Richard N. Haass discusses The World: A Brief Introduction, his new book designed to provide readers with the essential background and building blocks needed to make sense of this complicated and interconnected world. He also discusses ways to incorporate the book into course syllabi and first-year experiences.
FASKIANOS: Welcome all to today’s CFR’s Educators Webinar. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at the Council on Foreign Relations. We’re delighted to have you with us today. Today’s meeting is on the record. You will be able to refer to the video and transcript on CFR.org/Academic. And as always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy.
We are delighted to have Richard Haass with us to talk about his new book, The World: A Brief Introduction, which was published last week by Penguin Random House. Dr. Haass is in his seventeenth year as president of CFR. He has served as special assistant and senior Middle East advisor to President George H.W. Bush, the U.S. State Department’s director policy planning under Secretary of State Colin Powell, and in various positions in the Defense and State Departments during the Carter and Reagan administrations. Dr. Haass was also U.S. coordinator for policy toward the future of Afghanistan and U.S. envoy to both Cyprus and the Northern Ireland peace talks. A recipient of the State Department’s distinguished honor award, the Presidential Citizen’s Medal, and the Tipperary International Peace Award, he is also the author or editor of fourteen books on U.S. foreign policy and one book on management.
So, Dr. Haass, thank you very much for being with us today to talk about your latest book, The World: A Brief Introduction. It would be great if you could talk a little bit about why you wrote this book, what inspired you.
HAASS: Well, thank you, Irina. And thank you, everybody who’s part of this conversation. I will do my best not to filibuster, since I am not in Washington.
Look, the reason I wrote this book is, in some ways, deceptively simple. The world has, arguably, never been more important in shaping people’s lives and influencing the interests of this country, yet I’m worried about the gap between the inherent or objective importance of the world and what most Americans know about it. And this is true of Americans of my generation, who either never studied these things, or forgot them if they did study them, or what they did study is no longer relevant. It’s also true of most young men and women coming out of high school, the people we just celebrated over the weekend in Graduate Together.
It’s also true of most people who leave our colleges and universities. That even though these important courses, good courses, on international relations are offered on virtually every campus, virtually none of them require that students take them. And depending upon how clever you are at navigating your course requirements, you can leave university without having a foundation under your belt. Our national media, for the most part, doesn’t cover it a lot. You could watch the nightly news and more often than not get a serious international story.
So again, I’m struck by the disconnect between what people know and arguably what they should know in order to be prepared for this twenty-first century world. I think recent events underscore just how fundamental the world is to our welfare and wellbeing. And I decided to produce in one volume roughly 300 pages of writing, and then all the notes and other things, but basically in an accessible way. So it’s not written for experts, though experts have read it and commented on it. But it’s essentially—it’s written for, quote/unquote, “the average citizen, the average student.”
FASKIANOS: Terrific. Well, it really lends itself to a great book for—a great textbook for uses in courses and outside of courses. How did you organize the book?
HAASS: It was designed as either a book that could be assigned, adopted as a text or a course on—a generally introductory course on international relations. It could be for people who go on for a major. It could be the only course they ever take in their lives, just a general studies—a general introduction to the world sort of course. It’s got four parts. Begins with history, going back to the seventeenth century, the rise of the modern state system, treaty of Westphalia, and then a large emphasis on the twentieth century. You know, basically, first I take people up to the First World War, then the interwar years, then through the Cold War, and now the post-Cold War world. So that’s the first quarter of the book.
Second quarter of the book looks at the principal regions of the world—Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, Latin America—and essentially gives, again, a grounding in that part of the world, the essential history, demographics, politics, economics, geopolitics. Third part of the book introduces the reader to ten fundamental global issues, including global health but also climate change, trade, monetary policy, terrorism—essentially the ten issues that I think helped define this era and differentiate it from previous eras of history. And it all begins with a chapter on globalization which, again, I do think is qualitatively different, where we are in time right now.
And then the fourth part of the book takes some of the basic ideas, beginning with world order, but looks at other issues like self-determination, sovereignty, and so forth—what I think are the basic concepts that inform the field. So if you are going to read about it, again, I think these are things you have to have a degree of understanding of, or you’ll get lost as you navigate either the headlines or conversations.
FASKIANOS: So you’re very prescient. Your last book was A World in Disarray, that was released in 2016. And the world has unraveled. And this has come out in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic. So now why is this book even more relevant now than when you were writing it?
HAASS: Yeah. I don’t claim to be prescient. And to the extent the world is in disarray, or more disarray, I would gladly give up some book sales for things to have turned out better. And even though there was a chapter on global health, and I write about the possibility of pandemics in this book, I didn’t have a crystal ball. In my last job I used to say I was the director of policy planning, not policy predicting. But again, but something like a pandemic was predicted and predictable by all sorts of people, just like terrorist acts are predictable. Climate change is not only predictable, but it’s actual. And we can—we can look at that.
I think what the pandemic shows, more than anything, though, is the reality of globalization. And, you know, how we respond to it, that’s where choice comes in, whether to respond to it, how to respond to it, and all that. But the actual reality of it, is seems to me, is obvious. And so what I try to give people is the grounding and the reality of globalization, all its various manifestations, and then discuss some of the principal options for dealing with it. And again, I don’t—I try not to drive people in the book, Irina, towards the adoption of this or that option of foreign policy. What I want to give them is some of the background and tools to make the judgements on their own.
