Right Hook

You know the War Party is in trouble when a prominent Republican like Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) starts criticizing their policies of endless war and repression on the home front, as in this Fox News interview. Notice how the Fox News war-bot, Chris Wallace, tries to trap him in a partisan vise:

“Let’s go over some of your positions and put them up on the screen. You favor direct talks with Iran, Syria and Hamas. Three weeks ago you called for an immediate truce with Hezbollah, saying the Israeli offensive was hurting our standing in the Middle East. You’ve been very critical, as we’ve just heard, of U.S. policy in Iraq. And you have problems with NSA wiretaps and parts of the Patriot Act. When it comes to national security, are you closer to John Kerry than you are to George W. Bush?”

Wallace also tries to paint Hagel as a Ned Lamont clone, but the Senator – and, we’ll bet, the voting public – isn’t buying it:

“I don’t base my analysis and judgment and votes on war, national security, on a party position. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. I don’t think Americans really want us to do that.

“Now, if you look at my record, my voting record – I’ve been in the Senate 10 years. Do you have any idea what my voting record is in support of the Bush administration position the last six years, the Republican Party? It’s about 95 percent over 10 years. My record is about as conservative as any conservative Republican in the United States Senate. It is constantly – the American Conservative Union constantly rates me as one of the highest. So I don’t apologize, Chris, to you or anyone else for my position. My conservative credentials are pretty clear.”

Right on, Senator! You don’t have to apologize to the neocons for your critique of their eminently anti-conservative foreign policy: after all, what could be more revolutionary, more destabilizing, more antithetical to the conservative agenda than a crusade to conquer the world? And, from what I hear, their conservative credentials aren’t all that solid: how many of these guys were Trotskyites (or, at best, Scoop Jackson Democrats) only up until relatively recently?

Hagel, widely expected to launch a bid for the White House, isn’t alone on the Right in opposing the neocons’ war. George Will has recently excoriated the War Party for its hubris, its blindness, and for what he calls its “unrealism.” The American Conservative magazine has been among the best of the antiwar periodicals, building up an intellectually substantial – and growing – base of foreign policy “realists” who oppose the neocon agenda. Pat Buchanan, a founding editor of TAC, was against the Iraq war – including Iraq War I – from the beginning.

What is interesting, however, is that the Republican base is beginning to crack. A majority believe the President has made a lot of mistakes when it comes to the war: Hagel, who has said that the White House is “completely disconnected from reality” on the question of foreign policy, senses the shifting mood of conservative voters, and is moving to position himself as the only realist in the GOP pack. It is going to be a winning position, as the war in Iraq goes from bad to worse and the prospect of war with Iran darkens the political horizon. The American people are war-weary, and not without reason: they see that the occupation of Iraq is winning us nothing but more enemies, and isn’t making us any safer here at home.

Yet the War Party shows no signs of being properly chastised. In response to Will’s critique, White House strategic initiatives director Peter H. Wehner declared: “Mr. Will’s kind of ‘stability’ and ‘realism’ – a kind of world-weary belief that nothing can be done and so nothing should be tried – would eventually lead to death and destruction on a scale that is almost unimaginable.”

What is almost unimaginable is the extent to which this administration is so completely the captive of its own hyperbolic rhetoric: to these people, there are no ordinary disasters, only “death and destruction” on a Wagnerian scale. These people have what George W. Bush called in his infamous second inaugural address “a fire in the mind,” which is, in reality, a fever in the brain – a sign of profound dysfunction.

Just how unhinged the neocons have become is exemplified by their calls for yet more wars – with Iran, Syria, and god-knows-who-else, when a full 61% of the American people oppose the current war. What world are these people living in?

We are on the brink of disaster in Iraq, and the situation in Lebanon threatens, daily, to veer out of control and spark a wider war. Yet there is hope: Hagel’s dissent, and the growing disharmony on the Right over the war is an indication that the War Party’s support is plummeting where it counts – in the Republican heartland. Once these people desert the President, and his neoconservative confreres, it is the beginning of the end for them. On the receiving end of a strong right hook, the neocons are staggering and may yet fall. That is why we at Antiwar.com have always emphasizedeven over-emphasized – opposition to our interventionist foreign policy coming from the Right side of the political spectrum. Here, listen to what Senator Hagel has to say about the link between foreign and domestic policy, and see if you don’t think, as I do, that it has genuine appeal, and not just to conservatives and antiwar liberals:

“Where is the fiscal responsibility of the party I joined in ’68? Where is the international engagement of the party I joined, fair, free trade, individual responsibility, not building a bigger government, but building a smaller government? I think we’ve lost our way.”

God bless Senator Hagel, and let us hope he has the courage to take his campaign for realism in foreign policy to the American people. They are certainly ready for it: I know I am.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].