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The Opportunity


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The Opportunity
Topic: International Relations 7:56 pm EDT, Jun 16, 2005

Read from the first chapter of The Opportunity. "Real World Order" is the New York Times review of the book.

It is a question of "when" and not "if" the United States will suffer from another major act of terrorism, possibly one involving a weapon of mass destruction.

With the possible exception of ten days in October 1962 when the United States and the Soviet Union nearly came to war over the introduction of Soviet missiles into Cuba, Americans and their country have never felt more insecure.

Have you read Apocalypse Soon, by Robert McNamara, in the latest issue of Foreign Policy? (I know a few of you have.)

Despite difficulties, this is a moment of rare opportunity for the United States and for the world. The United States, working with the governments of the other major powers, can still shape the course of the twenty-first century and bring about a world that is to a striking degree characterized by peace, prosperity, and freedom for most of the globe’s countries and peoples. Opportunity, though, is just that.

It could be a long boom. Or it could turn out to be an era of gradual decay, an incipient modern Dark Ages.

The Long Boom: A History of the Future, 1980 - 2020
From Dawn To Decadence, by Jacques Barzun

The 2002 National Security Strategy stated: "Today, the international community has the best chance since the rise of the nation-state in the seventeenth century to build a world where great powers compete in peace instead of continually prepare for war." It is difficult to exaggerate the significance of this development.

The End Of History?, by Francis Fukuyama

And now for a brief diversion:
Countdown to a Meltdown (excerpt)

In a new article in the Atlantic Monthly magazine, writer James Fallows examines America's economic strength and stability from the vantage point of the year 2016.

Back to Haass:

Worldwide drug trafficking meets and fuels American demand (and is indirectly responsible for a significant portion of our crime).

Do you read about The Lure of Opium Wealth?

At its core, globalization is the increasing volume, speed, and importance of flows within and across borders of ideas.

What is at issue is not simply the fact that the actions of one government affect and are affected by those of others, but also the reality that many of the most important forces in the world are beyond the control and, in some cases, even knowledge of governments.

Enter here the General Memetics Corporation.

The best book that I have read on international affairs, and the one that most influenced my own thinking -- Hedley Bull's The Anarchical Society -- captures in its title this fundamental truth, namely, that at any moment the world is a blend of restraint and rules (society) and anarchy. History, then, is largely determined by the degree to which the major powers of the era can agree on rules of the road -- and impose them on those who reject them.

The US will have to use all the foreign policy tools at its disposal and not only or even mostly the military. It will have to get more involved in reforming other societies. Americans will need to rethink some of their traditional ideas about sovereignty. In all of this, the United States will not be able to simply impose its preferences. Power is not the same as influence; to the contrary, power is better understood as potential. The goal of foreign policy is to translate this potential into lasting influence.

What is needed, though, are not simply "negative" understandings among the major powers that constrain competition, but "positive" commitments about how to work together to meet pressing challenges. The challenge is not simply to erect an international society with commonly accepted restraints but to fashion coalitions and institutions that promote certain objectives sought by the United States and embraced by others.

As Henry Kissinger has correctly noted, "American power is a fact of life, but the art of diplomacy is to translate power into consensus."

The centerpiece of "The Opportunity" is Haass's idea of integration as a foreign policy strategy.

At its core is the ambition to give other powers a substantial stake in the maintenance of order—in effect, to co-opt them and make them pillars of international society—so that they will come to see it in their self-interest to continue working with the United States and damaging to their interests to have a falling-out with the United States.We are far more likely to face a disruptive major power down the road if we do not pursue the idea of integration.

In the author's note, Haass explains:

The Opportunity is the shortest book I have ever written. It is also the most ambitious. My fear is that the United States is on the threshold of squandering the chance to translate its enormous power into global arrangements that will promote lasting peace and prosperity. Hence this book.

On May 31, Haass and Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria met to discuss The Opportunity.

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