One of the few courageous pols, Republican Chuck Hagel has been a longtime critic of the warmongers. In this speech, he lays out the challenges we face in the Middle East, and makes it clear that wars and threats of wars are failed policy.
One dimensional optics, policies, and blunt, “black or white” rhetoric, like “you’re either with us or against us” won’t work — haven’t worked — and will fall far short of what is expected from American leadership.
The world we live in today is an incredibly complex and interconnected web of many interests — political, security, economic, cultural, religious and societal. A 21st Century frame of reference will be required to address the layers of global challenges that face the six and a half billion citizens of the world. Loose talk of World War III, intimidation, threats, bellicose speeches only heighten the dangers we face in the world. Without offering solutions and building international alliances we only strengthen the hand of those who prey upon and play to a confused, frightened and disorganized world.
Last week I received an e-mail from a friend who is an Australian Vietnam veteran regarding the U.S. and Iran. He wrote, “Fear, I see it in your debates on immigration, trade, Iran and now even your economy. Since when has your great nation and people been afraid? You, like Aussies, have always had a ‘fair crack’ at things, and a ‘fair go for everyone.’ Where is America’s clear voice of sanity? Why are you so afraid to talk to Iran?”
America must not allow itself to become paralyzed by a fear that erodes our self confidence and trust in our Constitution and each other.
The world is living through one of those rare and defining times in history. Our decisions today carry deep implications that will shape the world’s future — similar to the time of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy during the Cold War. The choices that our leaders make over the next few years will frame the structure and set the course for global security well into the new century. Just as was the case after World War II, America must again lead from the strength of common purpose and common interest. Working with allies and through alliances—recognizing this is often frustrating and imperfect—but there is no other option for world leadership. The challenge of Iran will not be successfully met without Russia and China and the world community. The answer to dealing with Iran will not be found in a military operation. The U.S. is currently bogged down in two wars. Our military is terribly over-burdened and we are doing great damage to our force structure and readiness capabilities.
In the Middle East of the 21st Century, Iran will be a key center of gravity…and remain a significant regional power. The United States cannot change that reality. America’s strategic thinking and policies for the Middle East must acknowledge the role of Iran today and well into the future.
Vice President Cheney said last month that, “The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences — .We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.” But, what confidence should we have in a strategy that, to date, has nothing to show for it?…that has achieved no tangible changes to Iran’s nuclear program and actually has seen the Middle East become more dangerous and Iran more defiant? Is the U.S. pursuing a policy that could very well produce a self-fulfilling prophecy of the President’s warning of World War III?
The United States must employ wise statecraft to redirect deepening tensions with Iran toward a higher ground of resolution. We are at that crossroads. We must be clear that the United States does not — does not — seek regime change in Iran. There can be no ambiguity on this point. We must be clear that our objections are to the actions and policies of the Iranian government…not the Iranian people — and that improved U.S.-Iran relations are a real possibility and clearly in the interests of the Iranian people, the Middle East and the United States.