A World in Disarray
President, Council on Foreign Relations
Vice President for National Program and Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
CFR President Richard N. Haass discusses a world increasingly defined by disorder and what can be done about it, as part of CFR’s Academic Conference Call series.
Learn more about CFR’s resources for the classroom at CFR Campus.
FASKIANOS: Good afternoon from New York, and welcome to the CFR Academic Conference Call Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president for the national program and outreach here at CFR.
Today’s call is on the record, and the audio and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org.
We’re delighted to have Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass with us today to talk about “A World in Disarray.” Dr. Haass is in his 14th year as president of CFR. Previously Dr. Haass was director of policy planning for the U.S. Department of State, where he was a principal advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Confirmed by the U.S. Senate to hold the rank of ambassador, he served as U.S. Coordinator for Policy Toward the Future of Afghanistan and was a U.S. envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process. Dr. Haass was also special assistant to President George H.W. Bush and senior director for Near East and South Asian Affairs on the staff of the National Security Council from 1989 to 1993.
He is the author or editor of 13 books on American foreign policy, the most recent of which is “A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.” You can follow Dr. Haass on Twitter @RichardHaass.
Welcome, Richard. Thank you very much for being with us today.
I thought it would be great if you could lead off with telling us why you wrote this book.
HAASS: Well, thank you, Irina. And thanks to all who are participating in the call.
There’s almost two answers to your questions. One is that about two years ago I was invited to give a series of lectures at the University of Cambridge, and in the course of those lectures began to revisit a lot of the issues that I first encountered when I was a student and a graduate student at Oxford. And it got me thinking a lot about the state of the contemporary world and what was similar and what was different from the sorts of patterns that we’d seen over the last 300, 400 years since the rise of the contemporary state system in the mid-17th century.
And when I came back, I tried to take the lectures, which I transcribed, and turn it into a book. And it didn’t work. And I don’t usually have writer’s block, but I encountered real writer’s block. And I’d do what I always do when I hit a wall when I write, which is I walk. And I put on quite a few miles in Central Park.
And increasingly I found myself struggling with a single question, but anything but a simple question. It was essentially this: Why was it that the principal driver or explainer of much of history over the last four centuries, why was it that it was absent? And the it in this case is great-power conflict. And why was the world not in better shape or condition if what had been the principal source of instability and conflict was largely missing?
And that to me was a question, and indeed a puzzle. And it forced me to rethink, to go back to the literature and then to rethink a lot of my assumptions about international relations. And what I concluded, to make a long story short, was there were fundamental differences between where we are now in the world—this moment, if you will, in history—and much of the hundreds of years that came before.
And again, what struck me was the relative absence, in the aftermath of the Cold War, of great-power friction or conflict. And I’m not saying great-power relations are perfect—obviously they’re not—but again, nothing even comparable to the First World War, the Second World War, or much of the Cold War.
Yet again, we had a Middle East that was unraveling. The analogy I actually drew there was the Thirty Years’ War in Europe; a Europe that we had taken its stability for granted, and suddenly its future was fundamentally in doubt. Indeed, the entire future of the European project, one of the great pieces of statecraft after World War II, was in doubt.
There were all sorts of issues in Asia, from the management of China’s rise to what to do about a North Korea with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and all sorts of questions about how to manage new technology, such as the Internet and cyberspace and what would be the rules there.
So what I concluded, the more I thought about it, was that something was fundamentally different about this era, and that was essentially—one was globalization, the vast and fast movements of just about anything and everything across borders in ways that individual governments could not control, and in many cases the world could not control. And this incorporates everything from climate change to infectious disease to terrorism to the spread of technologies that feed weapons of mass destruction and proliferation, and there’s drugs; again, any number of items. So globalization is one. The world simply couldn’t keep up. And a great gap had opened up between the scale of these challenges and the effectiveness of the response.
Second of all, we had a world that you couldn’t even speak about in terms of multipolarity. The word I came up with was non-polarity; that you had the dissemination or distribution of all sorts of capacity and a larger number of hands than at any other time in history. Some of these hands were states—large states, small states, medium powers, what have you—but also increasingly non-state actors. And it could be terrorist groups or cartels; could be corporations, NGOs, what have you. Again, this is a world of multiple actors that could make a difference, either locally, regionally, or globally.
You also had a loss of structure and discipline with the end of the Cold War, which had set all sorts of formal and informal rules that limited the potential for conflict. You had the natural rise of countries or fall of countries, which added to the friction of historical dynamics.
And then on top of all that, I thought you had also the results of foreign policy. A lot of history is about ideas and about individuals. And when I looked at the last 25 years, I thought that a lot of the what I call disarray in the world could be attributed both to acts of commission, things that the United States and other countries did—and here I would mention such things as the 2003 war in Iraq under George W. Bush, the intervention in Lebanon under Barack Obama, the decision by Mr. Obama to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq after Iraq, to a considerable degree, had been restabilized—and also then acts of omission.
