Some of the sanctions regimes Hagel has criticized have plainly not worked but make their supporters feel good about themselves. Despite the U.S. embargo against Cuba, for example, the Castros have now outlasted the Soviet Union by more than two decades.
Finally, Hagel has called for diplomacy in some situations where his critics prefer sanctions or military force. But there is no record of Hagel calling for talks with Hamas, for instance, before the Bush administration insisted the group participate in the Palestinian Authority elections. One of Hagel’s leading critics was optimistic about the Arab spring, which has tended to empower anti-Israel political actors.
Many of Hagel’s opponents are bothered precisely because he is not that far out of the mainstream. They would rather debate the merits of the Iraq war with Code Pink or argue about a possible military strike against Iran with those who would also second-guess World War II. Chuck Hagel isn’t Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, or even Ron Paul.
In my opinion, Hagel has been all too willing to fight what President Obama might have called “dumb wars.” But the Iraq surge, while its benefits were oversold, wasn’t “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.” He is also probably wrong about the efficacy of negotiations with the likes of Hamas or Hezbollah.
Yet these issues should be debated without arguing like bad liberals, leveling accusations of bigotry and bad faith based on the flimsiest evidence. Whatever Hagel’s sins, he deserves better treatment than the Democrats gave Judge Bork.
W. James Antle III is the editor of The Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow him on Twitter.