Robert Kagan (born September 26, 1958) is an American historian, author, columnist, and foreign-policy commentator. Kagan is often characterized as a leading neoconservative, but prefers to call himself a "liberal interventionist".[1]

A co-founder of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century,[2][3][4] he is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.[5] Kagan has been a foreign policy adviser to U.S. Republican presidential candidates as well as Democratic administrations via the Foreign Affairs Policy Board. He writes a monthly column on world affairs for The Washington Post, and is a contributing editor at The New Republic. Kagan left the Republican Party in 2016 due to what he described as Donald Trump's fascism,[6] and endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Personal life and education

Robert Kagan is the son of historian Donald Kagan, who is Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University and a specialist in the history of the Peloponnesian War. 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 that he is credited with reviving.[7] He later earned an MPP from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a PhD in American history from American University in Washington, D.C.

Kagan is married to the American diplomat Victoria Nuland,[8] who served as Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs in the Barack Obama administration.

Ideas and career

In 1983, Robert Kagan was foreign policy advisor to New York Republican Representative Jack Kemp. From 1984–86, 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 1986–1988 he served in the State Department Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.[9] Kagan co-founded the now-defunct Project for the New American Century with William Kristol in 1997.[2][4][10] 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.[11][12][13][14]

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.[15][16]

Kagan has also served on the 25-member State Department's Foreign Affairs Policy Board under Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton[17] and John Kerry.[18] He is also a member of the board of directors for The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).[19]

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.[20] A profile in the 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".[21] 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,[22] the confidence in US military power, and a distrust of international institutions.[23] Kagan describes his foreign-policy views as "deeply rooted in American history and widely shared by Americans".[24]

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."[25]


Kagan is a columnist for The Washington Post[9] and a contributing editor at The New Republic and The Weekly Standard. He has also written for The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, World Affairs, and Policy Review.

Regarding Kagan's opinion piece "Problem with Powell" (Washington Post July 23, 2000), scholar Guy Roberts states that "the PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan sought to explain core differences" between the positions of the neoconservatives and those of Colin Powell.[26] 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.[27]

Clarence Lusane has described Kagan as blaming Powell "for Saddam Hussein remaining in power" in the Washington Post piece.[28]

In a subsequent opinion piece "Spotlight on Colin Powell" (The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 12, 2002) Kagan praised Powell for "Articulately defending the new Bush Doctrine" and declaring "his support for "regime change" in Iraq..."[29]

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." 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.'[30]

Kagan's book Dangerous Nation: America's Place in the World from its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the Twentieth Century (2006) argued forcefully against what he considers the widespread misconception that the United States had been isolationist since its inception. It was awarded a Lepgold Prize from Georgetown University.[31]

Kagan's essay "Not Fade Away: The Myth of American Decline" (The New Republic, February 2, 2012)[32] 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."[33] That essay was excerpted from his 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.[9][34]

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.[35] In May 2016, Kagan wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post regarding Trump's campaign entitled "This is how fascism comes to America".[6] Kagan has said that "all Republican foreign policy professionals are anti-Trump."[36]

Select bibliography


  1. ^ [1] Events in Iraq Open Door for Interventionist Revival, Historian Says, Jason Horowitz, New York Times, June 15, 2014
  2. ^ a b Stelzer, Irwin (2004). The neocon reader. New York: Grove Press. p. 312. ISBN 0-8021-4193-5. Robert Kagan... Co-founder with William Kristol of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) 
  3. ^ [2] About PNAC
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "Membership Roster - Council on Foreign Relations". Retrieved 2010-11-20. [non-primary source needed]
  6. ^ a b Kagan, Robert (May 18, 2016). "This is how fascism comes to America". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 8, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Robert Kagan '80 follows father but forges own path". Yale Daily News. 2005-10-27. Retrieved 2010-11-20. [better source needed]
  8. ^ "Washington Talk, New York Times, March 3, 1988.
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ "About PNAC". 2009. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  11. ^ Robert Kagan joins Brookings[non-primary source needed]
  12. ^ Profile on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace site[non-primary source needed]
  13. ^ Robert Kagan, "I Am Not a Straussian", Weekly Standard 11: 20 (February 6, 2006)
  14. ^ "Robert Kagan Follows Father but Forges Own Path", Andrew Mangino, Yale Daily News[better source needed]
  15. ^ "Breaking News, World News & Multimedia". 
  16. ^ Reynolds, Paul (2008-04-29). "Not the end of history after all". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-04-29. 
  17. ^ "Inaugural Meeting of Secretary Clinton's Foreign Affairs Policy Board". Retrieved 2012-02-19. 
  18. ^ Current Board Members", State Department webpage. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
  19. ^ "Directors and Staff". The Foreign Policy Initiative. Retrieved 2010-11-20. 
  20. ^ Bacevich, Andrew (5 February 2009). "Present at the Re-Creation". Foreign Affairs. 
  21. ^ Beaumont, Peter (2008-04-26). "A neocon by any other name". The Guardian. London: GMG. ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  22. ^ Micklethwait, John; Wooldridge, Adrian (2004). The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America. Penguin. ISBN 978-1-59420-020-5. , pages 217–18
  23. ^ 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. 
  24. ^ Colvin, Mark (2004). "America still capable of military strikes: Robert Kagan". Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  25. ^ Kagan, Robert (30 April 2006). "League of Dictators?". The Washington Post. [third-party source needed]
  26. ^ Roberts, Guy (13 November 2014). "US Foreign Policy and China: Bush's First Term". Routledge – via Google Books. 
  27. ^ [3] Washington Post, "Problem with Powell", Robert Kagan, July 23, 2000
  28. ^ Lusane, Clarence (2006). Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice: Foreign Policy, Race, and the New American Century. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-275-98309-3. , pages 89–90]
  29. ^ "This is his moment; he has three choices. Which will it be? Spotlight on Colin Powell". philly-archives. 
  30. ^ Ivo Daalder, Books of the Times, March 5, 2003.
  31. ^ "Georgetown Awards 2007 Lepgold Book Prize". Georgetown University. 2008-09-17. 
  32. ^ Robert Kagan (11 January 2012). "Not Fade Away: The myth of American decline.". The New Republic. Retrieved 2012-02-19. 
  33. ^ Josh Rogin (26 January 2012). "Obama embraces Romney advisor's theory on 'The Myth of American Decline'". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2012-02-19. 
  34. ^ "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. 
  35. ^ 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. 
  36. ^ Khalek2016-07-25T16:04:46+00:00, Rania KhalekRania. "Robert Kagan and Other Neocons Are Backing Hillary Clinton". 

External links