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The World America Made Paperback – January 29, 2013
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“At once a robust defense of the role America plays in world affairs and a determined rejection of the ‘myth’ that America is in decline.”
“Kagan’s writing bristles with insights and ideas.”
“An extended and convincing argument against the thesis that there is anything inevitable about American decline.”
“Accessible, thought-provoking and extraordinary. . . . Robert Kagan has both the foreign policy credentials and political street cred to know from whence he speaks. . . . A book about such a grand topic as global strategy runs two risks. First is making definitive assertions in the face of enormous complexity. . . . The second is imparting too much meaning from historical events. . . . However, Mr. Kagan avoids both traps. He skillfully reasons from a wide breadth of compelling facts that from the end of World War II to today, for better (he believes) or worse, and often with great ambivalence, America has raised the living standards of the world while helping democracy grow and flourish and the democratic world should and will likely want to keep it that way.”
“The book makes the case that the nation’s decline is a myth, a reaction to the financial crisis of 2008 rather than to any genuine geopolitical shifts.”
—The New York Times
“These ideas struck a chord with a President accused of leading a great American retreat.”
“Kagan grabs the reader’s attention from page one. . . . Kagan makes a powerful point: If America were to make a serious effort to disengage in world affairs, the world quickly would devolve into a much more scary and dangerous place.”
—The Augusta Chronicle
“[Kagan] seems to care less about partisanship than about ideas, particularly his advocacy for a powerful American role in the world. . . . The virtue of Kagan’s book is that his ideas and logic are so clearly laid out that readers can see where they agree or disagree.”
—The Washington Post
“Kagan paints with a broad brush, sprinkling a memorable metaphor here, a striking simile there . . . He provides a compelling demonstration that whether it’s protecting the sea lanes vital for free trade or nudging societies toward democracy, the world stands a better chance with America in prime position than with China or Russia in the lead.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“[Marco] Rubio’s foreign-policy views have evidently been recently shaped by a reading of Robert Kagan’s The World America Made, a much-discussed refutation of the now-popular notion of American decline. As a Romney advisor who has penned bedside reading for President Barack Obama, Kagan could plausibly claim to be the most prominently cited writer in Washington right now.”
—Foreign Policy Magazine
“Intelligent, cogent, and timely.”
“Serious, scholarly . . . [These are] ideas expressed clearly and consicely.”
—David Ignatius, Washington Post Writers Group
“The foreign policy blueprint for the next Republican president.”
—Senator Marco Rubio
“Kagan grabs the reader’s attention from page one . . . He makes a powerful point: If America were to make a serious effort to disengage in world affairs, the world quickly would devolve into a much more scary and dangerous place . . . If you have time to read just one book, I suggest Kagan’s.”
—Major General Perry Smith
“Magisterial . . . It’s a small book, it’s a great book.”
“Very important . . . A wonderful book.”
About the Author
Robert Kagan is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist for The Washington Post. He is also the author of The Return of History and the End of Dreams, Dangerous Nation, Of Paradise and Power, and A Twilight Struggle. He served in the U.S. State Department from 1984 to 1988. He lives with his wife and two children.
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Oddly, as I write this review in March of 2014, the Russians have invaded and conquered Crimea and threaten the Ukraine. At the same time the Russians are expanding their territory by force Red China is pressuring Japan and other nations in its orbit for territorial concessions. As the USA pulls back from its position as the leader of the world we see what the world would have been like -and will be like- as America passes from the world stage. Kagan wrote his book in 2012, but now we can see that he was entirely correct. People have not changed in the post-modern era as progressives suggest. As American power declines the world is becoming a very frightening place.
The present US administration, under Obama, has planned to remove the USA from the role of the world's policeman; however, they are doing this without allowing our allies time to rearm and fill the power vacuum. The way to leave a leadership role is to announce that you are going to pull back in 3 years and tell Germany, France, England, Japan, Australia, the Philippines and others to start protecting themselves. Let them know that they have three years to train and supply an army and navy that can protect them because the USA will no longer be there with the amount of force we have displayed in years past. Then withdraw after three years or so and let the chips fall. This administration is pulling out too quickly to allow our allies to respond effectively.
As Kagan points out so well, when America is gone the era of relative peace and tranquility will evaporate as great power politics return to the balance of power ideology that dominated the world from 1600 to 1945 and resulted in many terrible wars. America, far from being an evil presence in the world, was just the opposite - as world events are now proving.
Kagan's basic premise, that world powers and people have not changed, opposes the concept that people have somehow evolved to a new understanding of one another and we need not worry about a repetition of long past insanity. As a historian I can tell the reader that people indeed have not changed in all of human history. Read Kramer's History Begins At Sumer and learn how people thought 4,000 plus years ago. People have not evolved into a new understanding of anything. Our technology advances but our attitudes and actions do not. Kagan makes this point in spades.
An excellent book and a most necessary read in this time of worldwide change.
Of course, it didn't happen (or hasn't happened yet) the way Kennedy had predicted. Japan has been mired in economic and social messes of its own, and the U.S. economy, for all its problems, has retained its position of dominance. Kagan argues, while allowing for scenarios under which the current situation could change, that no other nation, including China, is yet in a position to seriously challenge U.S. military dominance and global thought leadership. He examines China's case, discussing the challenges that great power will need to surmount if it will ever truly share world leadership with the U.S.
Kagan survives as a somewhat conservative fellow at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution, which should tell you something of the man's stature as a top-rank analyst. He writes with Kennedy in mind; interacting openly with Kennedy's 1980's thesis that America, like all the great powers before it, had bankrupted itself due to projecting its power beyond what could be sustained.
Kagan provides his evidence that since the end of WWII, global geopolitics has been operating in a "Pax Americana" (though he does not use that term) that continues to this day, but that will require continued committment, hard work, and yes - sometimes even a compromising of values in selected cases - in order to be sustained.
Through it all, Kagan maintains a very respectful tone toward those who see the world differently from him. People who are sick and tired of the bombast of radio talk-show hosts will appreciate the calm manner with which he states his case. You get the sense that if Bob Kagan lived in your neighborhood, you wouldn't mind sitting in the corner tavern with him over a beer and letting him talk shop.
The book sometimes falls short with providing enough hard evidence that supports Kagan's thesis. This is more of a conversational book that happens to be written by a scholar, than a scholarly book written to refute other scholarly positions. In fairness to Kagan, his goal (or his publisher's goal) may have been to keep the book to a readable length (they've succeeded) and to engage a more casual readership than just the serious student of geopolitics (again, success). Still, there were perhaps half a dozen occasions where I wanted more evidence from Kagan to support his arguments.
But in the final analysis, Kagan has, I think, written an important book that any American - indeed, any world citizen - who likes to think about history and the "march of nations" ought to read. You may not agree with him, but his suggestions about how the national core values of today's leading nations interact to create the peace or conflict we experience, are worthy to consider.