Interview with Neoconservative Scholar Robert Kagan: 'America Remains Number One'
Part 5: 'Europeans Ought to Be Happy to See McCain Win'
SPIEGEL: You want to form a "League of Democracies" to oppose the power of the world's autocrats, something that McCain has included in his proposed government program. What exactly does this mean?
Obama in Berlin. Kagan: "Europeans would never elect someone like (Obama) in their own countries."
SPIEGEL: McCain has indicated that he would like to expel Russia from the G-8 club of leading industrialized nations.
Kagan: Actually, in a way, this is already happening. After Georgia, and now in this economic crisis, the leading nations have been conferring with one another, largely without Russia. The League of Democracies would not replace the United Nations but, rather, complement it in an important way. I would be very much in favor of expanding the UN Security Council to include Japan, Indian, Brazil and Germany. But we have already seen that this sort of thing is bound to fail because the Russians and Chinese veto it.
SPIEGEL: Do you no longer consider Islamic fundamentalism to be an acute risk?
Kagan: I believe that the idea of radical Islam is gradually losing its appeal. But, unfortunately, the risks of terrorism remain very grave.
SPIEGEL: In your book "The Return of History and the End of Dreams," you evoke the return of 19th-century-style, nationally influenced power struggles. But isn't one of the big differences the fact that the world's powers today are so extremely interconnected economically that they can no longer extricate themselves from these dependencies?
Kagan: Despite the current global economic crisis, I believe it is still true that conflicts among major powers usually stem from geopolitical rivalries but rarely from economic competition.
SPIEGEL: One of the biggest problems for the next US president will be figuring out how to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Would you advise McCain to approach the leaders in Tehran with a comprehensive offer to negotiate? Or to bomb the nuclear facilities if the Iranians do not stop their uranium enrichment?
Kagan: I believe that the military option must remain on the table. But an attack is extremely risky. I do not believe that the Iranians will respond to an offer to negotiate, no matter how generous. That's why I see sharper sanctions -- with the threat of more serious action -- as the only alternative.
SPIEGEL: Obama, at least, wants to try to offer the Iranians a great bargain. In the wake of the preventive-war era of George W. Bush, haven't we reached the age of negotiated solutions?
Kagan: You can be sure that Obama will combine his offer of negotiations with tough sanctions. He will call upon the Germans, in particular, to make painful cuts to trade relations.
SPIEGEL: An overwhelming majority of Europeans want to see Barack Obama become president
Kagan: Yes, of the United States, although they would never elect someone like that in their own countries. But I understand the Europeans. I too believe that Obama would be an exciting choice, given Americas history. But also a risky one. He has no foreign policy experience compared with McCain, who has been to Europe dozens of times and is intimately familiar with world problems.
SPIEGEL: Speaking of experience, isn't McCain's choice of a vice-presidential candidate with no understanding of international issues a sign of an excessive willingness to take risks and a lack of judgment?
Kagan: Don't worry too much about Sarah Palin. And, believe me, the Europeans, in particular, ought to be happy to see McCain win. He will approach them, and he will be a positive surprise on questions ranging from global warming to the US's integration into international organizations. So, go ahead and let your heart beat for Obama; but use your head to choose McCain.
SPIEGEL: Dr. Kagan, thank you for this interview.
Interview conducted by Erich Follath in Washington, D.C.
- Part 1: 'America Remains Number One'
- Part 2: 'You Cannot Ackowledge Our Successes in Iraq'
- Part 3: The Legacy of Torture
- Part 4: Re-aligning in Response to Russia and China
- Part 5: 'Europeans Ought to Be Happy to See McCain Win'
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