A World in Disarray Book Summary - A World in Disarray Book explained in key points
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A World in Disarray summary

Richard Haass

American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order

4.1 (72 ratings)
18 mins

What is A World in Disarray about?

A World in Disarray (2017) is an overview of the major transformations in global politics since World War Two. These blinks describe an evolution from a non-interventionist order of nation states to one of globalization and international involvement.

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    A World in Disarray
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    Our relative post-war stability resulted from balanced power and the threat of nuclear war.

    If you look back at history, it appears that World War Two was followed by a long, relatively peaceful period. But such apparent calm wasn’t the result of a sudden pacifist turn among world leaders. More accurately, during the Cold War era, which lasted from 1947 to 1991, a global balance of power prevented active conflict.

    For instance, the North Atlantic Treaty allied North American countries with a set of European nations, all of which decided to cooperate militarily through NATO. This agreement meant that an attack on any one of these nations was an attack on them all, a fact that deterred military action from outside the coalition.

    Not just that, but following the war, the United States implemented the Marshall Plan. This package of economic support for the countries of Western Europe, particularly France, Germany and the United Kingdom, was intended to insulate these countries from the growing influence of the communist Soviet Union.

    The power balance achieved through these military and financial agreements acted as a major bulwark against all-out war. When the Soviet Union blocked road and rail access into West Berlin in 1948 due to disagreements about how the divided city should be run, no combat ensued despite the dramatic stand off. Instead, Western countries launched a series of supply drops into the city, with hundreds of planes flying over East Germany and into West Berlin daily.

    However, the greatest safeguard against armed conflict was the existence of nuclear weapons, which significantly reduced the military ambitions of the two major power blocs, the United States and the USSR. After all, both countries recognized that a nuclear confrontation would be unconscionably destructive, and were therefore highly motivated to avoid any direct altercation.

    But this balance of power and the threat of nuclear destruction weren’t the only factors that contributed to stability. In the next blink, we’ll take a look at some other key elements that maintained global peace during this period.

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    Best quote from A World in Disarray

    If nuclear weapons had never been developed, one could make a plausible case that the Cold War would not have stayed cold.

    —Richard Haass
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    About the Author

    Richard Haas is a diplomat, and president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has received the Tipperary International Peace Award for his work in the field. Among others, he has advised Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George H. W. Bush.

    Who should read A World in Disarray?

    • Diplomats and politicians interested in foreign policy
    • Students of international relations, history and politics
    • Historians interested in the wars of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries

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