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Haass: US?s man for tomorrow

The buzz in Washington is that if John McCain had won the Republican presidential candidacy three years ago, Richard Haass would be the US national security adviser today.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2003 13:26 IST

The buzz in Washington is that if John McCain had won the Republican presidential candidacy three years ago, Richard Haass would be the US national security adviser today. But he couldn't be ignored even then, and was made secretary of state Colin Powell's principal adviser.

It's a measure of his reputation as the US' pre-eminent behind-the-scenes statesman that when Haass left Foggy Bottom this year, he was made head of the US' most influential foreign policy think-tank, the Council for Foreign Relations.

There is almost no international hotspot Haass has not dabbled in.

Keeping a lid on the Balkan powderkeg, Northern Ireland's forever war, setting rules for intervening in Rwanda, preparing blueprints for the rebuilding of Afghanistan and, of course, trying to ensure India and Pakistan "jaw-jaw" rather than "war-war" — Haass has done it all.

The author of nine books on foreign policy and one on public sector management (his opening bit of advice: being intelligent can be a drawback when it comes to getting things done in government), Haas is no peacenik. But he is a quintessential problem-solver who knows the world is complex, policy a labyrinth and power finite.

Haass was alright with going after Saddam Hussein. But he saw it as a "war of choice" not of necessity. He was critical when the generals ignored the meticulous blueprints of the State Department's Future of Iraq Project. He thought backing Iraqi dissident Ahmed Chalabi was silly. "The aftermath," he said recently, "has proven to be far more expensive in every sense of the world, in terms of human expense, in terms of the financial expense."

However, what he has strongly and forcefully argued for is that a pillar of US grand strategy must be to inject democracy into the Muslim world. Haass is forthright in saying the US is partly to blame for the ballot box deficit among Arabs. But he has no doubts this is the long-term vaccine against Al Qaeda. Just as important, he argues, "America will support democratic processes even if those empowered do not choose policies to our liking."

Laying the foundations on which the sole superpower should construct its foreign policy is what Haass does for a living.

Which is a key reason the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative has invited the US' man for tomorrow to speak about South Asia on December 12 at "The Peace Dividend" conference.

First Published: Dec 11, 2003 20:23 IST