That said, I’ll be intellectually honest here. Obviously, I’d say there are two biases in the book, after—or maybe three. One, first, being that globalization matters. Two is that isolationism and denial are not a strategy. I really do think that globalization is real. To be an ostrich and to say climate change isn’t happening, or terrorism is not a threat, or pandemics can’t happen, that seems, to me, to leave us extraordinarily vulnerable either as individuals or as a country. And my other bias is that unilateralism is not a good way to approach dealing with global challenges. The challenges are global. I think ideally the response, if not global, at least ought to be—ought to be collective.
But other than that—other than those, I’d say, intellectual biases in the book, the specific policy that you might deal with—adopt to deal with, say, climate change, or terrorism, or pandemics, again, I paint the options. The form of the multilateralism—I discuss the entire menu of forms of multilateralism from the U.N., say, to coalitions of the willing. But what I try to do is, again, point out the pros and cons, the considerations.
What I want people is to be better informed so hopefully they can make better judgements when they go to vote in November, or when they think about these issues, make career choices, make investment choices, what have you. Just basically think about these issues so they better understand them. My goal, again, was and is not to tell them this is right, this is wrong, but rather here’s what I think you need to know foundationally. And then that puts you in a better place to make some choices for yourself.
FASKIANOS: So let’s just talk about the theoretical orientation of the book. And I think you’ve emphasized more accessibility than having it be esoteric. So if you could walk people through that—how you thought about it.
HAASS: Sure. Look, there’s any number of places to go for detailed treatment of the various theoretical schools that can inform the foreign policy debate. I did not go there for many reasons. But the principal reason is unless you are going to choose international relations as your major in an academic setting, I don’t believe those are essential. What I was more interested in, again, was teach people the basics of how the world works, rather than taking a step back and coming up with these archetypal approaches. All of that is treated in great depth and breadth in any number of other books.
But my concern is, unless you’re particularly oriented toward the field, to making it a specialty, a lot of that quite honestly is—it’s pretty tough sledding. It’s demanding. People have trouble seeing the connection between that and a lot of our reality. So my view was, again, leave that to others. They’ve done it. That’s pretty well-tilled soil. And someone on a trajectory to becoming a major, I think that’s good. But I was much more interested in writing a book for people who have no intention of becoming a major.
Flute majors, perhaps, or the person who stimulated this book was a computer sciences major. Or I’d like to hook somebody on the subject. And the kind of book I wrote was meant to hook them. And then I think they’d be much more likely to go on and follow an academic set of courses. But I’m really worried that if you begin with a heavy theoretical approach, if you begin also with a heavy quantitative approach, I think you’re going to essentially rule out a lot of people going down this path.
FASKIANOS: So the level of students that you feel this book—could access this book?
HAASS: I think it’s good for, I would basically say, advanced high school, 11th and 12th grades most comfortably. Teachers will have a pretty good sense of their students. And then I would say any one in college. I also think it would be fine for people in graduate school. I think it would be fine—we can talk about it as a freshman year experience kind of book, particularly in this context where a lot of us don’t know what we’re going to be doing this summer, much less in the fall. So it’s the kind of book that I would think would be good for students before they matriculate or post-commencement. Again, it’s written for a range.
Let me just also make clear that there’s not any jargon in the book. For me, it was actually an interesting book to write. Unlike all my other books, this one really forced me to drill down, not to assume things. So every time I had to reference something it was incumbent on me to explain what that was, what background it was, why that was important. If I’ve learned anything in the last three and a half years, it’s not to assume anything. And as a result, I try to put that principle into practice, not to assume that anyone had read anything, or was familiar with this. So if I talk about an alliance, well, then I’ll send some time describing what makes an alliance. Or if I talk about a tariff, what exactly is a tariff? And just through the list. The whole idea was to never introduce an idea, a historical reference, or anything else without contextualizing it, without defining it.
And again, and even though people like me—I know these things. I’ve been working in this field for, what, 40-odd years. The—I found that in the course of writing it and trying to make it totally accessible, one, I learned a lot. In some ways I was busted, because I figured out all the things I didn’t know nearly as well as I should have known. But the effort was to make it, again, good for people who hadn’t spent decades tilling these vineyards. And what I had—one of my habits is whenever I write a book when it’s in draft form, I have all sorts of people read it. This book—I had more people read this in draft than in any other book I’ve ever written. And I had both university professors, but I also had people who had never taken a course in their life.
I had people who were specialists on every subject in the book—whether it’s the Middle East, or terrorism, or the digital cyber domain, or history—what have you. I had people read their particular part of the book. And then I had generalists read it. And, again, I was trying to pull something off which, admittedly, ain’t easy—I’d like to think I succeeded; I expect I will get a lot of feedback telling me I did or did not—which is making a book work for people with different backgrounds at slightly different places in their lives.
But I think based upon the feedback I have gotten, I think—it sounds immodest, and I apologize—but I think it largely succeeded because even experts, there’s always things you don’t know. That’s what I found out by writing. And I’m a so-called, quote/unquote, “expert.” And there were so many things I didn’t know or didn’t know as well as I needed to know it. And but it’s also written for generalists who, this may, for all I know, be the only book they read. And they may say, that’s really interesting. I’m glad I read it. But I’m not going to pursue this. I’m going to pursue, again, computers or French literature. And that’s great. But, you know, but sooner or later young people are going to leave campuses. They’re going to leave schools. They’re going to be citizens. And I want them to be better-informed citizens.
