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

Speaker: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: E.J. Dionne Jr., Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings Institution; Columnist, The Washington Post
May 6, 2013
Council on Foreign Relations



E.J. DIONNE, JR.: I want to welcome everyone here tonight. And I want to remind everybody that this session is on the record. That includes us, and it includes your brilliant questions, which we are looking forward to. Also, the usual reminder, if you could turn off your cellphones; I often forget. You could sort of play the role of Rudy Giuliani at that great moment in the campaign, if you'd like, but it would probably be better if you turned them off.

I am very honored to be here with my friend Richard Haass. And I'm here for a couple of reasons. The first is that Richard and I go really far back. I don't want to tell you how far back, but we met when we were 21 years old, and you can do the math. And so I've been Richard's friend and have followed his thinking, agreeing with some, disagreeing with some over the years, but he's always been my friend.

But I'm here because I was very excited about this book, "Foreign Policy Begins at Home," from the very moment I heard the title and then from the first conversation I had with Richard about it. Richard and I were colleagues together at the Brookings Institution, and actually, the first question I'm going to ask of you, Richard, is given this title, why don't you just merge the Council on Foreign Relations with the Brookings Institution -- (laughter) -- because that would be a very logical thing to do in light of the title.

But I think this book makes a bit of an argument that I believe we need to hear and that I think a lot of Americans will actually resonate to. I read the book, Richard, and I wondered, is this your manifesto to run for president? So I can ask him that question too. And when he is at equivocal, we can know that he is running for president. (Laughter.)

RICHARD HAASS: E.J., I am president. (Laughter.)

DIONNE: I was going to get to that. (Laughter, applause.)

The -- I just want to read a couple of lines from the book which I think summarize it. Americans will not enjoy the standard of living or quality of life they aspire to at home amid chaos abroad, and the United States will not be a position to limit chaos abroad unless it rebuilds the foundations of its strength at home. And then later on he said, the objective must be to take advantage of the opportunity we have now, which Richard calls a strategic respite, to restore the foundations of American power, including the economy, the school, infrastructure.

And I think that we should be grateful that Richard has joined the debate in this way. As you know, Richard is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He's worked in almost every administration in our lifetime. He is the author and editor of -- or editor of 12 books. And I will start by asking you, why not merge the CFR with Brookings? But what I really want to do is ask you, what pushed you in this direction? There are those who say that this is an isolationist book. I have read it; it's not an isolationist book. I want you to begin by defending yourself against that charge and just explain, how did you come to this?

HAASS: Well, let me say at the beginning, it's not a book I ever imagined I'd write. Here I am, I'm lucky enough to be president of the Council on Foreign Relations. I've spent four decades toiling in what you might call the foreign policy national security vineyard. Like many others in this room, I grew up during the Cold War, and yet I got to this point.

What did it was really two things. If I had to sum it up in a sentence, it's because the United States has overreached abroad, and we've underperformed at home, and I'm worried as a result.

I think we overreached abroad over the last few decades, first in Iraq, and then secondly in Afghanistan when we tried to remake that country. And as I watch some of the debates going on about Syria, I'm concerned that we don't seem to have lost that -- we don't seem to have learned that lesson. Indeed, as recently as today in The New York Times, people were saying it's time already to get over Iraq. Gee, I don't want to get over Iraq. I want to learn the lessons of Iraq. And I want to apply those lessons. So I'm worried that the United States has seriously overreached and has been -- it's allowed its foreign policy to get distorted with this emphasis in particular on the Middle East, in particular on remaking the Middle East, which I simply is not -- believe is neither possible nor is strategically wise, given the other things we have to do in Asia, in this part of the world and in North America.

But then it gets me to the second half of the argument. I'm also worried about what we're doing and not doing here at home. And I can't believe any observer of the American political scene would conclude differently, if one looks at what we haven't done dealing with the deficit, if one looks at the fact that we're growing at a rate that's roughly half the post-World War II historical average, if anyone's landed in recent memory at LaGuardia or Kennedy Airport -- I rest my case on infrastructure -- if -- I know a lot of kids line up around the world to get into Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Stanford; I haven't noticed long lines of children around the world trying to come into the United States to attend our elementary schools, our public schools. So there are some real challenges here at home, and I'm worried that our politics are simply not up to sorting them out.

So I wrote the book essentially to make the case for what we need to do abroad and we what we need to do at home and what we need to stop doing abroad and stop doing at home, but also to help people sort it out. It's a complicated world. This is a far more complicated world than the world I alluded to a second ago, the Cold War, and what I've tried to do is write something of a -- blueprint's too strong of a -- but a guide to essentially -- for citizens as well as policymakers, for sorting out the challenges of the 21st century.

DIONNE: One of the things, by the way, you'll learn in the book is that 10 years ago we were fifth in the world in infrastructure and now we're 24th in the world, which goes to Richard's point.

Let's go straight to the Middle East. I was -- when I read those parts of the book where you talked about the need to readjust toward Asia -- you dislike the word "pivot," which you can explain -- I was thinking we may no longer be as interested as we used to be in the Middle East, but the Middle East always seems interested in us and that the -- and a lot of -- you know, the -- this administration clearly wants to make the move toward Asia, is trying to make that move, and yet issues in the Middle East keep coming back.

HAASS: Sure.

DIONNE: How do -- how do we actually manage to make that move, given all the problems that you describe so well in the book that exist in the Middle East?

HAASS: Well, you know, the analogy that comes to mind, for those of you who like to stay up at night watching films, is Michael in "Godfather III." And he basically says, you know, every time I try to leave, they keep pulling me back.

Well, that's -- you know, that wasn't just him with the mafia; that's us with the Middle East. We say we want to pivot or rebalance towards Asia or other parts of the world, and suddenly we wake up and the headlines are Libya, Syria, Iran, what have you.

But you know, foreign policy, like all public policy, is about choosing. Foreign policy, like all public policy, is about priorities. To borrow from the business literature, it's sometimes about not letting the urgent crowd out the important. And what we have to do is look at not simply the Middle East or, to use the cliche, one square on the chessboard; we've got to look to at the entire chessboard, and we've got to look at, you know, the Middle East compared to everything else we may want to do in other parts of the world or here at home, but also we've got to know something about the Middle East.

