Philip Weiss on October 12, 2011
Here is a crazy story no one is talking about that is evidence of the Israel lobby’s role in our politics. Last week, Mitt Romney announced a foreign policy team that includes Robert Kagan, a neocon who pushed for the Iraq war.
But Kagan is married to Victoria Nuland, who is a spokesperson for the State Department.
Nuland is now in charge of — in effect — overthrowing the elected government of Ukraine * and replacing it with the opposition figure of her choice, all in the name of the E.U., of course.
Laurie Bennett notes the strangeness of this conjunction:
Victoria Nuland’s role as spokesperson for the State Department, deemed strange by some who remember her tenure as principal deputy national security adviser to then Vice President Dick Cheney, has become stranger yet.
Her husband, Robert Kagan, has joined Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign as a foreign policy adviser.
Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, also advised the McCain campaign in 2008.
Ordinarily this would cause a lot of strain. Nuland would be under pressure. Chris Matthews would be asking what the heck she’s doing in a political job at State when her husband is preparing the opposition.
But in fact, Nuland’s Cheney resume and her marriage to Kagan are actually credentials in the Democratic Party: they demonstrate Obama’s sensitivity to the Israel lobby. And party bosses are happy to have these playing cards now that Obama is under siege from his own party about Israel.
Robert is only one of four Kagans who are currently esteemed foreign policy intellectuals: his father Donald, brother Fred, and sister-in-law Kimberly.
The Kagan-Nuland ascendancy seems strange, but it’s hardly unprecedented. I recently read Gore Vidal’s 1987 historical novel Empire about Washington DC from 1898 to 1905. The central character is the Secretary of State, John Hay, who got his start when his next door neighbor, Abe Lincoln, was elected president in 1860 and needed a second secretary. Although a smalltown Midwestern boy, Hay was a charming, witty fellow more like a British than an American statesman.
Hay’s best friend was historian Henry Adams, great-grandson of the second President. Henry’s younger brother Brooks Adams is portrayed as Teddy Roosevelt’s idea man: along with Admiral Mahan, Brooks is the chief theoretician of the spasm of American imperialism that garnered the U.S. the Philippines and Puerto Rico (for whatever they’re worth). Hay and Henry Adams laugh at the bumptiousness of Teddy and Brooks Adams, but tend to wind up going along with them.
In whatever [Brooks Adams] wrote he showed a gift for generalization with a tendency to carry it beyond reasonable bounds.
Brooks’ ultimate goal is America gaining control of the coal of northern China. Vidal has some fun with Brooks’ intensity and steampunk strategizing: The nation that controls the coal of northern China will control the world! Still, Vidal, speaking through the annoyed but often agreeing Henry Adams, can’t really make up his mind whether Brooks Adams was a dangerous loon or a prophet or both. True, the coal of northern China isn’t all that important in 1987, but the oil of the Persian Gulf turned out to be, so maybe Brooks was prescient after all. Or maybe it wasn’t worth it. Perhaps it’s too soon to tell.
So, in 1901 if you asked who made up the American deep state, you’d probably start with the Adams brothers: the president is listening to Brooks and the secretary of state to Henry.
Influential foreign policy intellectuals and operatives tend to come from a pretty limited set of elite families, and they get a lot done by having access. And if they screw up, well, blood is thicker than competence. These relatives don’t always get along with each other, but it’s hard to tell what’s going on without keeping track of families.
Neocons tend to be particularly inbred. In the comments at Mondoweiss, Sean McBride lists some examples (I’ll cut out redundant ones):
2. Andrew Rosenthal is the son of A.M. Rosenthal.
4. Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is the son of Arthur Sulzberger.
5. Barbara Amiel is the wife of Conrad Black.
6. Barbara Ledeen is the mother of Simone Ledeen who is the daughter of Michael Ledeen.
8. Benjamin Netanyahu is the son of Benzion Netanyahu.
11. Dalck Feith is the father of Douglas Feith.
14. Daniel Feith is the brother of David Feith.
15. Daniel Feith is the grandson of Dalck Feith.
17. Daniel Pipes is the son of Richard Pipes.
21. David Wurmser is the husband of Meyrav Wurmser.
22. Dick Cheney is the father of Liz Cheney who is the daughter of Lynne Cheney.
24. Donald Kagan is the father-in-law of Victoria Nuland and Kimberly Kagan
25. Donald Kagan is the father of Frederick and Robert Kagan.
26. Donald Kagan is the father of Robert Kagan.
31. Elliott Abrams is the son-in-law of Midge Decter and Norman Podhoretz, and brother-in-law of John Podhoretz.
38. Gertrude Himmelfarb is the wife of Irving Kristol and the mother of William Kristol.
45. Jonah Goldberg is the son of Lucianne Goldberg.
Neoconservatism: it’s a real family business.
* Note: Ukraine’s government isn’t a very honest or competent one, or even a very strong one, and the leader doesn’t seem to have much confidence in his mandate so he’s always trying to make compromises with the opposition.