Head to Brookings: Senator Chuck Hagel is Going to Make News on Middle East Crisis in Speech Today


Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) has a speech ready to go today at the Brookings Institution (11 a.m.) that is very significant — and is focused on the Middle East crisis and on the question of American engagement in the world.
I have had the opportunity to read his prepared remarks, but my comments are embargoed until 11 a.m.
All I can and will say is that the speech formally titled “A Defining Time for 21st Century American Leadership” could just as easily be called Hagel’s clarion call to “ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE”.
It’s masterful in its implied criticism of the foreign policy floundering taking place now, but it is still hopeful.
I will be there and will report back. I’ll also post the speech on TWN at 11 a.m.

— Steve Clemons


22 comments on “Head to Brookings: Senator Chuck Hagel is Going to Make News on Middle East Crisis in Speech Today

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  5. erichwwk says:

    To me, this speech is abysmally weak While masquerading as “fair minded”, it is IN FACT, grossly one sided. E.g., Hagel claims:
    “The world has rightly condemned the despicable actions of Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists who attacked Israel and kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Israel has the undeniable right to defend itself against aggression. This is the right of all states.
    Hezbollah is a threat to Israel, to Lebanon and to all who strive for lasting peace in the Middle East. This threat must be dealt with, as Israel’s military operations continue to weaken
    Hezbollah’s capacity for violence.”
    IT IS PRECISELY THIS KIND of Rhetoric that is SO DANGEROUS and ultimately undermines and erodes the US capacity to provide ANY KIND of Moral leadership. While we may assert (falsely, or as I would prefer, blatantly LIE about what happened in Rome) that the world has condoned Israel’s attack on Lebanon, many of us side with the German Foreign minister who stated that OPPOSITE was actually the case. As long as we refuse to distinguish between legitimate liberation forces and true terrorists, and insist on having the only say on the paradigm through which we view conflict, we are probably better served by NOT being involved.
    And why NO mention of the recent (or past) UN attacks, including attacks on the rescuers? Are there more heinous acts, universally accepted as war crimes, than targeting UN observers? Please, Chuck, either state BOTH or NEITHER side of the argument if you are in fact proposing diplomacy rather than advocating for a particular position.
    And why begin with the 2006 Hamas abduction of the 2 Israeli soldiers? Why not with the 2004 Israeli reneging of the full terms of the prisoner exchange? Or with the civilians still held? Or with the letter
    Even “superpowers talk to bad guys”??? What alternate reality does Hagel live in ??? How about putting on the table that WE (or at least the neocons, here and in Israel) may be the “bad guys”? If Hagel’s mind is made up and conclusions reached, JUST EXACTLY WHAT is he proposing is worth negotiating or diplomating about?
    To me this sounds like Harry Reid’s posturing over the Phase II hearings-at best tough talk and much ado about nothing, and at worst an attempt to misdirect and buy the neocons more time to build the case for a wider war. If Hagel were sincere, he would have no problem opposing Bolton’s nomination. ( wasn’t he the one who suggested the Israeli’s actions towards the UN?)


  6. DonS says:

    For an America politician I suppose the speech moves the debate along a little. But it certainly lacks the directness and punch needed to address the politcial myopia and theoligcally bassed dogmatism fueling our current leaders.
    The reliance on quotes from long dead, real diplomats and thinkers, impresses no one, but serves to reinforce how cowered the current crop of politicians, including Hagel, are at calling a spade a spade. Why not speak for himself?
    Alluding to the choas in the mideast and the involvement of the US with Israel rehearses all the old shibboleths about our “special relationship” with Israel — irreconcilable with the oipinion of the rest of the world and antithetical to the U.S. assuming the honest broker role Hagel laments we have lost. I.e., its a non-starter, a mere rhetorical flourish unless and until U.S. politicians decide to get as hard on Israel as they seem routinely and easily to get with he rest of the mideast players.
    I guess he thinks he’s taking the high road, the long view, but without addressing Israel’s disproportionate retribution he’s left out a huge factor in the near term equation. Just another American pol flapping his lips; more encouragement to the neocons and the Likudniks that our rules for engagement remain the same — not the change Hagel acts like he’s promoting.


