Along with the Kristols and Podhoretzes, the Kagans are among the conservative dynasties that have sought to influence US foreign policy under the current Bush administration. The siblings Robert and Frederick Kagan were both involved in the now defunct neo-conservative Project for the New American Century that briefly succeeded in throwing all the cards up in the air after 9/11. Robert, based in Brussels with his wife – the US ambassador to NATO – coined the conceit that Americans were Martians to European Venusians, while Frederick, ensconced at the American Enterprise Institute, was the main armchair proponent of the ongoing surge in Iraq. Yet very little of the recent history in which the Kagans played bit parts figures in this book. Instead, it leaps over the messy stuff – mostly involving US imperial hubris – in an alternative narrative that gets us from the irenic delusions of 1989–90 to roughly the dangerous place we are in now. The book is more revealing because of what it omits and skates over, rather than for its perfectly competent summary of the major geopolitical rifts of the foreseeable future.
Kagan begins with the collapse of the delusion that the fall of Communism in Europe and the Soviet Union heralded the neo-Hegelian ‘end of history’ and the neo-Kantian ideal of a ‘world transformed’. Greater economic prosperity, notably in