Robert Kagan, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is a leading scholar of American foreign policy. An expert on transatlantic relationships and diplomacy, he focuses on changes over the past 50 years and their ramifications for the future. His book, Of Paradise and Power, America and Europe in the New World Order(Vintage), is a best-selling explanation of why Americans are more willing to go to war than Europeans.
“On the all-important question of power,” reads one passage from the book, “the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power, American and European perspectives are diverging.” A more populist version of the same point – “Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus” – has already made him famous.
Americans, says Kagan, have a lower level of tolerance for insecurity than Europeans, mainly because we have the military capability to take on enemies. We have power and are willing to use it, particularly after September 11. Kagan believes that Europeans, still traumatized by past world wars and softened by the American protection during the Cold War, have forgotten that it is sometimes necessary to fight to preserve freedom.
Since World War II, Kagan points out, the U.S. has guaranteed Europe’s security, allowing it to focus its energies inward. Europeans are witnessing cooperation among former enemies. Under the umbrella of the European Union, they are “entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity.”
Sparking debate on both sides of the Atlantic, Kagan suggests that the disparity of power has led Europe to duck responsibility for policing terrorists and rogue nations. He compares the U.S. and Europe to two men confronting a dangerous bear, one armed only with a knife and the other with a rifle. The one with the knife will choose to lie low, while the other with the gun will find greater security in trying to shoot the bear.
Kagan writes, “The problem today, if it is a problem, is that the United States can ‘go it alone’ and it is hardly surprising that the American superpower should wish to preserve its ability to do so.” He describes the Bush administration’s foreign policy as realist-nationalist.
Robert Kagan is cofounder, with William Kristol, of the Project for a New American Century. He is also a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard,the New Republic and the Washington Post. Prior to joining the Carnegie Endowment, he worked in the Department of State as a deputy for policy in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs and was a member of the policy planning staff as principal speechwriter for Secretary of State George P. Shultz during President Reagan’s administration. He is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He is married to Victoria Nuland, a career foreign service officer.
Robert Kagan was interviewed at Kentucky Author Forum by award-winning journalist Neal Conan, host of “Talk of the Nation” on NPR. Conan’s show is a news-talk-call-in which reaches three million listeners a week.