Is Elena Kagan related to Donald, Robert, or Frederick Kagan?

Answers to your questions about the news.
May 10 2010 6:28 PM

No Relation: The Kagans

Is the new Supreme Court nominee related to Donald, Robert, or Frederick Kagan?

Now that President Obama has nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, the Explainer wants to know: Is Elena related to Donald, Robert, or Frederick W. Kagan?

No. Fifty-year-old Elena Kagan is the former dean of Harvard Law School, where she earned her J.D. She also taught at the University of Chicago and spent four years in the Clinton administration. She was born in New York City to public schoolteacher Gloria and lawyer Robert Kagan (but not the Robert Kagan), both deceased.

Elena Kagan does have two brothers, but they're not famous. (Marc and Irving are both teachers, like their mother.) She is in no way related to the other famous Kagans—but they are related to one another. Robert and Frederick W. Kagan are Donald Kagan's sons.


A former dean at Yale College, Donald Kagan is now a classics professor there, specializing in ancient Greece. He wrote a four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War and co-wrote While America Sleeps with his son Frederick in 2000, arguing for a strengthening of the U.S. military.

As "No Relation No. 13" explained, Donald's oldest son, Robert Kagan, is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is a columnist for the WashingtonPost and a contributing editor at the Weekly Standard and the New Republic. He is also a Harvard graduate, but from the Kennedy School of Government, not the law school like Elena. He worked in the State Department under President Reagan from 1984 to 1988 and was a foreign-policy adviser to John McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign. He co-founded the neoconservative think-tank Project for the New American Century.

Frederick W. Kagan, Robert's younger brother, is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor at the Weekly Standard. As the author of the AEI 2007 report Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq, he is said to have influenced George W. Bush's "surge" strategy in Iraq. Before coming to AEI, he was a military historian at West Point.

Bonus Explainer: What about the Harvard developmental psychologist Jerome Kagan?  No, Elena doesn't appear to be related to him, either.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

The Explainer thanks Donald Kagan.

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