U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel says he believes the international community is facing what he calls a world-wide economic and power crisis, and he says the new U.S. president must work to restore confidence both at home and abroad. Senator Hagel declined to endorse a presidential nominee, but as Victoria Cavaliere reports from VOA's New York Bureau, the Republican lawmaker said the future U.S. leader should break from the Bush administration's foreign policy course in Iraq and Central Asia.
Hagel, a moderate Republican and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been a strong critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policies. In July he accompanied Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama to Iraq and Afghanistan, and he recently returned home from a trip to China, Japan and South Korea.
On Friday he gave a wide-ranging speech at the Asia Society in New York City. His talk touched on the growth of China, U.S. relations with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and also his perspective on the November, 2008 presidential election between Obama and Republican Senator John McCain.
Hagel's wife has publicly endorsed Obama. Hagel, who has said he will not run for re-election in 2008, says he will not endorse either candidate. But he calls both Obama and McCain friends." He said whomever is elected president must take firm steps to deal with domestic and international turmoil.
"I believe the next president will inherit the largest inventory of problems that any president has inherited since Franklin Roosevelt's first term in 1933. I think in many case it will be more severe because these are now global challenges, these are now interconnected and woven into one fabric. There is a far less margin of error and the immediacy of the threats is like nothing we have ever seen before," he said.
Hagel said American people have lost confidence in both their economic institutions and their leaders. The senator said U.S. lawmakers must restore trust while also acknowledging what he calls the re-orientation of power in the world. "All of Asia represents a new center of gravity. You take trade, you take emerging economies, political power, numbers, nuclear power, you take any measurement and it resides right there in Asia."
Hagel also stressed that a change in the U.S. presidency should mean a shift in diplomacy - and should also include the idea of engagement with the leaders of Iran and the Taliban. "On the Taliban engagement, obviously these things have to be done right, structured right. You set this things up right the right way. But you do have to engage."
Hagel said he believes that deal effectively with extremism and the future of Afghanistan until the common interest of the major countries in the region - Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, are all factored in.