Published DateIf last week's hearing for Chuck Hagel raised questions about his capacity to be secretary of defense, the show trial conducted by his inquisitors on the tribunal raised questions about the GOP.
Is the Republican Party, as currently constituted, even capable of conducting a foreign policy befitting a world power? Or has it learned nothing and forgotten nothing since George W. Bush went home and the nation rejected John McCain for Barack Obama?
Consider the great foreign issues on the front burner today.
Will the Japan-China clash over islets in the South China Sea, now involving warplanes and warships circling each other, lead to a shooting war that could, because of our security treaty with Japan, drag in the United States?
Is China an economic rival and trade partner? Or is Beijing seeking strategic and military hegemony in East Asia and the Western Pacific? Is engagement or containment of this emerging superpower the way to go?
Is Vladimir Putin's Russia friend or foe? Has the "reset" failed?
How many troops should we leave in Afghanistan to prevent its receding into the Taliban darkness, as it did when the Red Army departed in 1989?
Is Iraq, where we lost 4,600 soldiers and 35,000 wounded in a misbegotten war to strip that country of WMD it did not have, about to disintegrate into civil, sectarian and ethnic war? After Bashar Assad falls, will Syria fall to Islamists — or fall apart?
Is Egypt's military chief correct when he said that the violent eruptions after President Mohammed Morsi's attempted seizure of dictatorial power could imperil the state itself?
Should the presence of al-Qaida in Mali cause the United States to deepen its military involvement in sub-Saharan Africa? Or does the rancid fruit of NATO's intervention in Libya to save Benghazi, now an Islamist no man's land for Westerners, argue for staying out?
Before going ahead with a sequester of Pentagon funds, ought we not first review and reduce the treaty commitments our military is required to honor, many dating back over half a century? All these issues were there to be discussed with Hagel.
Yet, according to Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service, who reviewed the transcript of Hagel's eight hours of testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, there were more mentions of Israel, 178, than of Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Palestine and Palestinians, North Korea, Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, China, NATO, Libya, Bahrain, Somalia, al-Qaida, Mali, Jordan, Turkey, Japan and South Korea combined.
In the runup to the Hagel hearings, North Korea tested an intercontinental rocket and indicated a third nuclear bomb test may be imminent. Dictator Kim Jong Un said the "target" of these tests is that "sworn enemy of the Korean people," the U.S.A. Yet North Korea was mentioned only 11 times in Hagel's day-long testimony, while Iran was mentioned 170 times. But Iran has no missile that can reach the United States, has never tested a nuclear device or bomb, has no nuclear weapons program, according to the unanimous verdict of our 16 intelligence agencies, has never enriched uranium to weapons grade, and has all of its nuclear facilities under constant U.N. surveillance and inspection. Far from threatening America with nuclear fire like North Korea's 20-something dictator, the Ayatollah Khamenei has declared a fatwa against Iran's ever possessing atomic weapons.
This is no brief for a Tehran regime that is no friend of this country. But to suggest Iran cannot be contained as the nuclear-armed Soviet Union of Stalin and China of Mao were contained is absurd. Whom has Iran attacked in the 33 years since the old ayatollah came back from Paris, while Uncle Sam has attacked or invaded Grenada, Panama, Haiti, Libya twice, Iraq twice, Afghanistan and Serbia?
Query: What is behind this Republican preoccupation, bordering on obsession, with Israel and its nemesis Iran, to the near exclusion of other threats and dangers faced by our country all over a world that is a good bit larger than one small corner of the Middle East? Has Sheldon Adelson replaced Henry Kissinger as the eminence grise of the GOP?
Sen. Lindsey Graham implied it was an outrage to suggest any senator may have been intimidated by an Israeli lobby that has on its wall the scalps of two chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: J.W. Fulbright and Charles Percy.
Who is Lindsey kidding?
Did Bibi Netanyahu, after dissing the U.S. president in the Oval Office, receive those 29 standing ovations at a joint session of Congress, thereby breaking Stalin's all-time record before the Supreme Soviet, because Bibi gave one helluva speech? In this city, the Israeli lobby is regarded as right up there with the National Rifle Association as a crowd that rewards its friends and punishes its enemies, with this exception: Far more congressmen and senators are willing to stand up to the NRA than to defy AIPAC.
Where there is no vision, the people perish. Where is the vision that Republicans had in the time of Reagan?
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)