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The Opportunity: America's Moment to Alter History's Course
Release Date: October, 2006
In this dramatic new perspective on international affairs, Richard N. Haass, one of the country's most brilliant analysts and able foreign policy practitioners, argues that it is hard to overstate the significance of there being no major power conflict in the world. America's great military, economic, and political power discourages traditional challenges; no ideological fault line divides the world into warring blocs. India, China, Japan, Russia, and Europe all seek a prolonged period of stability that would support economic growth. The opportunity thus exists for unprecedented cooperation among the major powers. This is good, because they share vulnerabilities. Globalization, which promotes trade and investment and eases travel and communication, also facilitates the spread of viruses (human and computer alike), weapons, terrorists, greenhouse gases, and drugs. And the United States, for all its strength, cannot defeat these threats alone. But opportunity is not inevitability. The question is whether the United States will be able to integrate other countries into global efforts against terrorism, the spread of nuclear weapons, genocide, and protectionist policies that jeopardize global economic prosperity. This compelling book explains why it must and how it can.
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Excellent analysis of current US foreign policy opportunities
Posted by Paul Allaer on 9/12/2005
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!
Posted by Izaak VanGaalen on 7/20/2005
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.