You know, one of the things we ought to have learned from Vietnam, from Iraq and from Afghanistan is we can sit around inside the Beltway and debate this or that generalization or foreign policy abstraction, but at some point it comes up against local realities, geographic, historical, cultural, political, economic. There are real realities in the Middle East, and we may say we want Syria in the next six months or year to be a peaceful, thriving democracy where everybody's reading the Federalist Papers in Arabic translation. Oh, fine. I wish you well. Ain't going to happen, and that as a result, we've got to address, adjust our foreign policy accordingly or, to put it another way, if we had had this meeting a decade ago or 15 years ago, and we had had a show of hands, inconceivable -- inconceivable that we would have predicted that U.S. foreign policy in this post-Cold War era would involve going to war first (sic) in Iraq and then Afghanistan, parts of the greater Middle East; that essentially this was going to be where the United States was going to use its discretionary power, this was how we were going to use the peace dividend. We were going to try to remake this part of the world. It's what we did, but this seems to me to be totally inconsistent with any notion of strategy.

DIONNE: This goes back to your other book, but you were in the administration that went to war in Iraq. Why was it so difficult to stop the --

HAASS: (Chuckles.)

DIONNE: -- the war in Iraq, to stop the direction of the administration? A lot of people in there -- you and Colin Powell and Richard Armitage -- all had grave doubts about what we were doing before we did it. What led us there? Why could that not be stopped?

HAASS: That's something I've written a lot about, actually, in a previous book, but the -- all -- the three people you mentioned all happened to be in one building, the State Department. The last I checked, there are several other buildings involved in the making of foreign policy, beginning with the White House. And after 9/11 there were those around the president -- and I think the president signed on to this as well -- that he wanted to do something that would send a message to the world that we were not a pitiful, helpless giant, to use Mr. Nixon's phrase.

There was also the view that was argued by some, which I thought was preposterous, that the -- that Iraq was ripe for democracy, it was going to be easily instituted there, and then it would establish a model that the rest of the region wouldn't be able to resist.

So essentially if you had a -- if people come into the Oval Office or any executive's office and say, I can accomplish great things at very low costs, people usually say, where do they sign up.

And then, to be fair, against that was also the belief, proven wrong and -- subsequently, but we didn't know at the time, that the Iraqis did have -- we thought they did have weapons of mass destruction. It was in the aftermath of 9/11, where people's tolerance for risk was low. I argued against it at the time. I don't think, if you will, it was a -- you know, a totally foolish undertaking. I think it was ill-advised. I think it was wrong. But I think there were arguments for doing it, again, based on the assumption that the Iraqis did have weapons of mass destruction.

Absent that, then no, I don't think it was even -- I don't think it was a close call, and what worried me about it was that if we were going to do it, we didn't -- we didn't go about it right. And even at the time, the CIA warned and people such as myself warned that to do this right would take considerable planning, again, given local realities. And a lot of what happened after the United States in -- went in was predictable. And that's, again, to me, what was so frustrating. Whatever you thought of the wisdom of going to war with Iraq or Afghanistan or any of these places, put that aside. What we did -- or there was no reason we couldn't have known more and prepared for what it was going to entail given what we were walking into. And there's no excuse for not getting it right.

And again, there's no -- there's no substitute at times for local knowledge, and we forget that at our peril. And one of the things that so concerns me about the debate about Syria is the lack of local knowledge that's being brought to bear.

DIONNE: One of the things I liked about the book is that it is very much not a declinist book. In fact, its whole purpose is to fight the possibility of decline. Here is a sentence I particularly liked: "Lost in the emotionally laden territory between "We're number one" and "We've lost it" is a country that still matters far more than any other." You note that our GDP is 16 trillion (dollars), a fourth of global economic output, compared to 7 trillion (dollars) for China, 6 trillion (dollars) for Japan. Our GDP is nine times -- per capita is nine times that of China. Can you talk about the declinism and the alternatives and how this book fits into that debate?

HAASS: Yeah, this -- it's funny to sometimes define yourself in terms of what you're not, but I feel forced to in some ways because it was predictable that I'd be charged with being an isolationist on one hand and a declinist on the other. Neither is at all true.

And the whole argument of the book, by the way, is that we need to do more at home, not to turn our backs on the world but so that over time we're in a better position to shape the world. And by the way, if we don't shape it, no one else will. you know, the alternative to a U.S.-led world is not a world that's wonderful. You know, there's no invisible hand out there. Adam Smith doesn't run the world. So it will be chaotic. And it's not going to be a China-led world or an India-led world or a Europe-led world or a Japan-led world. It's going to be an unled world if we're -- if we're not willing and able to do it. This is not an argument for American unilateralism, but it is an argument for American leadership.

And again, we're only going to be in a position to exert that leadership if we fix ourselves here at home. So that's why the book is not isolationist. And again, you know, we can't become a gated community. What happens out there is going to affect our quality of life, our physical security, our economic wealth, like it or not. We're not declining in absolute terms; we're growing. We might be growing slowly, at 1 1/2, 1 3/4 (percent) rate, half of what we should be growing at, but we're growing. And other parts of the world have real challenges. Even though in some cases, relatively, they're doing better than us, that's to be expected that -- because they're starting at a much lower rate.

But what worries me is we're underperforming. We know that. So it's not a question of whether we're declining; the question is we're not doing as well as we should. We've got, again, the problems we talked about before, from crumbling infrastructure to schools that aren't beginning to prepare people for living in a -- in a -- in a global world. We know we don't have the resources set aside to deal with the baby boomers as they retire and as their health care needs mount. We all know that. So -- and what is it going to take to deal with these obligations? What is it going to take to double the rate of growth of the American economy? That's the debate we need to have.

So it's not this abstract debate about whether we're in decline. We're not. Let's put that aside. The real question is are we on a trajectory that we need to be on in order to have the kind of society and economy we want here at home and to be in a position to shape the kind of world we want to shape in the 21st century? The answer is no. So let's not have this silly debate about decline. Let's not have the silly debate about whether we're isolationist. The serious debate is how do we get it right? How do we begin to live up to our potential?

DIONNE: For the record, I want to note he never did answer that question I asked him about running for president of the United States. (Laughter.)

I am Catholic, so I particularly enjoyed the emphasis you put on the importance of doctrine. And I found that part of the book -- (laughter) -- particularly interesting because you talk about the utility of having -- the usefulness of having a doctrine, and you sort of toss out several possibilities and then reject them. You know, one is democracy promotion, saving lives, taking on terrorists, integration, and you end up with another doctrine that tries to pull in some of those. Can you, Cardinal, talk about your doctrine, or Rabbi? (Laughs.)

