Addressing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP, a pro-Israel group closely allied with AIPAC) today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel sought to stake out a pro-diplomacy position while giving the usual levels of lip-service to military support for Israel.
The result was a somewhat confusing split in reports of his speech, in which he simultaneously called for a “more delicate approach” to the Middle East that required the US to “recognize its limitations,” while emphasizing policies that suggest nothing has really changed.
To that end, Hagel touted “reinforcing” Israel’s military advantage across the region, as well as backing Egypt and selling high end weaponry to the Persian Gulf states, while vowing to keep a “robust military presence” there as well.
Ultimately, if the speech seems to be self-contradictory it is because US policy in the region also is. The recognition of a changing dynamic in the region and the inability of the US to impose its will (or Israel’s will) militarily across the region is quite important. At the same time, the momentum for the old policy of throwing ridiculous amounts of weaponry at the region as a “stabilization” policy is not gone.
Hagel’s speech didn’t appear to make specific note of the disastrous implications of continuing the policy they know is inappropriate for the situation, but given the audience it is hardly surprising.