Top positive review
Accessible and Succinct Gem
Reviewed in the United States on September 12, 2014
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.