HAASS: Let me first make the case for a doctrine. And the reason is you want some kind of a framework because when you're sitting in these jobs, or simply as a citizen, stuff's coming at you fast and furious. And, you know, in retrospect, when you have congressional investigations or journalists write about it, it's obvious what you should have paid attention to; but normally when you have an in-box, things don't come in with blinking red lights that say, pay attention to me, I'm what matters most.

So what a doctrine does is it helps you sort. It helps you sift. It gives you some first-order direction or guidance about what matters most or what to do or not to do. And to try to conduct policy as a policymaker or to try to simply be an informed citizen, where you wake up every day without a doctrine, it's a little bit like Ground Hog Day. It's tough. There's just no sorting. There's no way to determine priorities. So doctrines matter. There's lots of different things you could choose, and there's all sorts of ideas out there.

Mine is this idea of restoration. And what it does is basically says in the foreign policy world, we ought to put less emphasis on the Middle East and more on Asia, which matters, I believe, the most because that's where the great powers are colliding. It's also where the tools we have to bring to bear tend to be -- have the greatest amount of utility. I think we also ought to focus more on North America. That's where the energy is and that's where the economic growth for the world is going to come from.

I think when it comes to our tools, we ought to look at all of them and not just focus on the military. And then also, we ought not to be looking for things to be do abroad. We ought to be very wary of wars of choice, in particular, and we ought to be basically preserving our resources to fix what needs fixing here at home, again which will position us in the long run so we can do more in the world if we so choose.

I want to discourage the emergence of any 21st century equivalent to Germany or the Soviet Union in the 20th century. Right now the United States has this respite. There's no peer competitor, to use the Wong (ph) term. I'd like to keep it that way. And if, all the same, one emerges, I want to be able to cope with it. The only way we can discourage the emergence of a real rival or deal with one if it happens all the same is by being strong here at home. Again, that argues for restoring the balance of American national security somewhat away from foreign policy, more on what we have to do here at home.

DIONNE: One of the things that was fun about reading the book is your short portraits of different countries in different parts of the world. And I was, on the one hand, a little bit blue reading your section on Europe, since I have a lot of affection for the democracies of Europe, and I was actually heartened reading your section on China, not because I don't want China to succeed as a nation, but because you talk very clearly about the problems they face, and those who make a declinest argument and want to say China will dominate, you're quite clear about the problems that China faces.

So talk particularly about Europe and China.

HAASS: OK. Europe, look, the good news about Europe is that it's not going to be nearly as exciting in the 21st century as it was in the 20th century. (Laughter.) That's good! Good news. As I used to say when I had the Middle East account at the White House, that my goal was to make the Middle East boring. And I clearly failed miserably. Europe has for the most part become boring, and we ought to try to keep it that way. It's not going to be the locale of the great clashes of the 21st century, and that's a wonderful thing. Europe was way too exciting in the 20th century.

The dark side of this, or the bad side, is Europe is not going to be the partner for the United States moving forward that it was over the last four decades. The Atlantic era of American foreign policy is largely coming to an end. I don't say this to celebrate it. I just simply point it out. Europe doesn't have the capacity, given the low rates of economic growth. Even if it gets out of the euro zone crisis, Europe is not growing. It doesn't have the outlook anymore.

Bob Gates, when he was secretary of defense, often talked publicly about the changing political culture of Europe. It's true. Europe is just not going to be willing and able to be the partner that we have come to know. The good news is, you know, in some cases we'll have other partners and so forth, but that's just simply -- it's not an anti-European argument; it's a fact-of-life observation.

In terms of China, I'm struck by how much of the debate, particularly in this city, in Washington, is about China's inevitable emergence as a great-power rival. And it seems to me that gets it wrong in two ways. One, I'm not so sure China emerges as a great power. Just because its GDP grows considerably, never forget that you've got a -- it's got a big denominator, four times ours, and that's a real sponge for resources.

Plus China faces massive domestic problems, from environmental degradation on an enormous scale, to a political system that's not nearly as dynamic as the economy, to an economy that's not nearly as dynamic as it was. How will China fare against a backdrop of 6 or 7 percent growth as opposed to 10 or 11 percent growth?

So I -- you know, I'm worried about parts of China, particularly the emergence of nationalism. But Chinese strength I think is exaggerated. People who simply extends in a linear fashion Chinese trajectory from the last three decades to the next three decades are just ignoring lots of realities, in addition to which, you know, the -- lots of the low-hanging fruit has already been taken in China. It's going to be much harder for China to do well going ahead.

Plus I don't think the second half of the prediction is right. I don't see China as necessarily a declared rival on every issue. Indeed, it ought to be the goal of American diplomacy that it's not. It's a very different century if the United States and China find some limited ways to cooperate, be it dealing, say, now with North Korea and Iran or Syria -- look at the range of outcomes, depending upon what China does -- to dealing with economic issues or climate change issues or just about any issue you can think of.

So China will become more significant. But shaping how China uses its growing strength against a backdrop also of growing Chinese internal challenges I actually think's a big diplomatic foreign policy challenge for the United States.

DIONNE: One area where I suspect a lot of people on both sides will sort of have some difference with you is where you talk about both democracy promotion and humanitarian intervention. And I think you try to write carefully about those things and make clear you are in favor of spreading democracy, but you talk about the danger of danger of democracy promotion as a central goal. And you have an interesting sort of switch of doctrine, if you will, where the idea of humanitarian intervention has been enshrined as the responsibility to protect -- a Star Wars character, R2P -- and you propose that it be changed to the responsibility to respond, R2R. Can you talk about all of that?

HAASS: Well, sure. Well, democracy promotion -- look, democracy is a worthy thing. And we -- there's a whole school of thought, a whole literature that mature democracies tend to obviously treat their own citizens better as well as their neighbors better. The problem is mature democracies are very hard to bring about. Immature democracies can be quite dangerous. They can be quite vulnerable to being hijacked by nationalism. And also, it's very hard for outsiders to say, even if they want to bring about mature democracies, how to do it. So we could be facing a prolonged era of incomplete or immature democracies in much of the world, which could be very vulnerable to nationalism, could be very intolerant of minorities within their borders, could be very aggressive towards their neighbors. And indeed, I think we're seeing a lot of that in the greater Middle East today. So I just -- I just raise questions about what it is we can accomplish.