  7. Carroll says:

    I am underwhelmed with this speech.
    The US has lost it’s indispensable leadership influence.
    Because we haven’t made ourselves clear to the Islamic radicals who are worse than Hitler and solely responsible for all the ME chaos by misunderstanding that what is good for Israemerica is good for them.
    Now we must put more lipstick on the pig and try again.
    ???????????????????????????????..did I miss anything?


  8. btree says:

    This from yesterday’s WH briefing…
    “Q [Y]ou just said a moment ago that it would be — it would not be an enforceable cease-fire. How do you know until you have a cease-fire? Why not get a cease-fire, and then if Hezbollah does not follow it, the world community sees that they’re to blame.
    “MR. SNOW: In other words, why not — because we are — because what you’re asking for is a PR move rather than a strategic move. The question of why not —
    “Q Why would it be PR if people are not dying?
    “MR. SNOW: No, no, no, wrong. Again, Hezbollah is firing, what, 150, 200 rockets a day. Do you seriously believe they’re going to stop if somebody in Rome says there’s going to be a cease-fire?
    “Q Nobody knows until you do it, right?
    “MR. SNOW: No, no, no, don’t play ‘what if.’ That is naive, Ed, it’s naive.
    “Q You’re playing ‘what if’ by saying it’s not enforceable. You don’t know that. Nobody knows that.
    “MR. SNOW: Yes, we do. Yes, we do. Yes, we do.”


  9. CKR says:

    I may be missing something, but it’s moving on toward noon Mountain Daylight Time, and I don’t see the speech posted.


  10. marky says:

    You set the bar far, far too low when you praise the “implied criticisms” leveled at Bush by the cowardly Hagel. Hagel has done nothing to stop the Bush juggernaut towards doom, and on reflection, I can’t say that you have done as much as you could have, yourself. Other blogs have had an actual impact on policy—notably Josh Marshall with his work on Social Security.
    Stop the ass-kissing and start kicking some ass.
    It’s way past time. Hagel should be taken to the woodshed, tarred and feathered, shackled with Lieberman, Specter and Chaffee and locked in the dungeons, never to be heard from again.
    They are useless. These men are casting the votes that imperil our country, and you praise them?
    This country’s problems will not be solved on the DC cocktail party circuit…. oh, but Condi does play a lovely Brahms intermezzo, doesn’t she?


  11. Jake - but not the one says:

    The speech is good. But it seems to me it is mostly hot air. There is very genuine criticism, but carefully not focused on anyone. Always it is “we” or some other word for no one in particular is to blame for the current debacle in the ME.
    When Hagel DOES something different, then it will be interesting.


  12. GQ says:

    I used to think Hagel was a source of sanity in the GOP. But I’m tired of Republicans criticizing the President while failing to do anything about it. Hagel can say these nice words, but if he votes for Bolton, what good does it do to make this speech. Furthermore, GOP pols could do more in Congress to stop Bush. But they don’t!
    John McCain, for example, makes a big show of anti-torture, but is perfectly happy to let Bush use a signing statement to ignore his “law”. That is a bunch of crap no matter how much sugar and perfume you put on it. Hagel is really not different. He almost never votes against Bush and provides no legislation to back up his criticism. It’s irresponsible to call rhetoric useful if they could do something more in Congress.
    I think it was Walter Pincus who said that when the administration offers nothing new, people shouldn’t put it in press. I think the same goes for Congress. I believe Dems have been calling consistently for “engagement, engagement, engagement” and try to get legislation and/or hearings (not that Hagel or other GOP care to give them the opportunity to bring up the debate). Why the hell don’t they get more press coverage.
    I hate to be so strong, but this speech is worth nothing–since he could try to back it up in the Senate–and characterizing it as more is the same as a campaign commercial. We need action, not words!


