North Korea is home to a sclerotic regime that loves to pretend the world lives in fear of its might. Its leaders feed on the military exercises and bold public statements of American and South Korean policymakers, eagerly delivering reports to its people of imminent doom from American warplanes and missiles.
…The unending state of emergency keeps the elites from the ruling Korean Workers’ Party in power, painting its autocrats as the only hope for the nation’s survival. While rural villagers survive on meager rice rations, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un pours resources into the country’s nuclear and missile programs. Don’t complain, his government tells the peasants. Nukes are the ultimate defense against the coming American invasion, and you would be wise to support them.
It is a desperate strategy of self-preservation ever since the collapse of Soviet food and fuel subsidies hurled the country into a famine in the mid-1990s—leaving up to a million people dead and bringing the regime close to disintegration. Even with nuclear weapons and a million-man army, the so-called “hermit state” is in fact a paper tiger seeking to prolong its existence. So why does Washington keep feeding into North Korea’s war machine?
Chuck Hagel, despite questionable votes on a handful of foreign policy issues, is one of the few Republicans who can lay claim to an Eisenhower-esque, restrained, conservative approach to national security. Shortly after bin Laden’s death, he called for a “responsible” disengagement from Afghanistan, believing that “we have lost our purpose, our objective. We are in a universe of unpredictables and uncontrollables.” In 2005, he compared the Iraq War to Vietnam, correctly criticizing Dick Cheney’s laughable assertion that the war was in its “last throes.” When co-sponsering a resolution opposing the deployment of more troops to Iraq, he accused President Bush of playing ”a ping-pong game with American lives.” He voted against the Iran sanctions that have resulted in deadly consequences for Iranian civilians, including preventing cancer patients from acquiring medication. He supports lifting the trade embargo against Cuba, believing that “great powers are not afraid. Great powers trade.”
Perhaps most notably (and controversially), Hagel is one of the few prominent politicians to publicly voice any substantial policy disagreements with Israel. Apparently, Hagel’s neocon critics would rather Israel’s trigger-happy Prime Minister dictate U.S. foreign policy even when it directly opposes American interests. Should the U.S. become involved in a bombing campaign or perhaps even a full scale war against Iran, we can bid adieu to our already questionable claim of helping to foster democracy in Arab states.
While Hagel’s views on these vital issues by no means guarantee a shift in Obama’s policies, it is nonetheless vital that such views be at least presented to the President before decisions are made. By merely being “in the room,” Hagel can help to restrain our bloated, debt-inducing defense department.
One objection to Hagel’s nomination from some liberals is the former Nebraskan Senator’s anti-gay views, but like many other politicians, Hagel’s opinions on gay rights have evolved over the past few years and reports indicate that he would enforce the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. This objection would only be a fair one if the Democratic Party and its most prominent members had a long record of defending gay rights, but sadly the Defense of Marriage Act quashes any hope of such a record. Joe Biden, a DOMA supporter, received little if any criticism over his anti-gay views when named Vice President. It seems partisan to single out Hagel for a sin committed by the vast majority of veteran politicians.
Hagel is unlikely to be the Defense Secretary of anyone’s dreams, but he’s a significant improvement from previous appointees and worthy of being nominated to the post. Those yearning for a more restrained and sensible approach to foreign policy would be wise to rally around Hagel’s nomination. Some dissent in the White House is desperately needed.
“We’re going to be totally out of [Afghanistan], come hell or high water, by 2014.”
- Joe Biden, December 18, 2011
“American and allied military planners are drawing up the broad outlines of a force that would remain in Afghanistan following the handover to Afghan security after 2014, including a small counterterrorism force…”
- New York Times, November 25, 2012
Petraeus’ crash is more significant than the latest nonsense sex scandal. As President Obama says, our decade of war is coming to an end. The reputations of the men who were intimately involved in these years of foreign misadventure, where we tortured and supported torture, armed death squads, conducted nightly assassinations, killed innocents, and enabled corruption on an unbelievable scale, lie in tatters. McChrystal, Caldwell, and now Petraeus — the era of the celebrity general is over. Everyone is paying for their sins. (And before we should shed too many tears for the plight of King David and his men, remember, they’ll be taken care of with speaking fees and corporate board memberships, rewarded as instant millionaires by the same defense establishment they served so well.)
Before Dave fell for Paula, we fell for Dave. He tried to convince us that heroes aren’t human. They are human, like us, and sometimes worse.
And so Obama doesn’t even address it and instead retreats to talking points.
It’s a tremendous loss to our country that nobody will challenge these two candidates on this issue to their faces.
Debate Fact Check: There is nothing “peaceful” about “crippling sanctions.”
Mitt Romney, apparently embracing the philosophy of nonviolence
Update: False alarm. He wants to kill lots of people.
How many people have been killed by these unmanned aircraft in the Central Intelligence Agency’s strikes in Yemen and Pakistan? How many of the dead identified as “militants” are really civilians? How many are children?
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Britain has estimated that, in the first three years after President Obama took office, between 282 and 535 civilians were credibly reported killed by drone strikes — including more than 60 children. The United States government says the number of civilians killed has been far lower.
Accurate information is hard to come by. The Obama administration and the C.I.A. are secretive about the fast-growing drone program. The strikes in Pakistan are taking place in areas where reporters can’t go, or would be in extreme danger if they did.
The Taliban and Al Qaeda are much worse problems for the Pakistani and Yemeni people than American drone strikes are. But acknowledging that doesn’t answer the moral and ethical questions of this push-button combat conducted without public accountability.
With its vast talent and resources, The Times has a responsibility to lead the way in covering this topic as aggressively and as forcefully as possible, and to keep pushing for transparency so that Americans can understand just what their government is doing.
This is some good journalism.
Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose - and you allow him to make war at pleasure.
Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after you have given him so much as you propose. If, today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, ‘I see no probability of the British invading us’ but he will say to you ‘be silent; I see it, if you don’t.’
The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object.
This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us.
Obama has expanded drone attacks in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. He has involved the US in aggressive cyber warfare and possibly other forms of military aggression against Iran. He has established and is now looking to expand what AP calls a “covert war in North Africa”. None of this has been debated, let alone voted on, in Congress.
In sum, Obama uses military force whenever he wants, wherever he wants, and without anyone’s permission.