Frederick Kagan is the neo-conservative scholar to whom George W. Bush listens. Working for the conservative think tank AEI, Kagan supposedly gives the Bush administration intellectual cover—as he is one of the few academic "experts" who supports the President’s ideas. He can often be found on C-SPAN, sitting on a distinguished-looking panel, articulating his views on the Iraq insurgency. He is admired by neo-conservatives around the world as being highly knowledgeable in this field, and he is said to have the ear of the President.
So what are Kagan’s credentials if he’s such an expert on the Iraq insurgency? Well, as it turns out, he’s actually completely unqualified, to a point that borders on fraud. Let’s take a look at his CV....
If you’re still not sure who Frederick Kagan is, he is the author of the following oft cited articles that directly refute the Iraq Study Group Report:
Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq
The Right Type of "Surge": Any Troop Increase Must Be Large and Lasting
Send More Troops to Baghdad and We’ll Have a Fighting Chance
A neo-conservative of the highest order, Kagan is an influential member of the Project for the New American Century.
So the question is, if Kagan is such an expert on military affairs and the Iraq insurgency, where did he get this expertise? But before we address that question, I would like to note that I believe there are two primary means for obtaining information that would qualify one as an "expert." These are: 1.) Substantial personal experience and 2.) Conducting scholarly research. Thus, as an "expert," we could assume Kagan has one or both of these concerning our current foreign policy predicament.
So let’s start from the top, using information that comes from Kagan’s own Curriculum Vitae, as provided by his employer, AEI:
Experience, specifically, relevant military experience:
None. Frederick Kagan has never donned a uniform or led troops in combat.
Okay, that’s no big deal. Lots of people who’ve never served in the military are experts in the field of military strategy. So let’s turn to Kagan’s education.
Kagan graduated in 1991 from Yale University with a B.A. in Soviet and East European Studies. After graduating, he took on a position as an "unsalaried intern" at the Department of Defense, working for the Assistant Deputy Under-Secretary for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Affairs. He worked on projects concerning the Russian army, Russia’s relations with the other former Soviet republics, and the development of the armies of those republics. Kagan then headed back home to Yale for grad school, which he completed in 1995 by being awarded a Ph.D. in Russian and Soviet Military History.
Okay, so there’s not a lot there. No study of the Middle East and no practical experience in the areas of Arab history or insurgencies. As a student, it is clear that Kagan was focused primarily on the Cold War.
But of course, many scholars eventually specialize in fields they didn’t study in school. They do this through scholarly research after they’ve taken a position as a researcher or instructor at a university. So maybe Kagan did the same after 1995. Let’s take a look at his body of work—his research publications:
If you haven’t already looked at it, Kagan has a seven-page CV that lists his education and all of his publications. This is fairly common for academics. What makes Kagan’s different, is that virtually all of his work is not peer-reviewed (or, refereed). For those who haven’t suffered through graduate school, this means that his work has little to no academic merit. On Talking Points Memo today, reader PS offers an analysis of Kagan’s CV:
From what I can tell, he has no serious background studying the issues that are at the core of his "surge" plan. So I am completely baffled by the extent to which the media has given him credibility as a "military expert".... His CV reveals no publications in refereed history or political science journals in the last decade. Basically the intellectual architect of the surge is an op-ed/Weekly Standard writer whose only substantive expertise is on Napoleon.
For the most part, PS is correct. However, I’ve gone through Kagan’s CV line-by-line and found some mistakes and some interesting points.
First, Kagan has actually authored four peer-reviewed journal articles since earning his Ph.D., though this is a paltry number for any respectable academic. Three have been published in the last decade, but none have been published in the last nine years. Here they are:
- "The Evacuation of Soviet Industry in the Wake of ‘Barbarossa:’ A Key to the Soviet Victory," The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, Volume 8, Number 2, pp. 387-414.
1997. "Army Doctrine and Modern War: Notes toward a New Edition of FM 100-5," in Parameters, Spring 1997.
1998. "Star Wars in Real Life: Political Limitations on Space Warfare," Parameters, Vol. XXVIII, No. 3, Autumn 1998, pp. 112-120.
- "Back to the Future: NSC-68 and the Right Course for America Today," The SAIS Review, vol. XIX, no. 1 (Winter-Spring 1999), pp. 55-71.
Of course, these have nothing to do with insurgencies, Iraq, or the Middle East in general. It should also be noted that, though they made it through the peer-review process, Kagan’s articles in Parameters are very poorly researched and cited. See for yourself.
Kagan has also written chapters for several peer-reviewed books including The Military History of Tsarist Russia in which he wrote chapters on the Napoleonic Era and the reign of Nicholas I (2002), The Military History of the Soviet Union in which he wrote chapters on Soviet Operational Art and World War II after Stalingrad (2002), and Reforming the Tsar’s Army, in which he wrote a chapter called "Russian Military Reform in the Age of Napoleon" (2004).
That is the extent of Kagan’s scholarly work. On the other hand, he has published a wealth of non-scholarly magazine articles (mostly for the Weekly Standard) and newspaper opinion pieces.
Kagan is also relatively well known for his recently published book on Napoleon called The End of the Old Order: Napoleon and Europe, 1801-1805. Now, to me, that sounds academic. Right? Da Capo Press publishes it and they probably focus on military history. Right? Wrong. Da Capo is not an academic press and it’s not associated with any scholarly institution. In fact, here are some of Da Capo’s latest titles on their web site:
Some of our recent bestselling highlights, include Sport's Illustrated's #1 football book of all time, H.G. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights, Alex Kershaw's The Bedford Boys: One American Town's Ultimate D-Day Sacrifice, Toby Young's How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Pier Paul Read's The Templars, Michael Flocker's The Metrosexual Guide to Style and The Hedonism Handbook, and Kind of Blue: The Making of the Mile's Davis Masterpiece.
Da Capo Lifelong Books features a wide array of authors and books on pregnancy, parenting, health, fitness, and relationships, including: Your Pregnancy Week by Week, Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book (called "the Bible for women with breast cancer" by the New York Times), the Take Care of Yourself series, Mari Winsor's Pilates bestsellers, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton's Touchpoints and Touchpoints Three to Six, The Children's Hospital Guide to Your Child's Health and Development, Dr. Stanley Greenspan's The Child with Special Needs, Dr. Mike Riera's popular Field Guide to the American Teenager and Staying Connected to Your Teenager, Bill Bridges's "Transitions" bestsellers, and the entire range of Your Pregnancy guides by Dr. Glade Curtis, and many more.
I invite anyone skeptical of anything I’ve written to check out the links I’ve provided, especially the one to Kagan’s CV. Frederick Kagan is a fraud in that he espouses knowledge on military matters in Iraq that he does not have. He has never served in the military and he has never conducted scholarly research on the Middle East, much less Iraq or Iraqi society. And still, AEI maintains that Kagan
Yet I would like to see proof. Where? Where has Frederick Kagan ever specialized in defense issues and the American military? I want to see it. Young Americans are dying for it. Where and when did he study defense transformation and strategy? Was it during his "unsalaried internship" in 1992? I want to know.
specializes in defense issues and the American military. In particular he studies defense transformation, the defense budget, and defense strategy and warfare.
This is who the President of the United States listens to on Iraq--a student of Russian and Napoleonic history. This is madness. Frederick Kagan is an amateur who should be exposed and run out of Washington on a rail for all the damage he is doing to our nation.
I welcome comments from anyone who may have further information on this subject