Tag Archives: Robert Kagan

Sunbeams From Cucumbers: The View From the Khanate of Kaganstan, by Patrick Armstrong

Like so many people in Washington, the US would be better off if power couple Robert Kagan and Victoria Nuland had never ventured into the nation’s capital; they’ve done far more harm than good. From Patrick Armstrong at strategic-culture.org:

“Putin’s disinformation campaigns” are so clever that they use real information, Patrick Armstrong writes.

We now have the complete set, so to speak. The Khans of the Khanate of Kaganstan have both spoken. The husband in A Superpower, Like It or Not and the wife in Pinning Down Putin: How a Confident America Should Deal With Russia; he, so to speak, is the theorist and she the practitioner. She, Victoria Nuland, is back in power as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. She is, of course, infamous for the leaked phonecall during the Maidan putsch. He, Robert Kagan, is one of the founders of the – what now has to be seen as ill-named – Project for the New American Century.

I mentioned Kagan’s piece in an earlier essay and found it remarkable for two things – the flat learning curve it displays and its atmosphere of desperation. PNAC was started in a time of optimism about American power: it was the hyperpower and nothing was impossible for it. Its role in the world should be, Kagan confidently wrote in 1996, “Benevolent global hegemony”. Washington should be the world HQ:

superpower, love it!

A quarter century later his message is:

superpower, endure it.

Quite a difference. Today “there is no escape from global responsibility… the task of maintaining a world order is unending and fraught with costs but preferable to the alternative”.

Kagan is at a loss to explain his difference in tone, or, more likely, he’s unaware of it. The reason, however, is quite easy to understand – failure. Washington followed the neocons’ advice into disaster: it’s been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for two decades and it’s losing. The forever wars have come home: its economy is fading, its politics are shattered, its debt load is stunning, its social harmony is eroding. It’s not at the top of the hill any more. Brzezinski warned that a Russia-China alliance would be the greatest threat to U.S. predominance but thought it could be averted by skilful diplomacy. Well, as it turned out, U.S. actions (the word “diplomacy” is hardly applicable) drove Moscow and Beijing together and the strong domestic base that they all took for granted is crumbling. And, to a large extent, it has been the neocons, the wars they encouraged, the exceptionalism they displayed, the arrogance they embodied, that has created this state of affairs. Kagan should look in the mirror if he wants to know why Americans’ perception of superpower status changed from exultant opportunity to dreary duty.

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Why Do They Keep Doing It? by Patrick Armstrong

What happens when the indispensable nation discovers it’s not indispensable? From Patrick Armstrong at strategic-culture.org:

In the West, and especially the USA, today, we observe an inability to imagine, understand, come to terms with or tolerate difference.

Einstein is said to have observed that insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting a different result. What a perfect description for U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. Two decades in Iraq and Afghanistan is not enough: keep doing it. Sanctions on Russia haven’t made any difference, keep doing them. Beijing is not the least deterred by “freedom of navigation” cruises, keep doing them. Iran won’t bend to Washington’s will, keep doing the same thing.

One of the ur-neocons figured out what the problem is. Even if he didn’t realise he had: “Robert Kagan Diagnosed America’s Biggest Problem: Americans Who Don’t Want To Run the World“. What’s interesting about Kagan’s piece, actually, is the tinge of depression that runs through it – he’s actually at one of the stages of grief. When the PNAC project was announced in 1997, it was very confident indeed: its founding document – also by Kagan – Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy – laid it out:

What should that role be? Benevolent global hegemony. Having defeated the “evil empire,” the United States enjoys strategic and ideological predominance. The first objective of U.S. foreign policy should be to preserve and enhance that predominance by strengthening America’s security, supporting its friends, advancing its interests, and standing up for its principles around the world.

The enormous web of the global economic system, with the United States at the center, combined with the pervasive influence of American ideas and culture, allowed Americans to wield influence in many other ways of which they were entirely unconscious.

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The Art of Being a Spectacularly Misguided Oracle, by Pepe Escobar

Being a neocon means never having to say you’re sorry or that you were wrong. From Pepe Escobar at lewrockwell.com:

If you doubt anyone could match Zbigniew Brzezinski’s failure to understand Eurasia, consider Robert Kagan

The late Dr. Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski for some time dispensed wisdom as an oracle of US foreign policy, side by side with the perennial Henry Kissinger – who, in vast swathes of the Global South, is regarded as nothing but a war criminal.

Brzezinski never achieved the same notoriety. At best he claimed bragging rights for giving the USSR its own Vietnam in Afghanistan – by facilitating the internationalization of Jihad Inc., with all its dire, subsequent consequences.

Over the years, it was always amusing to follow the heights Dr. Zbig would reach with his Russophobia. But then, slowly but surely, he was forced to revise his great expectations. And finally he must have been truly horrified that his perennial Mackinder-style geopolitical fears came to pass – beyond the wildest nightmares.

Not only Washington had prevented the emergence of a “peer competitor” in Eurasia, but the competitor is now configured as a strategic partnership between Russia and China.

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Robert Kagan Diagnosed America’s Biggest Problem: Americans Who Don’t Want To Run the World, by Doug Bandow

What do you do when you’re a committed imperialist but most of your country is not? From Doug Bandow at antiwar.com:

“All great powers” want to rule the world, declared Robert Kagan, propagandist for America as imperial power, democratic hegemon, aggressive unipower, and perpetual war machine. However, they typically fail. Wrote Kagan in a new Foreign Affairs article: “Much of the drama of the past century resulted from great powers whose aspirations exceeded their capacity.”