And I'd also say, on a pragmatic level, we, the United States, need to be prepared to deal with nondemocracies. We have to deal with nondemocratic China on lots of challenges. Do we simply sit aside and say, look, until you guys democratize, we're not going to work with you on things? Of course not. We don't have that luxury any more than we had the luxury during the Cold War not to deal with the Soviet Union on stabilizing the arms race because the Soviet Union was an authoritarian system. Foreign policy has got to be pragmatic. It's got to be about priorities. And I would say promoting stability in the world as a priority ought to be -- ought to be fairly high.

On the question of humanitarian intervention, again, you know, the world, what, about seven, eight years ago signed up to this idea of the responsibility to protect. As soon as the world did, though, there was kind of a collective buyer's remorse. And ever since then, the world hasn't acted on it, either because many countries are against it now because they say, hold it, if we open up the borders, if you will, of a certain country, we're setting a precedent; for all we know, this will be used against our sovereignty. So when you see the Russians or the Chinese or the Indians or others getting very nervous about this concept, that's why; they're nervous about any compromise of sovereignty.

And many governments are also very worried about the price tag. If you actually believe that there is a collective responsibility to protect, than that means, where is the collective responsibility to protect in Syria? I haven't noticed one country volunteering for the sort of international military effort that would be required. Tom Friedman wrote a, I thought, a spot-on column over the weekend saying, if you're serious about Syria, wanting to do something, forget about no-fly zones, you know, forget about all this stuff people are bandying about; seal off the country, put in hundreds of thousands of people for a decade, and basically deal with it. Well, I -- you know, people can start forming the line over there, but they're not going to. That's too high of a price to pay for too uncertain of an outcome. So we set this global standard that we're not prepared to live.

And so my view is, rather than be so cynical or rather than raising expectations, let's just say we're going to have a responsibility to respond, we're going to look at each situation for what it is, we're going to determine what might be the most appropriate response, what it is we're willing and able to come up with in the -- in the way of resources rather than holding out an image of international relations that simply doesn't exist.

DIONNE: By the way, you should know this full of aphorisms. There's one that I think does capture something important: The United States does not need the world's permission to act, but it does often need the world's support to succeed. But there is one aphorism that every reviewer who wants to go after Richard will use, but I'd love you to defend it because I think it's defensible: Here and elsewhere in foreign policy --

HAASS: Now you're giving them ammunition here. (Laughter.)

DIONNE: Oh, they're going to find it themselves. Here -- I'm giving you a chance to respond pre-emptively. I suppose we -- (laughter) -- here and elsewhere in foreign policy, inconsistency can be a virtue. Explain yourself on that.

HAASS: Well, in some of the things we were just talking about -- it's very hard to say, in a certain situation, we're always going to put promotion of democracy first or we're always going to put the saving of innocent lives first or we're never going to tolerate certain outcomes. We have to be very careful about it because, again, you never want to conduct national security or foreign policy in a vacuum. You've got to look at the local realities, what it is you can accomplish and what price, and then you've got to ask yourself, what's the opportunity cost? If I do what I think it will take to succeed in this instance, what will that mean for all my other interests around the world? What will it mean for all the challenges and commitments I've got here at home? I do not have unlimited resources. Policymakers do not have unlimited time. The political system doesn't have unlimited bandwidth. So what it is we want to choose? That forces you into inconsistency. And that, to me, is -- that's the beginning of a mature public policy.

DIONNE: Thank you. I'm going to ask a couple more questions, and then I want to open this up to the audience. Just something I think a lot of people would be interested in is you've very specifically criticized the idea of a war on terror, and you note that al-Qaida did great harm on the cheap, meaning that it was not at all a powerful group the day before or the day after 9/11. Could you talk about why the war on terror is actually a bad frame for fighting terrorism?

HAASS: It's not a very helpful frame for a number of reasons. One is the weapons sometimes of terrorists need not to be weapons. Box-cutters, you know, are available at most hardware stores. So for that -- second of all, they don't wear uniforms. It's not like terrorists wave their hands and say, here we are. There's no battlefield. There's no Gettysburg of the war on terror. Everything's -- every shopping mall, every finish line at a marathon suddenly is part of this struggle. There's not going to be a battleship Missouri ceremony at the end of it where these groups are going to say, OK, we give in; now we're willing to live normal lives and let you live a normal life. It's just not going to happen. This is now part of the infrastructure, you will. Terrorism is now part of the framework of our lives.

The analogy I always use is disease. Disease is part of the framework of our lives, and what we do is we go after disease when we can. We try to, you know, go after viruses, we try to protect ourselves with all sorts of mechanisms, and then when we get sick, we try to respond. We try to build resilience into our -- into our systems, hence the health care system. Same thing with terrorism. You end up having a layered approach. You don't want to limit it, but you try to keep it at a manageable layer. You don't want terrorist to essentially succeed in disrupting your lives any more than is absolutely necessary.

DIONNE: Now, my last question is about a whole section of the book -- a whole series of subjects that I don't think you ever expected to write about, where you talk about -- the last part of the book are proposals on energy, education, infrastructure, economic growth and political reform. And for the record, I have some disagreements with you about unions, about how to approach the deficit, about trade to some degree --

HAASS: Which is why the Council on Foreign Relations won't be merging with Brookings. (Laughter.)

DIONNE: Right, well, no, Brookings probably may be -- well be closer to you on these questions. But I also was surprised, and pleasantly surprised, that -- by some very interesting things. You do endorse filibuster reform. You endorse compulsory -- or suggest compulsory voting as someone -- something that can work, something I thought my friend Tom Mann and I were among the only people who were for. You talk about popular election of the president of the United States. I'd like to ask you, what was it like to think about a whole series of questions that you probably had not thought about since you were an undergraduate? (Laughter.)

HAASS: Well, my critics will say it showed that these were a whole set of questions I hadn't thought about for a long time. (Laughter.)

DIONNE: See, we're getting rid of all the criticism now, so from here forward, everything should be praise of this book.

HAASS: What led me to think about a lot of that was when I looked at the challenges facing this country, particularly domestically, so many of them had less to do with the substance of the challenge than to the -- than the politics, which precluded our coming together to meet the challenge. So you scratch an economic problem or a schools problem or an infrastructure problem or an immigration problem, and very quickly, not -- you don't need to do deep archaeology; very quickly you get to a -- the political functioning, or lack thereof, of our system.

So it seemed to me experts can spend all their time trafficking in ideas about this is what we ought to do, whether it's on gun control or immigration reform, what have you. But unless you figure out how to get the political marketplace, if you will, to respond more to the general interests rather that the special interests, you're not going to get very far.

