on April 30, 2013
Richard Haass is a worrier, as well he should be. In this finely crafted, highly readable and brilliant analysis of where we are today in the world, the articulate Council on Foreign Relations President and former national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush, argues that America is losing its ability to influence other nations. He sees correctly that there is no nation in the world, which can replicate American leadership, not China, not Russia, not Japan, and not Europe. And without American leadersip, the world inevitably will be in an unstable, chaotic condition that no one wants. America's loss of international leverage comes from shared perceptions that our government has become all but totally dysfunctional. He warns that we are rapidly losing ground as Washington can't agree on such basic matters as budgets, immigration policy, education and how to deal with our domestic economy. The President creates a bi-partisan commission to get our fiscal house in order; it amazingly reaches agreement on what must be done; and the President dissolves and disavows the commission. The President squanders almost all of his political capital on gun control, and has little left for energy policy, environmental regulation or tax reform. The world watches as Washington wrangles and twists in the wind. And, this does little to elevate our status as leader of nations. This book will be widely read by policy makers, academicians and governmental leaders, as well it should. But it is required reading for every literate American, who is as worried as the author about America's primacy.
on June 16, 2013
This is very informative on foreign policy, not so good on domestic. It's very inconsistent in spots. Haas's prior book 'The Opportunity' was limited to his expertise in foreign policy. That one was very informative with new paradigms in foreign, sanctions etc. This extension is no improvement Starting from the acutely perceptive title, it's downhill from there. For all his acumen on foreign affairs, Haass's analysis of domestic policy and history is seriously flawed both logically and empirically.
I. Return of History
Globalization is a reality not a choice. In 1956 we controlled the action. Now China can do to us what we did back then. Haass says that Orwell's vision of central control in '1984' has proven wrong - not so. Orwell didn't write a prediction, but what he saw happening in Britain in 1948. It took about 20 years longer to take effect in the USA, but now we have big brother in spades with invasion of privacy and many other more heinous forms primarily economic regulation and control of the economy.
Haass accurately observes that the world is turning from a bipolar political configuration. In explaining nonpolarity leading to confusion Haas invokes an thoughtless scientific metaphor. He likens nonpolarity to entropy which is always increasing. There is no thoughtful scientific metaphor that covers human behavior. In an over simplistic attempt to cover human behavior with a scientific metaphor, So far I have found attempts to simplify human behavior with scientific metaphors to be thoughtless oversimplifications. This one is no exception.
The Korean war began as war of necessity morphed into war of choice when Truman tried for a reunited Korea after repelling the original invasion.
We did not have to go to war in Iraq. Afghanistan was war of necessity that is now a war of choice. We are impoverishing ourselves with misguided foreign policy.
China transition growth will slow. It already has, but not as much as ours. He says that China cannot buy it's way to energy self sufficiency. It's an opinion that doesn't consider what they are doing in Africa and S. America. What will the USA be forced to disgorge to discharge our debt? In a post-European world he cites General Gates opinion that NATO faces military irrelevance. He studies what he calls 'wannabes' Japan, India, and Russia. I suspect that each of those governments understands their world role better than Haass.
He observes that politics has never caught up with finance. We are impoverishing ourselves with misguided foreign policy. He strangely overlooks the same phenomenon in his analysis of domestic policy.
II Restoration Abroad
G-20 is a step in the right direction but lacks authority to carry out needed programs.
GATT and WTO are also inadequate. Haass says the "international community" is an aspiration not a realty, but inconsistently cites reasons for optimism. It's not convincing. His take on climate change shows a strictly politically correct stance. Like everyone else he fears the nuclear programs of Iran and NK. He leaves open the option of a preemptive strike.
He categorizes foreign policy doctrines as:
1.promotion of democracy
He explains that restoration of foreign policy is not same as isolationism.
Realistically evaluates prospects for peace in ME as poor, he cites, in particular, that the US pushing for free elections in Gaza has resulting in Hamas dominance.