And here I would put, for example, Mr. Obama’s decision not to follow up the invasion of Libya or his many decisions not to get significantly involved in Syria, most notoriously or infamously after the red line and the use of chemical weapons, but on many other occasions as well. And what the book basically does is say this combination of structural changes in the international system and then largely American acts of commission and omission—and the reason, just to be clear, I single out the United States is the United States has been the principal shaper of the international system over recent decades, so what the United States decided to do and not do has also had tremendous consequences.
Subsequently to the book in some ways—and I have a forward about it; the paperback edition comes out in January of 2018; there will be an afterward about it as well—I think the Trump—the campaign, the transition, and now the early months of the Trump presidency have also added to the disarray by raising fundamental questions about American predictability and reliability. And there’s been some questioning of some of the tenets and long-term positions of American foreign policy and America’s relationship with the world.
So again, to me this is what explains where we are. I chose the word disarray consciously and carefully. This is not a moment of significant international order. It’s a moment of deteriorating or diminished order. On the other hand, thankfully we’ve not reached a point where I think words like anarchy or chaos would apply. But I think disarray is a fair both snapshot of where we are and it also captures the trendlines, the arrows.
And what concerns me, and indeed what in many ways motivated me to write the book, is exactly that. I am concerned about these trends, and I do not believe that they’re necessarily self-correcting. Indeed, one of the lessons I draw is that the world itself is not a self-correcting or self-governing mechanism, that it takes conscious acts of statecraft and diplomacy, and in some cases military action, and that, absent that, in particular on the part of the United States leading others, I thought that, again, the trends or the arrows would lead to increased disarray.
I’ll just say one other thing and then I’ll stop, which is I tried not just to be historical and analytical in the book, but I do try to be prescriptive. And I lay out what I believe needs to be the operating concept or compass for American foreign policy and the foreign policy of other countries heading forward. And I call this world order 2.0. I lay out this concept of sovereign obligation.
And to summarize, I simply argue that in this world of globalization, where nothing stays local for long, but rather what goes on inside territory of virtually any country can have implications for other countries because of globalization, that we need an operating system in the world that takes this into account.
So we need to build on the existing world operating system, which is one based upon sovereignty. But we need now to introduce the idea that sovereigns not only have rights, but they have obligations. And the principal obligation they need to have is to make sure that things do not emanate from their territory or take place on their territory that, because of globalization, could have adverse consequences for other states and people around the world.
So this gets into such issues as not allowing terrorists to operate out of territory, or computer hackers; to make sure that infectious-disease outbreaks do not happen; to act responsibly when it comes to climate change, and so forth. And that I believe if the world is going to avoid becoming one characterized by ever-increasing disarray, this set of—this concept of sovereign obligation needs to become the world’s operating system, and the United States and other countries need to discuss it and put it into place, put into place a set of norms and standards; where possible, build arrangements and institutions. And on occasion they will also have to enforce it.
So why don’t I stop there and we can open it up.
FASKIANOS: Terrific. Thanks so much.
Let’s open it up to the students on the call.
OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time we will open the floor for questions.
(Gives queuing instructions.)
Our first question will come from Howard University.
Q: Can you hear me?
OPERATOR: Yes. You can go ahead.
Q: OK. So I feel like a lot of people will say that I guess globalization is one of the causes of, you know, the recent disarray, or more political globalization, if you will. It also seems like you kind of talk about that globalization are more, you know, involvement with countries in solutions. So what do you say to those people who kind of will say the opposite of you, that more globalization is actually the problem, say, you know, I guess, trying to fix this disarray issue? Is that a good question?
HAASS: It’s a good—it’s a good question. Look, globalization, I would argue, is a phenomenon; that it’s increasingly a reality. And—(coughs)—excuse me; just getting over a cold here, so hopefully my voice will not give out—these flows happen. Now, there’s aspects of globalization that are decidedly benign. I think the free flow of ideas, the flow of investment, the flow of money for development, tourism, business, all these are aspects of globalization that I—not just me, but I think most people would welcome. Trade is a fundamental part of globalization.
So again—but there’s other aspects of globalization that are anything but benign, whether it’s terrorists inspiring over the Internet or traveling, as they did, say, on 9/11; disease outbreaks—SARS, Zika, Ebola kinds of diseases. Obviously, climate change is an example of globalization, that borders count for nothing when it comes to that. Refugee flows can be a great source of instability and individual misery.
So what we need is a world, I would say, where we encourage the positive dimensions of globalization and where we push back against the negative or malign aspects of globalization. And this is going to take concerted effort on the part of the world. But one of the problems, to be perfectly honest, is there isn’t consensus necessarily on what is always benign or malign. And even when there is consensus in principle, there often isn’t consensus in practice. Governments can’t agree on what is to be done and who is to do it.
