A Disillusioned Diplomat on the Prospects for U.S. Imperialism

On an interview with Richard Haass by the “Wall Street Journal”


By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 9 January 2024, www.thecommunists.net




The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) – one of the key newspapers of the U.S. ruling class – has published a highly interesting interview with Richard Haas. Haass has been a foreign policy guru for many years. He was a high-ranking diplomat who served at the Pentagon under Jimmy Carter, at the White House under George H.W. Bush and in the State Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. He was also head of the Council on Foreign Relations – the semi-official think tank of the U.S. State Department – for two decades (until his retirement in summer 2023). [1]


In this interview, Haass offers a disillusioned prospect for the imperialist world order in general and for America’s role as a global hegemon in particular. Since he is not a Marxist but rather a long-standing representative of the most powerful imperialist state, he can neither offer an alternative nor an explanation of the causes of America’s decline. Nevertheless, the interview is highly interesting as it confirms the Marxist thesis of the end of U.S. hegemony from the viewpoint of an “insider”. [2]


At the beginning of the interview, the WSJ asks Haass about his book titled “A World In Disarray” which he had published in 2017. “If the world was in disarray then, what is it now?”. The ex-diplomat replies: “Disarray on Stilts. When the book came out, I was criticized for being too negative. In retrospect, I wasn’t negative enough.


The interview continues: “WSJ: There is a dictators-versus-democracy struggle, a decline in U.S. influence over global affairs, the rise of China. Which of those factors are contributing to this disarray?


HAASS: All of the above: The rise of China, which is not a status quo power, represents a shift in the balance; a truly disaffected Russia with the ability to do something about it, as we’re seeing in Ukraine and elsewhere; a shift in power in various forms moving around the world. The domestic disarray in this country [the U.S., Ed.] has really contributed to it. We’re less able, less willing to act effectively in the world. The gap between global challenges and global responses – there is no international community.


The former diplomat (correctly) identifies the weak domestic industrial sector as one of the causes of the U.S. decline. Our relative position in the world has deteriorated, which, again, is in part because of the buildup of others. We’ve got a real problem with the defense manufacturing base.


Unsurprisingly, he does not identify the reasons why large parts of the domestic industry (and not only in the military-industrial sector!) has been destroyed respectively removed to China and other countries in the Global South. This has been the result of declining profit rates for America’s corporations and the lack of any meaningful state-capitalist regulation – a result of decades of neoliberalism promoted by all the Administrations which Haass loyally served in the past decades.


It is, we note in passing, characteristic that the Putin regime – which combines the domination of oligarchs in the economy with a strong state-capitalist sector (albeit not as strong as China) – has been able to substantially expand its military-industrial sector in the past 1-2 years. Neoliberal America has not been able to achieve similar success, at least until now. [3]




Pushing the Ukraine to capitulate




In his interview with the WSJ, Haass also repeats his position that the Ukraine should accept the loss of 1/5 of its territory and make peace with Putin. “As desirable as it is that Ukraine recover all of its territory, it isn’t going to happen. In part, because Russia can produce a lot more. And, in a pinch, North Korea, Iran, conceivably China would help them out. Ukraine needs to move away from its current strategy. We need to define success as not that Ukraine militarily liberates all of its land, but that Ukraine becomes a permanent fixture. They move away from an offensive strategy, which I believe cannot succeed, to a defensive strategy, which can succeed. My guess is it has to a very different Russia that might be willing to make some trades in exchange for no longer being a political and economic pariah.


As we did discuss somewhere else, this is not only a viewpoint of a foreign policy commentator but the de facto official policy of the Biden Administration. Not only that but Haass himself is leading the U.S. team which undertakes secret negotiations with Moscow about the pacification of the Ukraine War since spring 2023. [4]


Haass’ suggestion that the Ukraine should “wait for a very different Russia” is particularly cynical since he himself says in the same interview, only a few sentences later, that his [Putin’s, Ed.] immediate successor might be worse.” In other words, the former diplomat suggests that the Ukraine should accept the loss of its eastern and southern regions (which is home of the country’s industrial base) for the next one or two decades!


The RCIT has repeatedly warned that the U.S. and Western Europe are not interested at all in the legitimate national rights of the Ukrainian people but only try to utilize their war of national defence in order to advance their own imperialist interests at the cost of their Russian rival. Hence, the Zelensky’s policy of subordination to Western imperialism can not but result in a disaster for the Ukrainian people as it makes the country dependent to the foreign policy manoeuvres of Washington and Brussels. [5]


Socialists have taken an internationalist and anti-imperialist stance in the Ukraine War from its very beginning. We have supported the Ukraine’s war of national defence against Putin’s invasion and called for international solidarity by the workers movement.


