After hours of debate yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmed former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, along strict party lines, with a 14-11 vote. Hagel is expected to narrowly be confirmed by a full vote in the Senate as soon as Minority Ranking Member Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) says all holds placed on the nomination are cleared. While reasons such as financial disclosure and – in the case of Senator Graham - information on Benghazi have been given for holding Hagel’s nomination, such holds are essentially due to Hagel’s heterodoxy on foreign policy.
President Obama’s foreign policy team is undergoing a makeover, with the nominations of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State, former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, and the Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan as CIA Director. All three gentlemen are expected to be confirmed; Kerry already has, Hagel will likely be confirmed (following an abysmal hearing) later this week, and Brennan faces his confirmation hearing this Thursday, which will essentially be the GOP’s final chance to hold Obama accountable for broken national security policies.
The GOP squandered two opportunities to ask proper questions of Kerry and Hagel. The Kerry confirmation hearing was a jovial affair for one of the first advocates on intervention in the Libyan civil war in 2011, which, by the way, received no congressional authorization. When Kerry was questioned about congressional authorization, he essentially bragged about his history of support for unilateral Executive action in Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Bosnia, and yes, Libya.
What all the GOP candidates are after, are so-called ‘delegates.’Elected officials that will broker the convention of either party this fall. Officials are parcelled by the amount of votes, the candidates receive in the primary.
During Michigan’s primary recently, for instance, there were 30 official delegates, state-wide. Two were ‘at-large’ candidates, which meant they could be assigned individually to any winning candidate. The other 28 were ‘proportional’ ones, alotted through 14 congressional districts. During the push for the nominations in Michigan last night, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spent millions of dollars to influence the voting population; with TV ads, pamphlets, media, interviews, rallies, stickers, and much more. Michigan’s grand sum of politcal expenditure was near six million bucks.
Delegates are what really counts at the GOP convention. What looks to be happening, is that no clear winner will come out victorious. There’s a righteous number: 1444 delegates will win any nominee the victory-nod of the Republican National Committee. Nationwide, 2169 delegates are extended for contestation, until the RNC celebration in Tampa, Florida. From the RN Committee, an additional 117 delegates are added into the mix, ostensibly to keep debate lively and clear-up dead locks. So what appears, on first looks, to be a rather hot-headed and fast paced Republican rocket-launch to the RNC, is more like a jammed or misfired pistol in a duel.
Momentarily, Mitt Romney is in the lead, with 167 total delegates. Rick Santorum is second with roughly half, at 87. Newt Gingrich won only one state and has 32, while Ron Paul has 19 carefully collected delegations. The count may reshuffle at any moment, since constitutionalism and populism together, ring alarm-bells in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
From Foreign Policy b/w of The Daily Beast comes some really fascinating thought on Ronald Reagan’s approach to foreign affairs:
Was the Gipper as tough as his fans make him out to be? “Today’s conservatives have conjured a mythic Reagan who never compromised with America’s enemies and never shrank from a fight,” Peter Beinart writes in an excerpt of his new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, in Foreign Policy magazine. “But the real Reagan did both those things, often. In fact, they were a big part of his success.” Beinart says Reagan was “terrified of war” and he fought suggestions, from both within and outside his own administration, that he bomb or send troops into Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Cuba. Beinart also takes issue with the conservative boast that Reagan “frightened” the Soviet Union into submission. “The problem with this story is that Reagan began abandoning his hard-line anti-Soviet stance in late 1983, 18 months before Gorbachev took power,” Beinart writes.
A critical case in point here would be the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983. It killed 241 American servicemen, the most killed in an assault on American troops since World War II. Reading about the attack’s response is illuminating:
President Obama marked the 94th remembrance day for the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Turks during World War I. As a candidate, Obama called the killings genocide. On a trip to Turkey as president last month, he shied away from that description.
This may not seem like much, but it is a ballsy move on the part of President Obama to call what happened an “atrocity.” However, it’s not ballsy enough. Why is Obama unwilling to use the g-word now that he is president, while, as a senator, he called for President Bush to recognize Turkey’s crimes by sponsoring the Armenian Genocide Resolution?
I’d like to echo the comments of my fellow contributors here at United Liberty in a call for a non-interventionist foreign policy on the part of the United States when it comes to the situation in Gaza. This conflict is complicated and poses no real threat to our national security. The U.S. should discontinue its foreign aid to Israel as well as Egypt, Jordan and all other countries receiving the largesse of the American taxpayer.
Independent of any opinion regarding who is “right” and who is “wrong” in this conflict (I think there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides), I do have to stand up and give Israel a small moment of applause for standing up to the United Nations. Israel is a sovereign nation and has the right to make its own military decisions. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently reacted to the UN Security Council’s recent resolution on the situation in Gaza:
By now, everyone is aware that Hamas has attacked Israel, though it was Israel itself which broke the ceasefire. I no longer have a television but I know the story is plastered on every major news network because it is also plastered on every political blog and social networking site. There is an entire network of supporters on both sides of the conflict insisting that their side is blameless and that the concerns of the other side are unremarkable. Both sides are spewing enough hyperbole and anger to warrant concern about fistfights breaking out stateside.
The conflict between Israel and it’s “neighbors” in Gaza and the West Bank is a great big mess that apparently has just one solution - according to a large group of foreign policy geniuses in America and Israel: more fighting.
The recent Israeli military incursion into Gaza has been correctly termed an “invasion”, as put by Congressman Ron Paul. It shows the world, once again, that the policy of preemptive or “preventive” war carries the day with Israel and its policies towards its neighbors. In reality, this is an extension of the U.S. foreign policy of intervention into the internal affairs of other nations, having taken its latest form in the past five years as preemptive war with the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Many staunch (i.e., blind) supporters of the state of Israel somehow believe that the latest military strategy will somehow work in staving off the threats of rockets being fired by members and supporters of Hamas.
Back in 2004, when I was coming of age politically, I strongly sympathized with the Palestinian cause. I’ve always found the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes during the creation of the state of Israel to be a mistake of modern society, and I find it blaringly obvious that the black-haired and brown skinned refugees in the West Bank have a more rooted history with the Middle East than the brown-haired and white skinned Jewish college students from Seattle and New York who go to Israel to find themselves.
My support for Palestinians dissipated, however, as I became more aware of the horrors of modern Islamism. The Palestinian people have voted Islamists into power through Hamas. Peace has never been on the Islamist agenda and so peace is not what the Palestinians have gotten.
A curious thing happened to my Twitter feed late last week: the official Twitter account of the Israeli Defense Forces started appearing with greater and greater frequency. This baffled me, as I don’t subscribe to the IDF (indeed, I had no clue they even had Twitter) until I realized that it was all being retweeted by many, many conservative (and even some libertarian) friends.
By now we are well aware of the conflict going on between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli government in Jerusalem. I say this, and not between the Palestinian and Israeli people, because I think this is a conflict mostly driven by political ideologies and politicians’ stupidity, and that the vast bulk of the people living in either territory would just want it to stop. They want the rockets to stop falling, the bombs to stop falling, the bulldozing to stop wrecking, the dead to stop dying.
Yet amazingly, Americans all across the right-wing spectrum are chanting for more death, more violence, more destruction, more chaos, in an area that really has nothing to do with anything American and which a victory for either side will mean absolutely nothing for our national interests (aside from, perhaps, whether or not we’ll bring on the Eschaton this year.) Meanwhile, the United States gives over $3 billion a year to Israel in military aid, a cost that—in these dire straits, facing a fiscal cliff—we can and must cut.
Nevermind the budgetary impact—I feel what we’re doing here is deeply immoral.