Monday, June 20, 2005

Senator Hagel

Sorry for the lack of posting lately; I'd like to have a good excuse, but I really don't. I've been working some on a lengthy essay about the lack of historical perspective we have in our society today, but that's not going to happen right now. As for any other excuse, I really don't have one, other than laziness, which isn't really an excuse.

So, on to the reason and purpose of this post, which is Sen. Chuck Hagel R-Neb. Now, in order to understand my displeasure with Senator Hagel, you have to know some background about the Senator. He's in his second term as a Senator from the fine state of Nebraska, first elected in 1996 and re-elected in 2002. In his first term, he was a typical freshman GOP Senator from a GOP state...he made a name for himself and didn't make too many waves. In 2002, he campaigned on a platform of solid conservative values, with a maverick streak in that he would not be afraid to "stand up to the Washington establishment."

Soon after being elected, he definitely showed that maverick streak in opposing the Bush Administration in almost every step on the run-up to the Iraq War. Senator Hagel was one of those who said that yes, Saddam was quite obviously a bad guy, and yes, he probably was in violation of some U.N. Resolutions, and yes, maybe he even did have WMDs, but we needed to give the diplomatic process more time (12 years wasn't enough, I guess), and that we should allow the inspectors to fully complete their latest round of inspections.

After the war, Senator Hagel was at least consistent in his criticism of the Administration. In Senator Hagel's eyes, it seemed the Administration could do nothing right. It didn't curb the looters, it didn't have enough forces for policing Iraqi towns, it didn't work to fix the Iraqi infrastructure quick enough, it didn't respond quickly enough to the Abu Ghraib scandal, it didn't have enough troops in country to fight the insurgency, it didn't do a good enough job of integrating the Sunnis, it didn't provide enough armor, it didn't do a good enough job of bringing extremist Shi'ites in, it didn't have enough troops in country for the elections, it over-hyped the elections because of the lack of Sunni representation, etc. etc. etc. At one point, it got so bad that conservative blogs (NRO's The Corner, especially) were beginning to call his appearances on Sunday morning talk shows "Bagels," as he and Sen. Joe Biden D-Del. would appear to create an appearance of diverging views from the two parties, and then basically both say the same thing.

So, one may ask why I am upset about his latest statements, saying the United States is losing the war. After all, it should come as no surprise to me that Sen. Hagel is criticizing the war. And it does not. Senator Hagel has proven time and time again that he has a very sensitive finger to the wind, and that he is quite suave about adjusting his position accordingly. This isn't to say that he is a full-blown politician; he's not to that point yet. But he is, in my eyes at least, rapidly turning into the next iteration of Senator McCain: the token GOP "maverick" that is simply a populist, echoing whatever the latest public opinion polls say.

No, the reason why I am so upset about his recent comments is that Senator Hagel apparently has no sense of historical perspective. To be more specific, Senator Hagel apparently has forgotten his roots, in the military and in Vietnam. Politicians, in the late '60s and early '70s, began to sound more defeatist; this defeatist speech culminated in the abandonment of a U.S. ally in a crucial war (the Cold War), damaging U.S. credibility abroad and setting back the fight in that war by years, to say nothing of the millions we abandoned to re-education camps and firing squads. Most importantly, from a veterans point of view, this abandonment sent a message that the soldiers who fought and died in that war were an ultimately futile and wasted sacrifice.

Now, I'm not saying that Senator Hagel is advocating all or even any of that. All he said is that we are losing the war. But such general statements, especially when they simply aren't true, lead us down the road to the abandonment and ultimate waste. Every statement like his, especially when made by a Senator of his stature and importance, helps bring efforts like the resolution to end the war to the forefront.

And that cannot be allowed to happen. The mistakes of Vietnam cannot be allowed to be repeated in this GWOT.