And so what I tried to do was think about reforms that could make the system somewhat more responsive to majorities rather than to intense, impassioned minorities. The problem with doing that, as I say, is the very forces that lead the political system to the place it's in will resist this kind of change.

It's the same reason, by the way, you're not going to get reform of the U.N. Security Council. Any conceivable reform always has winners and losers, and shockingly enough, the losers are going to resist it.

So I ended up thinking that, you know, it makes sense to still traffic in ideas, to put out these thoughts. I do think, though, it's going to require -- either -- there's one of two ways things turn out better.

One is the way I fear, which is only after a crisis, after we have a terrible crisis and essentially business as usual is no longer sustainable. The problem with that is that we will pay an enormous collective price for the -- for the crisis. So this is -- this is -- this is not the way any of us should want things to happen.

The alternative is, there is something of a new majority or plurality for the sorts of reforms that we need. I think it could come about -- it sounds a bit hackneyed, but from leadership that was willing to in some ways combine what I would say is the best of FDR -- the fireside chats that educate and create a context for policy reform -- and Lyndon Johnson -- then some good retail politics to try to ring (sic) it about.

Is it -- is it a long shot? Sure. Is it possible? Definitely. I mean, you know -- I mean, in no way have I given up. You know, that old saw of Churchill's that Americans can be counted on to do the right thing but only after they've tried everything else -- OK, well, we're busy trying everything else.

And the real question too for me is whether we get to this in time, before the crisis, if you will, forces us to undertake reform on far worse terms. And that is something we should, as a polity, want to avoid at almost any cost.

And you know, I don't have a crystal ball, but I really think that is the question. I would simply say I don't think we have forever. When you look at projections, for example, of things like entitlement obligations five, 10 years out -- my hunch is that's roughly the timeline -- I think we've bought a few years with some of the budgetary reforms of the last couple of years. I think the energy transformation has also bought us some welcome time. Hopefully we'll do immigration reform. That would be welcome. So we're doing some of the right things.

But there are some deep overhangs, if you will, that we've got to deal with. So I don't believe we've got an unlimited window to get things right.

DIONNE: Let me open it up to the audience. We have a mic going around. Sir, right in the front.

QUESTIONER: Odeh Aburdene in the Capital Trust Group. Richard, in '91 the U.S. led a major intervention where everybody was on board. The U.N. was on board. The Japanese were on board. The Arabs paid for it. The U.S. came out making money, more admired, more respected.

In 2003 --

DIONNE: Could you move closer to the mic? Yeah.

QUESTIONER: -- the U.S. was not really backed by people in the region --

HAASS: Sure.

QUESTIONER: -- by the Europeans. Why is that?

HAASS: The question was about why was there so much international support for the United States in 1990, '91, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and obviously the contrast with the 2003 Iraq War.

The reason is that the 1990, '91 Iraq War was based upon the one thread of a(n) international law and principle that most of the world signs up to, which is the idea of sovereignty and the idea that territory should not be acquired by physical force. So when Saddam Hussein did that, the world rallied around that principle, rallied around the United States taking the lead. You had this unprecedented coalition. And I think also the fact that U.S. war aims were kept limited, again, kept the world focused on this principle.

In 2003 it was very different and -- it was a very different approach. It was to transform another society, undertaking a preventive military action. For such things there's virtually no international support and much more questionable international legal underpinnings. So it comes as no surprise that the second Iraq War, if you will, enjoyed much less international support. And it just shows, you know, the phrase "international community" is bandied about all the time, but it's actually an inaccurate term. In some areas there actually is a degree of international community, but in most areas there's precious little.

DIONNE: Back there, please. Yeah, that gentleman. Wait for the mic, if you would.

QUESTIONER: Mark Lagon, Georgetown University and the council. Richard, you started out by saying that we ought not to be tilting a windmills and looking for interventions in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. But to say that we shouldn't pursue interventions to shape new regimes doesn't necessarily mean that we shouldn't focus on the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

So the Arab Spring has happened. Don't we have to engage that process --

HAASS: Right.

QUESTIONER: -- and if we don't, is it not living in a gated community?

HAASS: Fair enough. And when I -- interventions is sometimes shorthands for military interventions, just to be clear. And yes, you know, not -- let me make clear that not acting is just as much of a policy as acting.

Now, so with a case like Egypt, I would say, sure, the United States should engage. The most important dimensions there are political and economic. And I would simply say that that's a perfect -- and Egypt's, what, one-third to one-quarter of the Arab world. We have a stake in its outcome. We ought to make clear, here's the kind of outcomes we want; here's the economic incentives we're willing to put on the table if you move in those directions; it's your sovereign decision whether to move in those directions and qualify for that support; it's our sovereign right to make our aid conditional.

So yes, we have influence. Our influence, however, is less than our interests. We can't dictate those outcomes. So I think there we -- you know, we engage it, if you will, diplomatically and economically, and we simply make clear to the Egyptians that their choices will have consequences for their relationship with us.

With Syria, we have a different set of tools. And you know, there I would say, you know, we're obviously -- massive economic help to help with refugee flows, all sorts of support, and I would be willing to favor, on a selective basis, lethal support for Syrian oppositionists who met certain criteria that we would put forward, but then I also think there's got to be limits on what it is we do.

So again, you know, coming back to one of E.J.'s point, inconsistency is unavoidable. This is not an argument for a hands-off foreign policy. It is an argument for a discriminating foreign policy. It is an argument for a discriminating foreign policy, a tailored foreign policy for each situation, based upon not just our interests but our -- but a realistic assessment of what we can achieve at a certain cost given, again, local -- given local realities, and what it is else we've got to keep in mind given the full range of interests we have, foreign policy and domestic policy. But I want us to be involved, but it just -- in a fairly discriminating way.

DIONNE: At one point in the book you talk about two distinctions we need to make. One is between the desirable and the vital, and the other is between the feasible and the impossible. And I think that goes to the point.

Who -- way back there, on the left side, and then the lady on the right side.

QUESTIONER: Chris Broughton, Millennium Challenge Corporation. I was pleased to see you touch the topic of entitlements. And both I think we need to think about this in the context of entitlements -- Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare -- but also tax expenditures. And so I think the utility of your contribution here is to add the national security and foreign policy dimension to those issues, which have largely been seen in an economic competitiveness and demographic context. And so my question to you is whether you see -- how you see the national security and foreign policy dimensions of the entitlement challenge and the tax expenditure challenge affecting either the incentives and the calculations of voters, their representatives on Capitol Hill and their leadership both in Congress and in the White House.

