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How the Chuck Hagel Brawl Exposes Neocons and Reveals the Limits of American Power

The kerfuffle over Hagel as a pick for Secretary of Defense does much to outline the contours of prevailing wisdom among the intellectual classes of DC and New York.

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Which brings us back to the question at hand: how is it that neoconservatives continue to hold such sway in Washington? And why is Hagel seemingly so dangerous for them?

Despite widespread acknowledgment of the need to cut spending, and thereby begin to reduce the national debt, there is little appetite even among Tea Party types for military retrenchment anytime soon. Maintaining the United States military as the biggest and most sophisticated on the planet allows neoconservative policymakers to implement the global designs of their corporate paymasters.

Chuck Hagel is hardly an anti-colonialist, but his pragmatic understanding (as evinced by some of his statements and positions) of imperial overreach vis-à-vis the legitimate concerns of the state implies a less substantive role for our military. Although that sounds agreeable to the majority of Americans, as well as the traditional establishment, the post-9/11 growth of the national security establishment and adjoining private sector has engendered a new and powerful neoconservative lobby for an ever expanding U.S. military role on the world stage.

Chuck Hagel’s tepid questioning of the modern aggressive military posture since 9/11 is hardly a cause for peace activists to rejoice. Geopolitical realism of Kissinger’s mold is no less ruthless in dispatching state enemies and employing a resource calculus that leaves many bodies in its wake. Furthermore, Hagel will be serving at the pleasure of President Obama, who has made clear his determination to continue George W. Bush’s aggressive “war on terror,” and there is no indication that Hagel’s personal views will affect his implementation of Obama policy. But the current fight over a Chuck Hagel nomination can be seen as a litmus test of America’s priorities in the 21st century. It may also reveal whether the muted but legitimate criticisms he’s evinced can even be uttered in Washington’s contemporary militarist culture.

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