In November of 2003, Hagel, along with John Kerry — Obama’s nominee for secretary of State — refused to vote for the Syrian Accountability Act, which was designed to hold Syria accountable for its support of terrorism and its occupation of Lebanon. Only four senators refused to vote for the act; Obama’s nominees for secretary of Defense and secretary of State are two of them.
As late as 2009, Charles Hagel was still advocating a policy of supporting the butcher of Damascus, Bashar Al-Assad. Maybe Hagel got it right on Iraq, but he has totally blundered on Syria. Could it be that Hagel has been simply consistent in supporting Arab regimes that are in an adversarial relationship with the United States? Support for Saddam Hussein and support for Bashar Al-Assad would just be different manifestations of the same consistent mindset.
No one has been as effusive in his praise for Bashar Al-Assad as John Kerry, who made five trips to Damascus and became a public-relations mouthpiece for the Syrian dictator long after human rights groups had detailed and denounced his brutal regime. Kerry saw Assad as moving Syria into a new relationship with the U.S. and giving up its alliances with Iran in the formation of a Shi’a crescent stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean. Kerry strongly advocated Israel’s returning the Golan Heights to Syria, in what must be one of the stupidest proposals by an American diplomat in recent years. One shudders to imagine Israel’s strategic situation if she had done so, given the consequences of the raging civil war in Syria.
One of Kerry’s first jobs as secretary of State will be to convince the man he once called his close friend, Assad, to retreat into exile so that the bloodshed will end. Will Kerry do this, or run interference for his friend?
Clearly Obama is not a Muslim, but Obama is the first Muslim president in the sense that Bill Clinton was the first black president. Few holders of the presidency, or even candidates for it, have been as sympathetic to the Islamic world as has been Obama, and these three appointments confirm a perspective that is far removed from the mainstream view of what American interests are in the world. The second Obama administration will pursue the same failed policies in international relations and national security as the first, hoping insanely for a different set of outcomes.
If you believe that the Islamist threat can be dissipated by engagement, then you will cheer these appointments. But if you believe that the Islamist threat is rooted in its traditions, culture, history, and statecraft, then you can not help but fear the disaster the continuation of Obama’s policies will perpetuate with these three men.