This well-aimed humour makes it all the more surprising that Kagan devotes so little attention to what he calls “the hopeless dream of radical Islam”. His contention, not entirely persuasive, is that radical Islam will be unable ultimately to resist the forces of modernisation. However, like the long run, “ultimately” can be much too long a time, particularly given the possibility, which Kagan himself acknowledges, that the connection between terrorists and nuclear weapons may soon be made.
This dismissal of radical Islam is at least partly tactical. Kagan does not hide his concern that placing too much emphasis on the danger of Islamic terrorism may promote “illusions” about the possibilities of cooperation with Russia and China. Elsewhere he has argued that basing foreign policy on US political principles can attract more support abroad than appealing to the danger of terrorism. But even if one believes that managing the rise of new major powers is a greater challenge for the future than Islamic extremism, there is no way to avoid dealing with both at the same time.