Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chuck Hagel

Sen. Chuck Hagel is a potential member of a President Obama cabinet, either as a Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State. He was even talked about as a possible VP, a choice which might have been good politics and which I hoped for.

Any of these positions would be interesting because Sen. Hagel is a fairly conservative Republican. But despite the partisan difference, Sen. Hagel and Sen. Obama share a realistic (rather than idealistic) disposition on Iraq and foreign policy. Neither is reflexively anti-war. Rather, both are for intelligent, engaged, diplomatic foreign policies. They share an understanding that the nature of human and international relations being what they are, war is sometimes inevitable. Even then, they believe, war should always be a last resort, and considered only when the self-defense nature of the military engagement is clear and acknowledged by world sentiment.

There is an interesting article on Sen. Hagel in the current New Yorker. Read it here. My belief is he would be a great member of an Obama administration: a strong and realistic proponent of American interests within a multilateral world.

Here are some excerpts from the article, to give you a sense of Sen. Hagel's understanding of the world.

On an intelligent US foreign policy:

On the Senate floor, he declared, “Actions in Iraq must come in the context of an American-led, multilateral approach to disarmament, not as the first case for a new American doctrine involving the preĆ«mptive use of force.” He also expressed fear about what he calls “the uncontrollables”—the unpredictable consequences of military action—and about America’s limited knowledge of the Middle East. “How many of us really know and understand Iraq, the country, the history, the people, and the role in the Arab world?” he asked. “The American people must be told of this long-term commitment, risk, and cost of this undertaking. We should not be seduced by the expectations of dancing in the streets.”

. . . .

On the morning of September 17th, five weeks after the former Soviet republic of Georgia attacked the separatist Georgian province of South Ossetia, and the Russian Army invaded Georgia, William J. Burns, the State Department’s Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Hagel asked Burns what was being done to repair America’s relationship with Russia, and said, “We’re going to have to find some new common ground and new high ground to deal with Russia,” taking into account the Russians’ “interest, as perceived by them, not just perceived by us, but their optics.” Hagel was invoking, as he often does, the need to see through an antagonist’s eyes.

On America's relations to the world:

Hagel, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, is an ardent internationalist—“All of us are touched by every event that unfolds in every corner of the world,” he often says. An advocate for a strong military, he also believes that military force should be the last tool of statecraft.

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