Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, provides the reader with a comprehensive analysis of our world—a valuable guide for every alert citizen as well as for scholars and students of international affairs ... Although much of what Haass writes should be familiar to readers of major newspapers, many will be enlightened by the author’s descriptions of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and why the US dollar remains the world’s most used currency ... Most controversial is the book’s final section on order and disorder—all the elements of chaos and those that have been integral to the liberal world order. In all these discussions, there is a right-of-center tilt, one that finds comfort in 'realism' and worry about 'idealism.' But the author’s most urgent concern is with the Trump administration and its subjective choices that are neither realist nor idealist.
... a book amounting to International Affairs 101 ... The book eschews any interest in academic theories, which Haass gratuitously dismisses as 'too abstract and too far removed from what is happening to be of value to most of us.' Instead, he promises a practical guide to help everyday people understand global forces in which their lives are increasingly enmeshed, even if they do not always know it or like it ... The result is a fair-minded and thorough, if somewhat bloodless, compendium that, by design, contains little likely to surprise informed readers. Condensing so much complexity into a lucid 400 pages is no small accomplishment, but it’s easy to wonder whether more colorful prose or probing analysis might have better fulfilled Haass’s goal of inspiring interest in his subject ... Haass’s restrained approach does not mean that the book lacks big takeaways ... Haass makes his only really eyebrow-raising move in the final section of his book, where he considers tools like alliances, international law and institutions like the United Nations that governments might use to impose order on a chaotic world. He deals effectively with these topics, demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of each as an order-making possibility. In a curious departure from the cautiously didactic approach he pursues elsewhere, however, he concludes with a plea for renewed American leadership on the world stage, backed by American military muscle, as the best bet for stability and progress in the years ahead...Haass passes too quickly over some of the impediments to realization of such a vision. Does the United States any longer possess either the material strength or international appeal to claim a leadership role? ... Haass views education as the path to the renewal he espouses. But it could be that many Americans, weary of draining overseas commitments and anxious to concentrate on problems closer to home, might weigh the costs and benefits of global activism and make a different choice.
Haass takes a rather middle-of-the-road approach, trying to describe the mechanics of political science and global affairs in a way that provides context and perspective in writing that moves at a lively clip, both compact and inviting. Although he covers all the regions of the world, the lion’s share of the attention goes to, in descending order, Europe, North America, Asia, and everywhere else ... In covering so much territory in so little space, Haass can’t help but do a lot of skimming, though the lacunae are beguiling enough to make readers seek out deeper investigations into certain topics—and the author’s 'Where To Go For More' section is a good start ... A valiant attempt, with many fruitful insights, to help fashion citizens capable of sound independent judgments.
... [a] superficial primer on world affairs ... Haass’s rehash of these topics is cautious, evenhanded, and centrist—he advocates for a prudent but engaged American foreign policy that steers between adventurism and isolationism ... Haas’s broad survey may make a useful introduction for neophytes, but it’s too shallow and conventional to hold much interest for readers who closely follow the news.