The U.S. has a different problem, he contended. The American people. Rather than realize their unique calling to sacrifice themselves and obey their betters when instructed to patrol the globe, they continued to look inward.

They failed to realize that their destiny is to impose order upon independent and subservient, judge innocent and guilty, wage war upon great and small, and, yes, kill anyone who and destroy anything which gets in the way of fulfilling this sacred duty. Instead of focusing on the wishes of Washington, D.C., the world’s imperial city, and rising to the greatness expected of them by supporting the aggrandizements of a globally dominant America, they focused on the local and personal – their careers and educations, their communities and towns, their clubs and associations, and their families and friends.

Yes, he admitted, “they have met the challenges of Nazism and Japanese imperialism, Soviet communism, and radical Islamist terrorism.” However, they saw these efforts as “exceptional responses to exceptional circumstances. They do not see themselves as the primary defender of a certain kind of world order; they have never embraced that ‘indispensable’ role.”

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He Said That? 2/23/15

From Robert Kagan’s book Of Paradise And Power, America And Europe In The New World Order:

America did not change on September 11. It only became more itself. Nor should there by any mystery about the course America is on, and has been on, not only over the past year or over the past decade, but for the better part of the past six decades, and, one might even say, for the better part of the past four centuries. It is an objective fact that Americans have been expanding their power and influence in ever-widening arcs since even before they founded their own independent nation. The hegemony that America established within the Western Hemisphere in the nineteenth century has been a permanent feature of international politics ever since. The expansion of America’s strategic reach into Europe and east Asia that came with the Second World War has never been retracted. Indeed, it is somewhat remarkable to reflect that more than fifty years after the end of that war—a period that has seen Japanese and German enemies completely transformed into valued friends and allies—and more than a decade after the Cold War—which ended in another stunning transformation of a defeated foe—the United States nevertheless remains, and clearly intends to remain, the dominant strategic force in both East Asia and Europe. The end of the Cold War was taken by Americans as an opportunity not to retract but to expand their reach, to expand the alliance they lead eastward toward Russia, to strengthen their relations among the increasingly democratic powers of East Asia, to stake out interests in parts of the world, like Central Asia, that most Americans never knew  existed before.

This is the first paragraph of a section of Mr. Kagan’s book entitled “Adjusting to Hegemony.” It is a straightforward exposition of the US’s supposed global Manifest Destiny, the belief that American can and should dominate the world. SLL finds both the “can” and the “should” quite arguable and recommends a much less grandiose US foreign policy, one that recognizes financial, military, and political limits as well as the historical fate of would-be global hegemonies. However, Mr. Kagan’s short book offers one way to get into the head of an unapologetic and committed US global interventionist. Difficult as it sometimes is, it’s not a bad idea to try to understand your ideological foes. See also today’s SLL guest post from Michael S. Rozeff: “The War Party’s Death Couple: How Kagan + Nuland Peddle Neocon Aggression.”

The War Party’s Death Couple: How Kagan + Nuland Peddle Neocon Aggression, by Michael S. Rozeff

The neocons: often in error, never in doubt. From Michael S. Rozeff at LewRockwell.com, via davidstockman’scontracorner.com:

Why is Victoria Nuland reliably confrontational and antagonistic toward Russia? Why does she push power, force, and military might to the forefront in Ukraine? Why does she risk war with Russia? Why does she even care about Russia’s relations with Ukraine enough to inject the U.S. government into their affairs and conflicts?

Her philosophy is the same as her husband’s, Robert Kagan. One article calls them “THE ULTIMATE AMERICAN POWER COUPLE“. It says “Victoria Nuland and Robert Kagan fell in love ‘talking about democracy and the role of America in the world’ on one of their first dates. It’s a shared passion that hasn’t faded over time.” Presumably that inner quote is from one or both of them.

For a brief profile of Robert Kagan’s ideas, shared by Victoria Nuland, see here. That article contains some criticism of their positions coming from the academic side. It is enough to know that Kagan supports Hillary Clinton in foreign policy and that she appointed Nuland to see that in foreign policy Americans at the moment have no major party presidential choice except more of the same.

Kagan and Nuland advocate U.S. activism and intervention throughout the world. Kagan has always endorsed more and more and more U.S. commitments worldwide. In September, 2003, he endorsed “a ‘generational commitment’ to bringing political and economic reform to the long-neglected Middle East–a commitment not unlike that which we made to rebuild Europe after the Second World War.” (The phrase “generational commitment’ is Condoleezza Rice’s.) The article’s title is “Do what it takes in Iraq”, which is never enough to suit Kagan. This is one of his excuses for why the policies of war and might that he advocates have failed. The U.S. doesn’t try hard enough to suit him. The U.S. tried very, very hard in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, however. It still did not produce what Kagan and Kristol glowingly wanted in any of these countries and in Libya: “American ideals and American interests converge in such a project, that a more democratic Middle East will both improve the lives of long-suffering peoples and enhance America’s national security.” The very opposite has resulted!

The projection of American power and might into these lands has not produced what Kagan and Kristol forecasted would be the result.

http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/the-war-partys-death-couple-how-kagan-nuland-peddle-neocon-aggression/

To continue reading: The War Party’s Death Couple