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John Simkin

Francis Fukuyama - No longer a NeoCon

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Francis Fukuyama is the famous NeoCon philosopher and the man who claimed that with the defeat of communism in Eastern Europe we had reached the "end of history". However, in his new book, After the Neocons: America at the Crossroads, his philosophy appears to have changed. This is an extract from his book:

As we approach the third anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war, it seems unlikely that history will judge the intervention or the ideas animating it kindly. More than any other group, it was the neoconservatives inside and outside the Bush administration who pushed for democratising Iraq and the Middle East. They are widely credited (or blamed) for being the decisive voices promoting regime change in Iraq, and yet it is their idealistic agenda that, in the coming months and years, will be the most directly threatened.

Were the US to retreat from the world stage, following a drawdown in Iraq, it would be a huge tragedy, because American power and influence have been critical to the maintenance of an open and increasingly democratic order around the world. The problem with neoconservatism's agenda lies not in its ends, but in the overmilitarised means by which it has sought to accomplish them. What US foreign policy needs is not a return to a narrow and cynical realism, but rather the formulation of a "realistic Wilsonianism" that better matches means to ends.

How did the neoconservatives end up overreaching to such an extent that they risk undermining their own goals? How did a group with such a pedigree come to decide that the "root cause" of terrorism lay in the Middle East's lack of democracy, that the US had the wisdom and the ability to fix this problem, and that democracy would come quickly and painlessly to Iraq? Neoconservatives would not have taken this turn but for the peculiar way the cold war ended.

The way it ended shaped the thinking of supporters of the Iraq war in two ways. First, it seems to have created an expectation that all totalitarian regimes were hollow and would crumble with a small push from outside. This helps explain the Bush administration's failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that emerged. The war's supporters seemed to think that democracy was a default condition to which societies reverted once coercive regime change occurred, rather than a long-term process of institution-building and reform. Neoconservatism, as a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.

The administration and its neoconservative supporters also misunderstood the way the world would react to the use of American power. Of course, the cold war was replete with instances wherein Washington acted first and sought legitimacy and support from its allies only after the fact. But in the post-cold-war period, world politics changed in ways that made this kind of exercise of power much more problematic in the eyes of allies. After the fall of the Soviet Union, various neoconservative authors suggested that the US would use its margin of power to exert a kind of "benevolent hegemony" over the rest of the world, fixing problems such as rogue states with WMD as they came up.

The idea that the US is a hegemon more benevolent than most isn't absurd, but there were warning signs that things had changed in America's relationship to the world long before the start of the Iraq war. The imbalance in global power had grown enormous. The US surpassed the rest of the world in every dimension of power by an unprecedented margin.

There were other reasons why the world did not accept American benevolent hegemony. In the first place, it was premised on the idea that America could use its power in instances where others could not because it was more virtuous than other countries. Another problem with benevolent hegemony was domestic. Although most Americans want to do what is necessary to make the rebuilding of Iraq succeed, the aftermath of the invasion did not increase the public appetite for further costly interventions. Americans are not, at heart, an imperial people.

Finally, benevolent hegemony presumed the hegemon was not only well intentioned but competent. Much of the criticism of the Iraq intervention from Europeans and others was not based on a normative case that the US was not getting authorisation from the UN security council, but on the belief that it had not made an adequate case for invading and didn't know what it was doing in trying to democratise Iraq. The critics were, unfortunately, quite prescient.

The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the US from radical Islamism. Although the ominous possibility of undeterrable terrorists armed with WMD did present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem.

Now that the neoconservative moment appears to have passed, the US needs to reconceptualise its foreign policy. First, we need to demilitarise what we have been calling the global war on terrorism and shift to other policy instruments. We are fighting counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and against the international jihadist movement, wars in which we need to prevail. But "war" is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle. Meeting the jihadist challenge needs not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world. As recent events in France and Denmark suggest, Europe will be a central battleground.

