A WORLD IN DISARRAY by Richard Haass


American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order
Email this review


A public policy insider mines the nuances of states’ sovereignty and legitimacy in an increasingly unstable world.

Divided into three parts, delineating something of a past, present, and future approach, this systematic work by Council on Foreign Relations president Haass (Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order, 2013, etc.) finds that the bland optimism maintained throughout the Cold War due to the grip of atomic deterrence has been unloosed by new structural and economic forces. For nations big or small, good or bad, these forces increasingly involve internal breakdowns requiring humanitarian intervention and occasionally lead to terrorism. In the first part, the author reaches back to the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) to show how the sovereignty of states was first acknowledged and respected; that order was “based on a balance of power involving independent states that do not interfere with one another’s ‘internal business.’ ” Subsequently, the Congress of Vienna helped to determine the sovereignty of states in the 19th century. While the world wars saw the breakdown of the Westphalian order—in the case of World War I, it was accidental and unintended, a “failure of deterrence and of diplomacy”—the era since 1945 has been transformational, with the former villains Germany and Japan now models of “regime change.” Moving from the Cold War to the present sense of disorder, rife with regional disputes, Haass sees Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the American response as the beginning of troubling new developments (although the author applauds U.S. activism). The push back against Iraq and other trouble spots, where internal brutality prompted international intervention on humanitarian grounds, drove the adoption of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine by the United Nations in 2005. The author concludes his knowledgeable but overlong narrative with some predictions for the future—e.g., “mounting debt will hasten the demise of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.”

A highly learned but sometimes-ponderous survey that will appeal to policy wonks. For most readers, a long-form essay would have sufficed.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-399-56236-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Penguin Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2016


NonfictionPUTIN COUNTRY by Anne Garrels
by Anne Garrels
NonfictionTHE END OF THE AMERICAN ERA by Charles A. Kupchan
by Charles A. Kupchan
NonfictionTHE AGE OF THE UNTHINKABLE by Joshua Cooper Ramo
by Joshua Cooper Ramo
NonfictionTHE FUTURE OF FREEDOM by Fareed Zakaria
by Fareed Zakaria