FASKIANOS: And I think what’s so great about this book is that it really is a good text for a common reading list, because—especially at this moment, as everybody’s in the midst of the COVID-19, what we’re doing. And again, if you could talk about why this book is so important for kids too at this particular moment in history.
HAASS: Look, right now we’re facing COVID-19. There’ll be COVID-23 one day, or COVID-28. Or there’ll be some bacteria that pops up that’s resistant to antibiotics. 9/11 showed what a bunch of people training in Afghanistan could do. Climate change, the fires, the floods, the more severe storms, that is revealing. So these are not one-offs. This is—this is the new normal. You know, the details will vary from year to year, decade to decade, but this is essentially the pattern. The corollary to that is nothing stays local for long. In this case it was Wuhan, a city in China of, what, ten, twelve million people. Next time it’ll be some other city in some other country where some pathogen, or some terrorist, or something starts. Or there’ll be run on a bank somewhere that will be a form of financial contagion.
And then lesson of this is nothing stays local for long. This is a global reality. We are interconnected. Now, again, what we do about it, that is—that’s a choice. So I hate to say that good things can come out of awful things, but it would be really tragic if this—even more tragic than the pandemic already is in terms of lives lost, and dollars lost, and jobs lost—if people didn’t come away with a greater appreciation of globalization. If they didn’t come away with a better understanding that the world matters, it’s in their self-interest to get more informed about it.
And for young people, it’s particularly relevant because it’s not only that they’re going to be voting, and they want to make more informed votes. It’s not simply they want to hold elected officials to account, but there might be basic career choices to be made. Should I go into the government? Should I join Doctors Without Borders or the International Rescue Committee? Should I become a journalist with an international focus? Should I go into banking and, again, think internationally? And in virtually any subject now, no matter what your focus is, you could go work for an automobile company, how are you going to be involved in manufacturing and not think globally? What should you say if the president of the United States proposes a tariff? Is that good or bad for your business? Is it in your self-interest to support or oppose that?
So the more I thought about this and wrote it, it’s not just that the world is interconnected, but we as individuals on or off campuses need to know. We need to tool up so that we, again, can make more informed choices, be it in a voting booth, or simply in terms of careers, or as parents, advising people. I just think this is the reality of modern life.
FASKIANOS: So one final question before we go to our group. What are the accompanying resources in development that could help educators incorporate the world into their syllabi, their first-year experiences, especially as many are contemplating will the fall semester be remote or online—or on campus?
HAASS: I prefer the word—I prefer the word “distance” to “remote.” (Laughs.) Remote sounds so much like a value judgement.
FASKIANOS: Distance. OK, distance. Thank you for the correction. (Laughs.)
HAASS: Just teasing. Look, this could be used in a number of ways. We’ve alluded to one or two them already. One is if somebody already has a course, some equivalent of international relations 101, some international civics, whatever the nomenclature is on his or her—in his or her school or campus, this could easily be a sign. And I don’t think—I’m not saying what I’ve written is good; I’ll let other people judge that. But I don’t think there’s anything else out there like this, that covers this amount of turf with this degree of accessibility.
Again, you asked me why I wrote this book. Well, one of the reasons is I didn’t—I couldn’t find it. I like writing books that I think are necessary and someone else hasn’t already written one that’s perfectly good enough. If such a book existed, I would read it and, you know, if I were a professor, I’d assign it. I’m a busy guy. But I wrote this because I thought it was important to do in part because, one, it was necessary and, two, I couldn’t find it. So that’s the most obvious way you could be plugged into something that’s already existing.
Second way to refer to it, particularly this summer, would be some type of a freshman year experience. I think there’s something useful for students in academic settings—and it can be freshman year in high school, it can be freshman year in college, it can also be returning people of any grade. It could be—you know, FYE is maybe too narrow. It could be—I just got an email the other day from a friend of mine who’s the head of a school in New York, an all-girl’s high school. And it could be—he thought it would be interesting for all girls and their families from nine through twelfth grades. Different professors on colleges and deans in universities have talked to me about it for people returning.
So it’s almost a student summer experience, as opposed to just a freshman year experience. And I think it’s good because, again, I love the idea that young people leave a campus or go onto a campus with this background. I also like the fact that it could in some ways give them more to talk about with one another. I think it is important in institutions that we create some areas of commonality. One of my many cliched comments, which you’re tired of hearing, is, you know, sometimes universities—or universities have departments, but the world doesn’t. So I love that there are common experiences because that allows people to have conversations with science majors, and literature majors, and philosophy majors, where so often their lives are tunneled.
Thirdly, something we’re in the process of contemplating and, I’d say, 90 percent certain doing is to create a course based on this book. Right now the book, coincidentally, has twenty-six chapters. It’s very easy, in some of the chapters which deal with more than topic, to turn this into a thirty-chapter book. Thirty chapters is the equivalent of a course that takes fifteen weeks and is taught twice a week. So what we are thinking of doing, if we people hopefully would find it useful, is we’ll produce a course based on this book. This will—and each chapter, which might be, say, for argument’s sake, ten pages of text—would be read. And then we’ll suggest supplementary readings that could also be assigned, and also are hopefully not—would not be hard for the teacher or the student to get ahold of.
