For some time, American foreign policy has been dominated by two camps. The neoconservatives advocate an idealistic, assertive promotion of liberty, democracy and American interests, including through military means. They are opposed by the self-described “realists” who advocate a pragmatic, realpolitik approach, focusing on power and material considerations.
The realists criticize the neocons for dreaming too big and overextending American power. The neocons criticize the realists for being amoral, disloyal to allies and Machiavellian. Both see the dangers facing America and the world with clear vision; they disagree in their approach to addressing those challenges.
So, where on the spectrum does one place President Obama’s new foreign policy team? Nominees John Kerry as Secretary of State, Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary and John Brennan as CIA Director certainly aren’t Kristolesque neocons; but neither are they hard-nosed Kissingerian realists. Perhaps they are best described as “surrealists.”
How else does one describe those who so breezily substitute a wishful alternate reality for the obvious, menacing threats to America and the West? Foreign policy is easy once one imagines away the threats. Unfortunately, these surrealists are taking charge of foreign policy and defense of America, not of Fantasy Island.
These three are distinguished by their histories of inept assessment of security threats to America, their inability to distinguish good from evil, and their reluctance to confront anti-American forces, preferring instead to kiss up to the enemies of America and its allies.
First is Chuck Hagel, who is grabbing all the headlines. Self-imagined scourge of the “Jewish lobby” and its efforts to “intimidate” Congress, Hagel boasted that he was “a United States Senator, not a senator from Israel.” If that isn’t offensive enough, he has also advocated engagement with Kim Jong Il’s North Korea, Bashar Assad’s Syria, genocidal Hamas and the Islamic theo-fascists and the soon-to-be-nuclear terror-brokers running Iran. He also favors unilateral American defense cuts and worldwide agreements to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
Hagel is disturbingly pro-Iran, and has made ludicrous claims defending Iran’s record on human rights. He is on record as ruling out military action to stop Iranian nukes, and opposed even sanctions against the regimes of Iran and Syria. He condemned the spectacularly successful Iraq surge, predicting it would be “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.”
While we can expect confirmation-eve apologies and conversions away from this record, keep in mind that this is the man President Obama insists on making America’s next Secretary of Defense. What could possibly go wrong?
Surrealist number two is John Kerry, who first rose to prominence as an anti-Vietnam War spokesman, meeting with Viet Cong representatives and slandering the American military with charges of war crimes, including rape, murder and torture “committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”
Kerry’s been on the wrong side of every foreign policy issue since, interfering with President Reagan’s rollback of Soviet influence, supporting the pro-Soviet “nuclear freeze” of the 1980s, opposing the first Gulf War, opposing the Iraqi surge, and obsessed with normalizing relations with Syria, even serving as Obama’s emissary to Bashar Assad. A mere two years and 60,000 corpses ago, Kerry told the Qatari emir that “Assad is a man who wants to change” and that Israel should cede the Golan Heights to Syria.
If there is any common thread to his positions, it is his remarkable consistency in underestimating just how bad the intentions of America’s enemies really are. Just perfect for America’s top diplomat.
But perhaps most ominous is the ascent of surrealist extraordinaire John Brennan – to CIA Director, of all positions. Brennan, a 27-year intelligence veteran, is not a bad guy. But he has shown alarmingly bad security judgment, is as obsequious to the Islamic world as they come, and is politically correct beyond caricature.
In a February 2010 speech to the Islamic Center at New York University (which must be seen to be believed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKUpmFb4h_U), Brennan refers to Jerusalem as al-Quds; excuses Islam of all responsibility for acts of terror by those “who purport to be Islamic;” references his 1975 travels to “Palestine,” and insists that anyone referring to America’s enemies as jihadists is ignorant of Islam, as “jihad is a holy struggle, an effort to purify, for a legitimate purpose…” (which might come as news to organizations such as Islamic Jihad, or Hezbollah – the “Party of Allah” – or Hamas, which “raises the banner of Jihad” in its “struggle against the Jews”).
More surrealism? Brennan said the 20 percent terror recidivism rate of detainees released from Guantanamo Bay “isn’t that bad,” since the rate for American criminal recidivism sometimes approaches 50 percent. Is it too much to expect of the new CIA director that he understand the subtle difference in recidivism danger between releasing those who steal cars and those who blow civilian aircraft out of the sky?
In 2009, Brennan advocated dialogue with Hamas, and approvingly revealed that the Obama administration was seeking to “build up the more moderate” elements of Hezbollah. Moderate? The entire organization is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iran, and was created only after failing to make Lebanon’s Amal militia subservient to the Iranian ayatollahs. Naim Qassem, deputy to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, has stated that the same Iranian leadership approves and directs both the movement’s government work and its jihad actions.
Hezbollah has murdered hundreds of Americans and Jews worldwide, and was implicated in the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. It is now fighting in Syria on the side of Assad. According to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, it has amassed more offensive missiles and rockets than have most countries. It is religiously committed to creating an Islamic state in Lebanon and destroying Israel: in fact, Nasrallah and his top generals were so opposed to the Oslo peace process that they condemned Yasser Arafat for blasphemy and treachery to the Muslim people. Sounds like they’re just bursting with moderates, no?
Brennan has also been implicated in politicizing U.S. classified information, such as falsely describing all kinds of details in the raid that killed Osama bin-Laden (including claiming that bin-Laden engaged in a firefight), or bizarrely claiming that no U.S. drone attack caused even a single civilian death. And he supported trying 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a New York courtroom, and treating the 2010 Christmas Day “underwear bomber” as a regular criminal rather than a terrorist/enemy combatant. In 2007, he also endorsed the view that Iran had ended its nuclear program in 2003.
This is the best man to take charge of U.S. intelligence?
Defenders of the Hagel/Kerry/Brennan appointments argue that it doesn’t matter much who is in their positions, as policies are set at the top. But that is even more worrisome: this team, with its uniformly whitewashed perspective on the nature of America’s enemies and the threats they pose, has been handpicked by President Obama because they represent his own worldview.
Hail to the Surrealist-In-Chief.