge Advocate and a reservist during the Gulf War: "In 1998, according to the Congressional daily newspaper The Hill, Graham was describing himself on his website as an Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran. In reality, he never left South Carolina.", excerpted from Wikipedia.
Chuck Hagel certainly doesn't need the job of Defense Secretary; he has already served his country as a real soldier and a statesman. Accepting President Obama's nomination was a signal that the Administration is actually attempting to open new venues in addressing the global affairs. As several panelists at the hearings for Mr. Hagel's nomination stated, he seems to be outside the "mainstream" of American politics. He is, and that is exactly why he was nominated; about time, Mr. President!
Let us look at the "mainstream" thinking that has brought the United States to the current state of affairs. Mainstream thinking or attitude in the political domain implies what the public in general, and the public's representatives at the policy decision making levels in particular, believe and uphold. The principle relevant points of the "mainstream" beliefs that have to do with America's foreign policies, with focus on the Islamic world and particularly with the Middle East as brought up in the confirmation hearings are as follows:
Whether the above points are correct, misperceived or are deliberate distortions, they define the "mainstream" attitudes that have been deeply engrained in the public mindset, creating powerful currents against which swimming will be very difficult indeed. But like a riptide, one must swim patiently parallel to the shore and not directly against the current in order to gradually reach safety.
During the course of the Senate Arms Services Committee interrogation of Chuck Hagel, the words Iran and Israel were repeated about 300 times! The inquisitors' attempt was clearly to gauge to what degree the nominee to head the Defense Department hated Iran and loved or was willing to be subservient to Israel; that's all! It was quite an experience watching the proceedings on TV, trying to refocus my attention to the fact that I was actually observing a committee of the United States Senate In Washington, DC, and not on the floor of the Knesset in Israel.
To be realistic, it goes without saying that every nation should be, and is, obligated to pursue its own best interests by adopting policies that serve that purpose. And it should be obvious that the pursuit of one nation's interests or advantages in the global domain often entails forming alliances with promoters of evil or creating animosities against forces of good, even defined in one's own terms. There are, and have always been, violations of one's highest moral, ethical and legal principles in the course of pursuing one's interests. Interests are more often on a collision course as one nation's objectives to serve its own interests requires denying another nation's legitimate self-interests. This is simply a fact of life.
However, in this natural and undeniable process, success is achieved only if the determination of a nation's best interests is based on objective and honest analyses, and the short-term gains are measured against longer-term advantages on a realistic balance sheet.
Those who believe that the policies of the United States toward the Islamic states in general, and the Middle East in particular, have promoted America's best image and interests, need read no further.
But if the engagements in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now our looming involvements in North Africa and Syria, and even the more potentially catastrophic entanglement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, are viewed as anything but risking American prestige, credibility, global standing and even America's very security, then we'd better redress our policies before it is too late.
| Kam Zarrabi is the
author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion.He has conducted lectures and seminars on international affairs,
particularly in relation to Iran, with focus on US/Iran issues. Zarrabi's latest book is Iran, Back in Context.
More information about Mr. Zarrabi and his work is available at: intellectualdiscourse.com
There is every indication that America's foreign policies are being aggressively and very carefully reexamined by President Obama. The nomination of Chuck Hagel as the new Defense Secretary, Vice President Joe Biden's less confrontational remarks, and John Kerry's position as the Secretary of State, seem to herald a measured departure from the so-called "mainstream" thinking that has been drawing the ship of state toward the whirlpool of disaster.
Could Mr. Hagel have responded to his venom spewing inquisitors any differently than he did? Of course he could. He could have allowed his sense of pride compel him to reaffirm his true positions and former statements, and let the chips fall where they may. He could also have allowed his ego to take over, telling them all to go to hell while walking out of the chamber.
Instead, he decided to tolerate the assaults, allowing himself to appear apologetic and even humiliated, and later to be criticized by the "mainstream" media as undeserving of the job due to his "poor performance".
Let's see what that "poor performance" actually accomplished:
What remains to be seen is the ability of the US Administration during Obama's second and final term in office to implement policies that, clearly for the first time in recent memory, prioritize America's own present and future interests above all else.
... Payvand News - 02/05/13 ... --