Robert Kagan makes his case (here, at WaPo) for keeping cuts to US military budget as small as possible. Why? Because America is the indispensable nation - and only American hard power (he seems to scoff at Joseph Nye's "soft" stuff) can be trusted to police the trade routes and keep upstarts like India and China from claiming "spheres of influence" and dragging the world into chaos. Odd, isn't it, that a man who writes histories of the United States doesn't remember when another upstart during the early 19th century declared itself the possessor of a sphere of influence: most of the Western hemisphere. That Monroe Doctrine thing.
By the end of his essay, Kagan even makes a thinly veiled reference to the golden age of the Pax Romana, as if the US must remain the modern incarnation of that.
Puts me in mind of the words the Roman historian Tacitus put in the mouth of the ancient Briton chieftain Calgacus, who was characterizing the nature of Rome's empire - that Pax Romana of Kagan's golden memory:
To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.
Or, for that matter, why not remember here the accounts of the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, who describes how during the later 1st century CE, Rome devastated the city of Jerusalem, demolished the Second Temple of the Jewish people, killed thousands of the city's inhabitants, and forced thousands more into exile? By the way, isn't there some irony in the circumstance that the self-proclaimed descendants of those exiles - the modern people of Israel - have been, like King Herod the Great, the "client-state" enforcer of the Pax Americana as it was imposed in the Middle East. (I say self-proclaimed because the Israeli historian Shlomo Sand has made a strong case that modern Israelis can't in fact make that claim; here's Tony Judt's comments on Sand's book.)
I'm surprised that Robert Kagan (and his brother and fellow hawk Fred) didn't pick up on this. They are, after all, the sons of a truly eminent historian of ancient Greece and Rome, Professor Donald Kagan.
Robert Kagan should think Vietnam - and Iraq, and Afghanistan; and maybe even Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where literally the US made a desert and called it peace.
The Pax Americana sits poised to drop into history's proverbial dustbin. I don't expect most of the rest of the planet to shed many tears. If Americans ever wise up to people like Robert (and Fred) Kagan, maybe they won't need to, either.