Robert Kagan is a senior fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution. He is a contributing columnist at The Washington Post and was recently listed as one of the 50 most influential thinkers in America by Politico magazine.
An author of many critically acclaimed books on American foreign policy, Robert’s newest release, The Ghost at the Feast, is the second installment in what will soon become the Dangerous Nation trilogy. 2006’s Dangerous Nation is an exploration of the founding of America and the origins of its global influence. The Ghost at the Feast, called “an insightful study of the birth of the American empire” by Kirkus, continues the conversation with a look into America’s position — or lack thereof — in the wars and foreign conflicts of the early 20th century and the country’s resultant status as a global superpower.
Robert’s book, The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World (Knopf, Sept 2018), is a brilliant and visionary argument for America's role as an enforcer of peace and order throughout the world — and what is likely to happen if we withdraw and focus our attention inward.
His previous books include, the New York Times bestseller, The World America Made (Knopf, 2012), The Return of History and the End of Dreams (Knopf 2008), Dangerous Nation: America’s Place in the World from its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the 20th Century (Knopf, 2006), Of Paradise and Power (Knopf, 2003), and A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990 (Free Press, 1996).
Kagan serves as a member of the secretary of state’s foreign affairs policy board. He served in the State Department from 1984 to 1988 as a member of the policy planning staff, as principal speechwriter for Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and as deputy for policy in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs. He is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and holds a doctorate in American history from American University.
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. Kagan was #4 of the 50 Most Powerful Republicans on foreign policy by Foreign Policy magazine. He writes a monthly column in The Washington Post and is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.
- Senior Fellow of Foreign Policy, Project on International Order and Strategy, Brookings Institution
- Chairman, World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the United States
- 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.
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.
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.
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 involvement 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.
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
Dear Bob — Together we can look back on an exciting and stimulating Food for Thought 1.08 event. It was a great pleasure