Robert Kagan

Senior Fellow of Foreign Policy, Center for United States and Europe, Brookings Institution
Author, The World America Made

A major voice on the dynamics of global power.

Add to Shortlist

Biography

Robert Kagan is an invaluable voice for audiences that seek to understand the dynamics that are shaping 21st century geopolitics and American foreign and domestic policy. He consistently offers valuable historical context and fresh, often startling, and indispensable insights into the issues that businesses, industries and nations face today. Robert founded The Working Group on Egypt, a group of policy experts aimed at ensuring Egypt’s elections are free and fair.

Kagan was chosen #4 of the 50 Most Powerful Republicans on foreign policy by Foreign Policy magazine. FP calls him 'America's most prominent neoconservative writer, . . . rare public intellectual simultaneously in vogue with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.'

Robert is the author of several bestsellers on foreign policy. His newest book, The World America Made, paints a picture of what the world would look like if America reduced its role as a global leader.

"As a living embodiment of Washington’s bipartisan foreign-policy consensus, Robert Kagan has few peers. The author of the best-selling book The World America Made, Kagan has pulled off the neat trick of impressing the only two men on the planet who have a realistic chance of serving as president of the United States any time soon."
— Salon

His other books include:

  • The Return of History and the End of Dreams, a broad look at all the major international challenges of our time.
  • Dangerous Nation, an award-winning historical analysis of America’s foreign policy traditions. Dangerous Nation won the 2008 Lepgold Prize and was a finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize.
  • Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, famous for the observation, "Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus," a national and international bestseller.

Robert is a Senior Fellow of Foreign Policy at the Center for United States and Europe, Brookings Institution and Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund. He was named to serve on the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on Turkey.

Kagan served in the United States State Department as a deputy for policy in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, and was a member of the policy planning staff as principal speechwriter to the U.S. secretary of state.

Dr. Kagan is listed as one of the world's "Top 100 Public Intellectuals" by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines. He is one of Foreign Policy's 2012 Top 100 Global Thinkers. He writes a monthly column in The Washington Post and is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and The New Republic.

The Working Group on Egypt
Predicting the Egyptian uprising a year ago, Robert Kagan founded The Working Group on Egypt, with Michele Dunne as co-chair, a bipartisan initiative bringing substantial expertise on Egyptian politics and political reform, and aimed at ensuring that Egypt’s elections are free and fair and open to opposition candidates. This consortium of policy experts has pressed the Obama administration to urge Mubarak to make reforms.

America’s Place in the World
In The Return of History and the End of Dreams, Robert Kagan pulls us back from the euphoria that followed the end of the Cold War to the reality that the challenges of nationalism and ideology never really disappeared. He maps the international rivalries that define our immediate future and the role that American leadership could and should play in a world in which the U.S. will remain the sole superpower. This is an extremely valuable message for policy makers and business leaders that hope to chart a secure and prosperous course in the coming years.

In Dangerous Nation, Kagan argues that a policy of aggressive expansion has been inextricably linked with liberal democracy throughout American history. Even before the birth of the nation, Americans believed they were destined for global leadership. Dr. Kagan's "powerfully persuasive, sophisticated …provocative" reexamination (Publishers Weekly, starred review) makes clear why America, from its very beginning, has been viewed worldwide, not only as a wellspring of political, cultural, and social revolution, but as an ambitious and, at times, dangerous nation. Dangerous Nation won the Lepgold Prize in International Relations from Georgetown University.

In his New York Times bestseller, Of Paradise and Power, Robert analyzes the historical causes of the gulf between European and American perspectives on power and the forces that seem to be widening the rift inexorably. The book redefined how we understand European-American relations and helped shape a new debate about America’s role in the world. Of Paradise and Power was on the New York Times bestseller list for ten weeks and the Washington Post bestseller list for fourteen weeks. It was also a bestseller in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Canada and has been translated into more than 25 languages.

Credentials

  • Senior Fellow of Foreign Policy, Center for United States and Europe, Brookings Institution
  • Chairman, World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the United States
  • Member, Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on Turkey
  • Founded, The Working Group on Egypt
  • Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers 2012 and 2009
  • Top 100 Public Intellectuals, Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines
  • Former senior associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; director of the Endowment’s U.S. Leadership Project
  • Member, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Monthly columnist, Washington Post
  • Contributing editor, The Weekly Standard and The New Republic
  • Policy positions in the U.S. Department of State
  • Recipient, Lepgold Prize in International Relations, Georgetown University
  • Member, the Aspen Strategy Group
  • Member, the Trilateral Commission
  • Board of directors, U.S. Committee on NATO
  • Ph.D., American University
  • M.P.P., John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  • B.A., Yale University

Areas of Expertise:
Kagan is an expert on democracy, human rights, U.S. national security and foreign policy, U.S. relations with Russia, China and Europe, the European Union, NATO expansion, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, and Iraq, and the use of force.

