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The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  290 ratings  ·  56 reviews
"An incisive, elegantly written, new book about America's unique role in the world." --Tom Friedman, The New York Times

A brilliant and visionary argument for America's role as an enforcer of peace and order throughout the world--and what is likely to happen if we withdraw and focus our attention inward.

Recent years have brought deeply disturbing developments around the gl
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published September 18th 2018 by Knopf Publishing Group
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4.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  290 ratings  ·  56 reviews

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Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Robert Kagan is among the most capable apologists for the U.S.-led liberal international order. While the crimes and follies of the post-WW2 order weigh heavily on our minds (Vietnam, Iraq etc.), there are also genuine accomplishments that are less noticed by critics. Kagan takes a long view of history to make the case that the last 70 years have in fact been the most peaceful and prosperous in human history. He credits the liberal order with mostly keeping allies by persuasion rather than coerc ...more
Mbogo J
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
In this essay Kagan prosecuted his case with such aplomb that if you have a marginal understanding of geopolitics you might wonder why his position is not the default position. The problem or lets say disagreement comes when you have a prior position...

I agree with Kagan that America has a big role to play in the global stage but I differ with him on the extent and the methods used. A lot of times Kagan seems to be a war monger and stopping short of calling for preemptive strikes. The tone was a
Esteban del Mal
This book is like one of those pharmaceutical commercials you see that portrays the happy, healthy life circumstances of people because they take Brand X pill to treat whatever condition afflicts them and that would otherwise lay them low. Meanwhile, the calming voice of a narrator ticks off all the possible side effects from taking the pill. What do I mean by this? Let’s start with a quote from the author himself:

Members of Congress from both parties have underfunded the military since the beg
Feb 16, 2019 marked it as to-read

From the piece:
Canada’s instinct is to redouble its commitment to old principles rather than to adopt new ones. It remains a vocal defender of human rights, which pleases idealists but annoys despots. Ms Freeland says that one of her favourite new books is Robert Kagan’s “The Jungle Grows Back: America and our Imperilled World”, a gift from Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas. It argues that jungle-like chaos is taking over the ordered garden created b
Nov 28, 2018 rated it liked it
An extended essay in which Kagan passionately argues that America must continue in its role as the world's policeman. After WW II, American economic, military and political power secured a "liberal world order". In Western Europe and the Far East democracy flourished and the war ravaged economies were rebuilt. Although this was achieved in the context of the Cold War, Kagan states that American leadership was planned by leaders like President Truman and Dean Acheson before the confrontations wit ...more
Daniel Cunningham
This is one of that books that I love because it makes me really wonder if maybe a bunch of things I believe are ill-founded while bolstering a strain of thought that I think I've "secretly" harbored for a long time. But I also think the book leaves out a lot. Sure, a "unipolar" world, a US-led liberal order, is safer and more stable (for many... or at least for some.) And, sure, a "balance of powers" between "great powers" has a 100% terrible history. And a China-led illiberal order seems like ...more
Michael Albanese
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
American foreign policy has commonly been characterized as an entrenched bipartisan issue where "Democrats want a small army and send it everywhere and Republicans want a big army and send it nowhere." Robert Kagan's new book not only rejects such a gross oversimplification but also shows us the commonalities between the world today and the one of yesterday. In the first half of the twentieth century, the greatest threat to democracy came from the right in the form of fascism. As the ideas broug ...more
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This essay was fascinating and really disected the outcome of WWII and the lasting world order since. At times, some parts seemed to be redundent, but the flow made sense and kept me interested. It's also interesting to me that most past presidents haven't necessarily been at either end of the spectrum. Most have agreed to the same type of foreign policy, and simply package it differently. I think if we were all students of our own country and history as well as it's role in the world, we would ...more
Matthew Trevithick
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
1.5 stars.
Dec 15, 2018 rated it liked it
I appreciated this insightful work because it helped crystallize thoughts I possessed without any understanding beyond instinct. Although a registered independent, I am in the liberal camp and despite recognizing Obama as the best choice, always held distaste for his reluctance to exercise international authority. In particular, I felt the Syrian crisis and Russian aggression towards Ukraine (and Kosovo, which merits no mention in the book) deserved greater responses.

