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Posted May 2, 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.
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Posted November 1, 2013
First of all, let's speak of the book's pluses. I, like the majority of our citizenry, am not a political science major, and I came to the book with both interest and concern -- interest because I am citizen of the world and concern over the fact that the book would sail high over my head. It was, however, very readable even for a foreign policy novice like myself. It achieves both clarity and brevity without being over-simplified or condescending. To that end, I would recommend the book to any person interested in today's nuances and complications of foreign relations.
There is also another praise for the book: It is fact-driven and therefore generally bipartisan in its presentation. Absent are long discertations rooted in a particular party's ideology or platform. Haass's delivery is matter-of-fact, as if to say here is the current condition or situation occurring in our world, here is what has worked or not worked with regards to that condition or situation, here is the current path we are on and here is the path we need to be on.
His premise is that the US remains to be a leader in the world community. In order to maintain that standard and the trust of foreign nations necessary to lead the world, we need to have a plan and take actions to correct our domestic challenges here at home. His ideas are divided into themes we have all heard from one time to another: Deficit reduction, trade balance through increased exports, paying down the national debt, energy independence, domestic job creation and investment.
All of these are solid ideas to assist us in putting our house back in order. Environmentalists will not appreciate his recommendations regarding the Canadian oil pipeline, fracking for natural gas and re-commitments of treasure and reliance of nuclear energy. In the author's opionion, we need to do and invest all we can in measures to reduce debts and create jobs and revenues as well as promote a future independent of reliance upon foreign oil. Humanists will not appreciate his views that nations need to qualify for (via a series of twenty preset criteria) personnel and / or military interventions. Again, in his opinion, we can commit to involving ourselves in foreign lands only when it is absolutely necessary in the preservation of American interests and those of her allies. Regional difficulties like those of Darfur, Libya and Syria are observed, studied and scrutinized, but only threatening nations and terrorist cells are to result in military intervention after all diplomatic tract have been attempted.
Thus, this book is not the panacea for all our ills. Nor is it the perfect road map for successful navigation in a future that will not be short on challenges. It is a starting place and a good one at that. I recommend it highly.
Posted June 14, 2013
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