Robert Kagan
Born (1958-09-26) September 26, 1958 (age 65)
EducationYale University (BA)
Harvard University (MPP)
American University (PhD)
Political partyRepublican (before 2016)
Independent (since 2016)
SpouseVictoria Nuland
RelativesDonald Kagan (father)
Frederick Kagan (brother)

Robert Kagan (/ˈkɡən/; born September 26, 1958) is an American neoconservative[1] scholar. He is a critic of U.S. foreign policy and a leading advocate of liberal interventionism.[2][3]

A co-founder of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century,[4][5][6] he is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Kagan has been a foreign policy adviser to U.S. Republican presidential candidates as well as Democratic administrations via the Foreign Affairs Policy Board.[7] He writes a monthly column on world affairs for The Washington Post. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kagan left the Republican Party due to the party's nomination of Donald Trump and endorsed the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, for president.[8]

Personal life and education

Kagan was born in Athens, Greece. His father, historian Donald Kagan, was the Sterling Professor of Classics and History Emeritus at Yale University and a specialist in the history of the Peloponnesian War, was of Lithuanian Jewish descent.[9] His brother Frederick is a military historian and author. Kagan has a B.A. in history (1980) from Yale, where in 1979 he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Political Monthly, a periodical he is credited with reviving.[10] He later earned a master of public policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a PhD in American history from American University in Washington, D.C.

Kagan is married to American diplomat Victoria Nuland,[11] who previously served as deputy national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney and assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs in the Obama administration.


In 1983, Kagan was foreign policy advisor to New York Republican Representative Jack Kemp. From 1984 to 1986, 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 to 1988, he served in the State Department Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.[12]

In 1997, Kagan co-founded the now-defunct neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century with William Kristol.[4][6][13] Through the work of the PNAC, from 1998, Kagan was an early and strong advocate of military action in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan as well as to "remove Mr. Hussein and his regime from power."[14][15] After the 1998 bombing of Iraq was announced Kagan said "bombing Iraq isn't enough" and called on Clinton to send ground troops to Iraq.[16] In January 2002, Kagan and Kristol falsely claimed in a Weekly Standard article that Saddam Hussein was supporting the "existence of a terrorist training camp in Iraq, complete with a Boeing 707 for practicing hijackings, and filled with non-Iraqi radical Muslims". Kagan and Kristol further alleged that the September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official several months before the attacks.[17] The allegations were later shown to be false.[18]

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.[19][20][21]

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.[22]

Since 2011, Kagan has also served on the 25-member State Department's Foreign Affairs Policy Board under Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton[23] and John Kerry.[24]

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.[25]

A profile in 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."[26]

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,[27] the confidence in US military power, and a distrust of international institutions.[28] According to Kagan, his foreign-policy views are "deeply rooted in American history and widely shared by Americans".[29]

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."[30][31] In a February 2017 essay for Foreign Policy, Kagan argued that U.S. post-Cold War retrenchment in global affairs has emboldened Russia and China, "the two great revisionist powers," and will eventually lead to instability and conflict.[32]

In October 2018, Kagan said, "Unless are you willing to punish" Saudi Arabia for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, "then they own you."[33]


Kagan is a columnist for The Washington Post.[12] He has also written for The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, World Affairs, and Policy Review.

External videos
video icon Booknotes interview with Kagan on Of Paradise and Power, February 16, 2003, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Kagan on Dangerous Nation, October 18, 2006, C-SPAN
video icon Washington Journal interview with Kagan on Dangerous Nation, October 23, 2006, C-SPAN
video icon Q&A interview with Kagan on Dangerous Nation, Mach 4, 2007, C-SPAN

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." A 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.'[34]

In Dangerous Nation: America's Place in the World from its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the Twentieth Century (2006) Kagan argued forcefully against what he considers the widespread misconception that the United States had been isolationist since its inception. Dangerous Nation was awarded the 2007 Lepgold Prize by Georgetown University.[35]

Kagan's essay "Not Fade Away: The Myth of American Decline" (The New Republic, February 2, 2012)[36] 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."[37] The essay was excerpted from Kagan's 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.[12][38]

Criticism of Donald Trump

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.[39] In May 2016, Kagan wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post regarding Trump's campaign entitled "This Is How Fascism Comes to America".[40] Kagan has said that "all Republican foreign policy professionals are anti-Trump."[41] In September 2021, Kagan wrote a related opinion essay published in The Washington Post by the title, "Our Constitutional Crisis Is Already Here".[42] He continued his criticism of Trump in November 2023 with another essay in The Washington Post titled "A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending."[43]

Select bibliography

External videos
video icon After Words interview with Kagan on The Return of History and the End of Dreams, June 7, 2008, C-SPAN
video icon Q&A interview with Kagan on The World America Made, March 4, 2012, C-SPAN

