For those of you who consider yourselves “neo-cons,” I have a very simple question for you–are we better off because of our invasion of Iraq? An honest, objective answer is no. We spent over $823 billion dollars (as of the end of 2012) and what did we accomplish? We deposed Saddam Hussein and replaced his murderous rule with guys who are under the control of Iran. We have effectively abandoned Iraq (although we continue to maintain a sizeable Embassy presence) and wield little influence over them. Iraq is now a smuggling hub that is moving weapons to both the remnants of Al Qaeda fighting in Syria and the Syrian Government, courtesy of the mullahs in Iran.

And some want to beat up Chuck Hagel because he finally woke up to the utter stupidity of the Bush/Cheney policy? I suppose we could justify spending almost one trillion dollars to take out Saddam if we wound up with the Iraqi oil being shipped to America at a cut rate or if a genuine democracy had been installed in Baghdad. Nope on both counts.

When you spend that much money, take home 4000 plus dead Americans and more than 50,000 seriously wounded one would hope we have something glorious and proud to show for our effort. So, make me the case for why Iraq was such a winner for us? The violence continues and Iran’s influence spreads. I ain’t proud of that.

Which brings me back to Hagel.

He correctly has excoriated the Pentagon and DOD for waste and abuse. Look at the size of the civilian work force at the Pentagon. It is a jobs program for white people and was expanded dramatically under Bush and Cheney and that trend continued with Obama. The Washington Times reported last May:

The Pentagon’s civilian workforce, which expanded dramatically during President Obama’s first three years, is not facing any significant reductions even as the Defense Department is slashing ground troops by more than 10 percent, retiring ships and combat planes, and putting off the purchases of some new weapons.
President Bush’s last budget, for fiscal 2009, pegged Defense Department civilians at 739,000, according to the department’s latest “Green Book” budget document on total spending.
This year, the number of civilians sits at 801,000, an increase of 62,000 personnel, or 8 percent; it is expected to decline by 1 percent next year.

I am willing to bet you that Hagel will cut civilians before he proposes slashing troops, ships and bases. Yet, the critics are trying to savage Hagel for making this very point. Have conservatives lost their ability to think objectively and critically?

Jonah Goldberg offers the typical handwringing on the right:

The Defense Department faces imminent cuts, Chinese and Russian nationalism are ascendant, the Middle East is becoming even more destabilized and theocratic, and we’re still at war in Afghanistan, but Hagel’s chief qualification is that he’ll be a great conversation starter? Wow.

We can never, per the neo-con view, ever cut defense. There is always a threat that must be faced down. This has little to do with a Republican or Democrat world view. I would remind you that we have more analysts now working the terrorist threat at the Defense Intelligence Agency than worked the Soviet threat during the height of the Cold War. If you believe that terrorism poses a greater threat to us now then the Soviets did back in the day, you are delusional.

I believe that Hagel, who has a penchant for being direct and not pandering to political groups, will bring the same “charm” to the Department of Defense. As Obama’s principal advisor on Defense matters, he is quite capable of standing up to Obama and telling him some hard truths. He also stands a better chance of being above the politics that will inevitably surface when necessary defense cuts are made. Those cuts will hurt Democrat districts and much as Republican sectors.

On this one, I can support Obama’s choice. It makes sense and cents. Not so with Brennan and the CIA. That is a disaster. I will deal with that tomorrow.

I also plan to tea off on the Liberal/Democrat hypocrisy regarding Obama only appointing tired old white men to the top jobs. That piece will just write itself.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.