Hagel, Kerry, and Obama’s Second Term

John Glaser, December 17, 2012

Apparently there is controversy, even among like-minded non-interventionists, over Chuck Hagel’s rumored nomination to be Obama’s next Secretary of Defense. On the one hand, non-interventionists are excited by Hagel’s potential nomination to one of the highest offices in the country. Hagel has opposed the Iraq war, opposed the potential war against Iran while criticizing the economic sanctions, and perhaps most importantly he has admirably challenged the widespread reluctance (dare I say refusal) on the part of Congress to say anything critical of Israel, ever.

On the other hand, we’re talking about Hagel joining the Obama administration - the same coterie of brutes non-interventionists have been hammering these past four years on everything from expansive Great Game military policy in Asia, military surges in the Middle East, lawless drone wars, belligerence toward Iran, and unprecedented support for Israel. The vaunted second-term turn towards dovish foreign policies is largely a myth, and so Hagel’s seemingly impending nomination should be viewed with caution. It’s simply not likely that the Obama administration is getting ready to retreat from the distinct foreign policy it has developed in its first term.

Hagel, as I’ve noted a couple times in the past few days, has been repeatedly compared to Dwight Eisenhower. “Hagel is essentially an Eisenhower Republican,” writes Scott McConnell at The American Conservative, “a fiscal conservative, with combat experience in war, roots in the American heartland, and an awareness that it is far easier to get into wars than get out of them.” Sure, and while Eisenhower’s warning of the military industrial complex is a favorite of anti-war commentators, he still was the architect of post-WWII US foreign policy, which laid the groundwork for the imperial path we’ve been following ever since, and he did nasty things like overthrow democratically-elected governments and replace them with brutal dictators more subservient to US interests.

It is a sign of improving times that Hagel may soon be in the same seat Rumsfeld and Panetta previously occupied. But my guess is that the Obama administration is looking at Hagel not as an introduction to a significantly less interventionist foreign policy, but rather as a shrewd political choice to neuter Republican opposition on impending cuts in defense spending. Since Obama’s reelection, the focus has all been on the looming fiscal cliff, and Hagel’s potential nomination might be best understood in that context. According to The New York Times, “in internal discussions, White House officials have said that the challenge of the next few years will be working with Congress to shrink the defense budget and kill some major cold war-era weapons systems. For that, Mr. Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, is seen as better able to win votes from his former colleagues.”

The other mitigating factor in the Hagel-mania should be John Kerry’s seemingly imminent nomination to Secretary of State. Yes, Kerry decided, after-the fact, to oppose the Iraq war and run against the uber-imperialist neo-conservative George W. Bush in 2004. But anyone doubting Kerry’s own imperialist credentials need only look at my blog post from back in June after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Kerry is the chairman, released a report on what I called “Imperial Balancing.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee just released a report [PDF] on US policy in the Middle East. Much of the study describes how Washington will maintain key military bases and troop presence throughout the entire region and how to overcome challenges to maintaining such dominance, which is vital because the region is “home to more than half of the world’s oil reserves and over a third of its natural gas.”

One excerpt stuck out in which the Committee admits that US military presence in the region as well as US support for brutal dictatorships has generated widespread hatred and blowback. According to the report, the challenge is to maintain the imperial dominance over the region, but avoid the messy “backlash” and embarrassing support for “human rights abuses.”

Here are some choice excerpts from that report:

The United States must carefully shape its military presence so as not to create a popular backlash, while retaining the capability to protect the free flow of critical natural resources and to provide a counterbalance to Iran. Earlier American deployments in Saudi Arabia and Iraq generated violent local opposition. What the West views as a deterrent against aggression could also be misconstrued or portrayed as an occupying presence.

…The United States should preserve the model of ‘‘lily pad’’ bases throughout the Gulf, which permits the rapid escalation of military force in case of emergency. The Obama administration has adopted this architecture by retaining only essential personnel in the region while ensuring access to critical hubs such as Camp Arifjan [in Kuwait], Al Udeid [Qatar], Al Dhafra [in the UAE], Jebel Ali [in the UAE], and Naval Support Activity Bahrain. An agile footprint enables the United States to quickly deploy its superior conventional force should conflict arise, without maintaining a costly and unsustainable presence. Sustaining physical infrastructure and enabling functions such as intelligence, surveillance, and logistics, while keeping certain war reserve materiel forward positioned, is more important than deploying large numbers of U.S. forces.

and I added:

Preserving the model of “lily pad” bases peppered throughout the Gulf, which are afforded to Washington because it bribes undemocratic regimes with money and weapons, is how Washington maintains overweening power over the most geo-politically vital region in the world. This has been US policy since WWII, as a Top Secret National Security Council briefing put it in 1954, “the Near East is of great strategic, political, and economic importance,” as it “contains the greatest petroleum resources in the world” as well as “essential locations for strategic military bases in any world conflict.” After Obama administration failed in its efforts to maintain a large contingent of US forces in Iraq, following their predecessors launching of a criminal war there, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said he envisions about 40,000 troops will be stationed in the Middle East going forward.

Not only does this lead to US support for all kinds of repression and state terror, but it is detrimental to US security in the long term. The “backlash” the Committee is so worried about cannot be avoided and the veritable garrisoning of Iran’s surroundingsmakes the Islamic Republic more guarded, which amplifies tensions and increases the likelihood of unnecessary conflict. The alternative, minding our own business, is incomprehensible.