  13. S Brennan says:

    It may be “masterful in its implied criticism of the foreign policy”, but what we need now is not implicit criticism, rather we need explicit action that tries to mitigate the illogical, vainglorious and contemptible actions of this administration and it’s rubber stamp congress. A congress which includes Democratic Senators such as Sen. Clinton, Lieberman, Biden, Shumer….and of course Republicans such as Hagel who want to have it both ways. Subtle criticism has it’s place, but the time for such niceties has passed.


  14. Carl Nyberg says:

    Does Hagel admit he was wrong in supporting the Iraq War? Endorsing Bush? Has Hagel volunteered to take responsbility by resigning his Senate seat? Is he going to organize an opposition block to force the Bush administration to change course? Is he going to change his party affiliation and campaign for changing control of Congress from President Bush’s political party?
    Or is this just hot air positioning his presidential campaign?


  15. sgiff says:

    If Hagel just once let his votes reflect all this wisdom I would have more hope but he goes on tv and talks so reasonable while he votes with the Bush Administration on everything. When will anyone fight for what they say they believe?


  16. Pissed Off American says:

    BTW, all of mankind is going to pay the steep prices that these bastards are incurring by their cowardice, “implied criticism” notwithstanding. I wonder, are these zionist monsters using DU in Lebanon too??? Might as well do it up right, eh?
    And are the bastards going to clean up the environmental disasters they are causing? Why in God’s name there aren’t GLOBAL demonstrations against Israel and the United States is beyond me………..
    Oil spill adds ecological crisis to Lebanon’s agony
    Along Lebanon’s sandy beaches and rocky headlands runs a belt of black sludge, 10,000 to 30,000 tonnes of oil that spilled into the Mediterranean Sea after Israel bombed a power plant.
    Lebanon’s Environment Ministry says the oil flooded into the sea when Israeli jets hit storage tanks at the Jiyyeh plant south of Beirut on July 13 and 15, creating an ecological crisis that Lebanon’s government has neither the money nor the expertise to deal with.
    “We have never seen a spill like this in the history of Lebanon. It is a major catastrophe,” Environment Minister Yacoub al-Sarraf told Reuters.


  17. elementary teacher says:

    Had to share this with you:
    As you know, yesterday was a tough day in this world — at our house, we went to bed praying about the mess. I had a dream. Walking along, I looked up and saw a huge face, unmistakable, his head filled up the sky. I pointed at it, speechless, to anyone, but no one in particular.
    I tried to read the scene. This colossal head is traveling — sky-moving — slowly, carefully, scanning all of the United States. He’s watching over us. He is watching over the entire U.S, border to border. President Lincoln was imparting — emitting — foundational Truth and Freedom to our country, state by state, to each city, each village and each tiny hamlet. He was the head of the angels who watch over our country and his countenance was sternly imploring us below to use our truth and to use our freedom. I basked in President Lincoln’s protection and I let his message fill me up.
    When I woke up in the morning, I asked my husband, “Hey –guess who I saw in the sky in my dream?”
    He paused for a time. He was really thinking about it, and he was thinking hard — the way you do when you want to get it right the first time.
    “Abe Lincoln?”


  18. Pissed Off American says:

    “……for Bush’s neoconic wars against evil.”
    Uuuuhhhhhm, excuse me, but didn’t you mean…..
    “……for Bush’s evil neoconic wars.”


  19. Liam Shortall says:

    Is it on C-SPAN?


  20. KR says:

    Hagel’s words to address real world facts would have had some merit of truth for me, if he had not tainted his sincerity by voting against the Stem Cell Bill (HR-810).
    For me, his “nay” vote illustrates his inability to interpret facts (ie scientific evidence); and shows how much he’s willing to compromise the national interests of our country and the views of 72% of Americans who support science.
    So whatever comes out of his mouth today, I expect that his message will be framed to support his presidential run, which seeks to appeal to the right wingnuts who continue to crusade for Bush’s neoconic wars against evil.


  21. Pissed Off American says:

    “It’s masterful in its implied criticism of…..”
    Its a hell of a note when we celebrate “implied crticism”. When are these mewling cowards going to take our country back?


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