Books

The World America Made

Robert Kagan

What would the world look like if America were to reduce its role as a global leader in order to focus all its energies on solving its problems at home? And is America really in decline? Robert Kagan, New York Times best-selling author and one of the country’s most influential strategic thinkers, paints a vivid, alarming picture of what the world might look like if the United States were truly to let its influence wane.   Although Kagan asserts that much of the current pessimism is misplaced, he warns that if America were indeed to commit “preemptive superpower suicide,” the world would see the return of war among rising nations as they jostle for power; the retreat of democracy around the world as Vladimir Putin’s Russia and authoritarian China acquire more clout; and the weakening of the global free-market economy, which the United States created and has supported for more than sixty years. We’ve seen this before—in the breakdown of the Roman Empire and the collapse of the European order in World War I.   Potent, incisive, and engaging, The World America Made is a reminder that the American world order is worth preserving, and America dare not decline.

Knopf (February 14, 2012)

Review

The Big BangThe New York Times

The Return of History and the End of Dreams

Robert Kagan

Hopes for a new peaceful international order after the end of the Cold War have been dashed by sobering realities: Great powers are once again competing for honor and influence. Nation-states remain as strong as ever, as do the old, explosive forces of ambitious nationalism. The world remains “unipolar,” but international competition among the United States, Russia, China, Europe, Japan, India, and Iran raise new threats of regional conflict. Communism is dead, but a new contest between western liberalism and the great eastern autocracies of Russia and China has reinjected ideology into geopolitics. Finally, radical Islamists are waging a violent struggle against the modern secular cultures and powers that, in their view, have dominated, penetrated, and polluted their Islamic world. The grand expectation that after the Cold War the world would enter an era of international geopolitical convergence has proven wrong.

For the past few years, the liberal world has been internally divided and distracted by issues both profound and petty. Now, in The Return of History and the End of Dreams, Robert Kagan masterfully poses the most important questions facing the liberal democratic countries, challenging them to choose whether they want to shape history or let others shape it for them.

Vintage Paperback (May 5, 2009)
Knopf (April 29, 2008)

Reviews

The End of the End of HistoryThe Claremont Institute
Democracy, LimitedThe New York Times
The Return of History & the End of DreamsReal Clear Politics
Not the end of history after allBBC News
The empires strike backThe Economist

Dangerous Nation

America’s Place in the World from Its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the Twentieth Century

Robert Kagan

From the author of the immensely influential and best-selling Of Paradise and Power — a major reevaluation of America’s place in the world from the colonial era to the turn of the twentieth century.

Robert Kagan strips away the myth of America’s isolationist tradition and reveals a more complicated reality: that Americans have been increasing their global power and influence steadily for the past four centuries. Even from the time of the Puritans, he reveals, America was no shining “city up on a hill” but an engine of commercial and territorial expansion that drove Native Americans, as well as French, Spanish, Russian, and ultimately even British power, from the North American continent. Even before the birth of the nation, Americans believed they were destined for global leadership. Underlying their ambitions, Kagan argues, was a set of ideas and ideals about the world and human nature. He focuses on the Declaration of Independence as the document that firmly established the American conviction that the inalienable rights of all mankind transcended territorial borders and blood ties. American nationalism, he shows, was always internationalist at its core. He also makes a startling discovery: that the Civil War and the abolition of slavery — the fulfillment of the ideals of the Declaration — were the decisive turning point in the history of American foreign policy as well. Kagan's brilliant and comprehensive reexamination of early American foreign policy makes clear why America, from its very beginning, has been viewed worldwide not only as a wellspring of political, cultural, and social revolution, but as an ambitious and, at times, dangerous nation.

Vintge Paperback (November 6, 2007)
Knopf (October 10, 2006)

Of Paradise and Power

America and Europe in the New World Order

Robert Kagan

"At a time when relations between the United States and Europe are at their lowest ebb since World War II, this brief but cogent book is essential reading. Robert Kagan, a leading scholar of American foreign policy, forces both sides to see themselves through the eyes of the other. Europe, he argues, has moved beyond power into a self-contained world of laws, rules, and negotiation, while American operates in a "Hobbesian" world in which rules and laws are unreliable and military force is often necessary." Tracing how this state of affairs came into being over the past fifty years and exploring its ramifications for the future, Kagan reveals the shape of the new transatlantic relationship.

Vintage Paperback (January 27, 2004)
Knopf (January 28, 2003)

Topics

Robert tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Dangerous Nation

A discussion of America’s place in the world, past and present. In 1817 America’s minister in London, John Quincy Adams, reported that “The universal feeling of Europe in witnessing the gigantic growth of our population and power is that we shall, if united, became a very dangerous member of the society of nations.... They therefore hope what they confidently expect, that we shall not long remain united.”

