How do you tell the difference among foreign policy writers Robert Kagan, Lawrence F. Kaplan, and Robert D. Kaplan? Are Kaplan and Kaplan related?
Robert Kaganis a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a contributing editor for the Weekly Standard. He also writes a monthly op-ed column for the Washington Post. Kagan worked in the State Department under President Reagan from 1985 to 1988. In “Toward Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy,” a 1996 Foreign Affairs article, Kagan and Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol espoused a neoconservative foreign policy doctrine, arguing that the
Lawrence F. Kaplanis a senior editor at the NewRepublic, and he is the former executive editor of the foreign policy journal the National Interest. Like Kagan, he is a neoconservative critic of Colin Powell’s approach to the war on terrorism. Since Sept. 11, he has criticized the State Department for “interfering with—and impeding—
Robert D. Kaplanis a correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. He calls himself a “tragic realist.” Unlike the neoconservative Kaplan and Kagan, he believes the United States should support authoritarian regimes in certain parts of the world for fear that they could be replaced with something worse, and he sees nothing amoral or cynical about tolerating “benign dictatorships” willing to assist the United States. Kaplan is a big believer in the existence of historical determinism and repetition—he wrote in the January 2000 Atlantic that “the outlines and psychology of ethnic conflict in the Near East has changed little in 2,500 years.” Since Sept. 11, Kaplan has urged the United States not to project its democratic values onto other countries, calling for a war against terrorism that does not attempt to “politically transform a vast swath of the earth.”
Kaplan and Kaplan are not related, but there is a “Yes Related” element here. Robert Kagan is the brother of Frederick W. Kagan, a military historian at West Point, and he is the son of Donald Kagan, a classics professor at Yale.
And in case you’re going to ask, Kaplan and Kaplan are not related to: Rick Kaplan, the former CNN president; Robert S. Kaplan, the author of The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero; David A. Kaplan, the Newsweek senior writer who wrote the recently published The Accidental President, a book on the Florida recount; or Gabe Kaplan, the star of Welcome Back Kotter. So there. Lawrence F. Kaplan says he is sometimes confused with NATO historian Lawrence S. Kaplan—again, no relation.
Kagan vs. Kaplan: Explainer would be remiss if he overlooked the fact that Kagan blasted Robert D. Kaplan in the New Republic last year, writing that “Kaplan’s style of analysis is the reverse of historical scholarship. It consists of leaping from a limited number of observations to wild speculations of the broadest conceivable nature.”
Bonus Explainer: What’s the difference between a foreign policy neoconservative (“neocon”) and a foreign policy realist (“realcon”)? Neocons tend to support foreign policy that promotes Enlightenment values, especially democracy, while realists are more concerned with the primacy of American power. Realists are more likely to oppose democracy promotion, humanitarian interventions, and peacekeeping, while neocons believe that ideals matter just as much as naked self-interest. (Neocons, however, are more suspicious of international institutions and multilateralism than liberal interventionists.)
Previously in this series, Explainer tackled Lawrence Kudlow, Robert Kuttner, Paul Krugman, and Robert Krulwich; Linda Chavez and Linda Chavez-Thompson; Marty Peretz and the Meretz Party; the McCulloughs and Macaulays; the Gessens, Glennys, and Kaczynskis; the Cohens (three Stephens, four Richards); the Rays(two Elizabeths); the Hirschfelds(Abe and Al); the Strausses (Robert and R. Peter); the Broders (Jonathan, John M., and David); the Moores (three Michaels); and the Samuelsons (Paul, Robert, and Larry). Explainer has also handled in “Yes Related” the Negropontes and the Eskews.
Have you noticed people in the news with confusingly similar names? Send your suggestions to Explainer.
Explainer thanks Slate readers Gautam Mukunda and Matthew Singer for asking the question.