At the same time, we have also insisted that the Ukraine War has a dual character. Socialists unreservedly condemn the reactionary invasion of Putin and support the Ukraine’s war of national defence against Russian imperialism. At the same time, we recognize that this war is combined with the accelerating rivalry between NATO and Russia. In this conflict, we support neither of the two imperialist camps. [6]




Israel can not destroy Hamas




Another interesting aspect of Haass’ interview is his pessimistic outlook about stability in the Middle East. At the beginning of the war, President Biden absurdly claimed that “Hamas is worse than ISIS” and announced Washington’s unlimited support for Israel’s genocidal war against the Palestinians in Gaza. However, Haass is not optimistic that Israel can achieve its goal of defeating the Palestinian resistance.


WSJ: The stated goal of the Israeli government is to destroy Hamas. Can Hamas be destroyed?


HAASS: No. It can be seriously weakened or degraded. But Hamas is as much of a network, a movement. You’re always going to have either actual or potential armed resistance.


Haass also recognizes that there is no serious prospect for a stabilization of the Middle East.


WSJ: So what’s the path forward in this conflict? What does an endgame look like?


HAASS: I don’t think there is an endgame right now, because the Israelis have gone in without an endgame. There are two big issues. They can degrade Hamas, and will. They are causing an awful lot of civilian casualties and deaths in the process, which is a separate conversation. But for there to be a real endgame you need a successor governing authority and a security provider. I don’t see either available. The Israelis are going to have to do it.” (…)


WSJ: But you worked inside a U.S. government that, for decades, has said, “No, the answer is the two-state solution.” Is the two-state solution more alive or more dead than it was on Oct. 6?


HAASS: It’s more dead. It’s on life support. And the reason is, as bad as Israeli-Palestinian relations were on Oct. 6, they’re far worse now.


Again, Haass does not and can not offer any perspective as he is committed to the goal of reestablishing U.S. and Israeli hegemony in the region. In fact, there can be no peace as long as the colonial settler state Israel exists as it denies, by its very nature, the Palestinian people the right of national self-determination. The only solution is the revolutionary destruction of the Zionist state and its replacement by a single Palestinian state from the River to the Sea which would allow the right to return of all Palestinians. [7]


Such a state should be democratic and secular, i.e. it would treat all citizens as equal irrespective of their religious or ethnic background. While the Jews would be a minority in such a state, they would have full religious and cultural rights. Such a state has to be a workers and poor peasant republic as part of a socialist federation of the whole region. Only a state which expropriates the monopolies and billionaires can ensure that the Palestinians get back their land and their homes. Only a socialist economy could elaborate a plan to rebuild Gaza and the West Bank and to share the wealth equally among all citizens.


As the Israeli army tries to annihilate the Palestinian resistance and to expel the population from Gaza, the RCIT and all authentic socialists unconditionally support the military struggle led by Hamas against the Zionist invaders without lending political support to their petty-bourgeois nationalist-Islamist program. [8]




The imperialist world order without order and without a hegemon




The interview is a comprehensive confirmation of the Marxist thesis that the hegemonic role of American imperialism has ended. Sure, the U.S. is still one of the two biggest powers – China being the other – and can influence world politics more than most other states. But it does no longer dominate the capitalist world order – in contrast to the historic period since 1945. [9]


As we have argued somewhere else, the U.S. is not being replaced by another hegemon – at least for the foreseeable future. In fact, there is no Great Power which could subjugate the other imperialist states (in contrast to 1945 when the U.S. was able to impose its undisputed leadership in the capitalist camp). [10]


We have rather entered a historic period where several imperialist Great Powers – the U.S., China, Russia, Western Europe and Japan – are rivalling for hegemony. The result of this development is accelerating global instability, wars and economic crisis. The current wars in the Ukraine and in Gaza as well as various other crisis flashpoints (Taiwan and the South China Sea; the Korean Peninsula, Venezuela–Guyana, etc.) are expressions of such tendency.


State propagandists in China and Russia as well as many leftists – in particular various types of Stalinists and social democrats – advocate the concept of a ”multi-polar world order”. They claim that the replacement of the U.S. as the sole hegemon by several Great Powers would create a stable and peaceful world order.


This is utter nonsense. The existence of several capitalist Great Powers, of which none is strong enough to subjugate others, can only result in accelerating rivalry, militarism and wars. The first half of the 20th century has demonstrated this abundantly clear. [11]


Objectively, the concept of a ”multi-polar world order” is a propaganda tool of Eastern imperialism as it glorifies the rise of China and Russia as Great Powers. Socialists must not choose between a world order dominated by one imperialist robber, and one dominated by several imperialist robbers. We never opposed the “unipolar” imperialist world order because it was “unipolar” but because it was imperialist! We don’t choose between an “unipolar” or a “multi-polar” imperialist order – we oppose both equally because all imperialists “are worse”.


