2006 Lepgold Winner: Dangerous Nation by Robert Kagan

"From the author of the immensely influential and best-selling Of Paradise and Power—a major reevaluation of America’s place in the world from the colonial era to the turn of the twentieth century. Robert Kagan strips away the myth of America’s isolationist tradition and reveals a more complicated reality: that Americans have been increasing their global power and influence steadily for the past four centuries. Even from the time of the Puritans, he reveals, America was no shining “city up on a hill” but an engine of commercial and territorial expansion that drove Native Americans, as well as French, Spanish, Russian, and ultimately even British power, from the North American continent. Even before the birth of the nation, Americans believed they were destined for global leadership. Underlying their ambitions, Kagan argues, was a set of ideas and ideals about the world and human nature. He focuses on the Declaration of Independence as the document that firmly established the American conviction that the inalienable rights of all mankind transcended territorial borders and blood ties. American nationalism, he shows, was always internationalist at its core. He also makes a startling discovery: that the Civil War and the abolition of slavery—the fulfillment of the ideals of the Declaration—were the decisive turning point in the history of American foreign policy as well. Kagan's brilliant and comprehensive reexamination of early American foreign policy makes clear why America, from its very beginning, has been viewed worldwide not only as a wellspring of political, cultural, and social revolution, but as an ambitious and, at times, dangerous nation."

Robert Kagan is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His most recent book is The Return of History and the End of Dreams (Knopf 2008). His previous book, Dangerous Nation: America’s Place in the World from its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the 20th Century, (Knopf 2006) was the winner of the 2008 Lepgold Prize and a 2007 Finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize. His acclaimed book Of Paradise and Power (Knopf, 2003), was on the New York Times bestseller list for ten weeks and the Washington Post bestseller list for fourteen weeks. It was also a bestseller in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Canada and has been translated into more than 25 languages.

Dr. Kagan writes a monthly column on world affairs for the Washington Post, and is a contributing editor at both the Weekly Standard and the New Republic. He is listed as one of the world’s “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines. 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 Ph.D. in American History from American University.