DIONNE: And if I could piggyback on that, I was surprised in the book that you talked about the possibility of modest defense cuts. You're not averse to cutting the defense budget for now. So if you could take those two together.

HAASS: Let me take the last one first. Look, far more important than how much we spend on defense, you know, within limits, is how we spend it. You know, the question of -- I can give you a better defense for 475 billion (dollars) than some would give for 500 billion (dollars), depending upon how that money's allocated. But that's -- so often the debate about defense spending is almost symbolic. And if you're in favor of the full request, you're pro-defense and you're a hard-liner, and if you're -- favor of an 8 percent cut or something, that makes you anti-defense. Well, not necessarily. It all depends on the details.

And that's true, by the way, of public policy. Look at health care. We average twice the spending on health care of every other country in the OECD, yet our outcomes aren't any better. So clearly, how much we're spending on health care is not the key. Well, we spend an awful lot on education in K through 12, yet the outcomes don't compare very well with a lot of the world. So how much we're spending on K-through-12 education, again, is not necessarily the decisive point.

So why is defense different? There's just as many choices with defense spending, so let's be smart about defense. No, obviously, at some point, if the cuts are draconian enough, there's no way to do it smart or do it right. But what I think Congress ought to do is once the ceilings are decided, give the defense leadership much more discretion in making the choices, under the ceiling. That, to me, would be a far more sensible -- you'd make an economic or national security determination more broadly on how much you can afford, but then don't micromanage the process, which gets me to the other point, the first question.

What I try to do is introduce a national security filter or lens to a lot of these decisions that are too often seen in this silo called domestic. And again, whether it is education or something like tax policy and all that, my argument is simply we're not going to be able to be strong for long unless we put this economy on a sustainable trajectory, that we reduce our vulnerability to potential cutoffs of flows of dollars or what have you.

And that among -- more than anything is going to mean in the long run fixing entitlements, and there are sensible things that can be done on Social Security and even more on Medicare, which is the bulk of it; tax expenditures, you know, areas where we may want to put some ceiling on what kind of, you know, limits on deductions that people can take or means-testing -- certain more -- certain aspects of our policy I think again make sense.

What I'm trying to say is that we don't have the luxury of seeing these things somehow divorced from our national security. I want to have a more integrated debate in this country. So -- because I think -- for too often too many people on the Hill have basically said, I'm all in favor of America's national security, but then when they turn to economic issues or, quote, unquote, social issues, they have an approach (them ?) thinking about what the consequences are for national security. So what I want to do is increasingly integrate the -- how we spend because then people can think more systematically about the trade-offs.

DIONNE: The lady in -- way in the back there. Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Hi. I'm Catherine Cheney, and I'm a reporter for World Politics Review. I was just wondering, in your section looking at restoration within the country, how you selected the areas of focus that you decided to focus on -- so first of all, how you selected those subjects. And secondly, are there any other areas that you didn't include in the book, perhaps because they didn't, you know, work on their own but where you would suggest the U.S. place its focus in terms of solving domestic problems?

HAASS: Well, I just chose the areas I chose -- infrastructure, immigration, schools, the budget and so forth -- tax policy -- simply because I thought they were the most important. And when I -- I read a lot of literature and -- you know, as E.J. suggested, that I'd not been reading for a while. And one of the -- you know, as a -- one of the, for me, interesting parts of this was to explore more fully, you know, debates outside the traditional foreign policy national security landscape. And it just increasingly became clear that these were the principal drivers. So if you were going to make a list of what was driving things, this is -- this is where I came out.

I think you -- ultimately, you could have an almost unlimited list. If you look at the budget, you could look at every category of things we were spending on, you could look at all sorts of political arrangements. And I chose the ones I did simply based upon what I thought explained most where we were.

But look, I -- I'm not saying I'm necessarily -- right now I'm actually -- you know, look, whenever an author writes a book, you never expect to have the last word. I would love for that debate to happen. I would love to have more people look at more aspects of our society, our economy and basically say hey, we've got to do this differently because here is the connections; here is the repercussions or implications of this for U.S. on national security.

That would be -- that would -- again, one thing I write about in the book, goes way beyond K-through-12 education, is we don't have in this country a very good capacity to think about lifelong education. Just to give you a one-minute conversation about it, most of the education in this country is front-loaded, whether high school, college, even graduate. No matter how you slice and dice it, unless, your kid is on the 15-year plan, you're going to be done with your formal education somewhere in your early to mid-20s.

Well, then given now life expectancy and given jobs and the rest, that probably means you've got four to -- or five decades at least of work after that. Well, the idea that this initial tank of intellectual gas is going to get you through the next 40 or 50 years -- inconceivable. Inconceivable. Technology is changing too fast. Globalization is too dynamic.

So what are we as a society going to do to put into place mechanisms for true lifelong learning? Lots of stuff is happening now online. Maybe that's part of the answer. It might mean certain types of of economic arrangements, tax benefits or different types of support so people at the age of 45 can get retrained. Otherwise, I worry about a society where people, suddenly, you know, they're trained, they do several jobs, but then suddenly in their mid-40s, they're no longer -- if you will, where their skill set is no longer adequate. We can't afford as a society long-term unemployment, which is part of the problem we're facing now. So what do we do about it? That, to me, is a useful debate that we really haven't had.

DIONNE: Moving right up the line, that gentleman in the aisle. And then Avis (ph).

HAASS: Paul Denig, Department of State. Dr. Haass, you mentioned that having a doctrine is very important as we approach foreign policy and national security policy. And later you commented that inconsistency can be a virtue. On the face of it, the two seem contradictory. How do you square the circle?

DIONNE: Excellent question. (Laughter.) Inconsistency is a doctrine, I suppose. (Laughter.)

HAASS: The answer is the following. A doctrine gives you a framework. It gives you a first-order way of thinking through things. It may be in particular cases you've got to make exceptions. Fair enough. Then it makes you aware of just that, of the trade-offs. But it gives you a going-in position. In my going-in position, for example, I would say we want to do less in the Middle East, all things being equal, more in Asia, more in North America, more domestically.

OK. So then I come up against a Syria, and then it informs me to say, OK, I probably then want to put a limit on what it is we can do there, for all these reasons, based upon my doctrine. My knowledge or what experts tell me is the reality of Syria reinforces that approach.