And then we’ll provide all sorts of discussion questions for whether it’s physical or virtual conversations about the book in an actual or physical classroom. Also prepared to provide essay type questions for examining. But, again, what we’ll do is provide the equivalent of a 101, a basic course about the world where the is the textbook, and it provides the skeletal organization for it. And so one of the things I’ve learned over the years is not to make it a one-size-fits-all, to give people some flexibility so depending upon their situation, level of their students, how much time they have, how happy they are with what they’ve already got. So this can be plugged into something that’s already highly developed, or this can in and of itself become the basis for an entire course. It could be read as a one-off book by people in the field or people who have nothing to do with the field.
So I think it’s got some inherent—some inherent flexibility that will hopefully make it useful for a wide range of professors, teachers, and a wide range of students.
FASKIANOS: Great. And all those resources will be on our website, CFR.org. They’re complementary. And of course, Richard’s book is quite in expensive on Amazon. It’s $17 and some change. And the e-book is $15, which I think is quite inexpensive compared to other textbooks.
HAASS: I can also say the paperback on this won’t be out, though, for about a year. So right now there’s three versions. There’s hard. There’s digital or Kindle. And there’s audio. So those are the three that are out already.
All right, so we’re going to go now to our distinguished group. We have over 250 on the line in the room. We have presidents, and chancellors, and deans, and professors, and teachers, and administrators. So we have a whole range of expertise and perspectives to share with you.
(Gives queuing instructions.)
And oh my goodness, we already have so many in queue. I’m going to go first with Katie Laatikainen. Excuse me for—if I mispronounce your name. And please identify what you do and where you teach, or where you administer, and all of that, to give Dr. Haass some context.
Q: Thanks so much. I am the director of the Levermore Global Scholars Program at Adelphi University. I teach international relations, and I teach an IR theory course.
And I loved used A World in Disarray to hook students in the IR course. And I really liked being able to supplement that with the documentary that you did with Vice. And I see how A World in Disarray lends itself to that sort of documentary, where you can really hone in on those four issues that you looked at in the Vice documentary. I’m wondering if you’re going to have some other kinds of multimedia elements—not just sort of planning out a course, but other kinds of audio/visual things to go along with this. Thanks.
HAASS: Thanks for asking. And Adelphi, I knew well. I grew up in Valley Stream, Long Island and went to Valley Stream South High School and then Roslyn High School. So I know—I know your neighborhood. I recognize the accent.
In terms of a documentary, we’re talking about doing one based on this book. It’ll just take a while to get done. So I think it’s a year away. But I think there’s a good chance that we’ll do a documentary based on this. And then one thing that’s going on at the Council on Foreign Relations is we’ve been creating all sorts of educational resources. And some explicitly—one of the projects is called World 101. We’ve already got a percentage of it up. But it essentially follows a fairly similar structure as the book. There’s a focus on the principal manifestations of globalization. There’s things that have been done on the regions of the world. There’s going to be history, the basic ideas of international relations. And that’ll be done by the end of the year, early next year. Say in eight months, give or take.
And I could imagine an entire course built out of the book, as well as these other online features, which are everything from maps, to charts, to interviews, to animations, to graphics, you name it. It’s really stunningly creative. If you go on the website, CFR.org, you will see two complete—again, the 40 or 50 percent of the work that’s already been done focusing on globalization and the regions of the world. It’s really is quite extraordinary. People who are much more expert in learning resources than I am, every single one so far has come away impressed.
I’m also open to other ideas. If there’s other things that this can be married with, totally open to that as well. And so, you know, I’d love to hear from people on this about whether there’s other resources that might be picked and, if you will, plugged into. I understand the utility of sometimes balancing text with other things, but—be they maps, or charts, or animation, interviews, and so forth . So let me think more about that, but the two things—documentary’s at least a year off, because it takes a while. But the other thing, some are already up online and many more will be up online, the entire 101 course curriculum should be up by roughly the end of this calendar year.
FASKIANOS: Great. Let’s go to David Hudgens.
Q: Hello. Thank you, Dr. Haass. That’s a great introduction. And I’m looking forward to reading the book.
I teach at the University of South Carolina. I’m in the International Business Department. We offer, of course, a range of courses on the subject. I also teach an honors college seminar. And I think this book will be great for the honors college students, just as much as you outlined. I’m curious, though, as I look at the table of contents I see the trade and investment and the currency and monetary policy sections. When we look at firms in the world as they distribute globally, and consider globalization and localization, any thoughts you could share about firms’ strategy that might be incorporated into a course?
HAASS: It’s an interesting question. Look, one is that I think increasingly firms have got to think about geopolitics, both in the country, on the ground, but also back—if it’s an American-based firm—politics here. I mean, think about anyone, these days the impact of CFIUS, Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the impact of export controls, other government policy. So I think we’re entering an era of history where government policy is going to be more significant.
I’ll mention it now, I think we’re entering a period also where the whole issue of supply chain diversification is going to gain enormous speed. I bet there will be bipartisan support in the Congress that will call for much greater domestic production, greater manufacturing as well as stockpiling requirements for a much longer list of critical items, materials, whether they go into medicines, or AI, or computers. And I think, just as an aside, it’s going to be very interesting challenge for global trading arrangements when countries now take an expanded view of what does the national security provision in the WTO mean? And so it’s not just necessarily protection of certain advanced technologies, but it could be the need to domestically manufacture a much larger range of goods, just so one is not depending on imports on the off chance they could be interrupted be it by pandemics, earthquakes, nuclear accidents, terrorism, domestic political instability somewhere else, political leverage, what have you.