The beauty of this book was
Richard Subber
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If nothing in Kagan’s book surprises or terrifies you, then you’ve been unhappy for a long time.

The Jungle Grows Back teaches and motivates without consoling anyone who believes in any version of “world peace.” It is bad news all around, and Kagan bluntly says that all of us who want a stable world order have to step up and start actually doing something to keep our children and our grandchildren out of harm’s way.

“The past seven-plus decades of relatively free trade, growing respect for individ
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I knew this would be an important book, because Robert and I went to grad school together and he was always the smartest person in the room. The first 2/3 of the book represent a comprehensive review of global history since WWI (which we certainly need in the age of Trump) and which sets the stage for the policy analysis and prescriptions of the final 1/3. To Kagan’s credit he avoids the obvious name-calling that the current state of foreign policy deserves, with its Know-Nothingness, broken tre ...more
Paul Womack
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Both history and analysis of where we are globally and how we got there. It is a spirited defense of liberalism against authoritarianism, as we face the next few years. I appreciated his citation from Reinhold Niebuhr, whose theological perspectives were so acute, at least in my mind. The end notes offer resources to engage for further study.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Jungle Grows Back, by Robert Kagan
To agree with the ideas in this book, one first has to accept the premise that liberalism is the reason for the lack of an outbreak of a major conflict for the last 7 decades. I do not believe it was simply geoeconomics vs. geopolitics. I do not believe that the other countries decided America was the kindly “Green Giant”, but rather that it served the political needs of the countries involved, the United States included. The accidental byproduct was a lack
Seth Tomko
Nov 19, 2018 rated it liked it
You can read my full review of The Jungle Grows Back on hubpages by clicking the following link.
Dennis Murphy
The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World by Robert Kagan is probably one of the best books that I have read this year, especially on the subject of foreign policy. The only major problem is, and it is unfortunately a big one, the length of time it gets for him to get to the important bits. He spends a hundred pages on establishing the world as it is in his argumentation. Most of this works, some of it does not. In his desire to make the Liberal World Order the thing that matters mo ...more
Masood Voon
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
It is unfortunate to read Robert Kagan today as it seems his books have become not about insight and relevancy but more about getting published in order to maintain his position in Washington writing as a columnist and working for various lecture tours.

The one thing I did enjoy was the rehash of history. Nothing is incredibly novel but it is fun to poke around well established histories. In his older works Kagan was able to do this and bring relevance to the present by insightful comparisons. Hi
Peter A
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a thoughtful book about America’s role in our current world order. The author outlines America’s rise to be the defining country for today’s “liberal world order,” reminding the reader that this last 75 year period in history is relatively unique from the perspective of a world order where many nations can and have benefitted. The author’s key point is that the United States needs to decide whether it is willing to continue to carry the burden of “ensuring” a world of security or not. Th ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: listened-2019
Kagan offers a balanced view of how the US should view its role in international affairs. Overall, according to Kagan, the US should view international affairs with a realist outlook as it strives to support liberal partners. The weakness of this book is that although liberals and realists, as well as moderate Democrats and Republicans, will find much to agree with, even if they disagree with some of the nuances, Kagan's analysis does not contribute much to understanding how to distinguish betwe ...more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Some have argued that the progress towards a world of democratically elected governments with capitalistic economies is an inevitable evolutionary destination for the world order. Before reading this book, I might even have believed it. Having grown up inside the world order established after WWII, it is easy to take it for granted, to overlook just how remarkable the last seventy-five years have been in terms of human history.

This book reminds us what the previous world order looked like. It wa
Rick Kennerly
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, Kagan is absolutely correct in his analysis both of the history of liberalism and it's utility as a disruptive forces of our worst nationalistic instincts.

He's also correct that only the US could be the honest (-ish) broker and guarantor of the liberal world order.

