Robert Kagan's history of 19th-century US foreign policy sees American action as motivated by morality rather than self-interest. As a work of history it is worthless, but it may be of interest to students of neoconservative propagandaby Michael Lind / November 25, 2007 / Leave a comment
Robert Kagan is one of a small group of neoconservative authors who are read because of their influence on the Bush administration. The son of Donald Kagan, a Yale classics scholar and prominent older neoconservative, Robert is the brother of Frederick Kagan, who is credited as one of the architects of Bush’s “surge” in Iraq. Robert has penned various manifestos in favour of unilateral US world domination with William Kristol, editor of Rupert Murdoch’s Weekly Standard and son of Irving Kristol, “godfather of neoconservatism.” Like George W Bush, the son of a president, neoconservatives preach democracy while practicing nepotism.
In his book Of Paradise and Power (2003), Kagan famously explained that Americans are from Mars while Europeans are from Venus. He argued that pusillanimous Europeans, freed from defending themselves by their reliance on US power, like to denounce as reckless militarism what is in fact a tough-minded American appreciation of the power realities of the world. (Kagan’s claims about American and European attitudes were demolished by Miroslav Nincic and Monti Narayan Datta in the summer 2007 issue of Political Science Quarterly. They point out that according to polling data, most liberal, blue-state Americans share “European” attitudes toward force. Kagan’s “American” worldview is no more than that of red-state Republicans.)
Of Paradise and Power was a neoconservative polemic disguised as comparative politics. Dangerous Nation, Kagan’s most recent book, is a neoconservative polemic disguised as a history of US foreign policy from the colonial period to the Spanish-American war of 1898 (a second volume, focusing on the 20th century, is promised). The implicit targets of Of Paradise and Power were Europeans and Americans who criticised the Iraq war and the neoconservative policy of unilateral US hegemony. The implicit targets of Dangerous Nation are those who argue that the Iraq war, and neoconservative strategy in general, represent a departure from US foreign policy traditions, rather than their inevitable and desirable fulfilment.
Consider this paean to the Iraq war, from the conclusion of Dangerous Nation: “Most American historians have been no less condemnatory [than Europeans] of the American decision for war. That the US should have gone to war for abstract reasons—for morality, for humanitarianism, for the liberation of others, and when ‘no vital American interests was involved’—has baffled and disturbed commentators, historians and political scientists. Yet by far the most persuasive interpretation of the war with Iraq is that it was indeed…