< Distinguished speaker series

Robert Kagan

Stephen & Barbara Friedman Senior Fellow – Foreign Policy, The Brookings Institution

The Collapse of World Order In the 20th Century

DATE: February 28, 2023 6:00 pm

LOCATION: World Trade Center Baltimore

Event information

Robert Kagan’s new book is making waves.

The Ghost at the Feast: The Collapse of World Order in the 20th Century, published last month, is “a monumental book” and “profoundly relevant,” says Suzanne Maloney, the vice-president of the Brookings Institution, where he wrote it.  Historian Paul Kennedy called it “probably the most comprehensive and most impressive recent analysis we have of how America regards the outside world and its own place in it” during the first decades of the 20th century.

This is a new look at America’s rise to world power, and it focuses on the domestic underpinnings of foreign policy. Public opinion matters, and so does Congress, especially on the big questions of war and peace. These factors, combined with America’s geography and economic power are the reasons foreign policy in this country oscillates between internationalism and isolationism.

And that oscillation lulls autocratic foreign powers into underestimating the American response to naked aggression. Hitler did, and so did Japanese leaders in World War II. Neither expected the United States would intervene to prevent the collapse of the liberal world order. The same can be said of Putin when he launched his assault on Ukraine just one year ago.

Dr. Kagan calls this phenomenon “The American Trap.”

His new history supports his contention that America’s best way of relating to the world is less isolationism and more “benevolent hegemony.”  Not everyone will agree, but it’s a perspective worth examining.

Robert Kagan is our guest on Feb. 28 at the World Trade Center.

Please join us for what promises to be a lively conversation!

Robert Kagan is the Stephen & Barbara Friedman Senior Fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. One of his previous books was a New York Times bestseller, The World America Made.  (Knopf, 2012). He is also the author of The Jungle Grows Back:  America and Our Imperiled World (Knopf 2018),  Return of History and the End of Dreams (Knopf 2008), Dangerous Nation: America’s Place in the World Earliest Days to the Dawn of the 20th Century (Knopf 2006),  Of Paradise and Power (Knopf 2003) and A Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990 (Free Press, 1996).

For his writings, Politico Magazine named Kagan one of the “Politico 50” in 2016, the “thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics in 2016.”

He served in the State Department from 1984 to 1988 as a member of the policy planning staff, as principal speechwriter for Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and as deputy for policy in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs. He is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and holds a doctorate in American history from American University.


Robert Kagan 

Kagan Affiliations: 

  • Foreign Policy Initiative, board member 
  • Leigh Speaker’s Bureau, speaker 
  • The Washington Post, monthly columnist 
  • Working Group on Egypt, co-chairman 
  • Served in the Reagan State Department (mid to late 80s)

Kagan Brookings Institute Profile Page


State Department Profile Page 


  • Listed areas of expertise 
    • U.S. National Security and Foreign Policy
    • U.S. Relations with Russia 
    • China and Europe 
    • The European Union
    • NATO expansion
    • The Balkans 
    • Eastern Europe 
    • Iraq

Recent Article on the War in Ukraine and the lack of American involvement on the Global Stage; Jab/Feb 2023


Books written by Kagan 

  • A Twilight Struggle (1996)
  • Present Dangers (2000)
  • Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (2003)
  • Twentieth Century (2006)
  •  The Return of History and the End of Dreams (2008)
  • Dangerous Nation: America’s Foreign Policy from Its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the World America Made (2012)
  • Has Obama Made the World a More Dangerous Place (2015)
  • The Jungle Grows Back: American and Our Imperiled World (2018)
  • The Ghost at the Feast (2022)
  • Everything is at Stake: The Fate of America and what it means for the Rest of us (2023)
  • Everything is at Stake: The Crisis of our Lifetime (2024)

Where to buy any of his books 


Brookings Institute Short Interview with Kagan about his recent book ‘The Jungle Grows Back’


  • Book about foreign policy 
  • Why America’s protectionist tendencies are problematic for world peace
  • Predicting the diminishing of democracy as protectionist tendencies begin to rise around this world
  • This trend he discusses in this book appears frequently in his commentary on other topics 

Book Review on ‘The Jungle Grows Back’


Robert Kagan on CNN discussing U. S’s passive encouragement of Putin’s efforts in Ukraine; January 12th, 2023


  • Key Points: 
    • Lack of U.S. action in Syria, Georgia, and Crimea, emboldened Putin 
    • There are aggressors out there who will act if the U.S. does not show that it will get involved
    • Has the U.S. learned their lesson yet? 

Recent Article for the Wall Street Journal, ‘Challenging the U.S. Is a Historical Mistake’ by Robert Kagan; February 3, 2023 


  • More about his theory that U.S. involvement (or fear of U.S. involvement) deters conflict 
  • He says, “In both world wars, the aggressors believed that the U.S. would not try to stop them and that, even if it did try, it lacked the wherewithal to make a difference in time.”
  • Talks about this concept in relation to China’s potential future invasion of Taiwan 

Robert Kagan’s Recent Articles with the Washington Post Compiled