What Exactly Do Libertarians Think About Foreign Policy?

Robert Gates

Most people who care about such things have heard by now that former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who served under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, has written an insider’s account of working with both administrations. Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War will be released to the general public next Tuesday and, if the excerpts are any indication, it looks to be quite the compelling read.

While the comprehensive work will surely have much to offer, a small conceit included in what’s been released stands out, especially since the opinions — or lack thereof — regarding national security interests on the part of self-described libertarians are sure to be a major part of candidates’ platforms in the coming election. If conservatives seeking office are smart, that is. Here’s the gem:

Ted Cruz Questions Chuck Hagel’s Patriotism

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.

Senate Confirmations: An Opportunity Squandered

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.

The Hagel Hearings: Congressional Politics at Its Worst

Written by Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

The confirmation hearings on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to head the Pentagon are mercifully over. His wobbly performance earned derision among neoconservatives, but he responded as they intended to an interrogation that was all about politics, not policy.

As I have noted before, Hagel is under fire because he disputed neoconservative nostrums to speak unpleasant truths to the Republican Party. He was an orthodox conservative, including on foreign policy. However, he was an Eisenhower, not a Dubya, Republican: Hagel criticized the debacle in Iraq, urged negotiation to forestall Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and backed reductions in today’s bloated military budget. General turned President Dwight Eisenhower could not have put it better.

Chuck Hagel Would Be an Excellent Secretary of Defense

Written by Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

The rumors that President Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defenseshould be welcomed by anyone frustrated by years of war and foreign meddling, and out-of-control spending at the Pentagon. Which is to say, nearly everyone. I hope the reports are true.

The biggest boosters of the Iraq war, the Afghan war, the Libyan war, and possible war with Syria and Iran, are apoplectic. And they should be. Hagel, a decorated Vietnam war veteran, understands war, and doesn’t take it lightly.

Although the president will obviously make the decisions, I expect that Hagel will generally advise against sending U.S. troops on quixotic nation-building missions. We might even see a resurrection of another Republican SecDef’s criteria for restraining Washington’s interventionist tendencies. At a minimum, Hagel will reflect Colin Powell’s view that “American GIs [are] not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global game board.”

Senate ends debate on Chuck Hagel’s nomination

Chuck Hagel

Nearly two weeks after Republicans successfully filibustered his appointment, the Senate ended debate on Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense in a 71-27 vote earlier this afternoon.

Republicans had objected to comments and positions taken by Hagel, who has previously served two terms as member of their caucus in Senate. Some of the comments and innuendo thrown back at Hagel were taken out of context or were based on incredibly tenuous sources, such as the “Friends of Hamas” fiasco.

Shortly after the first cloture vote, Republicans started breaking away. It was apparent that Hagel would be confirmed in due time.

Among the 27 Republicans who voted against cloture were Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio.

What does Hagel’s confirmation mean? Not much. Republicans insist that he has been margalized due to the confirmation process, but they were ultimately unable to block him. That stunt may have helped them with neo-conservatives, but it did little else. And Hagel isn’t the non-interventionist that anti-war activists are making him out to be, though he has walked back some of his previous views.

Senate Republicans filibuster Chuck Hagel’s nomination

Chuck Hagel

Senate Republicans took a questionable stand again yesterday as they successfully filibustered Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense.

The GOP case against Hagel has some holes. It seems based more on heresay and glaring misrepresentations of Hagel’s record. Republicans in the chamber have tried to make Hagel as unfriendly to Israel. For example, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took a quote made by Hagel when he was serving in the Senate completely out of context to make it appear that he was criticizing Israel and then later questioned his patriotism. Jay Bookman has some other examples of the rhetoric used by Republicans against Hagel during confirmation process in the Senate.

And in other cases, it’s a way to go after the White House, such is the case of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who recently said that he planned to hold up Hagel’s nomination until the Obama Administration answers questions about Benghazi.

Graham: “No Confirmation Without Information”

On Sunday’s Face the Nation, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he will attempt to block Obama’s nominations of both John Brennan to CIA Director and Chuck Hagel to Defense Secretary over the Obama Administration’s failures in Benghazi.  As it is Bob Schieffer’s job to “wring news out of his guests,” Graham, emerging as the new head of the Neocon Right, certainly obliged.

The full transcript is here, video is here, and key moments from the exchange are as follows:

GRAHAM: “I don’t think we should allow Brennan to go for forward the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed for secretary of defense, until the White House gives us an accounting. Did the president ever pick up the phone and call anyone in the Libyan government to help these folks? What did the president do? …What did he do that night? That’s not unfair. The families need to know. The American people need to know…”

SCHIEFFER: “But let me — I’m not sure I understand. What do you plan to do if they don’t give you an answer? Are you going to put a hold on these two nominations?”

Hagel’s a Good Fight

Written by Benjamin Friedman, a research fellow in defense and homeland security studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

Chuck Hagel isn’t the consistent dove his opponents say he is, and he’s no civil libertarian. But his nomination as secretary of defense is still a fight worth having.

Can someone give an honest case against Chuck Hagel?

Chuck Hagel

“To question your government is not unpatriotic — to not question your government is unpatriotic.” - Chuck Hagel

Based on media reports, President Barack Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel, who spent two terms in the United States Senate as a Republican from Nebraska, to serve as Secretary of Defense.

The nomination isn’t exactly surprising. It has long been thought that Obama would nominate Hagel. However, the road to confirmation in the Senate looks shaky as hawish Republicans seem to be preparing for a battle because they believe that Hagel is “anti-Israel,” a sentiment expressed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Sunday talk shows:

Republicans, in particular, have raised objections to statements by Mr. Hagel that they have described as dismissive of Israel and soft on Iran. Mr. Hagel once described pro-Israel lobbying groups as the “Jewish lobby.” He has insisted that he is a strong supporter of Israel.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he personally liked Mr. Hagel, but that he was “out of the mainstream of thinking on most issues regarding foreign policy.”

“This is an in-your-face nomination of the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel,” Mr. Graham said. “I don’t know what his management experience is regarding the Pentagon — little if any — so I think it’s an extremely controversial choice.”

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