See also


  1. ^ Hudson, John (June 23, 2016). "Exclusive: Prominent GOP Neoconservative to Fundraise for Hillary Clinton". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on September 25, 2019. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  2. ^ Horowitz, Jason (June 16, 2014). "Events in Iraq Open Door for Interventionist Revival, Historian Says (Published 2014)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on February 4, 2021. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  3. ^ Moyn, Samuel. "Robert Kagan and Interventionism's Big Reboot". New Republic. Retrieved February 18, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Stelzer, Irwin (2004). The neocon reader. New York: Grove Press. p. 312. ISBN 978-0-8021-4193-4. Robert Kagan... Co-founder with William Kristol of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC)
  5. ^ [1] About PNAC
  6. ^ a b PNAC. "Robert Kagan". Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved March 18, 2012. Robert Kagan is co-founder with William Kristol of the Project for the New American Century.
  7. ^ "Foreign Affairs Policy Board - BIOGRAPHY: Robert Kagan". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved June 14, 2022.
  8. ^ Khalek, Rania (July 25, 2016). "Robert Kagan and Other Neocons Are Backing Hillary Clinton". The Intercept. Retrieved August 22, 2023.
  9. ^ "Lion in Winter". April 2002. Archived from the original on August 9, 2007. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
  10. ^ "Robert Kagan '80 follows father but forges own path". Yale Daily News. October 27, 2005. Archived from the original on November 19, 2010. Retrieved November 20, 2010.
  11. ^ "Washington Talk: Briefing; Departing Official (Published 1988)". The New York Times. March 18, 1988.
  12. ^ a b c Steinhauer, Jason (February 21, 2014). "Three-Part Lecture Series at the Kluge Center Looks at Foreign Policy Through the Lens of Realpolitik". Library of Congress. Retrieved February 21, 2014.
  13. ^ "About PNAC". 2009. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  14. ^ Kristol, William; Kagan, Robert (January 30, 1998), "Bombing Iraq Isn't Enough", The New York Times, archived from the original on September 7, 2017, retrieved March 17, 2017
  15. ^ Glenn Greenwald (March 11, 2007). "Why would any rational person listen to Robert Kagan?". Salon. Archived from the original on January 23, 2023. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  16. ^ Robert Kagan (January 30, 1998). "Bombing Iraq isn't enough". Carnegie Endowment. Retrieved March 13, 2023.
  17. ^ Kagan, Robert; Kristol, William (January 21, 2002). "What to Do About Iraq". The Weekly Standard. Archived from the original on May 7, 2019. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  18. ^ Weisman, Jonathan (September 10, 2006). "Saddam had no links to al-Qaeda". The Age. Archived from the original on February 3, 2008. Retrieved September 10, 2006.
  19. ^ "Robert Kagan joins Brookings". Archived from the original on October 11, 2012.
  20. ^ "Profile on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace site". Archived from the original on May 14, 2005.
  21. ^ Robert Kagan, "I Am Not a Straussian", Weekly Standard 11: 20 (February 6, 2006)
  22. ^ Reynolds, Paul (April 29, 2008). "Not the end of history after all". BBC News. Archived from the original on February 24, 2021. Retrieved April 29, 2008.
  23. ^ "Inaugural Meeting of Secretary Clinton's Foreign Affairs Policy Board". Retrieved February 19, 2012.
  24. ^ Current Board Members" Archived May 25, 2019, at the Wayback Machine, State Department webpage. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  25. ^ Bacevich, Andrew (February 5, 2009). "Present at the Re-Creation". Foreign Affairs. Archived from the original on February 2, 2015. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  26. ^ Beaumont, Peter (April 26, 2008). "A neocon by any other name". The Guardian. London: GMG. ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Archived from the original on February 13, 2021. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  27. ^ Micklethwait, John; Wooldridge, Adrian (2004). The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America. Penguin. p. 217. ISBN 978-1-59420-020-5., pages 217–18
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ Colvin, Mark (2004). "America still capable of military strikes: Robert Kagan". Archived from the original on February 24, 2021. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  30. ^ "US: Hawks Looking for New and Bigger Enemies? Archived February 5, 2021, at the Wayback Machine". IPS. May 5, 2006.
  31. ^ Kagan, Robert (April 30, 2006). "League of Dictators?". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 12, 2020. Retrieved September 10, 2017.[third-party source needed]
  32. ^ Kagan, Robert (February 6, 2017). "Backing Into World War III". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on September 13, 2017. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  33. ^ "What Trump can do about Saudi Arabia". The Seattle Times. October 11, 2018. Archived from the original on January 19, 2019. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  34. ^ Daalder, Ivo H. (March 5, 2003). "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Americans Are From Mars, Europeans From Venus (Published 2003)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 9, 2017. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  35. ^ "Georgetown Awards 2007 Lepgold Book Prize". Georgetown University. September 17, 2008. Archived from the original on September 19, 2009.
  36. ^ Robert Kagan (January 11, 2012). "Not Fade Away: The myth of American decline". The New Republic. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved February 19, 2012.
  37. ^ Josh Rogin (January 26, 2012). "Obama embraces Romney advisor's theory on 'The Myth of American Decline'". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on October 21, 2014. Retrieved February 19, 2012.
  38. ^ "The Return of Realpolitik - A Window into the Soul of Anglo-American Foreign Policy, Event Recap". Kluge Center. Library of Congress. Archived from the original on May 14, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ Kagan, Robert (May 18, 2016). "This Is How Fascism Comes to America". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on August 1, 2016. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  41. ^ Khalek, Rania (July 25, 2016). "Robert Kagan and Other Neocons Are Backing Hillary Clinton". Archived from the original on January 23, 2023. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  42. ^ Kagan, Robert (September 23, 2021). "Our Constitutional Crisis Is Already Here". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  43. ^ Kagan, Robert (November 30, 2023). "A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 30, 2023.