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Military Essential in U.S. Foreign Policy Future, Hagel Says

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2013 – The U.S. military will remain an essential tool of American power in 21st century foreign policy, a tool that must be used wisely, precisely and judiciously, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel gives the keynote address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies during its fourth annual Global Security Forum in Washington, D.C., Nov. 5, 2013. Hagel discussed how the Defense Department would adapt to a changing strategic and fiscal landscape. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Delivering the keynote address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Global Security Forum, the secretary said most of the century’s pressing security challenges have important diplomatic, national and global economic and cultural components that cannot and will not be resolved by military strength alone.

“As we go forward into a historically unpredictable world,” Hagel added, “we need to place more emphasis on our civilian instruments of power while adapting our military [to] remain strong, capable, second to none, and relevant in the face of threats markedly different from what shaped it during the Cold War and over the past two decades.”

America's hard power always will be critical to fashioning enduring solutions to global problems, the secretary said, but success ultimately depends on all instruments of power working together, on how well such instruments are maintained and funded, and on how well they are balanced and integrated.

“President [Barack] Obama's resolve to take military action to respond to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons helped create an opening for diplomacy with Russia, which we've pursued,” Hagel said.

That, he added, led to a U.N. Security Council resolution and to the involvement of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons inspectors on the ground in Syria who are working to oversee the removal and destruction of chemical weapons.

“We are on a course to eliminate one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world,” the secretary said.

DOD, which has maintained and will continue to maintain military pressure on the Assad regime, developed the technology that may be used to destroy these chemical weapons, he said.

“We may have another possibility with Iran, where we are engaging on a diplomatic path to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” the secretary said, adding that along the way the United States will maintain a strong, ready military presence in the Persian Gulf and the broader Middle East to deter Iran's destabilizing activities and work with and protect U.S. allies and interests.

Hagel said the multidimensional challenges confronting the United States in Iran and Syria are but two aspects of the global complexity already apparent in the early years of the 21st century.

Among the trends are shifting geopolitical centers of gravity that reflect astounding diffusion of economic power and sweeping demographic change, he said.

“China, India, Brazil and Indonesia are all helping reshape the global economy,” Hagel added. “Regional powers like Turkey are maturing and asserting greater independence from traditional allies and patrons. The Asia-Pacific region has taken on an even greater prominence in global politics, commerce and security.”

Latin America and Africa will develop and strengthen, he said, becoming important leaders in building a secure and prosperous 21st century.

Cyber activists, terrorists and criminal networks, and nonstate actors will play a role in defining the international system, the secretary explained. New structures of governance and power will emerge as the world population becomes more urbanized, mobile and technologically advanced, bringing new standards and expectations as they develop, he said.

Technology and 21st-century communication tools bring people closer together than at any time in the history of man, helping link their aspirations and their grievances, he said.

“We know that the rapid pace of change will only accelerate as the world undergoes an historic generational shift. More than 40 percent of the world's 7 billion people today are under the age of 25, and 90 percent of them live outside the United States and Europe.”

Turbulent regions such as the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa will continue to experience these challenges as their populations increase and exceed their educational and employment opportunities. The challenge of terrorism will continue to demand unprecedented collaboration with partners and allies. Destructive technologies and weapons that were once the provenance of advanced militaries are being sought by nonstate actors and other nations, the secretary said.

Sophisticated cyberattacks have the potential of inflicting debilitating damage on national and world economies and critical infrastructure. Natural disasters, pandemic diseases and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction all present further destabilizing realities to regions in the world, he added.

Regional tensions and conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and elsewhere continue to have the potential to erupt into larger-scale conflicts, drawing in the United States, China and Russia.

“While these challenges are not America's responsibilities alone, they will demand America's continued global leadership and engagement,” Hagel said.

“No other nation has the will, the power, the capacity, the capability and the network of alliances to lead the international community in addressing them,” he added.

The secretary said sustaining leadership increasingly will depend not only on the extent of the United States’ great power but in appreciating its limits and wisely deploying its influence.

“We must not fall prey to the false notion of American decline. That is … far too simple an explanation,” he said, adding that many of the challenges facing the nation are political, not structural.

“We remain the world's preeminent military, economic and diplomatic power,” Hagel said. “And even as we deal with new budgetary constraints on defense spending, the United States will continue to represent nearly 40 percent of global defense expenditures, and most of the world's other leading military powers are America's close allies.”

What always distinguished the United States is not the existence of its great power but the way in which that power has been used to make a better world, the secretary said.

“In the 21st century, the United States must continue to be a force for and an important symbol of humanity, freedom and progress for all mankind,” Hagel said. “We must also make a far better effort to understand how the world sees us and why. We must listen more.”

After more than a decade of costly, controversial, and, at times, open-ended war, America is redefining its role in the world, the secretary said.

The United States must work to find the smartest and the most effective solutions to problems, Hagel said. Military forces, he said, must always remain an option but it should be an option of last resort. And, the military should always play a supporting role in America's foreign policy, the secretary said.

“America's role in the world should reflect the hope and promise of our country and the possibilities for all mankind, tempered with a wisdom that has been the hallmark of our national character,” Hagel said.

“That means pursuing a principled and engaged realism that employs diplomatic, economic and security tools,” he added, “as well as our values, to advance our security and our prosperity.”

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinAFPS)


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