So I would think, and I probably told you more than I know, but I would think that for firms going ahead the biggest challenges will be thinking about issues—I could give a third one—one would be geopolitics, all the conditions locally, a much more interventionist phase of the government. I think the pendulum going to swing towards greater government roles in the economy. I think that—also, obviously, give the whole movement that Larry Fink and others have kicked off about thinking much more about multiple constituencies and how the firm has to think about more than maximizing shareholder return. I actually think we’re—to be a CEO now, and I can tell because we have so many who are members of the Council on Foreign Relations—it has become a far, far, far more political and complicated environment.
It’s funny, years ago I used to teach management at the Kennedy School. And there was a conceit, and I’ll probably lose a few people here, but there was a conceit that business management was much more advanced than political management. And I think what has essentially happened is that business management, the management of the firm, has increasingly become political management. I mean, look at what Google had to deal with, with all the employees who refused to work on the Maven project because they objected to the potential application of certain technologies. So whether your constituency is your workforce, whether your constituency is a local community, whether it’s the various citizens or governments that are a part of your supply chains or markets, I just think the entire context in which firms operate have become incomparably more complex and much more politicized. So I would just think anyone in that world now needs a grounding that’s considerably broader. We’ve gone way beyond microeconomics, but I think that is the—that is the reality now.
FASKIANOS: Let’s go to Allen Hertzke.
Q: Can you hear me now?
FASKIANOS: We can.
Q: All right. Very good. Well, Professor Haass, I teach at the University of Oklahoma. My field involves religion in politics, global religious freedom issues, religious persecution, religious strife, religious terrorism, and so forth.
And to use—to coin—to refer to a key book that I often used, some describe this as God’s century, that religion is back in a very big way. Of course, the Council on Foreign Relations has a religion in foreign policy program, that I’ve participated in. And I’m curious—I’ve looked at your outline. I’m curious about the extent to which you were able to incorporate the reality that, as a global force, whether it’s a force for good or ill, religion is definitely back, and it’s a transnational actor? And I just am curious about how you integrate that into your book.
HAASS: Sure. Well, I’m glad you asked. I want you to know I got into this field originally—I was a religion major. When I went to Oberlin College 390 years ago I didn’t know what I wanted to study. And I asked around, and I said: Who’s the best professor on campus? And people said, Professor Frank. And I said, OK, and what does Professor Frank happen to teach? And they said, New Testament. And I said, well, that’s interesting. We never got to reading the new one my house. We were kind of stuck on the old one. But I’m game. So I read it. And I began the—and I took the course. It was sensational as advertised. Became a religion major. And ultimately got a little more political. So I became the first Middle Eastern studies major at Oberlin. So I like what it is you’re doing.
I don’t have a separate thing on religion. I decided what would be better would be to, what’s the world, integrate and infuse it in particular into each of the regional chapters, and to use it as a part of what—to understand the Middle East or South Asia, and so forth. So I tried to deal with it less as a separate phenomenon, though I talk about various international religious movements and so forth, but not in detail. I don’t want to say I did more maybe. I’d be curious, I mean, you know, after you look at it, if you think that I don’t give sufficient weight to it. And part of this probably reflects my own bias from government.
So at times I know how much influence the Catholic Church, and I spent a lot of time as a young State Department person meeting with the bishops, talking about the role of nuclear weapons in American foreign policy, which I thought was quite ironic given my background, but—with Bryan Hehir and others. But I did spend a lot of time doing that. But basically, rather than dealing with religion as a separate phenomenon, I tried to, as best I could, explain what was going on in the world as religion being one of many forces, features, factors that explain why certain parts of the world were the way they were.
FASKIANOS: Right. And it is, of course, thanks to Dr. Haass that we have all these outreach initiatives at the Council for educators, and the religion program, state and local officials, and the local journalists. So they’re his brainchild.
OK. Let’s go next to Hiroki Takeuchi. You can pronounce it better than I can. Thank you. (Laughs.)
Q: Hi. I am Hiroki Tackeuchi. I’m teaching at Southern Methodist University, SMU, in Dallas, Texas.
My question is, so the current pandemic really empowers the backlash to the globalization. And one of your emphasis is globalization. And I agree with you. So do you have any advice to—about how to confront the empowered backlash to the globalization? You can say, like, an anti-globalization or even like a nationalism and xenophobia. And so both in terms of the policy levels and also a teaching environment.
HAASS: Well, I thought a lot about it recently. And I just wrote an article in part derived from the book called—what was it called—Globalization and its Discontents, a little play on Mr. Freud. That was just published in Project Syndicate. But you’re right. Look, there was a deglobalization, anti-globalization movement before the pandemic. We saw it most dramatically and sharply on anti-immigration, but we saw it also in this country, for example, in the denial of climate change. We saw it with Brexit and some of the anti-EU. We obviously saw it with trade, the growing use of tariffs. So I think there had been quite a lot of pushback.
My argument is that, again, globalization is a reality. Not everybody like it, but more important there’s going to be specific policy remedies. So one, for example, and I talk about this in the book, one could be anti-immigration. But one has to understand the potential costs of that, humanitarian costs, economic costs, and so forth. In terms of—I’m not quite sure at times what it means to be anti-global in the climate change sense, other than if you’re practicing denial you’re going to have an increasingly rude awakening. I think the pandemic shows the limits to anti-globalization there. The virus has spread.
Now, it worries me that there will be a very strong national, as you call it, backlash. There will be an inevitably turning inwards. And I worry then about the combination of countries like the United States turning more inwards at a time when you have the old security agenda, great power rivalry, you know, North Korea, Iran and others doing what they’re doing. You have a new security agenda, all these global challenges. And then if you have the United States turning inward, I worry about the consequences of that for order, either at the regional level or the global level.
And it would be somewhere between ironic and tragic if a response or the response to this pandemic, which is globalization in action, that the response rather than leading to greater international involvement, say, to—we can have a debate whether the goal ought to be to reform the World Health Organization, build or create some complementary or supplementary bodies and arrangements, some combination of the two. But one would hope that a pandemic would lead to that, greater international creativity, rather than a greater turning away from the world. But it’s quite possible that could happen.
It’s interesting. The last great moment of international creativity was the aftermath of World War II. And the end of the Cold War, for the most part, didn’t give life to a great new set of arrangements. I think there are optimists out there who are saying maybe the pandemic will. Maybe. It’s also possible you could have some new things come out of this that are good, but also—you could have one at the same time greater multilateralism and greater anti-globalization. It’s not impossible that you could have what appears to be a contradictory response actually become the response.
But I think whether in the classroom or beyond, I think to talk about globalization and anti- or de-globalization, to talk about it in its various manifestations, one thing—I’ve been involved in a big debate the last couple of weeks is to what extent should global issues inform American foreign policy? There’s the traditionalists who basically say: What American foreign policy should principally preoccupy itself with is greater power relations. That means now the principle lodestar of American foreign policy ought to be pushing back against China.
And I wrote in the Wall Street Journal the other day, still getting arrows coming at me, yes, at times we got to push back against China. I understand that, even though I think some people exaggerate its ambitions and underestimate its problem. I said, but even if we’re successful at pushing back against China, how does that leave us better off vis-à-vis pandemics, or terrorism, or proliferation, or climate change? That I think a twenty-first century foreign policy has got to place significant emphasis—it’s not either/or—but significant emphasis on contending with global challenges rather than simply preoccupying itself with the dynamics of great power rivalry. So I think that is a really interesting debate for students to get into one that has obvious real-world consequences.
So I actually think we’re at one of those moments—thirty more seconds. I apologize for going so long, but you pressed one of my buttons. You know, the gap between global challenges and global responses is enormous. You know, people keep using the phrase “international community” as if there were one. I wish there were, but there’s not, for the most part. So a very interesting set of conversations is in each realm of globalization—be it climate, public health, trade, what have you. What’s our definition of success? What’s the balance between collective and individual responses? What form does the collective response take?
Is it large-scale, universal membership institutions? Or is it much more coalitions of the willing, much narrower, flexible, informal arrangements? I just think there’s an enormous set of issues, questions that—and I think in the classroom or what have you, I just think that you would never run out of interesting things to raise with the students.
And one last thing, I apologize. You know, when I go on—when I used to travel to campuses—hopefully, that day will not be that far off again—on many campuses the hottest issue by far was climate change. And even though the pandemic is obviously uppermost in people’s minds, I think the question of climate change will definitely return front and center. And so I think there is a lot of interest, not just among IR majors but among young people more broadly. So I think that’s a great entry point to deal not just with the specifics of climate, but to use it as a teaching issue to explain all the choices that go into how to think about responding to globalization. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity there.
FASKIANOS: Great. Let’s go to Elizabeth Bishop next. And then we’re going to go to Ezra Suleiman.
Q: Hi, Dr. Haass. So I work at Global Kids. And I’m also faculty at the Community Youth Studies Program.
So I’ve actually been reading your book. I’m about halfway through it right now, and it really resonates with my work. So my question to you is, what message do you have for young educators about how to center global literacy even when there’s not necessarily an educational mandate from the school systems to do so?
HAASS: Can you say a little bit more, Elizabeth, what you—give me—give me a sense of where I could be helpful. Because I’m not quite sure, having heard what you just said. And if you want to repeat how much you like the book, that’s OK too.
Q: (Laughs.) I mean, I guess just this idea of global literacy really resonates with me. And so I’m thinking across subject areas. Like, regardless of kind of what, you know, tests might be asking within the U.S. school system, for instance. Like, how does a young educator who’s entering the field—how do they center global literacy in their work, regardless of the subject area?
HAASS: It’s really interesting. So thank you for raising it. I’ll give you an initial answer, but I’ll probably want to think about it more. To those who haven’t read it, my idea about global literacy is the idea that you have a foundational understanding of the world, who it worked, why it mattered, the relationship between foreign policy and international relations. Again, it doesn’t necessary qualify you to be secretary of state, but the qualifications for that seem to have gotten—well, I won’t go there. I’ll get in trouble for that comment. I’ll just stop at that point, let the record show.
HAASS: But again, I want people—to use a language analogy, the goal can’t always be fluency, but it can be a kind of conversant ability, an adequacy. And I think that’s what we want to achieve. And I would say, I want that regardless of someone’s specialty. Again we don’t say the only people who can vote, or join the military, or go into the Peace Corps are IR majors. So I would—again, my goal would be that—I’ll actually expand my answer.
