Friday, August 04, 2006

U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East

July 28, 2006 12:15-1:15 PM

Moderator: Carlos Pascual (VP and Director, Foreign Policy Studies, Brookings)
Speakers: Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE)

Carlos Pascual began the event by announcing The Brookings Institution’s 90th anniversary and introduced Senator Chuck Hagel as a member of Congress who seeks global peace and prosperity through taking a non-partisan stance on U.S. foreign policy.

Senator Hagel presented a speech in which he outlined the need for the U.S. to isolate itself no longer from certain issues in the Middle East and to engage in long-term, multi-lateral diplomacy.

Senator Hagel began his presentation by alluding to a time when the U.S. used “irresponsible isolationism” as its strategy for foreign policy, which ultimately led to World War II. He used this allusion as a lesson that history has taught us in that the United States can no longer afford to be isolated, as no nation unilaterally has the power to face today’s global challenges, and must engage in long-term diplomacy in the Middle East, including with Syria and Iran. Doing so, he claimed, does not signify weakness on the U.S. government’s part, nor does it empower or legitimize those troops with which it is engaging.

He continued that crisis diplomacy has not worked and will not work with an area as complex as the Middle East and addressed the need for a liaison between the U.S. and the Middle East who understands the complexity that is overlooked by current U.S. foreign policy makers who all too often frame the world in absolutes. He recognized that this position could only be filled by someone of global stature, experience and ability and suggested former Secretaries of State Powell and Baker as candidates.

Sen. Hagel also stated that while U.S. relations with Israel are important, they can no longer be at the expense of Arab/Palestinian relations.

Asked why he has supported Bolton’s nomination as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Sen. Hagel announced that he has not decided yet how he will vote and needs to “revisit Bolton’s performance.” He also stressed the importance of the U.N. in removing Syrian influence in Lebanon.

by Megan Shaw

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