Friday, February 1, 2013

The narrative on Chuck Hagel

I like to talk about narratives. Sometimes I don't mention them because they can be hard to pick up on. You have to actively read into things and be on the lookout for clues. Often times my brain just isn't working in that mode. But every once in a while a topic comes up in politics where the narrative is about as clear as you can get. And Chuck Hagel being nominated for Secretary of Defense is one of those instances.

I'll direct you here for reasons why he should be nominated. He's not exactly my ideal candidate. But he has many strong qualities that should make him a competent leader. You would think his qualifications and what he thinks about the wide range of topics the job encompasses would be the focus of the narrative. But it hasn't been. It's been about his thoughts on Israel. Specifically, the narrative has been how his previous thoughts regarding Israel and US policy toward Israel either make him anti-Semetic or an open-minded person who doesn't just tow the line that Israel and it's supporters in the US throw out there. And as you can see from this breakdown, the Senate Armed Services committee was almost solely focused on Israel and it's nemesis Iran during his confirmation hearing.

Sure, Israel is our ally and has geographic importance. But we are fighting two wars. The economy is still not growing fast enough, which means that the military might be (should be) asked to trim its spending. Yet the bulk of the discussion from the Senate, which has to confirm Hagel, was about an ally and it's dealings with a nation that Israel itself has a much more powerful military than, not to mention many more nuclear weapons, and not to mention that the US military dwarfs not just Iran, but the rest of the world.

I won't get into the weeds on the specifics of why this is the narrative that has arisen. I'll direct you here and here for that. The point here is that Republicans in the Senate seem to only care about what Hagel thinks regarding Israel while ignoring basically the rest of the world, even much of the US. The Senate is supposed to "advise and consent". As the people who are supposed to hold these elected and appointed offices accountable, it would be nice to know what Hagel thinks of things like the two wars we are currently fighting, our drone policy, our assassination policy, torture, extraordinary rendition, Gitmo, nuclear proliferation in places aside from Iran, climate change's effect on security, PTSD, sexual assault, private defense contractors, Mali, Syria, Libya, etc. etc. The list can go on and on. The world is, after all, a big place with a lot of big problems.

But we won't be able to hear Hagel's thoughts on those subjects on such a public stage. Granted, Hagel isn't required to give his full and unfiltered opinion about anything. But at worst the questions need to be asked. So often when it comes to foreign policy and national security we are deemed not allowed to know anything or even given the ability to ask questions to people in power. The fact that the narrative on Hagel has been so narrowly focused on Israel shows where the priority is for those in power. It's not on the citizens of the US, our soldiers, or the billions of people around the world. It's on their own self-serving interests.

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