If you're a devoted C-Span viewer like me, you've witnessed a blurrying parade of people named Kagan stomp across your screens the past few years. They show up at endless forums sponsored by neocon front groups like the American Enterprise Institute. Their Wall Street Journal op-eds are read on the Washington Journal morning call-in show. And at this point, network founder Brian Lamb has hosted the entire brood on his Sunday night Q&A interview show.
And since I started learning about them, I have to confess to the guilty pleasure of never missing an appearance. I see the name Kagan on the schedule, and I set aside the time. I like horror movies, and I like the Kagans.
Donald (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Kagan) is the scion of the family. If the Kagans were the model for Father Knows Best, Donald would be Robert Young. An immigrant from Lithuania, Donald is a professor of history at Yale and has a distinguished academic pedigree. Among the books he has authored over the past 40 years are The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, The Archimadean War, On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace, and The Peloponnesian War. Books that don't have the word "war" in the title include The Fall of the Athenian Empire (I think there was a war involved in that), and While America Sleeps, a clarion call to increase spending for war, co-written with son Frederick.
According to his Wikipedia entry, Donald's "Origins of War" course is one of the most popular at Yale, and his seminars focus on topics like Thucydides (war) and Spartan Hegemony (more war).
Oh yes -- he was also a member of the justly notorious Project for a New American Century, the geniuses who first decided it would be a good idea to send our army charging into Iraq. But for the most part, Donald restricts his fascination with slaughter to events of 2,000 years ago. Unfortunately, he reproduced.
Donald's elder son is Robert (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Kagan), a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, but don't let that fool you. Just a little Orwellian doublespeak, be assured -- Robert has warmongering credentials with the best of them. Robert began his career working for Reagan-era Secretary of State George Shultz, a period he later celebrated with his first book -- A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990 (note to Daniel Ortega: This guy's still out there). He took to bullying small countries early, so it's no surprise to discover he was not just a member, but actually co-founder of -- guess -- The Project for a New American Century, the geniuses who, etc., etc.
Robert co-edited a book on geo-politics with William "Wrong About Everything, Every Single Time" Kristol, and he's a contributing editor for both the Weekly Standard and the New Republic. So he promotes war on both sides of the aisle and, he'll have you know, he's no longer content with the small stuff. His monthly Washington Post columns have recently warned us against going soft on Russia and China. Oh boy. I guess he's sort of a proselytizer of war -- taking it where it hasn't been before.
Robert's wife is Victoria Nuland (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Nuland). She is a career foreign service officer and currently our ambassador to NATO, but lest you think that makes her a responsible member of society, here's some reassuring news. Until May 2005, she was Principal Deputy National Security Advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney. That's right -- Scooter Libby's #2, and the May 2005 date is significant, for it was then that Cheney famously said the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes." Bravo, Victoria. Such wise advice.
But in the "failing upward" tradition of the Bush administration, Victoria was then dispatched to NATO, where her duties include managing the expansion of the alliance to the borders of Russia -- how's that going? -- and pulling teeth from our European allies to send to Afghanistan, hopefully with permission to use their guns. But like all the Kagans, she can't keep her pen silent, so she recently wrote a piece for the Post putting the best face she could on the forgotten fiasco, Afghanistan."If we can get it right in the Hindu Kush," she concluded, "we will also be stronger the next time we are called to defend our security and values so far from home."
Which made me think, "But why should we be called to defend out security and values so far from home. Isn't that a bit like doing drive-by shootings in the ghetto to keep my house in the suburbs from being broken into?" But that's bringing common sense into the discussion, and that's not fair. We're dealing with neocons here.
But it's younger brother Frederick (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Kagan) who's most in the news these days. He's considered the "intellectual architect" of the Surge, the war-fighting strategy which has brought such peace to Iraq. Frederick is a resident scholar at AEI where he moderates such forums as "Iraq's Economic Surge" -- oops, that one was cancelled.
But I did watch one of his recent AEI events on C-Span, a Surge progress report featuring fellow infamous war cheerleaders Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack. Let me tell you, the boys of Monty Python used to get some hilarious sketches out of unflappable self-assuredness carried to such absurd extremes. The forum occurred just after the 4,000th American GI died in Iraq -- a milestone which went unmentioned -- and they assured the AEI bobbleheads that catastrophe was sure to ensue if their advice was not followed (as opposed to what happens when their advice is followed).
The whole time I was thinking, "God, I'd like to see one of these murderers in a helmet," but then I looked at Frederick and realized that was kind of ridiculous. Let's just say physical exertion is not his forte. He takes the description "armchair general" to heart. (Still, the other two . . .)
Before anyone important (meaning George Bush) actually started listening to him, Frederick's fairly harmless academic specialties were Napoleon and Russian military history. Napoleon, Russia . . . Is it starting to make sense now? And, oh yes, he was a member of the Project for a New American Century, the geniuses who etc., etc.
But Frederick also took a wife, and she's my most favorite Kagan of them all -- Kimberly. She was the last of the clan to be granted an audience with Brian Lamb, and she won my heart. As those who watch his interviews very often know, Lamb likes to delve into the personal -- what part of the house do you write in, and what time of day, and always questions about the family. Sometimes it's revealing, and that was how I learned the Kagans are all big New York Yankees fans, and the conversation at family get-togethers frequently turns to debates about the strengths and weaknesses of their favorite players.
I found this reassuring. It means if I was ever invited to dinner with the Kagans, there would be at least part of the conversation I did not find nauseating. Don't get me wrong -- I hate the Yankees, but not like I hate war, so I should be able to keep at least a few bites down.