Top positive review
A Case For Realpolitik
Reviewed in the United States on July 19, 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.