He thinks that Obama has implied a policy pivot from ME focus to Asia.
III Restoration at Home
Haass attributes the 2008 financial crisis to lack of regulation. He ignores the easy money policy of the Clinton and Bush administrations that fueled the tech stock burst in 2000 and the RE burst in 2008. We (I think he means Congress.) are unable to agree on a path forward, an accurate, but hardly new or profound observation. He points out that reduction in defense spending will have minimum effect on deficit reduction. Among other wishful thinking, he wants to restore the US economy with its social and physical foundation.
He wistfully thinks that the deficit crisis will end but fails to make his case. He does cite statistics showing 6% interest on debt and 6% interest on GDP. I think that with growth rates permanently under 6% and the debt approaching 100% of GDP it shows that our national debt can never be paid. There is currently great joy in the press in observing the deficit decline to 1 trillion per year. The media doesn't observe that national debt is increasing by that amount so that it can never be paid. The next emergency will exacerbate the unperceived crisis. With luck the inevitable decline will be slow.
In citing the 2012 Tax Act, Haass cites a "slight" increase in estate tax. He ingeniously neglects the 2010 estate tax increase that was hardly slight. It won't be the last.
Energy is the best considered of Haass's domestic recommendations. He observes that
renewable energy can't replace oil and gas. The US is moving in the direction of energy self sufficiency. We are on track to become the worlds largest producer of natural gas. He doesn't weigh in on the current fracking controversy. He avoids the ethanol issue and doesn't go into economics of renewable energy, except by implication as he does give a fair hearing to oil and natural gas.
Concerning education in the USA, Haass thinks that spending correlates with results.
circular reasoning. He supports the educational lobby that measures success by money spent. He says that quality of teachers is important without consideration of the effects of unions control of evaluation and pay scales.
Infrastructure in the US is being allowed to deteriorate as programs are starved for cash.
Haass recommends more user based charges to increase funding. He doesn't consider the pork attached to each infrastructure project.
On immigration policy Haass suggests that we could become too few instead of too many. Not exactly wrong, it's a trap to neglect immigrant poverty.
The phenomenon has more to do with domestic policy, especially Social Security, than with immigration.
The section on economic growth cites skewed statistics with an average growth rate since 1950 of 3.3%. Haass fails to observe that growth before about 1965 was much higher with a permanent drop later due to payroll tax burden placed on American labor to pay for the Great Society, war on poverty and the Viet Nam war. Employment statistics show the same long term trend, with unemployment higher than previously. Recent growth rates are low and it's only wishful thinking to expect improvement. Three percent growth rate is now near a maximum expectation, not an average. Expectation of economic growth to solve our social and political excess is wishful thinking and doomed to failure.
In two contradictory political ideas Haass says we need a need a president who will build consensus, then says that a 3rd party needed. Both ideas are more wishful thinking.
In attempting to combine analysis of both foreign and domestic policy, the book bites off more than the writer can chew.
Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order by Richard N. Haass
"Foreign Policy Begins at Home" is a fantastic, succinct and accessible book on foreign policy. American diplomat and accomplished author Richard N. Haass provides the public with a fair and even-handed book, in this edition he advocates for a new foreign policy of Restoration that argues for less foreign policy and a greater emphasis on domestic investment and policy reform. This insightful 212-page book is broken out into the following three parts: I. The Return of History, II. Restoration Abroad and III. Restoration at Home.
1. A well-written, concise and even-handed book on foreign policy for the masses.
2. Haass has mastery of the important topic of foreign policy and is able to convey it in a lucid manner.
3. I really like the author's approach. He is direct, concise and his points are well grounded. He doesn't chew more than he can eat and is candid about the risks and challenges involved.
4. The book revolves around the following three themes: the United States is overreaching abroad, underperforming at home and underreach. "Call it underreach: the risk posed by what appears to be a growing lack of understanding by many Americans of the close relationship between the state of the world--how much stability, how much prosperity--and the state of the United States."
