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America: Our Next Chapter: Tough Questions, Straight Answers

America: Our Next Chapter: Tough Questions, Straight Answers

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by Chuck Hagel, Peter Kaminsky

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Senator Chuck Hagel has long been admired by his colleagues on both sides of the Senate floor for his honesty, integrity, and common-sense approach to the challenges of our times. The Los Angeles Times has praised his "bold positions on foreign policy and national security" and wondered, "What's not to like?" In America: Our Next Chapter, Nebraska


Senator Chuck Hagel has long been admired by his colleagues on both sides of the Senate floor for his honesty, integrity, and common-sense approach to the challenges of our times. The Los Angeles Times has praised his "bold positions on foreign policy and national security" and wondered, "What's not to like?" In America: Our Next Chapter, Nebraska-born Hagel offers a hard-hitting examination of the current state of our nation and provides substantial, meaningful proposals that can guide America back onto the right path.

In America: Our Next Chapter, Hagel speaks the truth as he sees it—in a direct and refreshingly unvarnished manner. Basing his suggestions on thorough research and careful thought, as well as on personal insight from his years as a political insider, successful businessman, and decorated war hero, he discusses domestic issues—including the health care crisis, immigration, and Social Security and Medicare reform—and global climate change. He confronts foreign policy problems that the current administration has bungled or ignored, including China's growing economy; control of U.S. debt; India's and Pakistan's nuclear capabilities; and Iran's aggressive political, ideological, and nuclear stances. He decries the pervasive disease of third world poverty, arguing convincingly that this is where the real fight against terrorism must begin. Always true to the beliefs instilled in his childhood on the prairie, he speaks passionately about service—to one's country and to one's fellow citizens—as the path toward a renewed America. And, of course, he gives a candid examination of the debacle that is the Iraq War.

A staunch Republican yet a "hero to liberals" (Time), Hagel asks the tough questions and delivers straight answers to America's most pressing problems. America: Our Next Chapter is a serious, honest, and, ultimately, optimistic look at our nation's future, from an American original.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Those tired of reading about the 2008 presidential candidates may wish to turn to these books by U.S. politicians expressing varying degrees of separation-even alienation- from current party dogma. Hagel, senior Republican senator from Nebraska, is popular in his home state, but he has faced attacks from fellow Republicans for his outspoken objection to the Iraq War and the Bush administration's foreign policy. His book with eclectic journalist Kaminsky (American Waters: Flyfishing Journeys of a Native Son) is a thoughtful and provocative assessment of current U.S. policy and loss of stature in the eyes of our allies. Hagel evaluates U.S. diplomatic relations and stresses the need for consensus building and collaboration with other countries' leaders. He expresses dismay at the current divisive, partisan political climate and rejects the position that criticism of the Republican administration is disloyal or unpatriotic. A former business owner, he also discusses economic issues and tax policy, expressing a more conventional, business-oriented Republican philosophy.

Specter, the centrist Republican senator from Pennsylvania, ventures in his book with attorney Scaturro (The Supreme Court's Retreat from Reconstruction) to theorize that the stress he suffered as he fought with more conservative Republicans to obtain the Senate Judiciary chairmanship-his comments on the nomination process for Supreme Court justices were interpreted by some fellow party members as a challenge to Bush's authority-as well as the stress of strenuous primary and general election campaigns may have contributed to his contracting Hodgkin's disease. He details his determination to maintain anormal work (and workout) routine during his successful chemotherapy treatment and also provides extensive behind-the-scenes reports on the actual approval processes for Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.

Former Minnesota governor Ventura is the ultimate political outsider, and he couldn't be happier in that role. His book, with environmental journalist Russell, is a combination memoir and call-to-rally as he and his wife travel across the West and down the Baja Peninsula. All his dislike for the two-party system and the media and his distrust of government, the CIA, and the military-industrial complex are displayed in an engaging, sometimes humorous, assessment of his experiences as governor. He reminisces about his trip to Cuba, where he met Castro, and he proposes solutions to environmental, economic, and foreign-policy problems facing the world today. In the epilog he holds out the possibility that he may open a third-party campaign for President this year. All three books offer insights and thoughtful perspectives on current U.S. political issues and are recommended for public libraries.
—Jill Ortner Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kofi A. Annan
“A leader and passionate advocate of dialogue and multilateral engagement, Chuck Hagel’s book describes in clear terms why the world needs enlightened American leadership. His vivid examination of American politics provides a rationale for future policy.”
Tom Brokaw
“Senator Hagel is a plain spoken man from the heartland with a big vision for where America needs to go next - and how we can all help. This is a book for people who care about their country.”
Susan Eisenhower
“America The Next Chapter” is a powerful combination of personal reminiscence and public policy prescription. Hagel is an authentic and courageous voice—a principled Republican moderate in the finest traditional sense.
James D. Wolfensohn
“[Chuck Hagel’s] is a true American voice, straight forward, pragmatic, full of the values that have made this country great. His book traces a course for a... more hopeful future for the country; it sets standards for the next generation to follow. A must read.”
Colin L. Powell
“ He writes with insight, expertise, authority and with the credentials that come from his dedicated service in war and peace. . . . . A fast, solid worthwhile read.”
Alan Greenspan
“Well-reasoned and timely . . . His approach should be required reading for anyone who cares about the diminishing ability of our elected officials to seek common ground—and people everywhere interested in an inspirational American life.”
Journal Star Review
“This forthright and surprisingly blunt book... details his public life as a United States senator and gives him an opportunity to ask some tough questions, and to make some tough judgments. Hagel has made his mark in the U.S. Senate by being his own man, a man above partisanship.”

