Robert Kagan, adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and brother of Iraq surge architect Fred Kagan, is a prominent leader of the neoconservative movement. In 1997, for example, he and Bill Kristol co-founded the neoconservative Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which advocated overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
Yesterday, McCain reiterated his unwillingness to engage diplomatically with various Middle East countries, particularly Iran. But last night on PBS’s Charlie Rose, even Kagan moved away from McCain’s position. While he defended the Bush administration’s current refusal to sit down with Iran, Kagan admitted that this policy may not be as sustainable as McCain thinks:
ROSE: Does it make sense to talk to the Iranian government?
KAGAN: You know, I think, and this is where John McCain may not — doesn’t agree necessarily. I think at some point we may find ourselves in a position when you might want to do that. But I think at this moment, there isn’t a great deal — we have a very sensible position.
Later in the segment, Rose forced Kagan to admit that the administration’s current posture with Iran also hasn’t worked well. “Do you think [not talking to Iran] stopped them from getting closer to building a nuclear weapon?” pressed Rose. “Obviously not,” Kagan admitted.
As former State Department official James Rubin noted today, McCain was open to meeting with Hamas just two years ago. And as Max Bergmann observed, in 2003, when former Secretary of State Colin Powell was criticized for meeting with Syrian leaders, McCain encouraged the talks, stating, “Colin Powell is going to look [President] Bashar aside in the eye and say, look, you know. You better clean up your act here.”