For the RCIT and all authentic socialists, the alternative to the “unipolar” imperialist world order is not “multipolarity” but international class struggle against all Great Powers in order to replace any form of the imperialist system by international socialism! Peace, prosperity and stability can only be achieved in a world without robbers, i.e. a world without capitalism!




[1] Gerald Seib: A World in Disarray? A Longtime Diplomat Says It’s Worse Than That. Richard Haass offers his perspective on the wars in Ukraine and Israel, and China’s outlook, Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/world/world-disarray-diplomat-pessimistic-b2dad137. All quotes are from this interview if not indicated otherwise.

[2] See on this e.g. our book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/anti-imperialism-in-the-age-of-great-power-rivalry/

[3] The RCIT has published numerous documents about capitalism in Russia and its rise to an imperialist power. See e.g. this pamphlet by Michael Pröbsting: The Peculiar Features of Russian Imperialism. A Study of Russia’s Monopolies, Capital Export and Super-Exploitation in the Light of Marxist Theory, 10 August 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-peculiar-features-of-russian-imperialism/.

[4] See on this Michael Pröbsting: U.S. Prepares for Sell-Out of Ukraine. On a revealing article by Richard Haass and Charles Kupchan in “Foreign Affairs”, 22 November 2023, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/u-s-prepares-for-sell-out-of-ukraine/; by the same author: Ukraine War: Secret Negotiations between U.S. and Russia Have Started. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with former U.S. diplomats to discuss about the pacification of the conflict, 8 July 2023, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/ukraine-war-secret-negotiations-between-u-s-and-russia-have-started/; Ukraine War: What Does the U.S. Offer in its Secret Negotiations with Russia? Both imperialist camps want to pacify the war and impose a deal which would be a disaster for the Ukrainian people, 31 July 2023, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/ukraine-war-what-does-the-u-s-offer-in-its-secret-negotiations-with-russia/.

[5] See on this e.g. RCIT: NATO Integration: An Imperialist Trap for the Ukrainian People! For a Popular War to defend the Ukraine against Putin’s invasion! No subordination of Ukraine to NATO and EU! Against Russian and against NATO imperialism! 19 June 2023, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/nato-integration-is-imperialist-trap-for-ukraine/.

[6] We refer readers to a special page on our website where all RCIT documents on the Ukraine War and the current NATO-Russia conflict are compiled: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/compilation-of-documents-on-nato-russia-conflict/.

[7] See on this e.g. two books by our comrade Yossi Schwartz, a Jewish Anti-Zionist since nearly six decades living in Occupied Palestine, who has dealt extensively with the Zionist state and the Marxist program: The Zionist Wars. History of the Zionist Movement and Imperialist Wars, 1 February 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-zionist-wars/; Palestine and Zionism. The History of Oppression of the Palestinian People. A Critical Account of the Myths of Zionism, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/palestine-and-zionism/; see also a pamphlet by Michael Pröbsting: On some Questions of the Zionist Oppression and the Permanent Revolution in Palestine, May 2013, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/permanent-revolution-in-palestine/.

[8] We refer readers to a special page on our website where more a number of RCIT documents on the 2023 Gaza War are compiled, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/compilation-of-articles-on-the-gaza-uprising-2023/.

[9] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Imperialism, Great Power rivalry and revolutionary strategy in the twenty-first century, LINKS - International Journal of Socialist Renewal, 1 September, 2023, https://links.org.au/imperialism-great-power-rivalry-and-revolutionary-strategy-twenty-first-century; by the same author: 'Empire-ism' vs a Marxist analysis of imperialism: Continuing the debate with Argentinian economist Claudio Katz on Great Power rivalry, Russian imperialism and the Ukraine War, 3 March 2023, https://links.org.au/empire-ism-vs-marxist-analysis-imperialism-continuing-debate-argentinian-economist-claudio-katz; Russia: An Imperialist Power or a “Non-Hegemonic Empire in Gestation”? A reply to the Argentinean economist Claudio Katz, in: New Politics, 11 August 2022, at https://newpol.org/russia-an-imperialist-power-or-a-non-hegemonic-empire-in-gestation-a-reply-to-the-argentinean-economist-claudio-katz-an-essay-with-8-tables/

[10] Michael Pröbsting: “Can China Replace the U.S. as Hegemon?” - A Misleading Question! On the discussion about the perspectives of the Great Power rivalry, 28 April 2023, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/can-china-replace-the-u-s-as-hegemon-a-misleading-question/

[11] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: “Multi-Polar World Order” = Multi-Imperialism. A Marxist Critique of a concept advocated by Putin, Xi, Stalinism and the “Progressive International” (Lula, Sanders, Varoufakis), 24 February 2023, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/multi-polar-world-order-is-multi-imperialism/