Most Americans today would be surprised to know that their nation, even in its infancy, was regarded as a very dangerous nation by most of the rest of the world. Americans have long cherished an image of themselves as by nature inward-looking and aloof, only sporadically and spasmodically venturing forth into the world, usually in response to external attack or perceived threats. This self-image survives despite 400 years of expansion and an ever-deepening involve- ment in world affairs, and despite innumerable wars, interventions, and prolonged occupations in foreign lands. It is as if it was all an accident or an odd twist of fate. Even as the United States has steadily risen to a position of global hegemony, expanding its reach and purview and involvement across the continent and then across the oceans, Americans still believe their nation’s natural tendencies are toward passivity, indifference, and insularity.

This lack of self-awareness has had its virtues. A nation so unaware of its own behavior may seem less threatening than a nation with a plan of expansion and conquest. But it has also been a problem. Americans have often not realized how their naturally expansive tendencies—political, ideological, economic, strategic, and cultural—bump up against and intrude upon other peoples and cultures. They have not anticipated, therefore, the way their expansiveness could provoke reactions, and sometimes violent reactions against them.

And not only have Americans frequently failed to see how their actions could provoke reactions from others. They have not even accurately predicted their own responses. The history of America has been one of repeated surprises, not only at the behavior of others, but at the behavior of the United States in response to the actions of others. Most Americans have believed they did not care what happened in most of the rest of the world, and yet when events occurred, they found that they did care.

The Middle East

Is Arab democracy a threat to Israel? The idea of an Egypt governed by the Muslim Brotherhood sends shivers down spines. Israelis and supporters of Israel in the United States generally agree that the ferment in the Arab world has been a major setback to Israel's interests and look back with some nostalgia to the good old days of Arab dictatorship. But is this assessment correct? All the wars Israel has ever fought in its difficult history have been against Arab dictatorships, not Arab democracies. Today the greatest threat Israel faces is from the theocratic dictatorship of Iran. Would a democratic Egypt, even dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, be more likely to make war on Israel? It seems unlikely, especially with all the immense difficulties Egypt faces both politically and economically. And if a democratic, Muslim Brotherhood-led Egyptian government does preserve peace with Israel, this would be a breakthrough. It would mean that for the first time, a popular Arab government, reflecting the views of Islamists, chose peace and co-existence with Israel over confrontation—in which case the Arab revolutions might turn out to be a blessing for Israel rather than a curse.

The Return of History

Hopes for a new peaceful international order after the end of the Cold War have been dashed by sobering realities: Great powers are once again competing for honor and influence. The world remains "unipolar," but international competition among the United States, Russia, China, Europe, Japan, India, and Iran raises new threats of regional conflict, and a new contest between western liberalism and the great eastern autocracies of Russia and China has reinjected ideology into geopolitics.

How we in the democracies understand and cope with these challenges will shape our future for better or for ill.

Videos

The World America Made | Q & A C-Span

Feedback

A major public educational center:
Bob was great to work with. He’s so funny and self-effacing, it’s hard for even our most liberal audience members not to love him! Thoughtful, well-informed comments about our complicated relationships around the globe. Great response, good book signing, all went well! The morning ran like clockwork.

Thanks for your help with arrangements and for facilitating a rather last-minute invitation. I look forward to our next collaboration.

An international research institute:
Dear Bob — Together we can look back on an exciting and stimulating Food for Thought 1.08 event. It was a great pleasure for us to be able to welcome you.

We have received very positive feedback from our attendees. They all enjoyed listening and talking to you in the intimate and inspiring atmosphere of the hotel. We would like to thank you for your valuable contribution to the success of our event. We hope you had a good time in Switzerland. It was a pleasure to work with you for this event.

A renewable energy company:
Our attendees thought it was one of the best presentations we ever had.

A global recruitment firm:
One of the best speakers they've ever had. His presentation was balanced and thoughtful. One of the members of the board is French and he was particularly impressed with Kagan's historical perspective on the relationship between Europe and the U.S. He was according to the customer "a delight to work with".

A senior executive of a major oil services corporation:
Our senior leadership team thoroughly enjoyed our discussion with Bob. He is an extremely knowledgeable, engaging, and flexible speaker who was happy to give his views on a broad variety of questions and issues beyond our initial outline to meet the interests of members of our team. I hope that we will have an opportunity to continue our discussions with Bob sometime in the future. I know several of our executive team plan to read Bob's Of Paradise and Power as a result of this meeting.

A university audience:
He was fabulous, spectacular, intelligent, sophisticated, phenomenal, professional. He exceeded their wildest expectations, they couldn't get enough of him. Was very "Washington DC" and some of the audience left the program "juiced up."

A non-profit adult education center:
Bob Kagan's presentation was excellent. We had a superb first week, and his lecture has been mentioned by several as the best of the week.

A national CEO council:
Kagan was a hit. The CEO's were very engaged with what he had to say. Judging by the number of questions and hands in the air during Q&A, it would seem that Kagan's remarks were well received by all.