5. Makes it perfectly clear why we the United States must lead the globe. "No other country or groups of countries have the capacity, the experience, and the inclination to lead efforts to build global order."
6. Covers so much in so little time. "There are, of course, external challenges, including but hardly limited to a rising China, a militarized North Korea, an Iran possibly moving to acquire nuclear weapons, an unstable Pakistan, violent terrorists, and a warming planet."
7. Explains the most noteworthy features in the first half of the twenty-first century is nonpolarity. "Two factors--globalization and technology--contribute to nonpolarity."
8. Eye-opening facts. "China's GDP increased from less than $400 billion in 1981 to more than $7 trillion three decades later; India's increased from under $300 billion to nearly $2 trillion over that same period."
9. Provocative statements always make for fun reading. "America's lack of fiscal discipline has contributed far more to its loss of power and influence than have these wars."
10. An interesting look at the rest of the world. From rising powers and the challenges that they face. "The so-called great powers are not all that great. China has already been discussed, as has Europe. Both have significant vulnerabilities and weaknesses along with their strengths."
11. Excellent statements that capture the essence of what is going on in the world. "The major powers share a common predicament: their inability to agree on how the world is to be organized and operated."
12. Touches on some global hot-button issues like climate change. "In the case of climate change, there is near-universal acceptance among the world's governments of the scientific evidence that burning fossil fuels is causing measurable change in the earth's climate, something that in turn will affect not just average temperatures but agricultural output, species survival, insect and disease prevalence, severity and frequency of tornadoes and hurricanes, and flooding in coastal areas."
13. Despite focusing on the challenges we face as a nation and leader of the globe provides reasons for optimism. "The twentieth century was defined by two world wars and a cold war that mercifully stayed that way; the twenty-first century is starting out and promises to remain for some time something qualitatively different."
14. Provides an excellent list of major concerns for worry. "US interests in the Middle East are greater than American influence there. That, in a nutshell, is the current predicament of the United States."
15. The second part of the book focuses on what the United States should and should not do abroad. "As we are seeing in the Middle East, it is one thing to oust authoritarian regimes, something very different and more difficult to replace them with something demonstrably and enduringly better."
16. Tackles the always hot topic of dealing with terrorism. Provides different methods on how to address and the challenges involved.
17. The four contenders for foreign policy doctrine. Explains the Restoration approach.
18. Addresses the most important topics on how to put America's house in order. "To speak of the domestic challenge facing the United States is, in reality, to speak of multiple challenges. The list is virtually endless and no doubt highly subjective, but I would highlight five core elements: reducing the federal deficit and the ratio of national debt to GDP, putting into place a comprehensive energy strategy, improving the quality of education, upgrading the country's physical infrastructure, and modernizing an out-of-date immigration policy."
19. A sound conclusion that brings it all together. "This book is premised on the idea that the world needs American leadership, but that American leadership requires the United States to first put its house in order, something that in turn will require its being more restrained in what it tries to do abroad and more disciplined in what it does at home."
20. Notes provided.
1. Don't expect an in-depth analysis. Haass provide the goods in a direct and straight-forward manner.
2. No supplementary material. That is, no graphs, charts, or other kinds of visual material.
3. No formal bibliography.
In summary, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. For full disclosure, considering my politics is of the progressive ilk I was expecting some conflict of opinion with Haass but that never materialized and I must say I found his book to be reasonable. It's a treat to read a book that cuts to the chase while providing the public the necessary essentials. It's accessible, even-handed and has a good flow to it. It's the perfect book to suggest to anyone who normally doesn't have much patience or interest in politics but just wants to gain a basic understanding of foreign policy without a large investment of time. I highly recommend it!
Further recommendations: "War of Necessity, War of Choice" by the same author, "Restraint" by Barry R. Posen, "Duty" by Robert M. Gates, "Hard Choices" by Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Cyber War" by Richard A. Clarke, "That Used to be Us" by Thomas L. Friedman, and "On China" by Henry Kissinger.
on November 25, 2015
This work lacked serious details. For someone with experience in foreign relations, this book read like a stump speech of a presidential candidate. Haass recommends a 'different approach to opposing terrorism is to nip it in the bud, by discouraging young men and women from becoming terrorists in the first place.....'.
