Aug 10, 2022 - Politics & Policy

First look: Richard Haass names America's biggest threat


Cover: Penguin Press

CFR President Richard Haass writes in a preface to his forthcoming book, "The Bill of Obligations," out Jan. 24, that he's often asked: "Richard, what keeps you up at night?"

  • Questioners usually suggest possible answers: Is it China? Russia? North Korea? Iran? Terrorism? Climate change? Cyberattacks? Another pandemic?

Haass' answer often takes them aback: "The most urgent and significant threat to American security and stability stems not from abroad but from within."

  • The threat, he writes, is "from political divisions that for only the second time in U.S. history have raised questions about the future of American democracy and even the United States itself."

"These divisions also make it near impossible for the United States to address many of its economic, social, and political problems or to realize its potential," Haass continues:

The deterioration of our democracy also has adverse consequences for our country’s ability to contend with Russian aggression, a much more capable and assertive China, and a host of other regional and global challenges. ...
[T]he threat to American democracy is not limited to those who stormed the Capitol or the elected officials who cheered them on. An equally serious threat stems from the slow but steady erosion of popular support for democracy’s underpinnings.

Haass tells me one of the book's 10 "habits of good citizens" is: "Put the Country and American democracy before Party or Person."

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