Leading U.S. senators and political scientists say U.S. foreign policy has become more assertive since the attacks of September 11. However, they warn the cost of failure in places like the Middle East, South Asia or the Balkans is now greater. Their comments came at an event organized by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Senator Chuck Hagel, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said the most important U.S. challenge is establishing security in Afghanistan now that its terror bases have been eliminated.
"Our investment there is far greater than just one country. It is about the region, it is about the world, it is about our prestige, it is about our commitment, it is about confidence and trust that other nations have in partnering with us," Senator Hagel said.
Senator Hagel said he supports U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan until it becomes a stable country. He also wanted to keep U.S. troops in the Balkans.
Michele Flournoy, a senior adviser with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said September 11 gave U.S. foreign policy new prospects.
She said these include strengthening alliances with key countries like Russia, reasserting leadership in regions like the Middle East and South Asia, dealing more effectively with failed states and also curtailing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Mrs. Flournoy said only an all-encompassing approach of U.S. foreign policy will defeat terrorism. "The idea of using the full range of U.S. foreign policy tools, from foreign assistance to public diplomacy to marginalizing terrorists from their base of support by more effectively addressing the concerns of populations from which they gain money, recruits and support," she said.
Senator Hagel said dangers facing world security are connected, but he warns against linking the war on terrorism, for example, to riding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. "Placing non-proliferation under the rubric of war on terrorism may unnecessarily blur and complicate the different policies and coalitions necessary for meeting both challenges. We should approach non-proliferation and security concerns in the Persian Gulf as a regional issue that must involve the United Nations," he said.
Senator Hagel said unilateral U.S. attacks on Iraq would be in his words "complete folly" - a view shared by many European countries. He also said the situation in the Middle East demands not just a cease-fire but steps toward a U.S.-brokered political settlement, including a Palestinian state and addressing the need for an international force in the region.