Saturday, June 28, 2008

Chuck Hagel is (Again) Republican-of-the Week

'Politics, when all is said and done, is a business of belief and enthusiasm. Hope energizes, doubt destroys. Hopelessness is not our heritage.'
- Hugh Sidey
Retiring Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel is my selection for Republican-of-the-Week. Sort of, anyways.

Below is the text of his speech entitled "Memo to the Candidates" which Hagel delivered yesterday at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution. Either Senator Hagel or some sort of hidden editorial hand caused lengthy excerpts from his speech to be published in the Huffington Post.

Some I liked; some I didn't like. Below, are my own excerpts and edits:

..... Elections are about course corrections, and Americans are in a serious mood to change the direction of their country. According to the most recent Washington Post-ABC Poll, eighty-four percent of Americans believe America is headed in the wrong direction.....

The next president and his team will have a unique opportunity to capture domestic and international support unlike any time since September 11, 2001. I believe that America and the world will follow an honest, competent and accountable American president .....

America continues to spend billions of dollars a week stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan. This has resulted in an undermining of our influence and interests in these regions and the world, as well as draining a tremendous amount of resources, attention and leadership away from our other national priorities.

We cannot escape the reality that Iraq and Afghanistan will remain centers of gravity grave concern for U.S. foreign policy. The United States has today over one hundred and ninety thousand troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan...a number unlikely to change significantly by January 20th. And we continue to take more and more American casualties in both wars...losing ten Americans in Iraq over the last three days. The most dangerous area of the world...representing the most significant U.S. national security not Iraq but the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the Government Accountability Office has concluded in separate reports in the last two weeks, we still lack relevant, long-term strategies to achieve sustainable security and stability in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
. . . . .
America's long-term security interests are directly connected to alliances, coalitions, international institutions and our standing in the world .... The next President will have to reintroduce America to the world in order to regain its trust in our purpose as well as our power.

International institutions are more important now than at any time in modern history .... Working through international institutions and alliances ... as imperfect as they are ... to build broad, diplomatic consensus may be difficult, time-consuming, and frustrating but they are the best options ... and smartest approaches to sustainable and effective strategic outcomes. The alternative of unilateral action is no substitute, and undermines our influence and further isolates us in an interconnected world.

.....The United State must pay particular attention to three key relationships - China, India and Russia. America's relationships with each of these three countries will continue to be comprehensive, including areas of agreement and disagreement. We cannot, however, allow these relationships to be dominated and shaped by our differences ... or we risk creating dynamics that can quickly get beyond our control and move down a dangerous and irreversible path. We must define these relationships on our common interests.

The United States must enhance its initiative in support of Israel-Palestinian negotiations. We should make clear our support for direct Israel-Syria and Israel-Lebanon negotiations ....

We should take the initiative to re-engage Syria by returning the U.S. Ambassador to Damascus ..... The United States should open a new strategic direction in U.S.-Iran relations by seeking direct, comprehensive and unconditional talks with the Government of Iran, including opening a U.S. Interest Section embassy in Tehran ..... Engagement is not appeasement. Diplomacy is not appeasement. Great nations engage. Powerful nations must be the adults in world affairs. Anything less will result in disastrous, useless, preventable global conflict.

America's occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is not a 'win-lose' proposition. That is an inaccurate context for our objectives and policies ..... As CSIS President and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. John Hamre recently wrote,
Iraqis genuinely want us to leave, and the only issue in question is when and how quickly...what we now need is realism about Iraq. We haven't failed, but winning won't fit any traditional definition of success.
The next President will need to pursue a responsible phased troop withdrawal from Iraq that will slowly...steadily...but surely bring to an end the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Senators McCain and Obama must conduct their campaigns with the recognition that their ability to lead is being shaped each day of their campaigns .....The day after the election, the hard work will begin for one of these men Barack Obama. He will need to gather around him the best people in America to utilize all of the tools of an American leader in order to unify our country and govern ... If they rise he rises to the magnitude of the moment, when America and the world needs them need him most...and engage in a presidential campaign that strengthens our nation, enhances our image, inspires mankind, and makes us proud...then they will have been found worthy of the honor and responsibility bestowed upon them by the citizens of our great country.

Chuck Hagel has miles to go before he sleeps. He has yet to acknowledge that his old service buddy from Vietnam War days is not part of the answer in our long day's night known as Iraqnam.