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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."
REUTERS

Obama in Berlin. Kagan: "Europeans would never elect someone like (Obama) in their own countries."

Kagan: The two rising powers, China and Russia, are autocracies. They are undoubtedly becoming more aggressive and nationalistic. They will shape the entire international system to suit their purposes, unless democratically minded nations join forces and demonstrate their own collective will to shape the world order.

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 America’s 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.

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1. Failings of the Neocon Visions
wt08 10/30/2008
This piece and the Washington Post Op-Ed piece (Still No. 1) by Robert Kagan provide many opportunities to comment on failed diplomacy. My first reaction were about how the ‘neo-cons’ took over the early foreign affairs and defense agendas of the Bush Administration. Seemingly as the only Super Power remaining, it pushed policies guided apparently by the thought that the US was not answerable to anyone, and Might Makes Right. Still No. 1 is a make-over in several ways revisionist history, but really still fixed on power. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge that millions of Americans took to the streets in the 1960s (or even in this decade), not because we were or are anti-American, but because we have a democracy that allows us to protest policies that go against the common good. ‘Neo-conservative and realists’ policies we know have wreaked havoc and damaged America’s image both at home and abroad. Cheney and the neo-con ilk heavy hands dominated, dictated and always wanted to have their way – to hell with separations of powers provided by the US constitution. Thankfully, it doesn’t work that way for too long in America, no matter how secretive you try to be. America needs strong leadership. Cutting several hundred BILLION US dollars from the defense and intelligence budgets doesn’t mean that American power and prestige will decline. In fact, there is every indication that the reverse is true. There can be a strategic realignment among the allies, a consolidated effort to address the evils causing poverty, infectious diseases, accessible to quality education, corruption, environmental and energy challenges American can be a leader in this effort. Yes, we can, but we all have to play in the same sandbox together!!!
2. Kagan
Ernest Payne 10/31/2008
America is noted for having gated communities that restrict entry to the people living in the community. Mr Kagan lives in the gated community of the closed mind. His view of reality is, to put it politely, bizarre and a prime example of why America will very probably not regain its pre eminence.
3.
WhiteCamry 11/02/2008
Zitat von Ernest PayneAmerica is noted for having gated communities that restrict entry to the people living in the community. Mr Kagan lives in the gated community of the closed mind. His view of reality is, to put it politely, bizarre and a prime example of why America will very probably not regain its pre eminence.
An apartment building is a a gated community that restricts entry to the people living in the building. What's the problem?
4. Ein Titel
mrwarmth 11/04/2008
Zitat von WhiteCamryAn apartment building is a a gated community that restricts entry to the people living in the building. What's the problem?
Germany is one big gated community. Ask any Turkish immigrant.
5. Ein Titel
mrwarmth 11/04/2008
Zitat von wt08This piece and the Washington Post Op-Ed piece (Still No. 1) by Robert Kagan provide many opportunities to comment on failed diplomacy. My first reaction were about how the ‘neo-cons’ took over the early foreign affairs and defense agendas of the Bush Administration. Seemingly as the only Super Power remaining, it pushed policies guided apparently by the thought that the US was not answerable to anyone, and Might Makes Right. Still No. 1 is a make-over in several ways revisionist history, but really still fixed on power. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge that millions of Americans took to the streets in the 1960s (or even in this decade), not because we were or are anti-American, but because we have a democracy that allows us to protest policies that go against the common good. ‘Neo-conservative and realists’ policies we know have wreaked havoc and damaged America’s image both at home and abroad. Cheney and the neo-con ilk heavy hands dominated, dictated and always wanted to have their way – to hell with separations of powers provided by the US constitution. Thankfully, it doesn’t work that way for too long in America, no matter how secretive you try to be. America needs strong leadership. Cutting several hundred BILLION US dollars from the defense and intelligence budgets doesn’t mean that American power and prestige will decline. In fact, there is every indication that the reverse is true. There can be a strategic realignment among the allies, a consolidated effort to address the evils causing poverty, infectious diseases, accessible to quality education, corruption, environmental and energy challenges American can be a leader in this effort. Yes, we can, but we all have to play in the same sandbox together!!!
I think I can explain why the neo-con agenda was so attractive to Bush the younger. I don't believe he was a naif, ensorcelled by evil neocons who gained nefarious influence over his wooly head. On the contrary, I think he was the one who sought them out. The logic here is pretty simple. It was a huge shock to the REpublicans, and to the Bush dynasty, when George H.W. Bush got his ass kicked by Clinton in 1992. The right wing pundits of the time (and not just neocons), offered four reasons for Bush the elder's defeat: 1. He raised taxes when he said he wouldn't. 2. He alienated the religious right and was too secular for them to relate to him. 3. He refused to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam when he had the chance at the end of the Gulf War. 4. He was insufficiently pro-Israel. If you look at that list, and then reverse each "mistake", you have essentially derived the essence and foundation of Bush Jr.'s foreign and domestic policies. Which were to: 1. Relentlessly cut taxes. 2. Climb into bed with the religious right and become one of them. 3. Invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein, under any pretext. 4. Kiss Israel's ass all day, every day. Looked at this way, Bush's policies are actually the result of a rather icy set of logical and political calculations, not impulse or naivete. Which, I think, makes Bush far more overtly machiavellian than he is given credit for. Bush used the neocon agenda because it fit his formula for reversing his father's mistakes. Too bad it didn't work out quite as planned.
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