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Diplomat Richard Haass on the World

Richard Haass posing outside.
Photo provided by Richard Haass.

What began as a mysterious illness springing from a wet market in a Chinese city in December has in six months’ time spread to at least 177 countries, killing more than 521,000 people. COVID-19, perhaps more than any other event in recent memory, has revealed the profound interconnectedness and complexity of our world. It also reveals the immense amount of coordination and leadership needed to tackle global issues that were already bearing down on us, including climate change.

This week, host Roben Farzad welcomes veteran diplomat and President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass to talk about global challenges, what’s needed to meet those challenges and his book The World: A Brief Introduction

“[The pandemic] was all predictable—indeed it was predicted. It wasn’t just me who saw it coming; it was health experts, whose only question was when and where it would start. And then, as is always the case with globalization, things happen, and then where debate steps in—where policy steps in—is how do you respond to it?” -Richard Haass, veteran diplomat and expert on foreign policy 

Later in the show: Roben talks with Ahmed Badr, host of the new podcast Resettled from VPM and author of the forthcoming book While the Earth Sleeps We Travel: Stories, Poetry, and Art from Young Refugees Around the World, along with Angela Massino, Executive Producer of Resettled.




Episode excerpt

The following excerpt was edited for clarity. 


Roben Farzad: So who does the buck stop with regards to diplomacy in this administration? Is it Secretary of State Pompeo?  You were on the show before and we talked about the gutting of the ranks in the State Department.

Richard Haass: Well, there isn't much diplomacy in this administration, let's be honest. You have calls for demilitarization or denuclearization, rather, of North Korea, but that's not diplomacy. We get out of any number of agreements. That's really the rejection of diplomacy. In the case of Iran, we've essentially jettisoned diplomacy for regime change in the Middle East. We've gone from an honest broker to a one sided advocate. The Secretary of State is confrontational rather than diplomatic. The short answer is, this is an administration that gives short shrift to diplomacy even though it ought to be one of the principal tools of national security policy. 

Farzad: What are the checks and balances? What can Congress do, the democratic lead house? What can other members of the intelligence community and the foreign policy committee, may be retired people or people in semi-retirement do to bring out the truth?

Haass: We're still trying to peel back the layers of the onion to understand what exactly happened and didn't happen. We don't know for example, the quality of the intelligence. We don't know exactly how it was briefed or who heard it. We don't know the details of the National Security Council meeting that was convened in order to look at policy options in light of this report. There was a bounty placed on the lives of Americans in a joint Russian Taliban project, allegedly. In terms of what Congress can do, they can put a light on it through hearings and probably they’ll have to be classified or closed. I assume some of it or a lot of it will leak. But at the end of the day Congress can't do a whole lot. The not so deep dark secret of foreign policy is that the Constitution of the United States is incredibly brief when it comes to questions of foreign and defense policy. And what's grown up more through practice and tradition than anything else is a real advantage for the executive branch wasn't invented by Donald Trump. He's just simply the most recent recipient of that advantage. That's the reality. So he will essentially do or not do pretty much what he wants.


Listen Fridays at 2 p.m. on VPM News, 88.9 FM. The show reairs Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 8 p.m. and is available wherever you get your podcasts.



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