Now, again, a doctrine is not a strait jacket. We had a doctrine of containment during the Cold War. It doesn't provide 26-point-step, you know, answers to every challenge. A doctrine is a -- it's a 36,000-feet intellectual and political approach. But that's useful. It's a very good way for, again, approaching subjects. It's a very good way for explaining things.

And when you have to make exceptions, when the local realities point yo towards, if you will, inconsistency, then that's OK, but then -- then you know you've got to deal with that, whether it's in your public explanation or you've got to account for it as a potential cost.

DIONNE: Avis Bohlen, right up there, If you guys can stay sort of up front, because then we'll move out.

HAASS: And there's a young lady just in front of Avis.

QUESTIONER: All sides. Avis Bohlen, retired State Department. Richard, just -- first of all, I was sorry to hear you use the term "weapons of mass destruction." Couldn't we retire that from the vocabulary? Because it embraces everything from nuclear to chemical, and you know better than anyone what abusive use was made of it in the run-up to the Iraq War.

My question is, you said it may take a crisis to get us to get our act together. We've just been through a serious economic crisis, and why is it that so little has changed? Why was this not a learning moment? Was it lack of leadership on the part of the administration? Was it the political gridlock? Or how would you --

HAASS: It's a good point. Look, on the question of weapons of mass destruction, I take your point. Indeed I was recently criticized -- inconsistency among my critics must also be a virtue -- (laughter) -- I was recently criticized, I think it was this week, for trying to do what you just suggested, for suggesting that not all, quote-unquote, "weapons of mass destruction" ought to be captured under the same, and that chemical weapons ought to be considered as something different, and I got chastised for that. But let's put that aside.

Look, you're right, we have a crisis on many issues over the years, must recently 2008, and that wasn't enough -- which is interesting. It's one of the reasons that those who say that it's going to take a crisis to shake things up -- well, medium-size crises don't see to do it. So what that suggests to me, the crisis might have to be of truly Draconian proportions, which, again, reinforces my argument that's the worst possible way to undertake reforms. But we seem to have a considerable ability to avid taking tough decisions, or we go back to business as usual.

Look what -- we had the situation in Newtown, Connecticut. We had a terrible incident. Ninety percent of the American people want action on gun control, and then we can't even get a piece of legislation with fairly basic background checks passed. So that was a recent example of a crisis that didn't -- at least so far, at least, has not led to political action,

So the ability to translate from crisis to action, particularly legislative action, is obviously not one to one, which again suggests to me that it may take extremely severe outcomes, which is exactly what we don't want to wait for. So it makes the case for leadership before the crisis forces our hand under truly awful circumstances.

DIONNE: That young lady there that Richard called on. Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTIONER: Rebecca Chamberlain (sp). I'm a current international affairs fellow with the council --

HAASS: Fantastic.

QUESTIONER: -- and currently at the World Bank. And so my question is, is I like what you're saying and it reminds me very much of a paper I read -- an influential, notable paper when I was at the Wilson Center -- called "The Mr. Y. Paper." And it was resonating very much with what you're saying about national security beginning at home.

So I'm just wondering how you see your book maybe intersecting with or differing from this Mr. Y Paper.

HAASS: Alas, I do not know Mr. Y. Look, I don't --

DIONNE: By the way, this book -- this title was used before.

HAASS: Sixty years ago.

DIONNE: By James Warburg.

HAASS: Right.

DIONNE: Which Richard notes in the book.

HAASS: Just to be clear. (Laughter.) Yeah, look, I would hope this idea is one that resonates. You know, I'm not familiar with what you just alluded to. People have -- there's been something -- you know, there's an intellectual marketplace. People have been putting out ideas for what we should and should not be doing abroad and at home. I would hope there's other people putting out similar ideas. Yeah, I'd welcome the competition if people are putting out alternative ideas. So, you know -- you know, as a former president once said in a very different context, bring it on. (Laughter.) I think it'd be healthy. It's a healthy debate for the American body politic.

DIONNE: The outcome of that wasn't ideal, however. (Laughter.) The lady -- the lady right here.

HAASS: Good point. Good point.

DIONNE: Please. (Laughter.)

HAASS: Won't use that line again. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: Hi, Priscilla Clapp, also retired from foreign service.

HAASS: Thank all you foreign service officers, by the way.

QUESTIONER: (Chuckles.) I agree with much of what you're saying, if not everything, Richard. And when I think about the solutions you're suggesting, I keep coming back to our Congress. And I haven't read your book yet, so I don't know what you say about them, but I'm just so distraught about the state of our political system, particularly in the Congress, the way it's chosen, the fact that people have to spend all their time raising money rather than thinking about the country's problems. Is there any way to fix that?

HAASS: Look, yeah, I write about congressional dysfunctionality, which is part of a larger issue. Look, I think there's problems with how we -- how money operates in American politics. I think it's toxic. People spend way too much time doing it. My hunch is, though, that situation is going to get worse, not better. I think narrowcasting of the media has made it more difficult. Everybody now can find his own cable or Internet site or whatever, so we have an almost -- with the proliferation of many constituencies, it makes it much harder to build community. Political parties have gotten much weaker, much less significant, so there's that.

There are some things we could do. I think, for example, open primaries help. That way, people just can't appeal to one side or the other. Having redistricting done by nonpolitical commissions rather than by state legislatures help. That way, you don't get districts which are formed just around one or another set of demographics.

But I think these approaches have their limits. I just don't think out there -- I mean, I'm not a political scientist; E.J. is, and probably several people in this room are. But I don't think even clever political scientists can devise a mechanical, quote-unquote, solution to what ails us politically. I think that is going to depend more about restructuring politics more grandly, about appealing either to get one or the other of the major parties more towards the center or to -- you know, there's different ideas -- I see Peter Ackerman in this room -- about trying to animate the political center. Or it just may take an extraordinary individual. And it may simply take an individual who can articulate a set of goals that enjoys broad support, and he or she then gets elected and is able to have a working majority.

But you know, at the end of the day, we're not going to be, though, a parliamentary system. We're not going to have the advantage, if you will, of political efficiency. That was -- that was -- that was the idea here. You know, when the -- you know, when the founders built this system, the idea was to make it somewhat inefficient. Well, we've succeeded on steroids. (Laughter.) So the question is how do we preserve what's integral to the American system, which is checks and balances and the rest, but without this degree -- at what point does inefficiency become dysfunctional? We have clearly tipped over in that. But I think, pulling back from that, the answers are not so much mechanical as they are, if you will, more in the realm of politics.

