Robert Kagan: "The World America Made"

Robert Kagan: "The World America Made"

Foreign policy strategist Robert Kagan has influenced both Presidents Bush and Obama. He argues America is not in decline: His take on the future of U.S. power in the world.

The economic collapse of 2008, two costly wars, and a gridlocked Congress have led many to conclude that America is on the decline. The rise of China to global superpower status has caused more anxiety and prompted some to predict a “Post-American” world. Foreign policy strategist Robert Kagan disagrees. He says America’s decline is a myth unsupported by the economic and political reality: the United States is still the richest country in the world and has played a singular role in the rising tide of liberal democracies. Robert Kagan on “The World America Made.”


Robert Kagan

senior fellow, Foreign Policy, Brookings Center on the United States and Europe

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Program Highlights

In his new book, "The World America Made," Kagan rejects the notion that the U.S. is in decline. He warns Americans that allowing large-scale military spending cuts is preemptive super power suicide. Robert Kagan joined Diane to talk about why he thinks America is not in decline.

"We're As Powerful As We've Been Since World War II"

We're constantly seeking renewal, Kagan said, which in his view is one of the most positive characteristics of our nation. He thinks the challenges we're facing as a nation now are overstated. "I believe that if you look at our power, in terms of our military power, in terms of our economic power, our share of the world's growth, and in terms of our political influence, I think that we're as powerful as we've been since World War II."

The Fragility Of The Democratic Process

The "explosion of democracy" we've seen since WWII, Kagan said, is an anomaly in human history. In 1941, there were about a dozen democracies. Today, there are about 115. "It's not just the natural product of human evolution much as we might like to think so. That is based on the fact that the balance of power in the world has favored the democracies, the balance of power which is fundamentally built around the United States and its democratic allies," he said. If we see a weakening of the U.S., though, which includes an autocratic China and Russia, Kagan thinks we will see that balance shift.

The Size Of The Defense Budget

Kagan thinks the Obama administration's proposed cuts to the defense budget could be catastrophic for the U.S. military and have the potential to severely weaken the role we've been performing in the world. We have to be careful and not think the defense budget is the place to solve our
fiscal crisis because the cuts that we make in defense are a drop in the bucket compared to our overall deficit, Kagan said. "It's entitlement spending that drives that," he said. The damage the proposed cuts could do to our military capacity, he believes, would be significant.

Support For The Iraq War: Hindsight

"I make mistakes. But I can only call it the way I see it," Kagan said of his support for the Iraq War. Today, he doesn't think it was a mistake to go in, but he doesn't agree with the way the war was conducted. The Bush administration and Donald Rumsfeld, he said, were looking for a rapid way out. "They were looking to do it on the cheap, and we paid a very high price for that," Kagan said.

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