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Richard N. Haass

Richard N. Haass

American diplomat
Richard N. Haass
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American diplomat
Is Diplomat Educator
From United States of America
Type Academia Politics
Gender male
Birth 28 July 1951, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Age 69 years
Richard N. Haass
The details


Richard Nathan Haass (born July 28, 1951) is an American diplomat. He has been president of the Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003, prior to which he was Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State and a close advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell. The Senate approved Haass as a candidate for the position of ambassador and he has been U.S. Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan. He succeeded George J. Mitchell as the United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland to help the peace process in Northern Ireland, for which he received the State Department's Distinguished Service Award. At the end of 2003, Mitchell Reiss succeeded him as special envoy. In late 2013, Haass returned to Northern Ireland to chair inter-party talks aimed at addressing some of the unresolved issues from the peace process such as parades, flags and "the past".

Early life and education

Richard Haass talks with President of Columbia University Lee Bollinger
Senator Jim Webb, Council on Foreign Relations President Richard N. Haass, former Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, former Senator John Warner, and journalist Andrea Mitchell at Ronald Reagan Centennial Roundtable in 2011

Haass was born in Brooklyn, the son of Marcella (née Rosenthal) and Irving B. Haass. His family is Jewish. He completed a bachelor’s degree at Oberlin College in 1973, and was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, where he completed a master’s degree and doctorate degree in 1978.


Haass served at the Department of Defense from 1979 to 1980, and at the Department of State from 1981 to 1985. From 1989 to 1993, He was Special Assistant to United States President George H. W. Bush and National Security Council Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs. In 1991, Haass received the Presidential Citizens Medal for helping to develop and explain U.S. policy during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.

Haass's other postings include Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, the Sol M. Linowitz Visiting Professor of International Studies at Hamilton College, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and a research associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Throughout the 2008 Presidential campaign, Haass advised several members of both the Republican Party and Democratic Party on issues regarding foreign policy, but did not publicly endorse a candidate due to the Council on Foreign Relations' non-partisan stance.

In September 2013, Haass returned to Northern Ireland, with Professor Meghan O'Sullivan, to chair all party talks on flags, parades and the legacy of the Troubles, after violence flared over the removal of the union flag at Belfast City Hall. The talks broke down on December 31, 2013.

Personal life

Haass lives in New York City with his wife, Susan Mercandetti, and two children.

Foreign policy views

Haass most clearly outlined his foreign policy views in his book The Reluctant Sheriff (1997). In his book, Haass argued that the United States should play the role of international sheriff. Maintaining international order often means “assuming the role of international sheriff, one who forges coalitions or posses of states and others for specific tasks,” Haass writes (Haass 1997, 6). In other words, Haass called on the United States to assume the role of an international sheriff that forges posses of states that worked together to patrol the international system. While Haass argued that the approach would largely benefit the international system, he also made it clear that he intended for the United States to play the role of international sheriff to pursue its own preferences for the world. In the years ahead, “what will prove crucial is the ability of the United States to persuade others to adopt and abide by its preferences – and the will and the ability of the United States to act as a sheriff, to mobilize itself and others to insist on them when resistance emerges,” Haass notes (Haass 1997, 44).

After Haass completed The Reluctant Sheriff, he provided a bolder vision for U.S. foreign policy in his lecture “Imperial America” at the Atlanta Conference in November 2000. In his lecture, Haass argued that the leaders of the United States should adopt “an imperial foreign policy” to construct and manage an informal American empire (Haass 2000). The United States should attempt to “organize the world along certain principles affecting relations between states and conditions within them,” Haass argued (Haass 2000). Providing more details, he pointed to the British empire as his model. “The U.S. role would resemble 19th century Great Britain,” Haass explained (Haass 2000). By following the model of the British empire, Haass believed that the United States could maintain a system of informal control over the world when possible but turn to direct control if necessary. “Indeed, an American empire would have to be informal if it were to succeed if only because American democracy could not underwrite an imperial order that required constant, costly applications of military power,” Haass concluded (Haass 2000).

In a May 2015 interview with BBC's HARDtalk, speaking as President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Haass predicted a new era in world history, in part due to the muting of U.S. dominance by the more diffuse power wielded by states and non-state entities as a result of the proliferation of nuclear arms and cyberterrorism, and several policy failures, which may bring about an "era of disorder" in the absence of any clear superpower. The failures in policy he points to are many of the rationales leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, including the notion that the Iraqi regime had any involvement with the September 11 attacks or terrorism in general, but excluding the prominent intelligence of the time which indicated that Saddam Hussein's regime did most likely possess weapons of mass destruction, a point which he now concedes along with many of his colleagues and the international intelligence community "got wrong". He explained that he believes the existing problems of the region which were exacerbated by the "ill-advised" invasion of Iraq were compounded by subsequent errors, including the withdrawal of U.S. troops carried out under the Obama administration. Another major error, according to Haass, was the failure of the United States and the United Kingdom to intervene after it became clear that chemical weapons had been used during the Syrian civil war, leaving room for the Islamic State to gain a foothold. He has also stated he was against U.S. involvement in the Libyan Civil War, but said that if becoming involved was unavoidable, better follow up was an absolute necessity not fulfilled, resulting in a situation in which the people of Libya are "arguably worse off now than they were under the deeply flawed leadership of Muammar Gaddafi." These seemingly incongruous positions, he argues, demonstrate that consistency, when it comes to foreign relations, "is a bad idea", and that each situation requires a custom-fit approach. Maintaining a consistent interventionist or conversely non-interventionist foreign policy, for example, would be a mistake.

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