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Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order

Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order

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by Richard N. Haass

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The biggest threat to the United States comes not from abroad but from within. This is the provocative, timely, and unexpected message of Council on Foreign Relations President Richard N. Haass’s Foreign Policy Begins at Home.

A rising China, climate change, terrorism, a nuclear Iran, a turbulent Middle East, and a reckless North Korea all present


The biggest threat to the United States comes not from abroad but from within. This is the provocative, timely, and unexpected message of Council on Foreign Relations President Richard N. Haass’s Foreign Policy Begins at Home.

A rising China, climate change, terrorism, a nuclear Iran, a turbulent Middle East, and a reckless North Korea all present serious challenges. But U.S. national security depends even more on the United States addressing its burgeoning deficit and debt, crumbling infrastructure, second class schools, and outdated immigration system.

Foreign Policy Begins at Home describes a twenty-first century in which power is widely diffused. Globalization, revolutionary technologies, and the rise and decline of new and old powers have created a “nonpolar” world of American primacy but not domination. So far, it has been a relatively forgiving world, with no great rival threatening America directly. How long this strategic respite lasts, according to Haass, will depend largely on whether the United States puts its own house in order.

Haass argues for a new American foreign policy: Restoration. At home, the new doctrine would have the country concentrate on restoring the economic foundations of American power. Overseas, the U.S. would stop trying to remake the Middle East with military force, instead emphasizing maintaining the balance of power in Asia, promoting economic integration and energy self-sufficiency in North America, and working to promote collective responses to global challenges.

Haass rejects both isolationism and the notion of American decline. But he argues the United States is underperforming at home and overreaching abroad. Foreign Policy Begins at Home lays out a compelling vision for restoring America’s power, influence, and ability to lead the world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Haass, Council on Foreign Relations President, has a simple message for America's policymakers: we have seen the enemy and it is us. Or, to quote directly: "The biggest threat to America's security and prosperity comes not from abroad but from within." Haass devotes the first half of this short book de-scribing how, in post-Cold War years, the world changed but the U.S. "position relative to others was unavoidably diminishing." To continue to act as if the status quo works is foolish, he concludes. He notes real, emerging external threats, but the key message is thus: the U.S., "while in a unique position to do some valuable things in the world, cannot do everything." Haass methodically lays out possible actions, from "humanitarianism" to "restoration", and corresponding arguments for each alternatives' success or failure. Although he is prone to making sweeping statements, ("the country's engineers grade U.S. infrastructure…somewhere between a C at best and a D at worst"), his sources are trust-worthy. However, while Haass lists steps toward positive change for the U.S., his solutions center on "politics" and require "real leadership," leading one to think that he is looking for solutions in an arena that has provided few superheroes. (May)
From the Publisher

“Haass delivers a cogent picture of the world and supports it with sharp and precise arguments.”
Foreign Affairs

“A must read for aspiring diplomats.”
American Diplomacy

“Haass’s call for getting America’s domestic house in order should be listened to.”
New York Times Book Review

"Haass is one of Americas most astute foreign policy analysts. His previous 12 books are gems of wisdom and this one is no exception.... The slim volumen is an excellent primer about the world in which the US operates today.... Haass should be read by everyone."

“Haass persuasively shows that United States continues to be the indispensable nation.... Haass’s writing style is straightforward and uncluttered by jargon. My academic colleagues will not find reference to ‘hegemonic transition theories’ or ‘postmodernism,’ which makes the book much more accessible to a wider readership.... Whether Haass chooses to run for office one day or not, a presidential candidate would do well using his realism as a platform.”
National Interest

"Deft and wise book”
The Daily Beast

“[Haass] argues brilliantly …. [his] prescription says charity starts at home.” —UPI.com

“This informative, well-written book is a necessary addition to any collection providing either experts or citizens with new and rational discussion of America’s place in the world today.”
Library Journal

“Lessons learned from the recent past and presented thoughtfully as a viable new course.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Richard Haass has long been a keen observer of the US position on the world stage, and his must-read book is no exception. Haass rightly explains that if the United States is to continue fulfilling the leadership role it has had since World War II, our country must be more restrained in what it does abroad and put its house in order at home by defusing the looming fiscal debt bomb that threatens our national security and global standing.”
James A. Baker, III.

