État Terrible

We see ourselves as an insular nation, but other countries know otherwise—and are attempting to undermine U.S. global hegemony.

Issue: Sept-Oct 2007

Robert Kagan, Dangerous Nation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), 544 pp., $30.00.

LEADING RUSSIAN political figures, including President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in recent years, have complained many times about the ideologization of U.S. foreign policy and "double standards", almost as if this were a new phenomenon. They are not alone, as authoritarian leaders like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and a host of others have railed against what they see as cynical self-interest rather than democratic ideals driving U.S. policy. But Robert Kagan argues in his book Dangerous Nation that a foreign policy promoting liberal democracy abroad was the founding ideology of revolutionary America going back to the Colonial era. He maintains it is part of the DNA of U.S. political culture, and it will not go away anytime soon despite the apparent quagmire of Iraq and other foibles. This American fixation with liberty and liberalism has survived far more grievous calamities, including the British invasion and subsequent sacking of Washington in 1812 and a devastating civil war.

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