Hagel As a Study Group On His Own: The Middle East in Perspective


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Senator Chuck Hagel gave a speech a short time ago at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington titled: “A 21st Century Frame of Reference.”
Thus far, I like much of the Iraq Study Group’s work — particularly the proposals on how vital a new round of regional deal-making is, with Palestine-Israel as a core piece of that process. However, with all due respect to the Study Group, it is impressive to watch Senator Hagel work and articulate a set of foreign policy proposals on the Middle East that are as good if not better than the ISG.
Frankly, Hagel and other Senators like Lincoln Chafee have been articulating smarter moves in the Middle East over the last couple of years than what we have seen coming from the White House. Much of the ISG report reads like passages from speeches and commentary that both Hagel and Chafee have given in the past.
The entire speech is posted above, but here is one passage I found to be particularly important:

I believe America is coming dangerously close to isolating itself in the Muslim world.
If we continue to lose our political capital with the Muslim world, we will lose our credibility, trust and ability to lead a renewed Middle East peace process and see a further erosion in East-West relations. We may be on a very precipitous course toward an East-West collision.
A Judeo-Christian/Muslim split would inflame the world. In 2005, Gallup conducted a poll in ten Muslim countries — Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Indonesia, Turkey, Morocco and Bangladesh — to gauge Muslim views of the United States. Gallup’s findings were sobering. Gallup found that a substantial majority of the people in eight of the ten countries do not believe that the United States is serious about improving their well being or that the United States is serious about establishing democratic systems in the Muslim world. The only exceptions were Bangladesh. . .where views were evenly split. . .and Morocco. . .where there remains some trust and confidence in the United States. Across all ten Muslim nations, an average of 60 percent viewed the United States unfavorably. In Saudi Arabia, our unfavorable rating was 79 percent. . .in Jordan, 62 percent. . .and in Pakistan, 65 percent. The lowest unfavorable rating was in Lebanon. . .it was 42 percent. I would expect that number has risen in the last year. We must not allow this fracture to occur, and it need not happen.
One of the ten Muslim countries that Gallup polled was Turkey. It is a critically important Muslim country and represents Muslim views of America and the West. It is located at the crossroads between Europe and the Middle East, a geostrategic link of commerce, energy, culture and history between East and West. This Muslim country has a secular democratic government and has been a strong ally of the West since World War II.
Turkey, along with Greece, joined NATO in 1951, two years after NATO was created. A Gallup Poll conducted in October 2006 found that between 2001 and 2005, the percentage of Turks who view the United States as “very unfavorably” jumped from 14 percent to 42 percent. Sixty-two percent of Turks view the United States either “unfavorably” or “very unfavorably.” If this trend continues with a new generation of Turks, it will have disastrous consequences for the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
For more than five decades, Turkey has been one of America’s indispensable allies. But we are witnessing a dangerous unwinding of a key relationship between the West and Turkey. We must not allow this to become a reality.

Hagel could safely add the UAE to his list of previously friendly and strong allies of the US who are now considering their options for the future.
More later.

— Steve Clemons