Robert Kagan

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Robert Kagan
Robert Kagan Fot Mariusz Kubik 02.jpg
Born (1958-09-26) September 26, 1958 (age 64)
EducationYale University (BA)
Harvard University (MPP)
American University (PhD)
Political partyRepublican (before 2016)
Independent (since 2016)
SpouseVictoria Nuland
RelativesDonald Kagan (Father)
Frederick Kagan (Brother)
Robert Kagan autograph-2.jpg

Robert Kagan (/ˈkɡən/; born September 26, 1958) is an American neoconservative[1] scholar, critic of U.S. foreign policy, and a leading advocate of liberal interventionism.[2]

A co-founder of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century,[3][4][5] he is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Kagan has been a foreign policy adviser to U.S. Republican presidential candidates as well as Democratic administrations via the Foreign Affairs Policy Board.[6] He writes a monthly column on world affairs for The Washington Post. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kagan left the Republican Party due to the party's nomination of Donald Trump and endorsed the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, for president.

Personal life and education[edit]

Kagan was born in Athens, Greece. His father, historian Donald Kagan, the Sterling Professor of Classics and History Emeritus at Yale University and a specialist in the history of the Peloponnesian War, was of Lithuanian Jewish descent.[7] His brother, Frederick, is a military historian and author. Kagan has a BA in history (1980) from Yale, where in 1979 he had been Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Political Monthly, a periodical he is credited with reviving.[8] He later earned a Master of Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a PhD in American history from American University in Washington, D.C.

Kagan is married to American diplomat Victoria Nuland,[9] who served as deputy national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the Biden administration since April 2021,[10][11] and previously as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in the Barack Obama administration. Nuland held the rank of Career Ambassador, the highest diplomatic rank in the United States Foreign Service. She is noted for her criticism of Russian policies.

Ideas and career[edit]

In 1983, Kagan was foreign policy advisor to New York Republican Representative Jack Kemp. From 1984 to 1986, under the administration of Ronald Reagan, he was a speechwriter for Secretary of State George P. Shultz and a member of the United States Department of State Policy Planning Staff. From 1986 to 1988, he served in the State Department Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.[12]

In 1997, Kagan co-founded the now-defunct neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century with William Kristol.[3][5][13] Through the work of the PNAC, from 1998, Kagan was an early and strong advocate of military action in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan as well as to "remove Mr. Hussein and his regime from power".[14][15] In January 2002, Kagan and Kristol falsely claimed in a Weekly Standard article that Saddam Hussein was supporting the "existence of a terrorist training camp in Iraq, complete with a Boeing 707 for practicing hijackings, and filled with non-Iraqi radical Muslims". Kagan and Kristol further alleged that the September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official several months before the attacks.[16] The allegations were later shown to be false.[17]

From 1998 until August, 2010, Kagan was a Senior Associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He was appointed senior fellow in the Center on United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution in September 2010.[18][19][20]

During the 2008 presidential campaign he served as foreign policy advisor to John McCain, the Republican Party's nominee for President of the United States in the 2008 election.[21]

Since 2011, Kagan has also served on the 25-member State Department's Foreign Affairs Policy Board under Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton[22] and John Kerry.[23]

Andrew Bacevich referred to Kagan as "the chief neoconservative foreign-policy theorist" in reviewing Kagan's book The Return of History and the End of Dreams.[24]

A profile in The Guardian described Kagan as being "uncomfortable" with the 'neocon' title, and stated that "he insists he is 'liberal' and 'progressive' in a distinctly American tradition".[25]

In 2008, Kagan wrote an article titled "Neocon Nation: Neoconservatism, c. 1776" for World Affairs, describing the main components of American neoconservatism as a belief in the rectitude of applying US moralism to the world stage, support for the US to act alone, the promotion of American-style liberty and democracy in other countries, the belief in American hegemony,[26] the confidence in US military power, and a distrust of international institutions.[27] According to Kagan, his foreign-policy views are "deeply rooted in American history and widely shared by Americans".[28]

In 2006, Kagan wrote that Russia and China are the greatest "challenge liberalism faces today": "Nor do Russia and China welcome the liberal West's efforts to promote liberal politics around the globe, least of all in regions of strategic importance to them. ... Unfortunately, al-Qaeda may not be the only challenge liberalism faces today, or even the greatest."[29][30] In a February 2017 essay for Foreign Policy, Kagan argued that U.S. post-Cold War retrenchment in global affairs has emboldened Russia and China, "the two great revisionist powers," and will eventually lead to instability and conflict.[31]

In October 2018, Kagan said: "Unless are you willing to punish" Saudi Arabia for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, "then they own you."[32]


Kagan is a columnist for The Washington Post.[12] He has also written for The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, World Affairs, and Policy Review.