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America: Our Next Chapter
Tough Questions, Straight Answers

Chapter One

Lit By Lighting

What has not America lost by her want of character with foreign nations and how many errors and follies would she not have avoided, if the justice and propriety of her measures had, in every instance, been previously tried by the light in which they would probably appear to the unbiased part of mankind?
—Federalist Paper #63

Politicians are fond of saying that we live in unprecedented times—as if the challenges of today are somehow greater and more important than those of the past. By definition, today's challenges have great consequence for tomorrow, but that has been true of every "today" going back to the beginning of time. What is different about our modern world is that the combination of weapons of incalculable destructive power and an interdependent global society mean that history will not be as forgiving of mistakes and foreign policy blunders as it has been in the past. There is little margin for error in a point-and-click world.

The stakes are higher—but what it takes to play and win remains the same: leadership, strength, and the willingness of our nation to work together with others for our common interests. Those interests, shared by all mankind, have not changed in ten thousand years. All people want peace, security, food on the table, a future for their children. Even though the twenty-first century's problems may look bigger or more challenging, I think we can take heart from our track record as a country. So far we have survived and, by and large, we have prospered. True, wenever seem to solve one problem without creating another, but the point is we do solve them. Sometimes it is not without great pain and sacrifice, but we should never forget that no matter how difficult our current challenges may look, America has always risen above the greatest dangers and, in so doing, we have helped to build a better world.

Throughout history there have been nations that have been leaders. For the last one hundred years, America has filled that role. The strength of our economy, its tremendous productive capacity shaped by entrepreneurship, the openness of our political system, and the spirit of cooperation and citizenship among our people have brought us to a position of immense power and influence. Does this make us better than other countries? Probably not, but it does mean—given our overwhelming power—that today's challenges squarely confront this nation as they do no other.

I have always been fascinated with the historian Arnold Toynbee's theory of the rise and fall of civilizations. "Civilization is a movement and not a condition, a voyage and not a harbor," he wrote as he considered the fate of the world's great civilizations. In other words, a civilization is like a story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Every great civilization has succeeded because it has organized the energies of its people to meet a challenge. For the ancient Babylonians the challenge was harnessing the power of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. For the church of the Middle Ages it was offering order to communities terrorized by chaos and anarchy. For sixteenth-century Spain it was tapping the seemingly inexhaustible riches of the New World. For America it was "e pluribus unum," creating one nation out of a melting pot of peoples.

Earlier civilizations declined because there came a time when they became complacent about their power and could no longer meet the challenges of the day. For example, the mighty Roman Empire fell apart when the legions it depended on for public order were "outsourced" to barbarian mercenaries. The traditions of service and sacrifice that defined Roman citizenship and led it to greatness disappeared as the citizens grew fat and happy on the spoils of empire. Rome was just one more case of a universal principle according to Toynbee: "Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder."

Challenge and response, rise and fall, these have been the unchanging laws of human history . . . so far. For if they were truly as constant and immutable as the speed of light or the pull of gravity, then I would not be talking from such a positive perspective about America's next chapter.

We Americans are not born better than those ancient empire builders. We probably have the same proportion of go-getters and, balancing the equation, the same proportion of laggards. What America has that is different is an open political, educational, and economic system that in the space of two centuries has time and again proved itself capable of generating ever-increasing amounts of wealth and ever greater opportunities for people to better their lives and those of their children.

The difference between America and the preeminent powers of the past is that our continued success is not at the expense of the rest of the world. The great scientific advances of the last sixty years have meant bigger markets, greater progress, and more prosperity and opportunities for more people everywhere. A wealthy and powerful China or India or Europe does not have to mean a corresponding decline in the quality of life for America. Instead, the advancement of other nations as they join the world's free-market community creates a rising tide that, for the most part, lifts us all. True, some jobs have moved overseas, but as I will argue in chapter fourteen those jobs, which were a heritage of an early industrial era, were always destined to leave. The challenge is to create new jobs to take their place.

Counterbalancing this story of progress are new, more global threats: Terror, religious extremism, nuclear proliferation, the scourge of new and virulent health pandemics, poverty and despair, and the specter of ecological collapse through climate change are not challenges that can be met and overcome through the imposition of one nation's will and unrivaled military power. What will be required are enhanced and strengthened multilateral relationships and institutions, expanded trade, and more cultural, educational, and scientific exchanges. In this way we can nurture those things that bring people together. This must be our twenty-first-century frame of reference: one that accepts, in fact demands, American leadership. But we can lead only to the extent that we are trusted and respected in the world—not feared. Our goal must be inspirational leadership, moral authority, and confidence that America's purpose is noble and that its interests are shared by the rest of humanity.

America: Our Next Chapter
Tough Questions, Straight Answers
. Copyright © by Chuck Hagel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Chuck Hagel served two terms in the U.S. Senate and was sworn in as the 24th Secretary of Defense on February 27, 2013, becoming the first enlisted combat veteran to lead the Department of Defense. Hagel and his brother Tom served side by side in Vietnam in 1968 as infantry squad leaders with the U.S. Army's 9th Division. He earned many military decorations and honors, including two Purple Hearts. A fourth-generation Nebraskan, Secretary Hagel is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Hagel and his wife, Lilibet, have two children.

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