President Obama’s appointment of former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel is the latest in the bizarre kabuki theater of modern U.S. politics. Virtually every media outlet in the nation has highlighted arguments in defense of, and opposition to, Hagel’s nomination (including Central Florida Future’s Ana Eskamani). Despite the outcry from LGBT groups and the hardline Israeli lobby (the latter for not being sufficiently humble to Israel’s influence within Washington), the appointment of Chuck Hagel doesn’t really mean much. As a senator Hagel faithfully supported increases to an already unsustainable defense budget, supported the Patriot Act (and it’s reauthorization in 2006), and generally acted within the acceptable bounds of a mainstream American politic whose views on it’s military are thoroughly warped. In short, Hagel was a largely average American senator who will likely do little to change American defense policy or our relationship with other countries.
The problem with the outrage over Hagel’s nomination is that it is thoroughly misplaced. As Obama nominates Hagel for Defense secretary, he has also nominated the current Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and former Bush official John Brennan. Brennan was considered for the same post last year, but withdrew his name from consideration after public pressure due to his support for the Bush administration’s policies of torture and extraordinary rendition. In his current position Brennan has been involved in some of the most odious policies of the Obama administration abroad including “signature strikes” (killing unknown targets because they might be associated with forces engaged with the U.S.), indiscriminate use of drones on civilian populations (including mourners at funerals and rescue workers), and the power to assassinate anyone, at anytime, anywhere in absolute secrecy.
This time around there has been a much more muted reaction to Brennan being considered for the powerful post of CIA director, apparently overshadowed by the overwrought condemnation of a thoroughly average former senator. In addition there has been a deafening silence from liberals and members of the Democratic party. These once staunch opponents of executive overreach and loyal supporters of American civil liberties seem to have lost their nerve on these issues now that the White House is occupied by an erudite liberal instead of a cartoonish caricature of Texan conservationism. It is galling hypocrisy on the part of the Democratic party and Obama supporters that they are unwilling to oppose policies they would have launched rightful indignation toward simply because they now are the ones implementing them. Imagine the outrage of liberals had it been revealed that George W. Bush and Karl Rove (instead of David Axelrod, Obama’s Rove who attends the meetings to decide who to assassinate) had secretly decided to assassinate an American citizen without trial or even charges of a criminal act. The backlash would have been so powerful it could have been felt from the moon.
The leadership this country desperately needs on issues of defense and national security will not come from the likes of Hagel and Brennan. Both nominees seem unwilling to accept that the U.S. attempt to actively inject its military throughout the globe is suffering from the same kind of overreach encountered by previous empires such as Great Britain and Spain. The policies spawned by the likes of Brennan are not only immoral, but ultimately inflame anti-American sentiment world-wide. Furthermore, the aforementioned policies and the secrecy surrounding them are a severe danger to American democracy and our basic legal rights.