And, you know, one of the conclusions I draw from this is that one of the phrases that’s so common in this world is international community, but unfortunately there’s much less international community than the frequent invocation of the term would suggest.
Let me say one other thing, which is globalization doesn’t benefit everybody equally. And I believe that one of the things we need to take away from developments in Europe and the United States in particular is that individuals need to be helped to deal with some of the down sides of globalization.
So if, in fact, jobs do disappear because of it, we have to have mechanisms in our society for helping individuals cope. It might be training. It may be education. It might be transitional economic assistance and so forth. So I think we have to understand that globalization, again, is not always positive. It’s certainly not always positive for everybody. And where it is negative, we’ve got to find ways either to push back or to help people cope with the consequences.
FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Washington & Lee University.
Q: Hi, Dr. Haass. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
My question is if President Obama was responsible for the sin of omission when it came to places like Libya and Syria, what do you think that he should have done differently in those situations? And what do you think the future of the U.S. should be in shaping international actions, especially in the Middle East?
HAASS: It’s a big question. Thank you.
Look, in the case of Libya, I would have argued that the situation on the ground did not warrant an intervention in the first place. And there’s been a big debate about whether it did or not and what would have likely happened had the United States and the Europeans not intervened militarily.
But even if you disagree with me and you think an intervention ought to have happened, then I’d say once you remove the structure of authority—in this case the Gadhafi regime—you are then obligated to help bring into place an alternative and preferable structure of authority. But to simply go in and remove authority and order, however flawed, and not to put anything better in its place seems to me to be a major error. Indeed, even President Obama subsequently came to accept that criticism when it came to Libya.
I think in the case of Syria, there were concerted acts of omission that began with an act of commission, which is that early on the president said—President Obama said that President Assad of Syria must go. What was missing, though, was any policy to bring that about. And any time you allow a gap to grow up in foreign policy between what it is you state as your objectives and, on the other hand, what it is you’re prepared to bring those objectives about, you are asking for trouble. And that’s what happened in Syria.
So I would have said from the beginning we ought not to have articulated such an ambitious goal or we ought to have been prepared to again act to bring it about. Subsequently, then, there were many times the United States could have done more to strengthen the hand of opposition elements. We did not. And then we—as you all know, we told the Syrian government that if it were to use chemical weapons, which it should not, it would suffer all sorts of consequences. They did use chemical weapons, and the United States did not retaliate. And I would have said at that point that was a grievous mistake. It weakened the global norm against the use of chemical weapons or weapons of mass destruction. Others, I believe, took notice that the Syrians essentially were able to use those weapons and not pay a significant price for it.
I would have acted militarily, both against the regime—I probably would have argued for taking out its air force. I would have argued for increased help to select opposition elements. I’m not sitting here and saying that those things were guaranteed to have worked. I’m not sitting here saying that those things were not without risks and costs.
But I think one of the lessons of Syria, and it’s an important lesson, is what you don’t do in foreign policy can be every bit as consequential as what you do do. And in my experience—and I’ve worked for four presidents—administrations tend to be much more sensitive to the potential costs or risk of acting than they are to the potential costs of risks of not acting. And I think that’s simply intellectually consistent. And you need to be consistent across the board.
That said, we are where we are, where we are, in the Middle East. And I think we need to avoid two extremes. We need to avoid the extreme of trying to remake the Middle East. I don’t think we can make countries whole again. I don’t think we can bring about a situation where the government of Syria or the government of Libya or the government of Yemen is in control of all of its territory.
And secondly, I also don’t think we can bring about a situation where the governments in the region are Jeffersonian democrats reading the Federalist Papers in Arabic transition. I just don’t think that’s going to happen. But I want to avoid the other extreme, where the United States walks away from the Middle East. We cannot and we should not. What happens in the Middle East does not stay in the Middle East. If you look at the refugee crisis coming out of Syria, it’s not only had a terrible humanitarian toll, but look at the impact it’s had on European politics. It has brought about a rise in populism and nationalism that has now threatened the entire European Union.
We can’t ignore the presence of terrorism in the Middle East. And that again could be a threat throughout the world. Middle Eastern oil is still central to the global economy. The United States may be self-sufficient in energy, but we’re not independent of developments in places like the Middle East. We have special obligations to countries such as Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and others.
So what the United States, I believe, needs to find is some kind of a middle course between remaking the Middle East, on one hand, and ignoring it, on the other. And there are some specific things we can and should do. I write about them in some detail in the book.