DIONNE: Thank you. I think there are no mechanical solutions to this problem. I agree.

The gentleman here -- I think we are about out of time, and there is one other -- we're supposed to end at 7:30, correct?

HAASS: OK. Yeah, about that.

DIONNE: And there was also a gentleman back there. If we could bring in two questions at once, I think that would be good.

HAASS: I can -- I can do both.

DIONNE: Good. Sir. You can -- you can evade the hard one.

HAASS: Yeah, I will. (Laughter.)

DIONNE: Go ahead.

QUESTIONER: I'm Robert Hirstein (sp). I'm intrigued -- turning to the priorities you suggest for attention, I'm intrigued by the emphasis you give to North America. I had the impression that North America was doing pretty well, especially -- (inaudible) -- since NAFTA.

HAASS: I'll turn to that. And there was a second question somewhere.

DIONNE: Yes, the gentleman back there. Thank you, sir.

QUESTIONER: Andrew Lebarres (ph) at DHS. I'm interested in how optimistic you are given the state of the body politic, the worst I've seen it in 29 years in Washington, how optimistic you are that any of this has a chance to succeed.

DIONNE: This gives you the opportunity for the ringing lecture on hope. (Laughter.)

HAASS: Right. Is that -- and then I can announce my political ambitions.

DIONNE: Yeah, right, exactly. And therefore, you know -- (laughter) --

HAASS: You're going to get me into a lot of trouble here.

DIONNE: (Chuckles.)

HAASS: The -- on the -- North America, we're now a market of 450 million people. Probably another two decades, three decades we'll be a market of 500 million people. We are now energy self-sufficient. Put aside the notion of energy independence. That's a -- not a terribly useful idea, because the world's too interconnected. But we're energy self-sufficient in the most part. We have this extraordinary economic possibility.

I actually think if there's what I would call a NAFTA 2.0, a more integrated North America, particularly if it -- if we figure out ways of combining Canada and Mexico with the United States as we enter into these two potentially enormous new trade agreements, one across the Atlantic, one across the Pacific, if we figure out new ways or wiring together our infrastructure, improve the immigration system and so forth, I actually think the potential of North America to be the world's economic engine is real. I actually when people ask me why I'm somewhat optimistic, this is one of the reasons -- the energy transformation, which as much as anything is a North American phenomena, and the potential for economic growth here.

Take a step back. People don't -- it is one of our great advantages, it's one of the endowments of the United States, is the neighborhood, and the fact that on our borders we have good relations with both Canada and Mexico. And Mexico's reality is far, far more diverse and far better than simply, you know, the very real problem of guns and drugs. But you've actually got a leadership there in place that is in many ways politically and economically reforming. You've had several rotations of power. Mexico's a real success.

And again, the potential for North America, if it's more tightly woven together -- and I think it will be; it's a question of how much and how fast -- its potential to be good for the 300-plus million Americans, but as well for the world, I think there's a -- this could be one of the great stories of the -- of the early 21st century -- of the 21st century. And you know, I think it's just some -- you know, the president was just there, but it really is deserving of considerable high-level attention.

Why am I optimistic? Look, the reason to be optimistic is severalfold. One is technology. Three or four years ago none of us would have foreseen what's happened in energy. It really is quite remarkable what's happened with shale, what's happening with tight oil. So it shows you the capacity of innovation.

And this country, you know, still has the world's best universities. We are -- we've got, you know -- we've got land, we've got water, we've got a stable political system.

We've got the most open country -- even without immigration reform, we're by far the most open country in the world to immigration. With comprehensive immigration reform, we really do ourselves a favor. A surprising number -- percentage of our successful businesses have their roots in people who have -- who have come to this country.

With some fairly modest changes to our laws, I actually do think we could get economic growth back to where it should be, above 3 percent.

So -- you know, we've got a very balanced demography compared to some of other countries, who have enormous numbers of young people or enormous youngers of -- numbers of old people. We actually have a better proportionality than other countries.

So I can go on and on. It's through -- it's another reason why the declinists are wrong. The -- you know, this country has a(n) enormous strengths and enormous potential.

So the real question, again, is whether politics will get out of the way. Yeah, I'm an optimist because I somehow think it will, in part because it's too discouraging to think about the alternative. (Laughter.)

But also it's not that hard. What really needs doing is -- you know, I thought it was -- who was it? The former -- was it the Australian former foreign minister, someone, who said America's one budget deal away from being, you know, a great power again, or something to that effect?


DIONNE: Yeah, Bob Carr.

HAASS: Bob Carr. And it's -- there's something to that. And a budget deal, one or two other things to get economic growth above 3 percent -- that would lubricate a lot of the ills.

And I do think some of what I'm suggesting here is beginning to get more ingrained, and I think there is something of a positive reaction on the foreign policy front. I think there has been -- it can go too far, but at the moment I think it's quite healthy -- a certain reticence to repeat in Syria what we did in Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam. I think that's healthy. The greater emphasis on Asia, I think, is healthy. This recognition of the unique possibilities of North America, again, I think is healthy.

So I see correctives going on in the area of foreign policy that I -- that I welcome, and I see innate strengths and great potential domestically. So yeah, I think, given all that, it would be hard not to be optimistic.

But -- look, but it's not inevitable we get it right, and that's why -- you know, again, why did I write this book? It's to -- it's to put out the arguments -- you know, look, I'm -- like most people in this room, I work in the ideas business, and I believe that ideas matter. And what I'm hoping is that by putting out ideas like this, like I tried to in this book, it can help, you know, influence or contribute to the debate in this country about where we're going and how we get there and that, you know, if people are sympathetic to this sort of ideas about what we should and should not be doing in the world and here at home, there's no reason that optimism won't become reality.

DIONNE: Richard, thank you very much. I got to say I am really happy you wrote this book because I think there are a lot of books that are interesting -- and by the way, this is interesting, and Richard will be signing the book after this session -- but there are also books that are interesting and constructive. And I think this book pushes us toward the debate we need as a country. And whenever I have agreed with Richard over the years, it has always meant that he gets into some kind of trouble. (Laughter.) But in this case, I hope it only means that a lot of people read these -- this book and think about it.

"Restoration as a U.S. foreign policy doctrine is about restoring the internal sources of American power and restoring balance to what the United States aims to do in the world and how it does it." Sounds like common sense to me.

Thank you, Richard. (Applause.)






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