And while Americas have more or less agreed with Kagan on the benefits of assuming this role for the "world," as our own nation we have not benefited to the extent members of the transatlantic liberal order have benefited. And w
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Robert Kagan provides a good overview of the state of worldwide freedom and security in 2019. And he does so in historical context--he looks at how illiberal the world was a hundred years ago (only 6 or so democracies worldwide at the turn of the century!) and at how America learned the lesson that if self-determination and prosperity were to take root broadly, then the nation could not be afraid to use its strength and wealth on behalf of other peoples. Those who think America has troops overse ...more
Rivka Sinowitz
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book after I read an article about it in the Wall Street Journal. I absolutely fell in love with the article. I loved this book! The erudite tone was edifying. Obviously, the grasp the author has on the subject matter is amazing. But I have read books in which the author seems extremely knowledgeable but is too “shmoozy” for my taste.

The premise of this book is that America upholds the liberal world order for the past 70 years, since after WWII. Without American financial and militar
Christopher Paludi
Kagan’s essay is very fair and informative, clear and conversational. His attentive and reflective readers will better understand their world, their nation, and themselves. The first two-thirds (history) is excellent but the last third (liberalism=/=human nature, and the order’s prospects) may be even better. This is a useful book worth reading.

However, it should not be read as authoritative, in isolation from more pessimistic analyses. The post-1945 world order is even less stable than he ulti
Michael D. Kanner
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
As always, letting you know where I sit before you know where I stand - Retired DoD analyst, Ph.D. in international relations, currently teaching security studies at university.

First, nothing that Kagan says is really surprising to anyone that has been paying attention over the last thirty years. The Cold War ended and, with the exception of the 1990s, didn't have the results that everyone hoped for. Even Fukuyama has taken back his statement that we have reached the end of history. Where Kagan
Dec 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I didn't do a lot of preliminary research on this book or the author and I guess I didn't even fully read the subtitle. I read this book on the recommendation of a friend. I THOUGHT it was going to be about all the consequences (the negative ones) of US intervention abroad. Like installing dictators across the middle east and south and central america and the negative long-term consequences of that. Nope. This was a book about how we need to spend more on the military and do more intervention ab ...more
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
The 5-star value of this book is that it is a readable, comprehensive, and persuasive argument that America must maintain its leadership roel in maintaining and expanding the liberal world order. The book (a long essay) portrays pros and cons about most of American participation in the wars or conflicts of the last century or so as part of one unifying story. Weaknesses and bad decisions are acknowledged. For a reader like me who has been trying for decades to follow events as they come by, list ...more
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book puts the bubble of the liberal world order we have all enjoyed since the end of WWII into a historical context of the last hundred fifty years or so. It points out that the freedoms we take for granted and the view that this world view we now live in is the end of history is not only not true but in danger from the natural forces that give rise autocratic leaders and war that result in the death and misery of thousands. I liked this book for opening a different view into my mind that w ...more
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“ We need to abandon the post- Cold War myth that liberalism must be the natural end point of human evolution because it triumphed over communism... Our belief that people at all times share a desire for freedom, and that this universal desire supersedes all others, is an incomplete description of human experience... Human existence is a constant battle among competing impulses- between self-love and the love for others, between the noble and the base, between the desire for freedom and the desi ...more
Zachery Tyson
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
A compelling summary of how the 20th-century liberal order came about, The Jungle Grows Back goes on to chart its atrophy as Americans on left and right began to shy away from their own creation. Kagan describes the nature of the American polity as being drawn repeatedly back to inward-looking isolation, after World War I and Vietnam, and most recently after the debacle in Iraq and the 2008 financial crisis. It took strong, forward-thinking leaders like FDR coupled with the existential threat of ...more
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Robert Kagan is an American historian and foreign policy commentator. Robert Kagan is the son of Yale classical historian and author, Donald Kagan. He is married to Victoria Nuland, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO, and has two children. He is the brother of political commentator Frederick Kagan.

Kagan is a columnist for the Washington Post and is syndicated by the New York Times Syndicate. He is
“It was not until the late 1970s and early 1980s, when détente was abandoned and American policy grew more confrontational again, that Soviet leaders finally came to fear that that they might not be able to keep up the geopolitical competition, and not just with the United States but with the liberal order more generally.” 0 likes
“That is why Russian penetration of the political systems of the United States and Europe has been so effective. It has exploited the truly dangerous fissures in Western society, which are not based on class, as the Marxists wanted to believe, but on tribe and culture.” 0 likes
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