“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
That’s a quote from Abraham Lincoln that opens America: Our Next Chapter by Chuck Hagel.
It is an apt selection.
Hagel is a Republican, but an iconoclast. He famously was one of the first influential Republicans to break with President Bush over the Iraq war. His political and foreign policy philosophy more closely resembles the realist outlooks of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, the National Security Advisors to Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, respectively. But unlike traditional “realists” he sees great value in broad global partnerships and non-zero sum outcomes.
In the Fall of 2009 I had the pleasure of taking Senator Hagel’s class, “Redefining Geopolitical Relationships” at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. As the title of the class suggests, he considers this to be a period of profound global power shifts–not necessarily away from America, but toward a future in which great challenges require great global cooperation.To that end, he views the United Nations as an indispensable global institution.
From America: Our Next Chapter:
The United Nations can play a central and critical role in forging connections. The global challenges of terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, hunger, disease, and poverty require multilateral responses and initiatives. The United States should therefore take every opportunity to help strengthen global institutions and alliances, including the UN. Like all institutions, the United Nations has its limitations and problems. It needs reform. Too often, the UN, especially the General Assembly, succumbs to the worst forms of political posturing. Nevertheless, the United Nations has played an essential role throughout the world in postconflict transitions, supervising elections, providing humanitarian programs and assistance, 22 peacekeeping, and offering international legitimacy and expertise of the kind that have helped stabilize Korea, Haiti, Liberia, East Timor, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and a number of other regions.
Helping bring security to those troubled areas required an 27 immense international effort. Although many of these hot spots are still troubled today, each is more stable than it was, reducing the risk of further violence and regional escalation. More importantly, each has some hope for a peaceful future—although it may take years before that hope is realized. No international conflict is simple or easy to deal with, but each requires attention and the United Nations is the only international organization that can help bring the consensus that is indispensable in finding solutions and resolving crises.
Needless to say, this is a view to which I firmly subscribe. Should President Obama nominate for a cabinet post, you can expect in him a strong advocate for the value and utility of global institutions to advancing American and global interests. I hope these rumors are true.