I started this book with high hopes, but ultimately was disappointed. Somehow it manages to have its whole less than the sum of its parts. The weird thing is, I'm in hearty agreement with most of Warrior Politics points: That the world remains a dangerous place and will be for the foreseeable future, that all people are not basically good; that sometimes the choice isn't between being feared or respected, but between being feared or dead, and that history can teach us a lot about the modern world. The book had several problems: these ideas are too self-evident to me to be worth a book length treatment, the arguments were weak and unpersuasive, ideas that could have been profitably explored weren't, and the explicit call for pagan values odd and unsubstantiated. Frankly, I found it inferior to Mead's Special Providence, which I consider a real tour de force of analysis, and which I read just prior to Warrior Politics.
The book compares Churchill and Chamberlain and claims that Churchill succeeded where Chamberlain failed because Churchill was a pagan classicist (conjuring up images of Giles) whose experiences in Sudan allowed him to understand Hitler better. Well, Churchill wasn't a pagan, and given that Chamberlain was a British aristocrat, I have to assume he was thoroughly versed in the classics, probably far better than he author of Warrior Politics, Robert Kagan. Could it simply have been that Churchill, through temperament, character and experience, had a better grasp of people, or simply guessed right? Could it be that Churchill was the right man at the right time, and that political systems that can recruit leaders from a large pool of possibilities and change them easily (i.e. liberal democracies) are able to put the right man in place?
I'm all for using history as a light to illuminate the current darkness, and certainly a lot of the problems that were faced by the Greek and Italian city states, and the Roman Republic are similar to those faced today. Excerpts of various classical texts are used to illustrate the wisdom of the past without really providing any, and the similarities and differences of the historical nations and groups to the current day is never examined. Rome was interested in conquering as far and wide as they could, but America doesn't have the slightest interest in annexing any more territory. The book compares modern terrorism with the medieval Assassins by describing how when the Mongols were conquering the Middle East they were told by the local elites that they would have to learn to live with them — in other words appease them (shades of the EU!). The Mongols had other ideas though and methodically destroyed every assassin stronghold and killed every assassin they could. But this description has two problems. Does Kaplan really want us to adopt the ethos of the Mongols — a ruthless warrior nation that left a trail of slaughter but no cultural achievements? And the assassins, despite the Mongols best efforts, weren't completely wiped out and ultimately outlasted the Mongols.