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Richard Haass book A World in Disarray, was published five years ago

The book’s thesis was that the Cold War’s end did not usher in an era of greater stability

Some criticized the book at the time as being unduly negative and pessimistic. In retrospect, the book could have been criticized for its relative optimism. The world is a messier place than it was five years ago – and most trends are heading in the wrong direction.

Climate change has advanced. The world is already more than 1° Celsius warmer than it was at the start of the industrial revolution and is on course to get warmer. Extreme weather events are more frequent. Fossil fuel use is up.

Governments have pledged to do better. Their performance remains to be seen; in some cases, including China and India, the world’s two most populous countries, the pledges are noteworthy for their lack of ambition and urgency. 

Nuclear proliferation continues

US-China relations have deteriorated rapidly

President Vladimir Putin, seemingly ensconced in power for the foreseeable future, is set on stopping or, if possible, reversing NATO’s reach.

Democracy is in retreat in much of the world

The United States is in greater disarray internally than it was five years ago. 

This internal reality has in turn accelerated America’s pullback from global leadership after three-quarters of a century. No other country is able and willing to assume this role.

Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, author, most recently, of The World: A Brief Introduction (Penguin Press, 2020)


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