Customer Reviews of The Opportunity: America's Moment to Alter History's Course
Excellent analysis of current US foreign policy opportunities
Richard Haas has served under Ronald Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 (as an advisor to Colin Powell), and is now with a leading think-tank in Washington. Over the years he has written some great books, reflecting on US foreign policy, and this book is the latest, released earlier this year without much fanfare (or, alas, commercial success).
The basic premise of "The Opportunity" (242 pages) is that the US in conjunction with other major powers such as China, Russia and the EU have a window of opportunity to steer the world in a direction of global cooperation and wealth, the key words here beinf "in conjunction". Haass makes a number of excellent observations in his book, such as:
on globalization: "The choice before the US is between multilateralism and either a gradual return to a world of great power competition or a world overwhelmed by disruptive forces, or both".
on terrorism: "It would be a mistake to conclude that there is global consensus on this matter. ... [O]ne man's terrotist is another's freedom fighter".
on North Korea: Haass urges the US and others to set realistic goals to the North Korean government, with real consequences if those goals are not met.
on the China/Taiwan conflict: "If the mainland were to use military force [for reunification], it should not be allowed to successfully reunify the country. Allowing it would set a terrible precedent for the region and beyond".
on the US Security Council: Haass points out that it is ineffective because its composition reflects the world order half a century ago, not today's.
on Iraq: Haass feels the invasion was "legal" but lacks "legitimacy", and moreover when a cost/benefit is made (considering how much the war has cost so far in expenses and lives lost, "the war against Iraq was unwarranted".
This is a terrific book all around. Haass makes the excellent point in the concluding chapter that "for all its power, there is virtually nothing the US can do better without others. The US needs partners; unilateralism is rarely a viable option". Well said, and this book is highly recommended!
Good Analysis of a Possible Future
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is no question that the US has become the only remaining super power. OK, what do we do now. It doesn't seem that the world has gotten a significantly safer or better place. Terrorism, AIDS, and energy prices are major problems that seemingly just are not being addressed. The news spends far more time on Terry Schiavo or Michael Jackson than they do on these three subjects. There was also very little discussion during last years Presidential race on such substantiative issues.
In this book the author says that the United States is at a point where it has an Oportunity to organize a world that is a better place to live. He addresses the issues of terrorism, AIDS and energy to some extent, but does not provide good concrete proposals. Oil today is within pennies of $60 a barrel. Demand is going up, production is not. What happens to the world economy if oil is at $100 or $250 a barrel? He offers no real solution. He does point out that the use of nuclear energy is probably the only real solution. He does not say anything about the public reaction to building more nuclear plants.
I really liked his discussion of the problems and the opportunity that the United States faces. The future is going to be an interesting time.
Unfortunately Americans did not think behind the facts of 09/11
I live in America now and I am always astounded to keep finding how little if anything Americans know about anything outside the 50 states. And because I've lived before behind the Iron Curtain - it reminds me a lot to the propaganda of the Soviets and muffling everything else so that people are kept in informational isolation. Americans have the same media - almost entirely focused on intrenal affairs. It's like this - "CNN International is for the global audience and the domestic CNN is for us". I wish Americans can watch some other TV but this here. I personaly dislike it so much that I decided not to have a TV. In a way they are kept like this just like in Communism...
Furhtermore - only 11% of the US citizens have passports, have traveled outside US and know a little more about the world and that the US is not its center or the center of the Universe.
Everybody talks about terrorism and doesn't ask the question why this has happened. Bush made even worse everything with its wars and self-isolationism. USA and all the other countries are already so economically interdependent that it's impossible and unrealistic to think that going alone will have a good end. The war in Iraq is just one of the proof. Another wrong approach was the war in former Yugoslavia, which the USA made falsifying information just like in the WMD.
And btw, reading some comments here I'd like to remind that - yes - Israel is a civilized country but only exists in this way because it has the greatest superpower as a friend and donor. Another fact is that yes 6 milion Jews were killed in the World War II but 26 millons Russian men died to conquer Nazi Germany. This fact is always forgotten... America is the only nation that has used nuclear power over another human beings.
Thanks for reading.
Richard Haass, formerly head of the State Department's policy planning staff (2001-2003), represented the minority opinion within an administration dominated by neoconservative hawks. He subscribes to the more moderate and traditional Republican view of international relations known as the "realist" school. As such he falls in line with such notables as Brent Scowcroft and Henry Kissinger.
The realist school, indeed, derives most of its principles from Henry Kissinger who was one of the greatest practitioners of realplitik in the last century. The foundational models of the realist school were the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the Congress of Berlin in 1878 in which the great powers carved up Europe into spheres of influence, known as the "concert of Europe."
Now we have another such opportunity, says Haass. He believes multilateralism among the great powers of today would strengthen, not compromise the United States. The great powers he has in mind are China, Russia, Europe, Japan, and India, and in a lesser role the emerging powers of Brazil, South Korea, and South Africa. Haass sees the world as a place where great powers in cooperation set the rules and impose them collectively on the rest.
In Haass' view, the advocacy of democracy would play a less prominent role in foreign policy, instead, order, stablity, and cooperation would be paramount. China and Russia would have more latitude for cracking down on dissent within in exchange for membership in the exclusive club. At the same time, the US would not undertake expensive wars to impose regime change and democracy. Supporting it as we did in Lebanon and Ukraine is about as far as Haass thinks we should be going.
Imposing democracy at gunpoint and doing it unilaterally are not viable foreign policy goals. Although it is true that we do not need a permission slip from the UN to defend ourselves, as was the case for the invasion of Afghanistan. The case for invading Iraq has turned out to be a war of choice, one that Haass is warning against. Even though the US has a bigger defense budget than all the great powers combined, it still has not been able to turn that power into influence. Influence comes only through multilateralism and cooperation.
There is really no alternative to multilateralism, as the Bush Administration is finding out in its second term. After having lost influence from the invasion and occupation of Iraq, they are now working with Europe to halt nuclear weapons in Iran and with the Six Parties to do the same in North Korea. In a globalizing world of cross-border flows of people, goods, money, ideas, viruses, weapons, etc., global integration is taking place no matter how desparately nations try to hold on to sovereignty. A "concert of international society" may be pie-in-the-sky, as one Amazon reviewer put it, but it is important to have clear guideposts because the pie-on-earth is already in the making. This is a very thoughtful book that I would recommend to the general reader as well as to the policy wonk.
Essential Reading To Understand America's Global Role
Richard Haass, the President of the Council of Foreign Relations, argues that with the immense resources and unparalleled power of the United States there is a unique oppurtunity to shape the international system and manage the process of globalization that is favorable to American interests. To do so, American policymakers must be serious about maintaining America's global role by pursuing a judicious and realistic foreign policy that seeks to strengthen American global leadership to better manage the process of globalization. Haass argues that the effects of globalization are and will to continue to be so extensive that careful management of globalization is an imperative task that only American leadership can accomplish.
Haass comes from a different school of thought that much of the Bush administration. Though serving as Director of Policy Planning during the first two years of George W. Bush's State Department, Haass espouses a worldview very different from the Manichaen ideological perspective of much of the Bush administration's influential neoconservatives. Haass comes from the old Republican tradition that emphasizes realism and international cooperation which is a refreshing perspective in this turbulent time.
The Oppurtunity is one of the best books I have read in a long time. One can't but help to agree with Haass's compelling arguments and interesting insights. It is essential reading to understand America's global position.