The United States must deploy all its instruments of power, not just military might, as it seeks to lead the world in the future while drained physically and financially after a dozen years of war, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said in Washington on Tuesday.
The Pentagon chief told an international audience of defence experts that while many Americans, including elected leaders, are becoming sceptical about foreign entanglements the United States would err if it retreated from the world. “We must remain the world’s only global leader”, Hagel said.
“Looking inward is just as deadly a trap as hubris, and we must avoid both in pursuing a successful foreign policy in the 21st century,” Hagel said at the Global Security Forum 2013, organized by the Center of Strategic and International Studies.
“No other nation has the will, the power, the capacity and the network of alliances to lead the international community. However, sustaining our leadership will increasingly depend not only on the extent of our great power, but an appreciation of its limits and a wise deployment of our influence,” Hagel said.
Quoting former president Dwight D. Eisenhower, Hagel said that America’s leadership “depends on how we use our power in the interest of world peace.”
Hagel also underlined the necessity of sustained close alliances, as there are “no short-term solutions for global security threats.” The US remains committed to its network of international partnerships. “We must work through coalitions of common interest like NATO”, he said.
Hagel’s remarks come as the US Defence Department is winding down a 12-year-old war in Afghanistan and is struggling to meet demands to cut nearly a trillion dollars from its budgets over the next decade.
The budget cuts have eroded military training and readiness, and Pentagon officials have warned that spending reductions would eventually force department to reassess the global military strategy it outlined two years ago.
The speech was the second by Hagel, who took office early this year, to deal with how the US Defence Department must adapt to “a changing strategic and fiscal landscape.” Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, used the speech to lay out priorities he thinks are critical to the military as it tries to adapt to the financial challenges.
With the end of the Iraq war and the winding down of the Afghanistan conflict, Hagel said President Barack Obama has been moving the United States off a “perpetual war-footing” in which “priorities, policies and relationships around the world” were dominated by the response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“Our success ultimately depends not on any one instrument of power. It depends on all of them. And it depends not only on how well we maintain and fund all of our instruments of power – but how well they are balanced and integrated with each other,” he said.