“A concise, comprehensive guide to America’s critical policy choices at home and overseas. Richard Haass writes without a partisan agenda, but with a passion for solutions designed to restore our country’s strength and enable us to lead.”
Madeleine K. Albright

“A perceptive diagnosis and common sense prescription for what ails us as a nation. It is a practical guide for those who believe America's continued global leadership is critical in the twenty-first century, but who believe it must be anchored in restoration at home and more effective use of all the tools of American foreign policy abroad.”
Robert M. Gates

“Richard Haass is one of America’s most insightful and experienced thinkers. In Foreign Policy Begins at Home, Haass explains why our ability to wield power and influence abroad will depend on our confronting pressing challenges at home. He offers a sobering look at the domestic policies that are undermining our international competitiveness – and a thoughtful roadmap for strengthening America’s position on the global stage.”
Michael R. Bloomberg

“Richard N. Haass shows us that maintaining America's leadership in the world will require significant reforms within our own borders. Full of insight but without polemics or preachiness, it clearly demonstrates that our ability to inspire, influence, cooperate with or deter others depends upon our ability to promote shared prosperity and social progress at home.”
William Jefferson Clinton

Library Journal
This book can be seen as a follow-up to earlier works by the prolific Haass (president, Council on Foreign Relations; The Opportunity: America's Moment To Alter History's Course). The major development here is in Haass's shift of focus to domestic economic policy as the foundation of U.S. power. He notes the current national budget debates, which, he says, result from systemic changes in the U.S. economy and in international geoeconomic realities that impact our national security. The book is divided into two sections. The first sets the stage through a discussion of the major aspects of the international realities of the post-Cold War world. Here Haass also examines the post-9/11 world and the challenges to international cooperation after the onset of the global financial crisis of 2008. The second half focuses on a more discriminating and pragmatic foreign policy that is supported by a more disciplined domestic policy. Given his clear discussion and a new look at the opportunity for renewed international leadership, Haass can be labeled as neither a defeatist nor an isolationist. VERDICT This informative, well-written book is a necessary addition to any collection providing either experts or citizens with new and rational discussion of America's place in the world today.—Marcus Kieltyka, Central Washington Univ. Lib., Ellensburg
Kirkus Reviews
Council on Foreign Relations president Haass (War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars, 2010, etc.) makes the case for "a new approach to domestic and foreign policy." The author states from the outset that the United States "must restore the domestic foundations of its power" if it is to continue to act successfully abroad. He argues for a rebalancing of issues that bridge domestic and foreign policy. The U.S. could then operate under more realistic premises, less ready to deploy military force "in large-scale, military-dominated experiments." Haass points out that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan account for "15 percent of the debt accumulated since 2001" and that "imperial overstretch is, at most, a contributing cause of America's economic predicament." Since no power, or combination of powers, represents an existential threat, and great power conflict is unlikely for the foreseeable future, the author concludes that there is an opportunity to restore the sources of foreign power through rebuilding domestically: Restore solvency, encourage domestic energy production and the growth of trade and investment, rebuild domestic infrastructure, and focus on education in citizenship. Haass also notes that there would be further consequences for foreign policy as resources were increased to meet internal as opposed to international challenges--e.g., the current focus on the Middle East and large-scale land wars would need to be reassessed. The author advocates caution in pursuing doctrinal goals, such as the promotion of democracy, arguing that outcomes should not be artificially predefined or constrained by any single path or sequence of events. He hopes "abstractions and optimism do not overwhelm assessments of national interests and realities." Lessons learned from the recent past and presented thoughtfully as a viable new course.

Product Details

Basic Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003, was previously director of policy planning for the Department of State, where he was a principal advisor to Colin Powell. From 1989-1993, he was special assistant to President George H. W. Bush and senior director for the Near East and South Asia on the staff of the National Security Council. Haass also served in the Reagan and Carter administrations. The recipient of the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award and the Presidential Citizens Medal, he is the author or editor of twelve other books. Haass lives in New York City.

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Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Informed-In-Iowa More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago