The Opportunity: America’s Moment to Alter History’s Course

May 23, 2005

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May 23, 2005— In his new book, The Opportunity, Council President Richard N. Haass 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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The principal reason the 21st 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.

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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. Haass proposes a doctrine of "integration" in which the United States would involve other states and peoples in efforts to deal with the challenges of globalization.

What will it take to get the world’s support? The answer to this question is what makes The Opportunity truly vital reading. Described by the Financial Times as "a hard-edged multilateralist," Haass provides a much-needed foreign policy compass, one with the potential to guide what the United States does in the post-Cold War, post-9/11, post-Iraq world. "Integration," Haass argues, "is the natural successor to containment."

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Publisher’s Weekly said that "Haass has a 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."


"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 21st 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

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"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 world—and 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

Richard N. Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, the preeminent independent foreign policy organization in the world. Previously, he was director of policy planning for the State Department and a principal adviser to Colin Powell. Haass, who held the rank of ambassador, also served as U.S. coordinator for the future of Afghanistan and as the lead U.S. official for Northern Ireland’s peace process. Earlier, he was the senior Middle East advisor to President George H.W. Bush, and served in Ronald Reagan’s State Department and Jimmy Carter’s Pentagon. He now lives with his wife and children in New York City.

Founded in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, national membership organization and a nonpartisan center for scholars dedicated to producing and disseminating ideas so that individual and corporate members, as well as policymakers, journalists, students, and interested citizens in the United States and other countries, can better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other governments. For more information, go to

Ordering Information for
The Opportunity
By Richard N. Haass; Published by PublicAffairs
ISBN# 1586482769; Price: $25.00
On sale: June 2005; Format: Hardcover; Pages: 256


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