Americans must work with Middle Eastern countries instead of against them, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) implored of a crowded Riggs Library during a speech yesterday afternoon.

“Now is one of those defining moments,” he said. “We can either drift toward danger or build a global community.”

In his lecture entitled “America: Our Next Chapter,” sponsored by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Hagel described the powerful impact that events in the Middle East have on America as a whole, saying that conflicts in the region are not isolated but have strong affect on the heart of America.

Hagel, a Vietnam veteran with two purple hearts, said that the best way to deal with the Middle East is to promote the “common interests” which we share with Arab countries and to encourage greater diplomacy, something that America’s next president will have to make a top priority.

“We can’t squander the next four years. We must welcome and help build a global community,” Hagel said. “The next president will have to make Congress, the Senate and the world a partner.”

“The Middle East is a tribal land, it has a history, it is complicated,” Hagel said, arguing that the region cannot be dealt with using traditional methods of force. “Military strength is not the solution in the Middle East,” he stated, adding that it often leads to the suffering of innocent civilians.

Rather, the United States should look for mutually beneficial policies to promote the interests of Americans and citizens in the Middle East, he said.

Under current conditions, Hagel stated that neither Americans nor Iraqis will tolerate American presence in the region for much longer. He illustrated the danger of areas such as the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where terrorists are reforming and growing in number.

He also mentioned that this is the generation that will determine the new world order, having to deal with the drastic financial gap between different parts of the world.

Hagel compared the situation that America now faces to the one it faced after World War II, pointing to the 10 years directly after World War II as an example of progress in the realm of foreign policy.

In light of the upcoming elections, Hagel said that the next president will inherit the greatest number of challenges any president has confronted since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Hagel stated that given the current financial crisis and problems in America, the next president will be very limited in foreign policy options.

At the same time, however, Hagel said he was hopeful for the new president, saying that “this is one of the most transformational times in the history of man.”

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