Regarding Kagan's July 2000 opinion piece "Problem with Powell", Guy Roberts stated that "PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan sought to explain core differences" between the positions of the neoconservatives and those of Colin Powell.[33] In that piece, Kagan wrote,

The problem with Powell is his political and strategic judgment. He doesn’t believe the United States should enter conflicts without strong public support, but he also doesn't believe that the public will support anything. That kind of iron logic rules out almost every conceivable post-Cold War intervention.[34]

Clarence Lusane has described Kagan as blaming Powell "for Saddam Hussein remaining in power" in the Washington Post piece.[35]

In a subsequent opinion piece "Spotlight on Colin Powell" (The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 12, 2002) Kagan praised Powell for "[a]rticulately defending the new Bush Doctrine" and declaring "his support for 'regime change' in Iraq".[36]

In 2003, Kagan's book Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, published on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq, created something of a sensation through its assertions that Europeans tended to favor peaceful resolutions of international disputes while the United States takes a more "Hobbesian" view in which some kinds of disagreement can only be settled by force, or, as he put it: "Americans are from Mars and Europe is from Venus." A New York Times book reviewer, Ivo H. Daalder wrote:

When it comes to setting national priorities, determining threats, defining challenges, and fashioning and implementing foreign and defense policies, the United States and Europe have parted ways, writes Mr. Kagan, concluding, in words already famous in another context, 'Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus.'[37]

In Dangerous Nation: America's Place in the World from its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the Twentieth Century (2006) Kagan argued forcefully against what he considers the widespread misconception that the United States had been isolationist since its inception. Dangerous Nation was awarded the 2007 Lepgold Prize by Georgetown University.[38]

Kagan's essay "Not Fade Away: The Myth of American Decline" (The New Republic, February 2, 2012)[39] was very positively received by President Obama. Josh Rogin reported in Foreign Policy that the president "spent more than 10 minutes talking about it...going over its arguments paragraph by paragraph."[40] The essay was excerpted from Kagan's book, The World America Made (2012).

John Bew and Kagan lectured on March 27, 2014, on Realpolitik and American exceptionalism at the Library of Congress.[12][41]

Criticism of Donald Trump[edit]

In February 2016, Kagan publicly left the Republican party (referring to himself as a "former Republican") and endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president and argued that the Republican Party's "wild obstructionism" and an insistence that "government, institutions, political traditions, party leadership and even parties themselves" were things meant to be "overthrown, evaded, ignored, insulted, laughed at" set the stage for the rise of Donald Trump. Kagan called Trump a "Frankenstein monster" and also compared him to Napoleon.[42] In May 2016, Kagan wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post regarding Trump's campaign entitled "This Is How Fascism Comes to America".[43] Kagan has said that "all Republican foreign policy professionals are anti-Trump."[44] In September 2021, Kagan wrote a related opinion essay published in The Washington Post by the title, "Our Constitutional Crisis Is Already Here".[45]

