It's such a pity Chuck Hagel is stepping down in 2009. More and more, the sane folks are deserting the GOP and leaving it the sole province of extremists.
Hagel's speech (PDF) about the future of U.S.-Iranian relations to the Center for Strategic and International Studies yesterday is a textbook example of the kind of thinking America's leaders should be doing, rather than the race for biggest bully on the block they are currently engaged in. Raw Story has the highlights and a link to the video.
now is the time for the United States to actively pursue an offer of direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with Iran. We cannot afford to refuse to consider this strategic choice any longer. We should make clear that everything is on the table – our issues and Iran’s….similar to the opportunity that we squandered in 2003 for comprehensive talks with Iran. This should include offering Iran a credible way back in from the fringes of the international community, security guarantees if it is willing to give up nuclear weapons ambitions, as well as other incentives. This will require the day-to-day efforts and presence of a very senior administration official, higher ranking than the American Ambassador to Iraq.As the great and good would say - "Indeed".
The offer should be made even as we continue other elements of our strategy…working with our allies on multilateral sanctions applying financial pressure…working in the UN Security Council on a third sanctions resolution…andworking in the region to support those Middle East countries who share our concerns with Iran. We should seek to work in concert with Russian President Putin, who traveled to Tehran last month to visit the Supreme Leader of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Khamenei and propose a new initiative to help resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. We should seriously explore the proposal from the Arab Gulf States…announced by Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud… to establish a nuclear consortium to provide any Middle East state with enriched nuclear fuel, including Iran. Initial Iranian reactions could provide an opening for common interests.
Creative approaches like these, rather than war speeches and talk of World War III, would strengthen our ability across the board to deal with Iran. Our friends and allies and international institutions would be more confident to stand with us…not just because of our power…but rather because they trusted our purpose, our words and our actions. It could create a new dynamic in U.S.-Iran relations, in part by incentivizing the Iranians to react to the possibility of better relations with the West…because it is in their interests. We should be prepared that any dialogue with Iran will take time and diplomatic effort, focus and discipline.
...It may be that Iranian President Ahmadinejad wants to take his country into conflict with the United States. He may believe that baiting the United States into striking Iran will allow him to consolidate clear control over the Iranian government, including by undermining the influence of Iran’s Supreme Leader.
We must not play the Iranian President’s game by allowing ourselves to recklessly ricochet into a conflict that could help unite Iran and the Muslim world behind the very extremists that we should be isolating. Our strategy must be smarter…wiser…and get above the Iranian President. We must demonstrate to the rest of Iran’s leaders, the Iranian people, the Middle East and the world that it is an irresponsible Iranian President who could take Iran into conflict…not the United States.
Our strategy must be one focused on direct engagement and diplomacy…backed by the leverage of international pressure, military options, isolation and containment
...None of us –in public office today—the Administration, Congress, our Presidential candidates – are fulfilling the requirements of leadership at a crossroads time in history…nor are we absorbing the enormity of the time in which we are living. Neither Republican nor Democratic candidates are speaking to the great challenges of our time…in particular Iran…with depth, strategic thinking and wise words. We are captive to the lowest common denominator of “who can talk the toughest” and who is the “meanest cowboy on the block.” That kind of rhetoric…political as it may be…will only drive the world further away from America and deepen a world crisis…that we may not be able to recover from. At times, the debate is astoundingly uninformed. Before it is over, the American people will be subjected to nearly two years of a media circus surrounding our presidential election where the candidates are reduced to verbal ping pong volleys on the great issues of the day.
Rather than acting like a nation riddled with the insecurities of a schoolyard bully, we ought to carry ourselves with the confidence that should come from the dignity of our heritage…from the experience of our history…and from the strength of our humanity…not from the power of our military.