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Author Kagan: US Has as Much Worldwide Clout Now as Ever

By    |   Tuesday, 07 February 2012 01:57 PM

America’s influence on the world is just as great now as ever — despite a perception that the country is weaker, author Robert Kagan tells Newsmax.TV.

People who think otherwise are looking back through rose-tinted spectacles to a time that never existed when the United States could order other countries around, said Kagan, an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

But there is a danger if military spending is slashed that U.S. influence could be cut from underneath us, Kagan said in the exclusive Newsmax.TV interview.

Story continues below video.

“A lot of this talk about decline is inaccurate. It’s based on some mythical sense of how powerful we used to be,” said Kagan, whose new book, “The World America Made” hit bookshelves Tuesday.

“People say we can’t get what we want in the world, we can’t order others to do what we want them to do. That was never true, if you look back.

“Even at the time we were supposed to be the strongest, in the immediate years after the Cold War, we had all kinds of difficulties in getting others to do what we wanted to do.

“If you look at the size of the American economy we are still roughly a quarter of the world’s share of GDP, our military is obviously much more powerful than any other and our overall influence remains greater than any other power.

“I don’t buy the decline myth in terms of whether we’re in decline now.”

President Barack Obama counts himself among the neoconservative author’s fans. He was heard quoting an article that Kagan wrote for the New Republic based on his book. Obama’s words during his State of the Union address could have been ripped from its pages. “Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” the president said.

But Kagan still criticized Obama’s policies, especially when it comes to plans to cut military spending, which, he said, are “highly irresponsible, especially at a time when, if anything, the dangers and the difficulties that the world is producing are as great — if not greater — than ever.”

“The notion that the president and others in the administration have said that the tide of war is receding is highly naïve and not historically grounded,” said Kagan, a Washington Post columnist and senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.

“We are seeing conflicts in the Middle East, we have a potential conflict with Iran, and at this time, people are cutting the defense budget. Why?

“It’s almost a token effort just to say we are trying to deal with our deficits when the defense budget makes up only a tiny portion of it, so I really worry, not only about the cuts that have already been made, but the cuts that will be made if the sequester goes through,” he said, referring to the $54.7 billion the Pentagon is set to lose if no deal can be worked out to reduce the national debt.

Americans take their nation’s power for granted, Kagan said. Without it, there would not have been the spread of democracy over the past 20 years, nor the “almost unprecedented” lack of major worldwide combat we have seen for two-thirds of a century.

“If you saw a decline in either American power or in America’s willingness to play that role, you would see a return to a past situation where perhaps the economic order would break down and we would see something that was a little bit more like the ’20s and ’30s.”

The interest in isolationism, which Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential run has highlighted, is based on a mistaken belief, Kagan said.

“People like Ron Paul are seizing on the deficits as an excuse but the real reason is they just don’t want the United States involved in the world.

“He’s been making the same argument for decades now, regardless of the American fiscal situation and it stems from a real failure of understanding of how the world works and not realizing the very important role the United States plays.”

The last remaining dictatorships in the world are banding together to protect themselves, Kagan said, adding that this is why Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a handover of power in Syria and have come to the defense of Iran.

“Obviously, these two dictatorships see themselves in a struggle against the democratic world. That’s why they stick up for other dictators — whether in Syria or Iran or elsewhere. Vladimir Putin now sees Assad as a sort of soulmate, another dictator under siege, so he’s defending him.”

Kagan said he sees no reason that the United States doesn’t do at least as much to help the Syrian opposition as it did in Libya.

“Syria is of far greater strategic importance. It’s Iran’s last ally. It’s Iran’s link to Hezbollah and other radical groups in the Middle East. It would be a very sizeable gain for the United States if the Assad regime were to fall.”

Kagan said he believes there is a “reasonable probability” of war between Iran and either the United States or Israel, but he said it is not inevitable.
“We should give the sanctions as much chance to work as possible but be very clear-headed about what needs to be done if they fail.

“It sends a very poor signal when we are trying to convince the Iranians that their alternative is facing military action when we are cutting our defense budget and saying that the era of war is receding, so it is very important that Iran understands that there is a potential of military conflict down the line, which they will not win.”

Editor’s Note: To get a copy of Robert Kagan’s new book, “The World America Made,” at a good price at Amazon — Go Here Now.

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