I think there’s three things that every young person leaves when they leave a high school or a college campus. I think they need the basic critical skills, critical thinking, reading, writing, some math abilities, ability to collaborate. So those basic skills. Second of all, I think they need a degree of civics, as we used to call it. I get very uneasy when people don’t understand American democracy, because I think in order to perpetuate American democracy we can’t just assume that the DNA of a democratic society automatically transmits and is passed on from generation to generation. I think we got to work at that.
And thirdly, I would want someone to have a basic grounding in the world. Think about it, anyone now who’s in high school or college, the were essentially born at the turn of the century. And if they live a normal life, God willing, their life will essentially track the twenty-first century. So I think it’s now incumbent on us—and if I were a parent with a kid at that age—to think about, OK, I’m going to send them to this school, and it’s going to be paid for out of my tax dollars or out of extra money—I would like to make sure that when he or she leaves this institution he or she, again, has at least a basic grounding. They have the basic intellectual skills. They’ve got some understanding of American democracy, and they’ve got some understanding of the world.
And so whether that’s accomplished through dedicated courses or whether it’s a little bit here, a little bit there, we can argue about. But I would think probably you need a degree of dedication. If the butter is spread too thin on the bread it will never really get done. So my guess is, whether it’s a course, workshop, summer experiences, what have you, and kind of conversations coming together, but one way or another I would want to make sure, if I were running an academic institution at either the high school, community college, four-year college level—I would want to make sure that every student had those three clusters—critical skills, domestic democracy civics, and grounding in the world—under his or her belt when they got that piece of paper saying that they were a graduate.
FASKIANOS: OK. I’m not sure we—I know we’re not going to get to everybody, so my apologies to you all.
Danille—sorry—Ezra Suleiman next. And then we will go to Danille Taylor in Atlanta. Ezra’s mic needs to be unmuted.
STAFF: Ezra, please accept the unmute prompt on your screen.
All right. Irina, we can go to the next question.
FASKIANOS: Yes. Let’s go to Danille Taylor, please.
Q: Yes. Can you—oh, OK.
FASKIANOS: Oh, Ezra, go ahead.
Q: Oh, OK. I was intrigued by—you started by talking by something that’s always been known, that Americans are in general ignorant about the world and don’t want to know about it, because America was so powerful, and et cetera, et cetera. And things have changed, obviously. I mean, a few people knew about it. As in most countries you had an elite that run—that ran everything. And so they knew about it. But things have changed. Now, you know, education is much more available, people go to college. You don’t have that small elite anymore. But other things have changed, which—particularly, I think, the way in which international relations is conceived of. In other words, you don’t have people teaching in the universities today—like in the old days Kissinger and Morgenthau, those kind of people, who talked actually about the kinds of things you’re talking about, and you would like more people to talk about.
But the way in which it starts now, and I’m sure you know, this, is that you are teaching in IR or in political science even, how to study it rather than the actual content of it so that, you know, what’s important is the technicalities of studying it, the building of models, and so on and so forth. You know, most students are not interested really in that but, you know, people flocked Kissinger’s courses and so on.
FASKIANOS: So, Ezra, could you get to your question? Because I want to get—
Q: Yes, my question—sorry.
FASKIANOS: That’s OK.
Q: My question is how do we overcome these difficulties, you see? (Laughter.) That’s the question. If you want them to know—if you want the students to know what, you know, that is a real problem now.
HAASS: Look, I understand. And I have some issues with the overemphasis on either, two things, theory or quantitative analysis. I myself did all my graduate work in the U.K. at Oxford, and there was relatively little of both. There was much greater emphasis on history. And my background in religion and the Middle East. So I had a very different approach.
Look, I expect there will be professors that will resist this. But again, my point is I’m not—if you want to train academic IR specialists, this could simply be one book among many, and the bulk of the emphasis will continue to be on either qualitative analysis or theory. But for 99 percent of the students, that’s not going to do it for them. They don’t need it. They’re not going to go in that direction. So then I think the only way to probably do it is to come up with either parallel readings over summers, or freshmen experience, or general studies, or a friend of mine who’s a dean at a law school has certain things—you know, courses on law for people who don’t want to practice law. So I would think it would be great to have an introductory course on the world where this is going to be the one course you are going to take on it at your high school or university. And I think therefore, you know, I’m glad there are some deans and university—college and university presidents on the call.
But I think at some point universities have to—institutions have to define themselves. And they have to say: What is it we want to make sure that every graduate knows? And so this may not satisfy some of the demands of someone who needs to major in the field or get a doctorate in the field, fine. Won’t hurt them to be exposed to it all the same. I’m mainly interested in the 99.9 percent of students who are not going to become IR majors. I’m trying to get to them, because they’re still citizens, they’re still living in a global world. they have still got to have this grounding and this foundation. And if I could reach a lot of them then I will—then I will die a happy man.
FASKIANOS: All right. The last question goes to Danille Taylor, And please say who you are.
STAFF: Danille, please try to accept the unmute prompt.
Q: I’m sorry. I didn’t have a—I’m Danille Taylor. I didn’t have a question. I think I hit the wrong button. (Laughter.)
HAASS: We have time for one more.
