Richard Haass's Alienation From the National Security State
The New York Times just had a gushing profile of Richard Haass called, “To Foreign Policy Veteran, The Real Danger is At Home.”
Two different people flagged it for me with a comical comment along the lines of, “Haass is your fanboy!”
Hardly. I’m not mentioned in the piece, and while I’ve published a string of pieces in the journal for which he’s been responsible—Foreign Affairs—I’m far from the first person to see international security today as a problem bizarrely tied to the pathologies of American politics.
More importantly, as Spencer Ackerman notes, Haass:
thinks the biggest danger to the world is the United States. But he doesn't mean it in the way that's, y'know, true.
Prior to becoming a regular on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Haass kept a very low profile for someone who headed the world’s most famous think tank.*
Haass is a case study of how wrong we as a country can go by grafting classical realism onto American exceptionalism. The profile piece gives a sense that he is personally lost, alienated from both the national security state he helped steward and the global wreckage he helped rationalize while serving in government.
Yet he can find no alternative route to redemption.
The problem here is that Haass can’t bring himself to condemn his past or the behavior of his powerful elite milieu. Until he does, he can’t suggest serious ways to prevent the worst of history from repeating itself. And without atonement or self-reflection, his truth—as well as his hope for civics-as-solution—is well-meaning pablum.
Let me explain.
*I’m not a CFR member, but I was an International Affairs Fellow at CFR from 2014-2015, have participated in at least one of their policy task force reports, and have written for the organization at least once. I also continue to write for their journal, Foreign Affairs.