The Man for the Budget Cuts
By Nadav Eyal
Translated By Hannah Stork
08 January 2013
Edited by Kyrstie Lane
Israel - Maariv - Original Article (Hebrew)
Let us start at the end: President Obama’s decision to appoint Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense was met with raised eyebrows in Washington, not to mention a certain level of surprise. Indeed, in this battle, there will be no victors. Not Hagel, who, if nominated, will arrive on the job worn and beaten; not Obama, who will fight this battle for a man who has been perceived time after time for his problematic remarks, whether they be regarding Iran or against the homosexual/lesbian community; and not even the Republicans, who will fight against the senator and Vietnam war hero who once served on their side and in their own party. It is going to get ugly. To tell the truth, it is already ugly.
But there is a big difference between this and the historical outlook that Hagel will abandon Israel. Regarding Israel, Hagel is a Republican realist. Those dinosaurs were used to grazing freely on the fields of the American empire up until they became almost entirely extinct. The attempt to present Hagel as an anti-Semitic enemy of Israel is ridiculous. True, Hagel would like the United States to converse directly with Iran; and no, he does not believe that war is a necessary outcome of the nuclear crisis there. He wants to prevent war at almost any cost. But in that he is no different from Obama or Hillary Clinton. Hagel understands that Israel is an ally, but he has no moral obligation to Israel. While this does not particularly give us much hope, it is nothing new.
There have always been those kinds of Republicans in Washington – they are usually the ones insisting that Israel communicate with the PLO. Remember Jim Baker, who said, “F*** the Jews; they didn’t vote for us anyway”? And remember when he shouted the White House telephone number and said about Israel, “They know our phone number”?* Remember Kissinger, who pressured Israel ceaselessly on a whole string of subjects? And George Shultz and his international convention?
Praying for His Failure
The argument that presents Hagel as anti-Semitic will be one of the central arguments presented against him in the Senate hearings; but beneath this basic story, which everyone is writing and talking about, there is also a back-story which is no less powerful – maybe even more so.
Obama did not nominate Hagel because of Iran or the peace process in the Middle East; those are matters that Obama will oversee himself as one of the American presidents most focused on foreign affairs since Nixon. Hagel was nominated because of a number, and that number is 700 billion dollars. That, more or less, is the total American defense expenditure. And that number grew by more than 100 percent (no, that is not a typo) in the last decade. This inflation is the result of two wars – the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq.
Now that the wars are over, an army of lobbyists is fighting to keep that cash flowing. Who employs those lobbyists? Tens of billions of dollars flow every year to private companies, industries, defense contractors, and others.
It is much easier to tell the American public about Hagel’s stance toward Israel, Iran, and Hamas than to explain to them that there is here an attempt to protect the military-industrial establishment. Not that everyone who opposes Hagel does so out of economic interest, but let us just say that behind the moral arguments, there is also an entire industry united in its prayers that Hagel will be disqualified.
The defense establishment has a good reason: Hagel’s hero, the man whose portrait is hung in his office, is Dwight Eisenhower, military leader of the landing at Normandy but also the American president who believed in less war and less defense expenditures. In his farewell address, Eisenhower said things that still echo through Washington today because of their controversial nature: “Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience... In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”
*Editor’s Note: The author paraphrases Baker’s words in this quote.
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