FASKIANOS: We have time for one more. Let’s go to John McLennan (sp) in Missouri, if he’s still in queue. I’m trying to—
HAASS: The great state of Missouri.
FASKIANOS: There you go. I think he might have—all right. Let’s go to Jennifer Prah Ruger.
STAFF: One moment, Irina. There we go.
Q: Hello? Can you hear me? Hello?
FASKIANOS: We can.
Q: Great. Thank you so much. Yeah. I’m from the University of Pennsylvania.
I wondered if you could talk a little bit more about the moral dimension to IR, and your focus on that in the book.
HAASS: I talk a little bit about the goals of foreign policy. And there are different schools of thought. From, you know, peace, but there’s also justice, there’s also humanitarian help. And you get into the conversation about world order, which I have an extensive conversation, there isn’t a consensus on what constitutes order. Is it simply the absence of war? Or you get into the quality of the non-war, the quality of the peace? And that gets into questions, again, of freedom, justice. And there’s no consensus on it. So, again, my goal is not to answer all these questions for individuals but more to lay out the conversation. And so there’s, again, a narrow approach.
Now, let me just make one other thing clear. This is not a book about foreign policy. This is a book about international relations. I may one day write another book which does the same thing on foreign policy, which thinks about some of the basic conversations and debates and all that, about what one promotes in the world. And that’s where, in particular, questions of human rights, democracy, humanitarian help, and all that. So I talk about all these considerations, but I mainly talk about it in the context of order, and how ambitious the notion of world order should be, and a kind of foundational approach.
And then just to complicate it a little more, I talk about some of the tensions in the notion of world order with how then one deals with the question of sovereignty, and that sovereignty and respect for sovereignty is both the basis of world order, but sovereignty can go against exactly what you’re talking about, which is the moral question, if you leave countries alone and you allow them to commit genocide or have terrible things going on within their territory. And how does one resolve that tension? And it really is a dilemma. And the world’s been grappling with it for a long time, in particular over, what, the last fifteen years, since 2005, and the vote in the U.N. General Assembly.
So again, there’s not a—I don’t think there’s a consensus. All you can do is expose people. And part of the- part of the reaction of young people is, wow, this is really interesting but, wow, it’s really complicated. It’s not quite as we linear or straightforward as I thought. Then I’d say, that’s a pretty good—that’s not a bad place for them to have come out. That’s where I come out after all these years. I still think this question of what constitutes order, and how do we preserve the good sides of sovereignty in terms of peace and war yet push back against sovereignty when it comes mean everything from destroying rainforests, to destroying people’s lives. I think that’s a really, really tough and difficult conceptual as well as practical issue.
FASKIANOS: Great. And, Richard, I know we’re out of time, but I just want to have you say—take one minute to talk about why it has been so important to you during your tenure at the Council on Foreign Relations to have us be in the educational space.
HAASS: I’d say two things. One is, the only thing every American has in common is that till the age of sixteen they go to school. And after that, people—you know, some people finish high school, but quite a few don’t go on to college. And then even if you go through college, that still leaves another fifty, sixty years or more of your life for lifelong education. And the Council was traditionally an elite institution which focused on its members and those people who were already part of the foreign policy debate. But that left out around 325 million people. And so I wanted the Council to get more involved in this space because I thought that it simply wasn’t being addressed adequately by schools. Again, in many cases the courses were offered by not required. It certainly wasn’t being addressed adequately by the nightly news. On the internet you can find everything, unfortunately there’s no gatekeepers. There’s no quality controls there.
So I just thought the Council had a social responsibility to essentially become a resource not just for, again, elites or the establishment, people who opted into the foreign policy debate, but I thought we had an obligation to become a resource for a much broader swath of Americans. And I focused on the academic community because I thought that was, along with the religious community, I thought those were the two approaches that would potentially give us the access to the largest number of people in this country.
FASKIANOS: Thank you very much, Richard Haass. We really appreciate it.
HAASS: Thank you, Irina.
FASKIANOS: Thank you to all of you. And I’m sorry we couldn’t get to all of your questions.
I encourage you to follow Richard at @RichardHaass. He has great tweets. You can also visit his book page on CFR.org, and access the accompanying teaching notes there. We will also be sending out, as a follow-up to this call or this webinar, the video and transcript as well as a link to request an exam copy of his book, The World: A Brief Introduction. Thanks to Penguin press, thank you very much for making that available. So you can request a free exam copy to—I should say, free digital exam copy. Given COVID-19 we’re pushing the digital out rather than a hard copy. And you can also get it on Amazon.
If you want to assign this or put this as part of your reading, Dr. Haass is, according to—if he’s available, he could do a webinar for students on campus. So we could talk about that if you email us at [email protected]. And he will also be leading a webinar for students on December 2nd from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. So we have converted our Academic Conference Call series into these webinars. So you’ll see everybody on screen. So those are many opportunities to look forward to.
And in the near term, we have our next Educators Webinar on Wednesday June 3, from 1:00-2:00 p.m. with Christina Paxson, president of Brown University, who will talk about her thoughts on what she’s doing on the Brown campus about opening in the fall or doing distance learning.
So thank you all, again. Thank you, Dr. Haass. We appreciate the leadership at CFR and for being such a thought leader. So thank you all.
HAASS: Thank you. And stay safe and stay well, everyone on this.
HAASS: Thank you.
FASKIANOS: Thank you.