By Ali Imran
WASHINGTON, May 3 : Richard Haass, a top foreign policy expert, has an unambiguous advice for Washington as it faces new domestic and international realities: the United States needs to put its house in order to restore foundations of American power that would allow it to project its policies on the world stage.
In his new book, “Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America’s House in Order,” Haass argues that the biggest threat to the United States comes not from abroad but from within.
“Many of the foundations of this country’s power are eroding,” warns Haass, who heads the Council on Foreign Relations.
“The effect, however, is not limited to a deteriorating transportation system or jobs that go unfilled or overseas owing to a lack of qualified American workers. To the contrary, shortcomings here at home directly threaten America’s ability to project power and exert influence overseas, to compete in the global marketplace, to generate the resources needed to promote the full range of US interests abroad, and to set a compelling example that will influence the thinking and behavior of others,” he said, according to a CFR account.
A rising China, climate change, terrorism, a nuclear Iran, a turbulent Middle East, and a reckless North Korea all present serious challenges. But, Haass argues, U.S. national security depends even more on the United States addressing its crumbling infrastructure, second-class schools, outdated immigration system, and burgeoning debt, something that will require controlling entitlements rather than just raising taxes and cutting discretionary spending.
Haass rejects both isolationism and the notion of American decline. But he contends the country is underperforming at home and overreaching abroad. He argues that the United States must sharply limit its role in humanitarian interventions and in wars of choice designed to remake other societies, as was tried unsuccessfully in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, it should emphasize maintaining the balance of power in Asia, advancing North American economic integration and energy self-sufficiency, and promoting collective responses to global challenges.
The world is no longer dominated by one or more superpowers.
Instead, the paramount feature of international relations in the first half of the twenty-first century is nonpolarity; power has been diffused, spread among an enormous list of entities capable in their own right to exert their influence. In addition to traditional nation-states, there are many other entities active in the political sphere, whether global (UN, World Bank), regional (European Union, NATO, Arab League), commercial (JPMorgan Chase, Exxon Mobil), disruptive, or altruistic. This world is relatively forgiving, however, with no great rival directly threatening American interests.
How long this strategic respite lasts and how well the nation continues to fare on the global stage, according to Haass, will depend largely on whether the United States puts its own house in order.
Speaking about his book, Haass told NPR radio that “unless we do sort ourselves out, unless we bring our economy back to historic levels of growth – which were nearly twice the level of the last five years – then we’re going to have increasing battles here about guns versus butter; about domestic versus foreign; about doing things abroad or doing things at home. That’s what we’re already seeing under the sequester.”
So the argument for the next five or 10 years, the United States should focus somewhat more at home and somewhat less abroad, is not an isolationist argument, he stated.
“It’s not an anti-foreign policy argument. It’s just the opposite. Unless we do this we’re not going to position ourselves for a long-term role of international leadership. So we can and we have to do somewhat less now.”
On terrorism, he said, it is a real and continuing threat and it’s not going to go away.
“What Boston shows is how small numbers of individuals, inspired, say, by the Internet, with access to their local hardware store, can do real damage. So what this tells me is there’s not a foreign policy solution to this.
“We can’t occupy the world and try to make sure there’s no terrorists coming at us.
We ought to see what we can do to prevent the radicalization particular of young men. We ought to look at ways in which communities can try to delegitimize this kind of action and cooperate with the authorities when they see it developing. But also we’ve got to be realistic about it. It’s just like you can’t live a disease -free life where you never get sick. We’re going to have to, as a society, make sure that were strong enough to respond, to bounce back, to recover if and when terrorist enjoy tactical successes.”