Originally published in National Interest on 5/31/13
Richard Haass’s new book, Foreign Policy Begins at Home, should delight realists. His strong case that we should put our own house in order is neither isolationist nor declinist. On the contrary, he persuasively shows that United States continues to be the indispensable nation: as he puts it, if the United States will not provide leadership for the world order, no other nation stands ready to take over. Nor is there a contradiction between focusing on shoring up the nation at home and its international role. To maintain its status in the world, the United States must have a strong economy, polity and society.
Haass is not the first to argue that the time has come to focus on nation building at home, but he goes well beyond such general statements by providing a list of particulars, of that which must be done. The list includes reducing not just the deficit but also the debt. This requires cutting defense costs (which Haass holds has been largely achieved), reductions in domestic spending (which he does not mention but has been largely carried out), cutting entitlements and raising revenues. He favors a ratio of 3:1 for cutting spending and raising taxes.
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