Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.


The nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense illustrates again what so many politicians and pundits keep missing – and that is how fundamentally centrist the Obama administration has been. That may change in the next four years, but I would be surprised. My sense is that Obama has generous instincts on human rights and dignity issues, which drive, for example, his health-care initiative. The communitarian philosophy that his right-wing antagonists denounce as socialism, seems more an effort to build an inclusive consensus than to impose a big-government solution. And his foreign policy seems intent on building a similar consensus internationally by returning to the principles Thomas Jefferson set forth in his first inaugural: "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none." Nowhere is this rethinking more necessary than with Israel, and the time seems propitious: last week’s elections showed that Israelis themselves are tired of the intransigent politics of their leaders. Chuck Hagel is well qualified to lead the effort to reconsider our defense policies there and elsewhere. His experiences under fire in Vietnam gave him a skepticism about war, whose glories are so often touted by those who avoided its carnage. And it’s worth remembering that the department he will lead changed is name from War to Defense in 1947. But that hasn’t penetrated to the people now mounting an unprecedented public and well-financed attack on Hagel’s nomination. Leftovers from last fall’s SuperPACs, they embody big money's continuing and insidious determination to have its way.

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