RubinReports | By Barry Rubin
“Joab came to the king [David] in his quarters and said, “Today you have humiliated all your followers, who this day saved your life, and the lives of your sons and daughters…by showing love for those who hate you and hate for those who love you. For you have made clear today that the officers and men mean nothing to you.” — II Samuel, 19: 6-7
If Chuck Hagel is so much dumber than you why is he the one being nominated by President Barack Obama to be secretary of defense? Answer: Hagel knows how to be dumb in the right way.
In other words, he’s simultaneously even dumber than you think but also, to use an old expression, dumb like a fox.
Let me explain.
In his public self-management and especially during his confirmation hearings as secretary of defense, Hagel handled himself in a manner that showed he is incapable of fulfilling a cabinet-level position.
Here’s the main example.
Hagel said, “I support the president’s strong position on containment.” Now the truth is that there’s nothing wrong with that. He did not say the president’s position advocating containment of Iran. Contrary to the way that many writers are portraying it, what he said wasn’t incorrect, just ambiguous. He could easily have recovered.
So then some of his handlers asked him to clarify and what did he do?
“I was just handed a note that I misspoke,” he announced, “that I said I supported the president’s position on containment. If I said that, I meant to say that we don’t have a position on containment.”
Now this management alone is enough to bar him from handling one of the most important and complex jobs in the world. Let’s count the ways:
— Never admit that you’ve just been told you were wrong! He should have pocketed the note without mentioning it and simply added to his statement (see below). What he did instead is on the level of stupidity of a television host being shown a cue card reading, “Wrap up the show, moron!” and then reading that aloud to the live audience.
— He should have said something like this: “I do not want any ambiguity in my clear statements of support for the president and for a tough policy on Iran. I support the president’s position of asserting that containment is insufficient and that our goal is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, leaving all options open for doing so.”
In other words, he doesn’t just not know the facts; he doesn’t know how to be a high-level official at all. He doesn’t just not know the details of international affairs; his thought is simply not coherent at all. And unlike Obama and Kerry, he doesn’t know how to hide his radicalism behind smooth phrases.
— And then he makes it worse by saying that the administration doesn’t have a policy on containment! Of course, the U.S. government does have a position on containment of Iran! It is supposedly against doing that. [Accepting that Iran has nuclear weapons and then trying to limit the damage by isolating Iran, surround it with forces, installing anti-missile and early-warning stations, etc.] President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and two now ex-defense secretaries along with tens of others expressed it daily. [Of course, it is 99 percent likely that they will end up trying containment anyway.]
For Hagel, that’s a triple goof, sort of equivalent to an Olympics gold medal winning move by a figure-skater, only in reverse!
But I have a theory. As everyone knows, Hagel is a “Republican.” Perhaps Obama was conspiring to make Hagel secretary of defense, have him show how dumb and incompetent he was, and then lead the public to conclude that all Republicans are dumb and incompetent. Brilliant as always!
Want proof? How about Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, arguably the dumbest—I didn’t say most terrible but just dumbest—member of Obama’s cabinet who is a — wait for it — Republican!
Seriously though. Can you imagine the kind of mentality that would put the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and the national security of the country in the hands of a man like Hagel?
Extra credit question: How many readers of this article will reply: “Oh yeah? Well, can you imagine the kind of mentality that would re-elect [guess who] as president?” I didn’t say that; you did.
And speaking of dumb, or perhaps I should say lying, Al Gore misrepresented his highly profitable sale of his television network to anti-American, Islamist al-Jazira by saying that Qatar, which owns al-Jazira, was the most pro-American country in the Arab world and that’s where the U.S. fleet in the Gulf was based. Of course, the fleet is based in Bahrain, not Qatar, and Qatar has been pro-Iran, pro-Islamist, and pro-Muslim Brotherhood, the most hostile against the United States of the Gulf Arab monarchies. Gore, of course, was vice-president and almost president.
Meanwhile, a man who has created a policy of helping empower the Muslim Brotherhood in order supposedly to moderate it and stop even worse Islamists (who are actually quite disorganized, bickering among themselves, and incapable of taking power) from taking power.
There is a deep malady of ignorance and very bad ideas in the American foreign policy leadership and it has lost the correction mechanisms of criticism from the mass media and academia. Hagel is really rather typical of this group but just not adept at pretending otherwise.
Yet Hagel is not some stereotyped cloistered academic who has learned everything from books. He is a Middle Western equivalent of a “good old boy,” a backslapping, genial sort who merely thinks of his own advancement.
And that’s why he is so scary. There is only one reason for Hagel to be so extreme: he has picked up on the game plan of the winning time, the dominant ideas of this era which he tries to copy in his dimwitted way like a country bumpkin trying to follow the latest fashions from the big city.
In other words, Hagel is the purest, most showy example that anti-Americanism, apologies for America’s enemies, the fixation that the United States has been an evil bully that must be curbed, and contempt for its courageous soldiers and foreign friends is the obsession of the “in” crowd, the decision-making elite. And if you want to be one of them those are the ideas one has to mouth, even if one doesn’t even understand them. Hagel’s brain is the mass market version of Kerry’s and Kerry’s is the collector’s edition of Obama.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest book, “Israel: An Introduction“, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include “The Israel-Arab Reader” (seventh edition), “The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East” (Wiley), and “The Truth About Syria” (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.