Friday, July 28, 2006

Chuck Hagel's Speech To The Brookings Institute

I have been decrying the lack of mature, responsible, intelligent adults in Washington who can handle the various crises the nation and the world are facing without making conditions worse. Senator Chuck Hagel gave a speech to the Brookings Institute today in which he suggested an American foreign policy in the Mideast that is mature, responsible, intelligent and just might make conditions better, not worse. Here's a taste:

America's approach to the Middle East must be consistent and sustained, and must understand the history, interests and perspectives of our regional friends and allies.

The United States will remain committed to defending Israel. Our relationship with Israel is a special and historic one. But, it need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships. That is an irresponsible and dangerous false choice. Achieving a lasting resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is as much in Israel's interest as any other country in the world.


It is in Israel's interest, as much as ours, that the United States be seen by all states in the Middle East as fair. This is the currency of trust.


Hezbollah is a threat to Israel, to Lebanon and to all who strive for lasting peace in the Middle East. This threat must be dealt with, as Israel's military operations continue to weaken Hezbollah's capacity for violence.

However, military action alone will not destroy Hezbollah or Hamas. Extended military action will tear apart Lebanon, destroy its economy and infrastructure, create a humanitarian disaster, further weaken Lebanon's fragile democratic government, strengthen popular Muslim and Arab support for Hezbollah, and deepen hatred of Israel across the Middle East. The pursuit of tactical military victories at the expense of the core strategic objective of Arab-Israeli peace is a hollow victory. The war against Hezbollah and Hamas will not be won on the battlefield.

To achieve a strategic shift in the conditions for Middle East peace, the United States must use the global condemnation of terrorist acts as the basis for substantive change. For a lasting and popularly supported resolution, only a strong Lebanese government and army, backed by the international community, can rid Lebanon of these corrosive militias and terrorist organizations.


The Rome meeting of the Lebanon core group this week must be the beginning of a very intensive diplomatic process -- at the highest levels -- with the objective of ending the military conflict, securing the Israel-Lebanon border, and invigorating the political track. To lead and sustain U.S. engagement, the President should appoint a statesman of global stature, experience and ability to serve as his personal envoy to the region who would report directly to him and be empowered with the authority to speak and act for the President. Former secretaries of Secretary of State Baker and Powell fit this profile.

Hagel goes on to call for the U.S. to pressure Mideast allies like Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to be a part of the solution in the region, calls for an international force to be deployed upon the Israeli-Lebanese border, and says that an ongoing dialogue between all parties can help create a "process" that keeps "events" from becoming "crises". Hagel also says the United States must engage foes as well as allies in a diplomatic dialogue and calls for the U.S. to begin a dialogue with Syria and Iran over areas of agreement and disagreement.

Finally, Hagel finishes with this:

We must be clear in our principles and interests, with friends and foes alike. But framing the world in absolutes' constrains our ability to build coalitions and alliances, alienates our friends and partners, and results in our own isolation. No country will view its interests as coinciding exactly with ours; nor will countries simply subsume their national interests to maintain relations with America. U.S. policies that are premised on such assumptions will be flawed, with little likelihood for success, and ultimately work against our national interests.

In pursuing our objectives, America must always be mindful of the risks of sudden change and the dangers of unintended consequences. Rarely will America succeed if its actions seek to impose its objectives on others, or achieve change and reform through power alone. America is always strongest when it acts in concert with friends and allies. This approach has enhanced our power and magnified our influence. The Middle East and other regions of the world have been left behind and not experienced the political and economic reform that many other regions have enjoyed in the last 60 years.

The Middle East crisis represents a moment of great danger, but it is also an opportunity. Crisis focuses the minds of leaders and the attention of nations. The Middle East need not be a region forever captive to the fire of war and historical hatred. It will can avoid this fate if the United States pursues sustained and engaged leadership worthy of our history, purpose, and power. America cannot fix every problem in the world -- nor should it try. But we must get the big issues and important relationships right and concentrate on those. We know that without engaged and active American leadership the world is more dangerous.

You can agree or disagree with some of the particulars Hagel lays out in his speech, especially as they relate to the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict or the Iraq war, but one thing you have to give Senator Hagel: he's not afraid to point out that the current Middle East strategy being pursued by the administration is a disaster and that if something doesn't change soon, we're really going to be fucked.

POSTSCRIPT: The Hagel speech came from Steve Clemons over at Washington Note. Clemons asked Hagel afterwards if he had decided on whether he was going to support John Bolton for UN ambassador in the Foreign Relations Committee vote that is rumored to be coming soon since Bolton " probably does not share the same level of concern you do that the 'world's trust and confidence in America's purpose is eroding.'" Hagel told Clemons that if Bolton does come up for a confirmation vote in the Foreign Relations Committee, he has not decided how to vote.

So now we have Lincoln Chafee wavering on his support for Bolton and Chuck Hagel undecided. As Clemons said in his post today, "the debate about John bolton is back in play."

I like Hagel. He is consistent and he speaks his mind. He is independent of the White House.