Select bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hudson, John. "Exclusive: Prominent GOP Neoconservative to Fundraise for Hillary Clinton". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  2. ^ Horowitz, Jason (2014-06-16). "Events in Iraq Open Door for Interventionist Revival, Historian Says (Published 2014)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  3. ^ a b Stelzer, Irwin (2004). The neocon reader. New York: Grove Press. p. 312. ISBN 978-0-8021-4193-4. Robert Kagan... Co-founder with William Kristol of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC)
  4. ^ [1] About PNAC
  5. ^ a b PNAC. "Robert Kagan". Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2012. Robert Kagan is co-founder with William Kristol of the Project for the New American Century.
  6. ^ "Foreign Affairs Policy Board - BIOGRAPHY: Robert Kagan". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 14 June 2022.
  7. ^ "Lion in Winter". April 2002. Archived from the original on 2007-08-09. Retrieved 2007-08-19.
  8. ^ "Robert Kagan '80 follows father but forges own path". Yale Daily News. 2005-10-27. Archived from the original on 2010-11-19. Retrieved 2010-11-20.
  9. ^ "Washington Talk: Briefing; Departing Official (Published 1988)". The New York Times. March 18, 1988.
  10. ^ "Victoria Nuland". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2021-09-15.
  11. ^ Mehta, Aaron (2018-01-09). "Victoria Nuland named CEO of Center for a New American Security". Defense News. Retrieved 2021-11-04.
  12. ^ a b c Steinhauer, Jason (21 February 2014). "Three-Part Lecture Series at the Kluge Center Looks at Foreign Policy Through the Lens of Realpolitik". Library of Congress. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  13. ^ "About PNAC". 2009. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  14. ^ Kristol, William; Kagan, Robert (January 30, 1998), "Bombing Iraq Isn't Enough", The New York Times, retrieved March 17, 2017
  15. ^ Glenn Greenwald (March 11, 2007). "Why would any rational person listen to Robert Kagan?". Salon. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  16. ^ Kagan, Robert; Kristol, William (21 January 2002). "What to Do About Iraq". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  17. ^ Weisman, Jonathan (2006-09-10). "Saddam had no links to al-Qaeda". The Age. Retrieved 2006-09-10.
  18. ^ "Robert Kagan joins Brookings". Archived from the original on October 11, 2012.
  19. ^ "Profile on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace site". Archived from the original on May 14, 2005.
  20. ^ Robert Kagan, "I Am Not a Straussian", Weekly Standard 11: 20 (February 6, 2006)
  21. ^ Reynolds, Paul (2008-04-29). "Not the end of history after all". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
  22. ^ "Inaugural Meeting of Secretary Clinton's Foreign Affairs Policy Board". Retrieved 2012-02-19.
  23. ^ Current Board Members", State Department webpage. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
  24. ^ Bacevich, Andrew (5 February 2009). "Present at the Re-Creation". Foreign Affairs.
  25. ^ Beaumont, Peter (2008-04-26). "A neocon by any other name". The Guardian. London: GMG. ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  26. ^ Micklethwait, John; Wooldridge, Adrian (2004). The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America. Penguin. p. 217. ISBN 978-1-59420-020-5., pages 217–18
  27. ^ Fettweis, Christopher J. (2013). The Pathologies of Power: Fear, Honor, Glory, and Hubris in U.S. Foreign Policy. Cambridge University Press. p. 66. ISBN 9781107512962.
  28. ^ Colvin, Mark (2004). "America still capable of military strikes: Robert Kagan". Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  29. ^ "US: Hawks Looking for New and Bigger Enemies?". IPS. May 5, 2006.
  30. ^ Kagan, Robert (30 April 2006). "League of Dictators?". The Washington Post.[third-party source needed]
  31. ^ Kagan, Robert (6 Feb 2017). "Backing Into World War III". Foreign Policy.
  32. ^ "What Trump can do about Saudi Arabia". The Seattle Times. October 11, 2018.
  33. ^ Roberts, Guy (13 November 2014). US Foreign Policy and China: Bush's First Term. Routledge. ISBN 9781317649939 – via Google Books.
  34. ^ [2] Washington Post, "Problem with Powell", Robert Kagan, July 23, 2000
  35. ^ Lusane, Clarence (2006). Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice: Foreign Policy, Race, and the New American Century. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 89–90. ISBN 978-0-275-98309-3.
  36. ^ "This is his moment; he has three choices. Which will it be? Spotlight on Colin Powell". philly-archives. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015.
  37. ^ Daalder, Ivo H. (March 5, 2003). "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Americans Are From Mars, Europeans From Venus (Published 2003)". The New York Times.
  38. ^ "Georgetown Awards 2007 Lepgold Book Prize". Georgetown University. 2008-09-17. Archived from the original on 2009-09-19.
  39. ^ Robert Kagan (11 January 2012). "Not Fade Away: The myth of American decline". The New Republic. Retrieved 2012-02-19.
  40. ^ Josh Rogin (26 January 2012). "Obama embraces Romney advisor's theory on 'The Myth of American Decline'". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2012-02-19.
  41. ^ "The Return of Realpolitik - A Window into the Soul of Anglo-American Foreign Policy, Event Recap". Kluge Center. Library of Congress. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  42. ^ Kagan, Robert (February 25, 2016). "Trump is the GOP's Frankenstein monster. Now he's strong enough to destroy the party". Washington Post. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  43. ^ Kagan, Robert (May 18, 2016). "This Is How Fascism Comes to America". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  44. ^ Khalek, Rania (2016-07-25). "Robert Kagan and Other Neocons Are Backing Hillary Clinton".
  45. ^ Kagan, Robert (September 23, 2021). "Our Constitutional Crisis Is Already Here". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 23, 2021.

External links[edit]