The Opportunity

America's Moment to Alter History's Course

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

Read an excerpt of The Opportunity.

This is a book that describes an unprecedented moment in which the United States has a chance to bring about a world where most people are safe, free, and can enjoy a decent standard of living.

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Political History and Theory

The principal reason the twenty-first century shows such promise is that the potential for armed conflict involving today's major powers is remote. This remarkable development reflects not just U.S. military and economic might but also the assessment that much of what the United States seeks to achieve in the world has the potential to be broadly acceptable to others.

But the combination of these circumstances will not stay unchanged. Like all great moments, it will pass. If we are not careful, the world could see its energies diverted by a new cold war—or, even worse, descend into anarchy defined by terrorism, disease, the spread of nuclear weapons, genocide, and extreme poverty.

More than anything else, it will be how well and how wisely the United States uses its immense power that will determine the future. The United States does not need the world's permission to act, but it does need the world's support to succeed.

What will it take to get the world's support? The answer to this question is what makes The Opportunity truly vital reading. Richard Haass provides a much-needed foreign policy compass, one with the potential to do for this post-Cold War, post-9/11, post-Iraq world what George Kennan's containment doctrine did for the previous era.

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Reviews and Endorsements

Haass resembles liberal critics of Bush in emphasizing that multilateral cooperation will strengthen rather than weaken the United States. But there the similarities end. Haass expresses ambivalence about the United Nations and about championing human rights. Instead, his ideal is a kind of Kissingerian order and stability that supposedly prevailed after the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the Congress of Berlin in 1878, when the high and mighty carved up the map of Europe. According to Haass, history 'is largely determined by the degree to which the major powers of the era can agree on rules of the roadand impose them on those who reject them.' This imposition can take place, Haass suggests, if the United States works harder to bring China and Russia into an international community, and sheds the delusive notion that it can, or should, remain the dominant world power.

Jacob Heilbrunn, New York Times

Having served in national security and the State Department for the last three Republican presidents, it is clear that Haass thinks the present administration has lost the way. Now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Haass has written a new book, The Opportunity, a guide to what the United States should be doing in this era, unique in the past several hundred years. Today there are no classic struggles for domination, no major territorial conflicts, and no great ideological fault lines that so dominated the 20th century. Iraq notwithstanding, the world is still relatively receptive to American leadership if and this is a big if the United States is willing to make 'significant changes' to its foreign policy.

H.D.S. Greenway, Boston Globe

Haass, who served under Bush in a top State Department position, also has just published a new book, The Opportunity: America's Moment to Alter History's Course, one of the central themes of which is that the hawks have over-estimated Washington's ability to change the world.

Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service News Agency

Haass has an unique seat from which to weigh the direction of the U.S.'s relations with the rest of the world…. The final chapter, titled 'The Necessity,' argues that if that integration does not happen, 'The principal challenges of this era…will come to overwhelm the United States.' Coming as they do from a carefully calibrated source, those are sobering words.

Publishers Weekly

Richard Haass, a former member of the small fraternity of multilateralist-minded Republican moderates in the State Department, quit as director of policy planning in 2003. Mr. Haass found refuge as president of the independent Council on Foreign Relations, where he proceeded to write The Opportunity, a lucid wish list for American foreign policy priorities in the current age.

The Economist

At a pivotal moment in history, one of the wise men of our own time has brought us a brilliant, original, and compelling portrait of our troubled twenty-first century world and an often surprising prescription for making it better. Richard Haass's fascinating book should be essential reading for every leader and citizen who understands what is now at stake for all of us.

Michael Beschloss

Richard Haass stands out, both as a policymaker and as a thinker. You don't have to agree with all his judgments to admire and learn from this impressive book, one that does no less than set out a coherent vision for American foreign policy.

Robert Kagan

In this essential book, Richard Haass describes the enormous opportunity America has to use its power to help shape a better world. Unlike many in Washington today, he recognizes that to change the world we will have to work with the worldand be seen by it as a partner, not a bully. He goes beyond rhetorical posturing and outlines real solutions to difficult problems. Ranging far and wide with his usual clarity of thought and sound judgment, Haass has written the intelligent person's guide to foreign policy.

Fareed Zakaria

Since the end of the Cold War, the country has searched for an integrating concept for the new conditions, a role performed for a generation by Kennan's containment theory. With The Opportunity, Richard Haass has undertaken to close this gap with imagination and insight. It is an important book for any period.

Henry Kissinger

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