In This Review

Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order
Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order
By Richard N. Haass
Basic Books, 2013, 208 pp
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Haass argues that although the United States is currently enjoying something of a global strategic respite, the domestic foundations on which American strength depends are under threat. The intelligent thing to do, he reasons, is to use the opportunity to shore up the U.S. economy while pursuing a low-profile, cost-minimizing policy overseas. This is not a book about U.S. decline: Haass believes that a combination of U.S. strength and the weakness of potential rivals offers Washington the luxury of focusing on internal challenges. In a sense, then, this is a book about collecting a peace dividend. More than 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia remains weak. China is not ready to launch a serious power competition with the United States, and violent jihadists are divided among themselves and unable to present a coherent threat. There can be no better time, Haass argues, for the United States to address its slowing dynamism at home. Haass delivers a cogent picture of the world and supports it with sharp and precise arguments. The foreign policy prescriptions are more thoroughly worked out than some of the domestic ideas, but that is to be expected whenever a foreign policy expert looks homeward.