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How to Fix Democracy

Jul 10, 2023

American Isolationism and the Shifting World Order in the 1920s and 30s | In this 3rd episode of the season, host Andrew Keen talks to Robert Kagan, the distinguished Brookings Institute scholar of foreign policy, about America’s dramatically changing place in the world during the Twenties and Thirties. According to Kagan, at the end of World War I Europe expected American democracy to lead a new world order. The Versailles Treaty, designed to engage America in post-war Europe, failed to gain domestic support. America, the world’s leading economic powerhouse, retreated into its heartland of domestic concerns: consumer consumption, fears of anarchy, socialism, and communism as well as immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe and Asia. The U.S. Senate, led by conservatives, reinforced America’s isolationist foreign policy throughout the 1920s. The domestic power only shifted to the White House and State Department in the late 1930s when the dangers of European fascism threatened America’s stability and power.


Robert Kagan is the Stephen & Barbara Friedman Senior Fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy in the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. He is a contributing columnist at The Washington Post and the author of several books, including "The Ghost at the Feast: America and the Collapse of World Order, 1900-1941" and "Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order". Kagan 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.