Editor’s Note: Robert Kagan, author of
The World America Made
(Knopf 2012), discusses with Christiane Amanpour whether the United States is committing “preemptive superpower suicide,” and examines the consequences of America relenquishing its position as the global leader.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: The thesis of your book is whether America is in decline or not, and you say it is not. But can America afford to have another war, for instance with Iran, as is so much the speculation these days?
ROBERT KAGAN: Obviously, a war is not desirable, and we hope that sanctions will have a result, but I do think that the United States has the capacity to conduct another military affair, we are certainly capable of conducting air strikes and missile strikes from naval vessels and we certainly have that capability. We will have more troops available, we will have pulled out of Iraq, and as you’ve mentioned, they’re drawing down from Afghanistan.
AMANPOUR: Your book obviously is about whether this superpower is in decline, and you talk about preemptive superpower suicide. What do you mean by that?
KAGAN: I believe that the basic indicators of power show that the United States is just as strong as it’s ever been, so people have talked themselves into this notion that we are unable to play the role that we’ve been playing. I think that it’s important for people to remember that the world looks the way it does today, for all its flaws but also all its benefits, because the United States has exerted this influence for the past 60 years.
[Trump has] given Iran the moral high ground and that is an exceptionally difficult thing to do given the history and reality of Iran's misdeeds at home and in the region. It's just malpractice on the part of an American president.
The way the Trump administration is moving forward [with its Iran policy] is just so hostile to all aspects of Iran that it’s unlikely to produce any traction with the Iranian people or to encourage divisions within the system.