First of all, I am on a roll with my professional reading so far this year. I have another completed book to review and I’m halfway through another already. While it may sound like conceit, I am really impressed with myself so far. I made it a point this year to do a better job of, not just reading, but maximizing my time and so far, so good.
Anyways, The World America Made made was a short look at the policies and decision throughout the history of America, with emphasis on the four most recent presidents, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama. The World America Made also looks at more historical evidence but generally start at the end of World War II when America became a superpower. The book also dives into what America’s role should be in the future and what it must be if we want to maintain our role as a world leader. The author argues that America should be a leader and I found his take to be reasonable, well-thought out, and very rational. Kagan does not believe that America is headed for a massive decline as though we are the next great empire to fall; the Roman analogy is of course used. He describes a world in which America steps back from it’s long-held role and focuses only on America. Kagan believes that America must be a world leader, support its allies, and not fall back into policies isolationism.
There were also things I did not like in The World America Made. The conclusions were a little too subjective and relied too heavily upon an emotional reaction. I looked Kagan and his book up after reading and found that was a common criticism of The World America Made. A lot of the criticism about the book seemed based more upon the author than his writing. Naturally, I did some reading to find out why. Kagan has been an advisor to Sen. John McCain and served on a foreign policy panel for Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. In fact, this book is said to have influenced President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address. The fact the both parties values his opinions spoke highly of him.
The first sentence about Kagan on his wikipedia page states that he is a neoconservative. Now, in all fairness, I only loosely understood the title as I started his bio but I remember that back in college I was debating(or arguing I don’t remember) with someone who got mad and called me a “neocon.” I wasn’t sure what it was but there was definitely a pejorative bite to it so I’ve always assumed it was a bad thing to be. So, I now know that a neoconservative is, basically, a left-leaning person who supports a more interventionist foreign policy. The movement grew from Democrats on the 60s and 70s who did not support their party’s foreign policy stance. Many of the policy makers during the President George W. Bush administration could be considered neocons. Some refer to neocons a Reagan Liberals. Neocons could also be called “liberal hawks” which more recently represented Democrats who supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Knowing this now, I think that probably did describe me in college. As for the negative connotation of the term, there is a whole section on the pejorative usage of the term neocon on the wikipedia article. I recommend checking it out, it’s a good article and it’s never good to wait 15 years to find out if someone called you a mean name. The book is worth a read too. I think it represents a good starting point for understanding the purpose of foreign policy.