And I think finding that balance is critical, because for the last, what, 15 years the Middle East has absorbed the lion’s share of America’s attention when it comes to the world. And I would simply say we don’t have that luxury. As significant as the Middle East is, we now also have to obviously worry a great deal about events in Europe, about events in Asia. There are global challenges. There are also issues in Latin America and Africa that demand our attention. So I think we have to find something of a balance between our continued involvement in the Middle East and our necessary involvement in other parts of the world.
FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Daniel Morgan Graduate School.
Q: Hello, Dr. Haass. Thank you for speaking with us.
My question is actually about nationalism, which you just touched on briefly. Some have categorized recent political trends in the states in Europe as nationalistic trends that have risen as a result of globalization. As you’ve noted, terrorism now seems linked to immigration, the loss of jobs due to economic policy.
If we accept this categorization for the sake of argument, how can future leaders appropriately respond to populations’ desires for things like stronger border security, protectionist economic principles, and national homogeny?
HAASS: Again, it’s an important question, and it’s one that in this country and in Europe people are thinking hard about.
Let me say a few things. One is, I believe that—and let me just also say that what I’m going to say is not universally accepted; there’s considerable controversy surrounding some of these subjects—but there’s been a lot of criticism and opposition to both immigration and to trade. And I would simply say that I believe a lot of the opposition to both is misplaced and is based upon misunderstandings.
In terms of trade, yes, on occasion imports are the cause of job losses. They replace what is produced here domestically. In some cases when American firms move production overseas, that’s also a source of job loss. But the overwhelming percentage of job loss in the United States in manufacturing is not related to trade. It’s not related to immigrants coming in and taking jobs away from other workers. Rather, the estimates are more than three quarters, well above that, of the job losses are because of technological innovation, things that are introduced—robotics, more efficient ways of manufacturing—that displace or eliminate jobs. So no amount of protectionism, of closing the border to goods or people, will bring those jobs back.
So I actually think we need a much more honest, serious conversation in this country and other countries about how we’re going to deal with what is the relentless pressure of innovation. And it’s only going to get worse in the course of the next 20, 25 years; things like driverless vehicles, robotics, artificial intelligence. All of these new technologies are going to displace and eliminate millions of jobs in the United States and around the world. Now, they’ll also create some new jobs. But the new jobs will have very different requirements from workers. In many cases they’ll require much more in the way of education and training. And right now our workforce simply isn’t there.
So this is the kind of conversation I believe we need to have; rather than scapegoating trade or immigration, have a much more honest, realistic conversation about how we prepare ourselves for dealing with what is going to be not just a continuing but a rising challenge stemming from innovation and productivity gains.
I think, more broadly in terms of immigration, yes, we need to obviously maintain secure borders. I think in the United States we have done dramatically better since 9/11. We have a coordination between state and federal and between and among various federal agencies. And the intelligence world, and the law-enforcement world and all that, is incomparably better than it was.
And again, I think it’s unfortunate because I think a lot of the backlash against immigration is misplaced. I don’t think a lot of the policies being suggested will make us safer. I think they raise questions about how minorities in the United States will feel and ultimately act. I think they have the potential to be economically—some of these new policies to be economically disruptive.
But, that said, I understand that nationalism and populism are rising in the United States. They are rising in Europe. I think in this country a lot of it has to do with wage stagnation, that for the last 15 or 20 years middle-class incomes have, to a large extent, stagnated. And this again is to me an argument for looking at education and training to help Americans tool up so they can deal with the demands of living in a modern global world.
I think in Europe the German decision to allow so many immigrants in so quickly was—however well motivated was unwise. I mean, at its peak Germany was letting in something like 8,000 refugees a day. That would have been the equivalent of the United States letting in over 30,000 refugees a day. That’s an enormous strain on a society. And it’s obviously triggered a backlash, not just in Germany but throughout Europe.
But again, I think the European politics of greater populism and nationalism also stem not just from concerns, real and imagined, from immigration, greater threat from terrorism, but also low economic growth, which has characterized Europe now for decades; overregulation coming out of, in some cases, the European Union and so forth.
So there’s no one source of greater populism and nationalism. There’s not going to be a single solution. I would simply say that history shows that nationalism and populism can all too easily get out of hand. It can bring to the fore destructive forces within societies and between them.
So to me it raises the importance that the leaders in these countries launch the kind of national conversations I was talking about a few minutes ago, about what is a realistic policy for making sure that more citizens can stay gainfully employed, that there is a sufficient safety net, that there are tools to help people transition in their life when certain jobs disappear and new ones come on.
We need realistic immigration policies that allow people in at a sustainable rate, keeping in mind also that immigration has been a great source of innovation and job growth. In this country alone, a significant percentage of Fortune 50 companies have their origins in people who are first- or second-generation Americans. I just think that, again, we’ve got to be very careful that we don’t overreact against real or imagined problems, and in the process undo or undermine some of the sources of what has made this country as extraordinary as it has been and as it is.
FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from University of Southern Mississippi.
Q: Hello. Dr. Haass, thank you for talking with us today. I have two questions.
HAASS: Thank you.
Q: First, why has there been so much resistance to no-fly zones such as in Syria, which might bring stability to that region? And second, given the failure of certain economic deals such as the TPP, what would you think of creating more political alliance, something like a Pacific alliance, not as strong as NATO but to coordinate policies in Southeast Asia?
HAASS: OK, I’ll take them both on. No-fly zones turn out to be fairly demanding or elaborate undertakings. It doesn’t just mean keeping control of the air. It also means making sure that you have control on the ground. So it takes a large amount of force to make an area safe. And those—even the phrase “no-fly zone” in some ways doesn’t quite capture what is required.
It then also raises other questions. How do you make sure that people in the zone are not using it as a sanctuary from which to commit—then go out and commit armed attacks? Because if they do, then presumably the government or whomever is opposing them can’t be expected just to sit back and let the zone be a sanctuary. So you then have to police the zone to make sure that the part of the society you’re protecting also accepts certain limits.
In the case of Syria, what made the whole idea even more complicated was once the Russians moved in their air force to a significant degree, there was then the risk that American and Russian aircraft might come into direct contact there.
So, for lots of reasons, there was a certain reticence to establish these areas. That said, you know, I take the thrust of your question. And yes, there are certain risks and costs and dangers of establishing these, particularly now. But I think early on, there was a strong case for doing it. And I think—again, historians will argue over this—but it’s possible that we allowed certain opportunities to pass. And again, what’s happened is hardly—what’s the word—you know, what has happened has been extraordinarily costly. You know, more than 500,000 Syrians have lost their lives. More than half the population of the country, some 11 (million), 12 million people now are displaced either internally or as refugees outside of Syria’s borders.
So it’s impossible to argue that what has been done or not done was in any way effective or successful. So again, it’s quite possible that some zones—and again, more than just protecting people from the air but areas that people could have stayed in or moved into—would have been preferable to what has been allowed to develop in Syria.
I’d just say now it’s gotten a lot more complicated, given the Russian presence and the shifting balance of power on the—on the ground.
In terms of what you mentioned about Asia, I was a big advocate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I thought it made great strategic sense as well as economic sense. I think the United States would have benefitted from it significantly, in part because it would have lowered barriers to American exports, and there are already very few American barriers to the—to imports coming from other places. It also would have introduced some new features that hadn’t existed in previous trade agreements.
I’m not going to sit here and say it was perfect in every way. There were still aspects of trade that the TPP, as drafted, did not address. But still it set a higher baseline than any other trade agreement that existed. That said, the president’s made the decision to—that the United States will not participate in it, it will not go forward. I think it’s raised, as you suggest in your question, strategic questions amongst America’s friends and allies in that part of the world.
And I would favor some type of a framework, not simply one with allies, but I actually think there’s a case for developing a regional framework for the Asia-Pacific area. There are so many aircraft, there are so many navies, there are so many territorial claims held by various government that I think the chances of friction leading to incidents, leading to conflict can’t be ruled out.
So I would like there to be some sort of a regional mechanism that included many of the states that would set certain ground rules, certain confidence-building measures, certain emergency communication links. And the idea would not be to solve all the differences in the region, to resolve all the territorial claims, but rather to reduce the chance of incidents or conflict in a context in which there are competing claims to sea space and territory and airspace.
Such a mechanism was set up in Europe in the ’70s. And one of the things I write about in the book is taking some of those principles and adapting them for Asia in the 21st century.
Q: Thank you.
FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from the University of Kansas.
Q: Hello? Hello, can you—
OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Go ahead.
Q: In light of—sure—in light of increased tensions between the U.S. and Russia, i.e. Russian hacking and geopolitical expansion, what should U.S. policy towards Russia look like in order to adequately respond to these issues?
HAASS: Well, the premise of your question is exactly right. There are not just increased tensions between the United States and Russia; there are very real differences, obviously over Ukraine, the Russian decision to use force to take Crimea, and continuing to use force to disrupt what is going on in eastern Ukraine violates the basic concept of sovereignty. You had the Russian military intervention in Syria, which increased the humanitarian tragedy there and strengthened the tyrannical government. You had the Russian active measures in the United States designed to influence the American political outcome. And we’re seeing some similar things in Europe in France and Germany.
And I think what all this suggests is that Russia under Mr. Putin is anything but a status-quo power. It’s increasingly a spoiler. It’s increasingly opposed to a lot of what we would call the international order as it exists. To use the terminology in my book, I think in Russia is in many areas increasing the disarray in the world. It’s a separate conversation of how things got to this point. And again, it’s one of those issues I think historians will debate about, which is to what extent it was inevitable or what extent errors in Western statecraft may have contributed to this.
