TAMPA, January 31, 2013 — Republicans behind John McCain and the neoconservatives have picked the wrong fight. With the Democrats in the ascendancy and feeling confident enough to attack the Second Amendment for the first time in almost two decades, the Republicans need to pick some battles they can win if they want to survive the decade as a relevant political party.
Gun ownership would be a good one if their record on defending this right were better. Opposing Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as Secretary of Defense is not.
Senator and 2008 Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain made news today saying that Hagel was “on the wrong side of history” in opposing the troop surge in Iraq.
The troop surge during the Iraq War may or may not have achieved a temporary tactical objective, depending upon who you ask. It really doesn’t matter, because history will judge not only the Iraq War but the entire, neoconservative Project for the New American Century (PNAC) as an utter failure.
The U.S. government’s invasion of Iraq removed a secular dictator who presided over a relatively modern, stable Middle Eastern nation and replaced it with utter chaos, out of which emerged an Islamic state with strong ties to the supposedly most dangerous American enemy in the region, Iran.
Apparently incapable of learning from even the most recent history, the U.S. government has achieved similar results supporting various Middle Eastern revolutions collectively known as “the Arab Spring.”
It is also about to achieve Viet Nam-like results in Afghanistan, where a Taliban return to power is likely when the U.S. government finally declares “victory” and triumphantly cuts its losses and gets out.
The whole, multi-decade adventure in the Middle East will have squandered trillions, cost millions of lives on all sides, and not only achieved nothing, but actually made the landscape in the Middle East much worse. If Islamic fundamentalism truly is a threat to the Western world, then PNAC has increased that threat by orders of magnitude.
History will judge PNAC and the neoconservatives harshly. The American public is already there. Americans are finally beginning to question the wisdom of trying to remake the rest of the world through military intervention. They are beginning to ask the crucial questions. What is the cause and effect relationship between invading Middle Eastern backwaters and my relative freedom or security? If we had not invaded Iraq, exactly how and why would I be less free?
Sooner or later, most Americans will recognize that these questions apply to just about every war the U.S. has fought in the past 100 years (even those still too sacrosanct to question). Does anyone really believe that Americans would be less free if their government hadn’t invaded Korea?
Yet, neocons like John McCain and John Bolton still cannot see how discredited their worldview has become. They continue to repeat 2004 Republican talking points as if people will believe them, despite the verdicts rendered in two straight presidential elections. These were very obviously rejections of neoconservatism, rather than endorsements of an Obama Administration that has shaky support within its own base and continues to preside over a wrecked economy.
Chuck Hagel is actually a good opportunity for the Republican Party to regain some ground. While his record as a noninterventionist is checkered, he at least represents a Republican that hasn’t marched in lockstep with the neoconservatives. Rallying behind him as a bridge between the Republican old guard and the new crop of part Old Right, part libertarian, Ron Paul-style conservatives might be a formula for Party success.
The future of the Republican Party – if it has one – lies down a road that heads in the opposite direction from McCain, Bolton and the neocons. Moderate Republicans should join together with libertarian-leaning newcomers and confirm Hagel over the objections of dinosaurs like McCain. That just might send a message to potential allies that they are finally ready to change something.
Right now, they are on a collision course with extinction, for many of the same reasons that their predecessors, the Federalists and the Whigs became extinct. Perhaps that’s necessary before a viable opposition party can emerge.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.