To really understand the vicious opposition to the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, remember this: his appointment will pull the pin to trigger an explosion that poses an existential threat to the neoconservative belief that American military might should be used to transform countries into America's mirror image.
It is this demented belief that is at the heart of the oft-used phrase by this crowd that America should always lead, everywhere in the world. Because if it does not, as former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice explained at last year's Republican National Convention, "Either no one will lead and there will be chaos, or someone will fill the vacuum who does not share our values."
Ms. Rice was of course a prime mover of the American invasion of Iraq. With her advice and that of her fellow neoconservatives the United States launched what Hagel rightly refers to as the worst American foreign policy blunder since Vietnam. There were words of caution of course. Then-Senators Biden and Hagel visited northern Iraq a few months before the Iraq invasion. What they discovered was poles apart from what the American people had been led to believe the war would be like. But the neoconservatives would have none of it. Their perspective was succinctly described by then President Bush: "The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution... And we will meet this test."
Three years after the invasion began, writing in National Review Online on February 24, 2006, William F. Buckley, Jr. a founding father of today's Republican conservative movement pronounced the war's eulogy even more succinctly. Said Buckley, "It didn't work!"
Buckley's conclusion was expressed just three years into the misguided Iraqi war. Seven years before the United States would leave with little to show for the valor and sacrifice of the military women and men who tried their best, for a decade, to pull the politicians' chestnuts out of the fire. A tragic experience that is being repeated in that other war in Afghanistan. Thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans have been killed in these wars that accomplished little beyond making the United States even more hated in the world.
But the neoconservative beat goes on. Now the targets are Iran and Syria. It is a beat that belongs to another century when the geopolitical equation was far simpler: apply enough force and the largest military power in the world would always get its way. As Iraq and Afghanistan (and Vietnam in another generation) have demonstrated, that equation no longer holds. It is only in the surreal world of the neoconservatives with their credo that America must always lead that nothing has changed.
It is this demonstrably flawed, and hugely expensive military-centric U.S. foreign policy that is now in danger of being demolished by the appointment of a triad of like-minded national security practitioners: Vice President Joseph Biden; Secretary of State John Kerry; and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Two prongs of the triad -- Biden and Kerry -- are in place. The third, and perhaps the most important prong of the triad, Hagel, is pending. His confirmation balanced on a knife's edge.
It is the death throes of the neoconservatives' hold on United States foreign policy that makes the confirmation of Hagel and the installation of the Biden-Kerry-Hagel team so critically important for the United States and the world. That is what the sordid Hagel nomination process is all about and why it is so important that the Hagel confirmation succeed.