But again, we are where we are. And what I would suggest at this point is a policy toward Russia that has two dimensions. On one hand, the United States, I believe, needs to be somewhat more—somewhat more robust. In particular, right now the United States has many commitments to Europe, none greater than the commitments we make to defend our NATO partners. The problem is that in many areas our ability to make good on those pledges is questionable. We took out the—a lot of military force from Europe. In some ways we demilitarized big parts of Europe after the end of the Cold War. And now that a Russian threat has reemerged, as we saw in Ukraine, we can’t assume that Russia will not use military force to promote what it sees as its interests and goals in parts of NATO Europe.
So what I would argue is—we need to do is narrow the gap between NATO commitments and NATO capacities. And that would mean reintroducing military forces to some of the NATO countries, particularly those close to Russia and in the areas of Europe such as the Baltic states. I also think we ought to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to resist what Russia is doing.
On the—on the other side, though, I think there needs to be another side. So I think the United States ought to expand its diplomatic contacts with Russia. To the extent Mr. Putin is worried that we want to overthrow him, I think we should reassure him. We do not have to like the way he governs, but I do not believe we—it’s in our—you know, we should be focusing on a regime change or anything like it in Russia. I think you need to live with the regime that is there. I think there’s no case right now for enlarging NATO to include places like Ukraine or Georgia. Neither one of those countries comes close to meeting NATO requirements.
So what I’m suggesting is I think we need a relationship towards Russia that at the same time is both tougher than what we’ve seen but also keeps open or even expands the areas of communication. And again, I would be open to selective cooperation with Russia if we can agree on what needs doing in the Middle East or in—vis-à-vis North Korea or vis-à-vis Afghanistan. Then I think we should—you know, we should be willing to do that despite the fact that we are going to continue to disagree about Ukraine or some other issues.
I just think as a general proposition going forward, with a lot of countries now we’re not going to have one-dimensional black-and-white relationships but rather, I think, we’re going to have very complicated relationships where at one and the same time we’re going to have elements of cooperation and elements of real disagreement. And how we—how we protect the areas of cooperation, how we keep open the possibility of expanding them at the same time we pursue our own interests where we disagree, how we—how we orchestrate that and how we manage that is going to be a real challenge for American foreign policy.
FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from the University of Norway.
Q: Yes. Hello. My name is Rasmus Bertelsen. I am the Barents chair in politics at the University of Tromsø, the Arctic University of Norway. Can you hear me?
HAASS: Yes, sir.
Q: Yes. Dr. Haass, thank you for your excellent remarks. My question is about the domestic social basis of international order, because I believe that the order around the United Nations, NATO, the European communities was based on New Deal, Clement Attlee’s welfare state, the West German social market economy, which of course was changed to a significant degree by Thatcherism, Reaganism, more neoliberal policies.
So my question to you is, how do you see the relationship between domestic social basis in the West and international order? And do you think that the current social—how to say—the current social basis in the West and the trend can sustain the international order that was developed after the Second World War?
HAASS: Well, you raise a big historical issue. I’m not sure I agree with the premise of your question. I don’t think there’s an organic link between the nature of the social orders in the West and the nature of the international order along the lines you’re suggesting. I do think there are links in terms of commitments to openness, free trade, non-use of force to settle disputes of the certain norms, values, and so forth.
But whether economies or societies come up with various different formulas about the role of government in the economy, the scale of the welfare state, or what have you—I don’t see those as organically linked to what sort of an international order we support in the world. And as I said at the beginning, my own view is that the order that’s existed in the world is no longer adequate. It was an order that was based for traditional international relations when the biggest threat was simply conflict between states. And while that threat remains, I’m also concerned about coming up with an international order that takes into account the realities of globalization.
So I think that’s where international order really needs to evolve. And that’s where, again, I’ve called for this new concept of sovereign obligation and a—and a different operating system for the world 2.0, as I describe it. But I don’t think the nature—the specifics of the economies or societies is organically tied to what it is we ought to try to bring about in the world.
That said, I take the point there won’t be support for a large international role unless we are able to come up with economies and societies where large percentages of our citizens are satisfied. And if they are not, then they are going to have very little interest in what goes on beyond their borders, they’re going to take very narrow nationalistic or populistic tacks, which won’t lend itself to building an international order.
And that—if that—if that were to happen, that would simply contribute dramatically to the—to the disarray in the world because my premise is that what is—the challenges that are—that are being produced by globalization won’t sort themselves out. They can’t be solved by countries acting individually. There’s got to be a degree of collective action. And it can’t be coerced for the most part, but it has to come from a recognition that national interests will be adversely affected if world order deteriorates and if globalization—if the—if the malign aspects of globalization begin to—begin to overwhelm us.
FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Tuskegee University.
Q: Thank you for an excellent presentation. Dr. Haass, is anything in your research beginning to suggest to you that maybe our current state system is not adequately equipped to address the challenges we continue to face?
HAASS: It’s an interesting question. To some extent, the answer is yes. When you look at international arrangements, whether it’s the United Nations or most other of the organizations that were born after the Second World War, almost all of them limit participation and membership to states, to countries. And there is, what, 190, 192, 193 countries in the world.
But as I said at the beginning, one of the realities of the 21st century is that capacity is now in the hands of entities other than states. So one of the things we need to do is come up with international arrangements that are not limited simply to sovereign entities called nation-states. They may be—for example, if you’re trying to deal with a global health challenge, yes, you have to have countries involved and health ministries, but you may also need to have mayors or governors involved. You may need to have the Gates Foundation involved. You’ll certainly need to have NGOs like Médecins Sans Frontières, Doctors Without Borders, involved. You’ll need to have pharmaceutical companies involved and so forth.
So I think, you know, we need to be more imaginative in how we—how we both set the rules for this 21st-century world and then how we deal with the challenges so nation-states and governments will—national governments will continue to have a leading role. But the—increasingly they’ve got to—they’ve got to bring in other parties, whether it’s, you know, private sector or state and local governments or NGOs. It’s a—one needs to be much more imaginative and much more inclusive, because states simply don’t—no longer have the kind of near-monopoly of power and capacity and influence that they—that they—that they once did in order to deal, again, with globalization.
We’re going to have to have a much more inclusive response. And it’ll complicate some of the efforts perhaps to agree on what needs doing, but it’s all the same. It’s—I think it’s increasingly—it’s increasingly necessary.
So I think you raise an interesting issue here.
FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Babson College.
Q: Hi. Thank you so much, Dr. Haass. I just wanted to ask from a student perspective what are the leading organizations that we can get involved in if we do support what you’ve described as the vision for a world order, an inclusive country and, you know, everything like that?
HAASS: Well, again, I think—I think as a student, you know, at this stage in one’s life and career, one’s in the business of building up an intellectual foundation. And I think that—I expect the professors are going to like what I say here, but I think studying and reading history and understanding how things—how the world arrived at where it is, looking at different ways the world has tried to organize itself throughout history—I write about it a lot in the opening chapters of the—of the book. And then a lot of—there’s differences about the modern world, but there’s also certain consistencies and certain patterns of international behavior that are painfully familiar.
So, you know, one important thing is simply to gather an appreciation and understanding about what is different but also what is similar about 21st-century international relations.
Then in terms of what one does in a—in terms of whether as a citizen or professionally—and there’s no limit. I mean, one can—one can pursue these things in careers, whether it’s speaking to American citizens in the military and the foreign service and the intelligence community. But also, as I said before for looking—for looking at a 21st-century world where far more actors have influence, one could do it by working for an NGO somewhere halfway around the world or as a journalist or as a business person for some international organization.
I actually think there’s an extraordinary range and number of opportunities to one way or another be a part of what I am talking about. You know, I’m just encouraged that the question would come up, and I’m encouraged that there’s a lot of people on this call and there’s a lot of, you know, classes being taught in this area, because I think one of the realities is that in the 21st century, like it or not, the world will matter more to Americans than it ever has before. And the ability of Americans to have an influence and an impact on the world will be significant.
And I worry that a lot of people in our society don’t seem to appreciate either sides of that—either side of that coin, both the impact of the world on us and our potential impact on the—on the world. But the specifics of what to do—I think there’s a number and a range of options, which is—which is really exciting.
Q: Thank you.
FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Air Force Academy.
Q: Thank you, Professor—Dr. Haass, for speaking with us. In your recent article in Foreign Affairs, you touched on the idea of self-determination, stating that your new international order would need to address a commonly agreed-upon idea of statehood.
First, would you say the current threshold for achieving statehood is too high? And second, would you say—what would you say to the counter-argument, which seems to be the current justification for such a high threshold, that allowing self-determination is a slippery slope because it may promote weak governance in situations like what we saw in South Sudan or by setting a dangerous precedent for other independence movement as a justification for, you know, challenging the system in places like the Middle East and Africa?
HAASS: It’s a—it’s a tough issue, and it’s one I wrestled with. I’m—I think the bottom line is I came out against, as you suggest, the whole idea of self-determination, that the question of who becomes a state can’t simply be for a certain subpopulation or group to decide, because increasingly, given the realities of the world, it will have consequences for others. It will have consequences for the state it would leave. There’s questions of viability of the state they would create. There’s questions of what consequences or impact it would have on neighboring states.