So while Hagel could potentially bring a stronger realist, willing-to-criticize-Israel voice to the higher echelons of the Obama administration, I predict he will not bring appreciable change. The Obama administration, in some ways, has already exhibited more foreign policy restraint than their predecessors in some important ways. There is much to criticize Obama for on, say, Iran or Syria policy – but both cases have been colored by his apparent reluctance to get bogged down in another massive ground war and occupation in the Middle East. That is already a departure from the war-mongers in the Bush administration, many of whom now are calling for bombing Iran and intervening directly in Syria. Hagel, himself no anti-interventionist, won’t change that one way or the other.

The Obama administration’s central foreign policy goal of maintaining global hegemony through unaccountable aggression and imperial policies the world over will proceed in the second term. Hagel or no Hagel.




26 Responses to “Hagel, Kerry, and Obama’s Second Term”

  1. As of September 10, 2012, John Kerry stated he is "very sympathetic with John McCain's passion" on 'Syria'?!?!?!?!?

    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/cb-hHMB7qV_qTLG/sen

    Bombs away….

  2. This man.., John Kerry.., is the Number two enemy of a functioning democracy from and within the Democratic Party., the first is Hillary Clinton, as her husband was.., and above them are those who control the party.., the other 1%….., who you don't hear much of but out there asking you to donate to the party and you do…..?

  3. John Kerry has an amazingly long military record, about 100 pages. It has never been made public. It should be. Its length is not consistent with his service or medical care. Many think it can only correspond to a Court Martial procedure and multiple appeals. The public has the right to know.

  4. I can't believe Obama would have the courage to appoint Hagel. I have always though of Obama as being a wimp all of his political career. I can't believe I am so wrong about him. Oh Hagel has a mixed record as a rational no-interventionist candidate in his history. So did Yitzak Rabin and yes, Dwight Eisenhower whom I would also compare him to. But these man understand and hate war. This would be a resounding symbolic defeat for the chickenhawk neocon warmongers even if, as you say, nothing really changes.

  5. Heh heh. It isn't courage on the part of Obama, but pure politricks. Hagel is somewhat associated with Ron Paul. What better way for Obama and his admin to offer false "hope", to the "conspiracy theory nuts" of the libertarian and or Ron Paul persuasion? I wouldn't buy this trick for a nickel. The dems would love nothing more than to suck you in and shut you up. Hope: Hagel says no.

  6. This is all PROPAGANDA to fool people that Obama wants to do something, but Israel lobby does not allow it. If this is the case, then it proves that Obama is a zionist puppet. Are you telling me that Obama cannot not protect American's interest? Of course he can if he does not put his own interest first. Obama is a conservative and timid person to be chosen by Israel Lobby for his black skin to fool targetted areas in the ME and Africa. Obama works using DECEPTION and propaganda . If you listen to Obama's lies then you believe he might be interested in improving the tension with Iran since he has been 're-elected', but l his actions shows to the contrary. His style is to spread rumors to change his image then acts upon it. Last month, he supported massacre of Palestinian children by Israelis like before. So, he never considers Chuck Hagel as head of the military. calm down. A war criminal is a war criminal and should be shipped to ICC,

  7. sometimes we think israel is wagging our dog; sometimes idiots like Bibi actually believe that horses-it too! But American CIA has a tight control over drugs/oil/and anything else they deem nesesary to New World Order domination. Globalist filth. Bankster scum. Hagel would be a plus though.

  8. Characterization of Eisenhower is patently incorrect. He spent a great deal of effort undoing the damage done by the real architect of the postwar world…Harry Truman, under whom after all, the US recognized Israel, got into Korea and founded both NSA and CIA. The overthrow of the Iranian government was hatched by Truman’s CIA in the waning days of his administration. Keep in mind also that Eisenhower was the last American president to stand up to Israel. It would be worth the author’s time to read Evan Thomas’s new book…”Ike’s Bluff” to understand him better.

  9. This is a very imformative essay. Thanks fro your good work. I say Hagel is just a red hering to fool the boobs. He will be just like Mitchell who was Mid East envoy. He threw up his arms in disgust and quit. Obama ha been owned by the Zionist Lobby his whole career. I doubt if he has any backbone to take them on in a meaningfull way.

  10. Why are so many who post at anti-war so cynical to think that, when it comes to Obama, nothing on the war-front will ever change? Maybe behind the scene Hagel has made it plain that he will not accept the post if Obama can't wait to get involved in new wars in Iran/Syria? Let's see how this plays out. Maybe without the need to get reelected, Obama will work to earn the Nobel Prize that he should not have yet received. The American people overwhelmingly do not want a new war against Iran. Now that the nation is looking inward after the slaughter in CT, maybe some of those in power will realize that our permanent war culture has something to do with our country's sickening murder rate.

  11. Conspiracy theory nuts? Please explain. Ron Paul discusses trimming the fat from the military, not surrounding the planet with bases, bringing troops home, and not being engaged in foreign adventures. Sounds right up the alley of AW. Maybe I'm missing something here.

  12. Our murder rate pales in comparison to how many people who have been killed by White House funded AL-CIA-DA terrorists the world over. I hope that issues in CT will help us take a close look at psychiatric medications and violent video games. We changed from a nation that carried guns everywhere and no relatively little crime to one that has much more restriction and more crime. Obama's second term is now Bush's fourth term. However, Obama is doing a good job at licking the boots of his NWO masters and doing the best to open our nation to foreign control.

    I could care less who it is in government. Let's get America back on the right back. End these ridiculous wars by that terrorist government we call ours and get the budget under control.

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  16. Congress to shrink the defense budget and kill some major cold war-era weapons systems. For that, Mr. Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, is seen as better able to win votes from his former colleagues.

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