Also, Haass espouses the doctrine of restoration. Haass notes this doctrine 'judges the world to be relatively unthreatening...' From what historical perspective can this be taken as a premise in foreign policy. War and turmoil has been part of the human experience since the beginning of time.
Found the read unrevealing. Your time should be directed elsewhere.
on June 19, 2013
This book truly touches on the fundamental points of Getting America's House in Order: infrastructure, immigration, debt reduction, education and energy independence. These are the core challenges we face in America currently and until we get these issues on the table, we cannot influence (well at least not very strongly) foreign policy abroad.
The book starts off with too much historical data than I would have liked and I had to wait until halfway through the book to get to the "case for putting America's house in order". But once Haass got to the juncture, he fully presented the ideas not only I'm sure myself, but millions of other Americans have.
He presents a strong case of why our leadership here at home, means leadership around the world. A true case of lead by example.
Wonderful book! Concise but gets the message across. A good read for anyone interested in Foreign Policy or just simply keeping up with the issues that face Americans everyday.
on March 27, 2014
Haass' "Foreign Policy Begins at Home" should be a must read for every politician in the U.S. It is a book that neither liberals nor conservatives will accept completely, because it pulls no punches in laying out the enormous problems this nation faces in the near and long term. Foremost among them is the horrendous debt and other fiscal problems that our congress seems unable/unwilling to come to grips with.
Haass is not isolationist, but he does criticize our past engagement in wars of choice, while recognizing that there may be necessary foreign military engagements. He condemns both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, not entirely the decisions to go into these countries, but the way we went about them. Even so he recognizes that as the world's leading power, the U.S., we will not be able to escape involvement internationally.
The key issue, as the title suggests, is that unless we have our own house in order, we will be less and less able to fulfill our international commitments and protect our national interests.
This is a most provocative statement and a book that any thoughtful American, and especially our Government leaders should read.
If you have never studied foreign policy, this is a good primer on the shape of US foreign policy; the major world players; and how best to move forward. Haass distinguishes between wars of choice and wars of necessity, and argues that the US must turn away from wars of choice (i.e., being the world's "policeman"); and intervene only when in the national interest; and deploy resources towards strengthening America, which will strengthen US stature and influence abroad. Notably, he suggests moving the US focus away from the Middle East, and concentrating instead on Asia and South America.
It's a good read, and a fairly slim volume. It is, at times, a bit too familiar and conversational in tone, and could use a bit more editing. Notably, in sentences where he uses a colon, the word after the colon is invariably capitalized, which is a most unusual grammatical treatment.
on April 18, 2015
If you are looking for some more depth than you generally find regarding national issues pick this book up. The point of view of the author is his, and he does not appear to be running for office, merely searching for solutions that will enable the U.S. to continue in its role as an economic and world prower into the next Century. Some carefully constructed and easily read chapters will make you think, which appears to be the focus of the author.
on August 15, 2013
Richard Haase is not a liberal (my bias) or a conservative. He is very intelligent, very clear, and he gives a balanced analysis of what has gone wrong for the United States, what has gone well, and what we need to fix, and how we can fix it. We so rarely get a balanced view today. In truth, Mr. Haase is pessimistic about the state of politics in the united Stares today. But we refuse to listen to this information and guidance at our peril. The possible outcome if his advice and guidance is followed? A country that works, that has self respect, that has true leadership in the world.
on July 3, 2013
Haass could've emphasized the urgency of getting our house in order a little more - with an analysis of global flash points. The argument for shifting attention away from the Middle East also deserved more ink (how do you do this in the short term as the region is falling apart?).
Hopefully our policymakers pay attention to the recommendations here. Our politics is the #1 reason our house is not in order.