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CFR's Haass Spins "Responsibility to Respond," Nothing on Sri Lanka or Subprime

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 10 -- Twelve stories about the UN Monday night, Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass doggedly urged that US foreign policy pivot from the Middle East to Asia.

  But what about Africa? What about human rights and anti-genocide, the calling card of US President Obama's nominee for US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power? Video here and embedded below.

  Those were the questions Inner City Press asked Haass, before the session at the International Peace Institute ends so he could sell and sign copies of his book, "Foreign Policy Begins at Home."

  Haass answered that while "humanitarian intervention" could be be one element of foreign policy, "others take priority." He said that the Responsibility to Protect, announced at the UN "eight years ago," could not pass today and said he had "one word -- Syria." (Actually, the word should be Libya.)

  He said he is "not an expert" on Africa - but even on Asia, on which Inner City Press asked about Sri Lanka and Myanmar, he did not answer.

  Referring to his book, he said he'd coined a replacement for R2P -- the "Responsibility to Respond." This seemed more than a little circular. But it was time to sell and sign books.

  Afterward a well placed attendee put Haass in context in this way: he replaced Leslie Gelb at CFR as as something of an acceptable Republican, one who had quietly been opposed to the invasion of Iraq and could not abide the "yahoos" working with Bush II.

  Now it seems Haass is more interested in US domestic politics, specifically "entitlements." It seems a strange focus for the head of the Council on FOREIGN Relations -- but then again, Haass has been there ten years. Perhaps it's time to more on.

  He joked that he was in the "next generation" of Bush I advisers, after James Baker - and that he'd join any movement in which he could be the next generation. Just as he said "one word -- Syria," here's one acronym: AARP.

  There were other jokes to begin the program: moderator Warren Hoge called Haass the rare Republican on Martha's Vineyard, and recalled Haass praising a butterfly leg of lamb, but writing off the praise to diplomacy. Haass revisited the praise on Monday night, saying it was in fact pretty good (adding that he is now a vegetarian. Ba-dum-dum.)

  Other questions ranged from hand-wringing about the Decline of the West, or only of the United States, to asking why Haass cares so little for the Middle East. (He predicted a "dark time," but opined that Russia's involvement in Syria is nothing like the "Great Game" going on in Asia.)

  Earlier on Monday, Inner City Press wrote about Haass dismissal of Edward Snowden as "not a whistleblower." When asked by an earlier questioner about matters cyber, Haass called Snowden "reprehensible." We couldn't disagree more -click here.

  We'll close with this: if Haass is so focused on domestic US policies, his analysis of the decline in US growth will have to take into account the subprime meltdown beginning 2008. What have been the foreign policy implications of the harm the US inflicted globally through predatory lending? But that's another book, or series of stories. Watch this site.

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