So what I try to suggest is rather than this be automatic as it was, say, for the most part after World War II when the presumption was that colonies would turn into independent sovereign nation-states, now it’s a different world. And I think before we simply say just because this or that group wants to become independent, we’ve got to look at the—again, questions of viability, impact, the justification of their claims, and so forth. And it’s not a very satisfying answer. But like many things in life, I come out with “it depends.” And it’s not—and I would think it doesn’t always get green-lighted, it doesn’t always get red-lighted, but you—what I—what I suggest in the book is that we ought to have a number of criteria. But I do think we need to move away from a world where there’s a presumption of any right to self-determination.
Back in the Middle East with the Palestinians at the time of the Camp David Accords, the notion was not that the Palestinians would have a right of self-determination, given its implications for Israel and others, but rather that they would have, you know, the right to participate one way or another in the determination of their own future. And that—something like that seems about right, where minorities obviously have the right to have certain political objectives.
But you know, the rest of the world also has the right to have a considered response to it. And I think, just to be clear, that this is—this issue is not just academic; this is going to become very real very quickly in the Middle East with the Kurds, given the—what—you know, the significance of what’s going on in Iraq but also Syria and the role of the Syrian Kurds, Turkish opposition to it. I think this is very quickly going to become a source of real friction in the region when people try to raise the question and try to answer it, is whether the Kurds have a right to self-determination or whether it necessarily needs to be somewhat circumscribed given the interests of others.
FASKIANOS: I’d like to try to squeeze in one last question.
HAASS: Okay. I’ll try to squeeze in a short answer.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Fordham University.
Q: Hi, Dr. Haass. Thank you for speaking with us today.
HAASS: Thank you.
Q: My question is—my question is in relation to the world order 2.0 that you’ve proposed and the concept of sovereign obligation. So cyberspace is the newest and arguably the most controversial domain in international activity today. There is a lot of international arrangements in terms of what is classified as permissible activity and what is considered prohibited.
So how would you characterize or define the current debate on cyberspace? And do you think that the U.S. has a sovereign obligation in this domain, say, the provision of cybersecurity?
HAASS: Well, I think you’re exactly right. This is—you know, this is a perfect example of a new technology bursting on the world scene. And we’re trying to catch up to come up with how to regulate it, what the rules ought to be. There was something in some ways analogous in the ‘40s and ‘50s when nuclear weapons appeared and the whole discipline of arms control and the theory of deterrence developed, and the whole idea was to preclude certain negative outcomes at the same time to protect the ability of countries to access nuclear energy for peaceful electricity-generating purposes or health purposes.
And now we have a similar thing, which is you have this new technology that has emerged. And the question is, how do we protect benign, helpful aspects of it and how do we push back against aspects of it that are truly destructive and dangerous?
And so there’s various challenges, which is setting the rules, who’s in the room, can you come up with consensus. And then obviously there’s the question of disciplining it, because sovereign governments would have to make sure once there were rules to set that they made sure that individuals and groups who were opposing those rules were not allowed to operate freely out of their territory.
And I just think that the challenge of this is if anything greater than the nuclear weapons challenge simply because there’s far more actors, far more entities with capacity here, and there’s a demonstrated lack of consensus right now in the world as—you know, we talked about Russia before simply being one example. In recent days, there have been massive leaks about CIA programs.
So I just think this is an extraordinarily important but extraordinarily difficult challenge, and it’s one of the principal case studies where there’s an enormous gap between this dimension of globalization and the—any sense of community in the world. And again, it’s also something that just can’t involve governments, but also companies such as Google and Apple and the rest will have to be in the room. And there’s just a tremendous range of considerations and tradeoffs.
So I actually think it’s going to be a very difficult and not entirely successful process to set the rules for cyberspace, to create a consensus, and to see that that consensus is embraced. I’m somewhat pessimistic about our ability to succeed here.
Q: Thank you, Dr. Haass.
FASKIANOS: Thank you very—thank you very much for today’s call. I’m sorry that we couldn’t get to all the questions, but appreciate you taking the time, your leadership of the Council, and your commitment to being a resource for professors and instructors and students through our educational mission here at CFR. So we really appreciate it.
HAASS: Thank you all for coming in to the call, and good luck as you all pursue your careers in and out of the classroom.
FASKIANOS: I hope that you all will follow Dr. Haass, @RichardHaass. And also come visit our website frequently, CFR.org, as well as ForeignAffairs.com for information and analysis on what is happening in today’s world.
So we hope you will be frequent visitors. Our next call will be on Thursday, March 23rd at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time. Georgetown University’s Angela Stent will lead the conversation on U.S.-Russia relations. And I also encourage you again to reach out to us if there are other resources that we can provide to you.
Thank you again, and we look forward to your continued participation in this series.
More from this series
Angela E. Stent discusses the current state of U.S.-Russia relations.
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