Don't be surprised if he is president someday. It might not even be such a bad thing.
I agree with you on everything you say, prageutwin, except that part about Hagel being president - I thinkhe's too responsible, mature, intelligent, straight-forward to get trhough a primary. Plus, he doesn't pander enough. The gloss is off McCain's "maverick" status - but on foreign policy issues, Hagel's the real deal.
"Hezbollah is a threat to Israel, to Lebanon and to all who strive for lasting peace in the Middle East. This threat must be dealt with, as Israel's military operations continue to weaken Hezbollah's capacity for violence."

Look at THIS: yet ANOTHER Liberal comes to agree that hezbollah is a threat to the security of the region; FINALLY it's not a case of "divided we fall."

If we can find common ground and all agree that not only Hezbollah - but the palestinians as well - must be uprooted and thrown out of the lands that they now occupy, because they are a threat to everyone in the region.

Bottom line, Islamism is the threat. Read the Quran. Although I voted for Bush, he's an idiot when he declares that "Islam is a religion of peace."

It's more like "a religion of pieces."
annonny-maus, do you have a more effective strategy than that of your Leaders?
All this mess is achieving is the spread terrorism deeper and wider.
"former anon," I never said hezbollah wasn't a threat to the region. What I said was Israel's response to that threat, namely carpetbombing parts of Lebanon where innocent Lebanese civilians were taking as much of a pounding as the Hezbollah members hidden around them, was a tactical mistake that would come back to bite Israel. I still think that. The pictures from Lebanon of the wounded, the dead, and the destruction have undermined the high moral ground Israel had in the conflict. On top of that, Israel's inability to "dismantle" Hezbollah quickly and stop Hezbollah's ability to lob missles into Israel has taken some of the gloss off the reputation of the Israeli military.

BTW, anon, where would you like to send the palestinians after you take them from the Mideast? Reservations in South Dakota? Internment camps? Or do you just figure slaughtering them will end the problem? It sounds to me like you want to take the last tactic, only expand it to all Muslims. Too bad you weren't born in the good old days when you could've joined a crusade and done the job yourself, eh?
annon, I think you're confusing the occupier and the occupiee.
cartledge makes the point I was trying to make much more succinctly than I did - the current WOT strategy creates more terrorists than it destroys.

abi, I think anonn really wants to say something along the lines of "All Muslims Must Die Because Theirs Is A Gutter Religion Blah Blah Blah" but doesn't want to come right out and say it.
The thing that makes it impossible to argue with people like Mr. Maus is that they see everything in a black and while, world in opposites type of reality.

This is a perfect example wherein any condemnation of Hezbollah is interpreted into unconditional support for Israel, or in this extreme case, for genocide (unless Mr. Maus has as better idea for what to do with the Palestinians once they have been "uprooted and thrown out of the lands that they now occupy."

I will second the question. Where shall they go? Maybe they should be sent to prisons in Babylon. I suppose that would be justice acccording to Mr. Maus. But I digress.

People such as Mr. Maus cannot comprehend that we deplore Hezbollahs tactics and actions. We understand that an armed Hezbollah is a problem, but we do not agree with Israel's response to this problem.

This type of reasoning is too complex for the Mr. Maus' of this world. They see the world like a football game. If we root against Israel then we are for Hezbollah. And vica-versa. I have only this to say to Mr. Maus and his ilk:

The world is a complex place. There are more than two ways to approach a problem.

Having said that, I'm sure he cannot understand.

I hope you are wrong about Hagel, but I have had the same thought. The Democrats will destroy him on abortion and prayer issues even if he could survive a primary.
praguetwin, your advice to Mr. Maus (i.e., that the world is a complex place and there are more than two ways to approach a problem) would be great advice to give to the administration too. The Wash Post has an article today saying the old Bush foreign policy (i.e., pre-emptive war, unilateral use of force no matter the consequences, fuck allies) is back as the primary strategy. This kind of strategy is short-sighted and counterproductive, but it sure does make its practitioners feel manly and tough. And I wonder if needing to feel manly and tough isn't a big reason for why they act the way they do. I'm talking mainly about Shrub, who seems to need to do everything he can to set himself apart from his more dipolmatic father.

It's unfortunate, but there's no appetite for Hagel within his own party (he regularly polls at 1% or 2% support in Iowa and NH). I agree that dems would be uneasy and/or outright hostile toward his domestic policies, but because he is so upfront and straighforward about them, I would have a whole less problem with them. my girlfriend feels the same way. At least you know where he stands on issues. He doesn't use Rovian rhetoric to mislead and deceive. Plus he has an aversion to negative campaigns (it's why he hates his fellow Nebraskan Ben Nelson, who went negative on him some years ago) so the elction season would be refreshingly different from the last few.

It'll never happen. He'll never get thru the primary. But I'll tell you what. If the choice was between, say John Kerry, Hillary Clinton or Evan Bayh and Chuck Hagel, I would give Hagel a real serious look. I mean it.
Me too. Too bad we won't get to.
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