What is your latest book about?
Despite the daily diet of bad news, the United States has a rare opportunity (hence the title) to bring about a world where most people are safe, free, and can enjoy a decent standard of living. This is because the possibility of conflict between today’s major powers is remote, because of American power, and because much of what the United States seeks to achieve (or should seek to achieve) is broadly acceptable to others. My book provides a new foreign policy compass (a proposed doctrine of integration) to help ensure this opportunity is not squandered and argues that while the U.S. does not need the world’s permission to act, it does need the world’s support to succeed if today’s global challenges (nuclear weapons spread, terrorism, disease, climate change, trade protectionism, etc.) are not to overwhelm us.
What is your writing routine?
I have two writing windows during the day: one early in the morning, another in the late afternoon/early evening. I find walking helps me work things out. I try to avoid staring at a blank screen. The ideal condition is not to have a full-time job when you write a book; that said, I don’t know anyone who can write more than four or at most five hours a day.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read drafts out loud. Keep books about ideas short. Choose something else to do with your life if writing brings more pain than satisfaction.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure?
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I’m not sure that “pleasure” is the operative word, but three books that had a large impact on my thinking are Hedley Bull’s “The Anarchical Society,” Henry Kissinger’s “A World Restored” and Hans Morgenthau’s “Politics Among Nations.”
What book are you currently reading?
Rohinton Mistry’s “A Fine Balance.”
Is there a book you wish you had written?
I thought of writing a man’s guide to pregnancy and childbirth, but my wife told me I hadn’t been around enough (I was working in government at the time) to have credibility on the subject.
Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by?
Jane Leavy’s biography of the baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax. It should be required reading in any creative writing class.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
Probably Niccolo Machiavelli.
What book changed your life?
One that comes to mind is Chaim Potok’s “My Name is Asher Lev.” I read it when I was around 12, and it was the first time I sensed how powerful the written word could be.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
My first visit nearly 30 years ago took me south of Dublin along the coast of the Irish Sea. I have never forgotten how beautiful it was when the sun came out.
You’re Irish if
…you think light rain constitutes good weather.