If Europeans are from Venus, and Americans from Mars, where’s Trump from?

Robert Kagan, the neoconservative writer on foreign policy, was in the Washington Post yesterday announcing his defection from Donald Trump and embrace of Hillary Clinton:

For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.

That’s got centrist Democrats like Jonathan Chait excited. Not only because Kagan is/was a prominent Republican and supporter of George W. Bush but also because Kagan doesn’t treat Trump as a GOP aberration but as the logical outgrowth of the Republicans’ opposition to Obama, which Kagan admits has a lot to do with bigotry and racism, and their general penchant for lawlessness and xenophobia.

But before anyone gets too excited about this column, it’s worth reading it carefully. For there’s one word you won’t find anywhere in it: Iraq.

And there’s a reason for that.

Along with William Kristol, Kagan was the founder of the Project for a New American Century back in 1997. Cheney, Rumseld, and Wolfowitz were prominent backers. Kagan supported a much more militaristic foreign policy than Bill Clinton was willing to front, and as I argued in The Reactionary Mind, that critique of Clinton—that he was somehow decadent and materialistic because he wasn’t willing to go full-on neocon—became a leading mantra of neoconservatism at the turn of the century. The culmination of that critique was not only the War on Terror but the Iraq War, with its full-throated embrace of regime change—no matter how much it was founded on faulty empirical premises (otherwise known as lies) or illegal maneuvers—and humanitarian warfare. The basic goal was for the United States to embrace its role as imperial hegemon.

In 2003, Kagan wrote a book called Of Paradise and Power. The oft-quoted punchline of that book was that Europeans were from Venus, Americans from Mars. Europeans were peace-loving, flaccid, conflict-averse, treaty-bound, subtle, nuanced, feminine, weak. Just like Venus herself. Americans were warlike, impatient with international rules and orders, clear, masculine, strong. Like Mars. It wasn’t hard to guess which god Kagan was more partial to. (Indeed, the one criticism of Obama that Kagan is willing to countenance as fair is that Obama hasn’t been sufficiently robust in his foreign policy.)

If you don’t think that that kind of rhetoric is not being rehearsed now and repeated today in Trump’s campaign, that Trump is not channeling or sublimating the full-throated militarism and revanchism that was unleashed by the George W. Bush Administration—even though Trump may now criticize the Iraq War—you weren’t paying attention then. Or you’re not paying attention now.


  1. Xor (@CartoonDiablo) February 26, 2016 at 1:02 pm | #

    But at what level does attitude subsume some kind of reality? If Trump came out and said “we’re gonna fund THE SH*T out of inner-city schools!” I don’t think his followers would take too kindly.

  2. brunssd February 26, 2016 at 1:20 pm | #

    Perhaps Kagan realizes that the neocon Weltanschauung will be an easier sell with a Goldwater Girl with a D after her name at the helm.

  3. Kenyon Brown February 26, 2016 at 1:23 pm | #

    what i think is that this same kind of rhetoric is deeply engrained in HRC’s DNA.

  4. OAKNYC February 26, 2016 at 1:29 pm | #

    Hillary Clinton as the new face of the Republican party.

  5. LFC February 26, 2016 at 1:56 pm | #

    Criminy. I was unaware of this; I guess that’s my punishment for not reading the WaPo op-ed pages regularly and for being too cheap to take a paid sub to the Post.
    Personally I’m surprised to find Kagan declaring for Clinton. She should be careful not to return the embrace and say nice things about him. (OTOH, she’s already invoked Kissinger’s name favorably — but there’s no reason to compound one mistake with another.)

    p.s. Kagan is also the author of, among other things, a long history of U.S. foreign policy (part or all of which was his history diss. at American Univ.). I think the title is Dangerous Nation or something like that. Haven’t read it.

  6. Raven Onthill February 26, 2016 at 8:25 pm | #

    Myself, I think Trump is a lizard person from Gamma Quadrant.

    I’m realizing Hillary Clinton is going to have a problem campaigning against Trump. She has to answer his claims that illegal immigrants are a major cause of the collapse in wages and jobs. The only honest answer is that the bankers did it, but the bankers are major Clinton backers. So what is she going to do?

    Perhaps the best possible outcome is that Trump returns to Gamma Quadrant and takes the Republican Party with him, Hillary Clinton becomes president and leader of a conservative Democratic Party, and Sanders goes on to found a new leftist party.

    I don’t know about Kagan, but I sure wouldn’t want Venus mad at me. Might end up madly in love with a chimpanzee.

  7. Patrick O'Connor (@primalKoWT) February 26, 2016 at 10:49 pm | #

    Authoritarians are jumping ship and headed for Hillary (a kindred spirit, to be sure). If the GOP can’t restore party order in short order, things are gonna get really strange come November. Like, surreal, eh…

  8. Jason Bowden February 27, 2016 at 11:29 pm | #

    Hillary’s militarism and free trading is historically the norm in the party of Jackson and LBJ. Trump may move the GOP back to its nationalist roots — Hamilton, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower — basically what it was before Saint Reagan and the neoliberals showed up. It isn’t good news for the theocons and neocons, and they aren’t going down without a fight.

    • LFC March 1, 2016 at 6:13 pm | #

      Theodore Roosevelt, iirc, had some serious doubts about the occupation of the Philippines after it happened, but his basic instincts were imperialist and ‘militarist’, so I don’t think you can co-opt TR into your ‘nationalist’ (as you seem to be using the word) pantheon. (Some other puzzles w the comment, but I’ll leave it there.)

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