The US needs to come up with something better than "coalitions of the willing" to legitimate its dealings with other countries. The world lacks effective international institutions to confer legitimacy on collective action. The conservative critique of the UN is all too cogent: while useful for some peacekeeping and nation-building operations, it lacks democratic legitimacy and effectiveness in dealing with serious security issues. The solution is to promote a "multi-multilateral world" of overlapping and occasionally competing international institutions organised on regional or functional lines.

The final area that needs rethinking is the place of democracy promotion in American foreign policy. The worst legacy from the Iraq war would be an anti-neoconservative backlash that coupled a sharp turn toward isolation with a cynical realist policy aligning the US with friendly authoritarians. A Wilsonian policy that pays attention to how rulers treat their citizens is therefore right, but it needs to be informed by a certain realism that was missing from the thinking of the Bush administration in its first term and of its neoconservative allies.

Promoting democracy and modernisation in the Middle East is not a solution to jihadist terrorism. Radical Islamism arises from the loss of identity that accompanies the transition to a modern, pluralist society. More democracy will mean more alienation, radicalisation and terrorism. But greater political participation by Islamist groups is likely to occur whatever we do, and it will be the only way that the poison of radical Islamism can work its way through the body politic of Muslim communities. The age is long gone when friendly authoritarians could rule over passive populations.

The Bush administration has been walking away from the legacy of its first term, as evidenced by the cautious multilateral approach it has taken toward the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea. But the legacy of the first-term foreign policy and its neoconservative supporters has been so polarising that it is going to be hard to have a reasoned debate about how to appropriately balance US ideals and interests. What we need are new ideas for how America is to relate to the world - ideas that retain the neoconservative belief in the universality of human rights, but without its illusions about the efficacy of US power and hegemony to bring these ends about.

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Francis Fukuyama is a thinker who often attracts ones prying eyes seeking for fresh thoughts in the magnitude of articles produced every day by media.

Francis Fukuyama wants definitely to speak about what he feels is important and should be considered and reconsidered.

Therefore I reprint yet another of his thought published in The Guardian few days ago.

Europeans should beware of wishing for US failure in Iraq

The chaotic outcome of Bush's war is feeding US economic nationalism and isolationism, which are a threat to Europe

Many opponents of the Iraq war both in the US and Europe have felt a not-so-secret sense of schadenfreude at the developing chaos in Iraq. While many might intellectually support the emergence of a stable, democratic, pro-western government in Baghdad, "success" in this matter would be seen as a vindication of all of the baggage that the Bush administration loaded on to this project, including its unilateralism, use of force and incompetent execution of the war's aftermath. Many would therefore be happy seeing Washington suffer a setback, to deter such interventions in the future.

But people should be careful what they wish for. A domestic nationalist backlash against the policies that led to the war is brewing, with implications for how the US will deal with Europe and the rest of the world down the road. Like it or not, American power and involvement are necessary to the proper functioning of world order, and the kind of role that a post-Iraq United States may play is very much up for grabs.

Two recent events constitute straws in the wind. After the protests and embassy-burnings over the Danish cartoons, no major US newspaper was willing to publish the cartoons, and most editorialists took a holier-thanthou attitude to those European papers that did. While one might question the prudence of publishing the cartoons, the violent reaction was a clear case of intimidation, in many cases officially sanctioned, and few Americans criticised the protests or stood up for the right of free speech. Many seemed to feel a certain satisfaction that this time Europeans rather than Americans were feeling Muslim wrath.

The second, and more egregious, case was the successful blocking by the US Congress of the purchase by Dubai Ports World of a British company that operates six US ports. Coming at a time of heightened economic nationalism on the part of countries such as France, Spain and Poland, which have recently sought to prevent such takeovers, this shameless pandering to public fears of terrorism undermined every principle of openness and globalisation that the US has been preaching in recent years.

What was most notable, however, was the identity of some of the panderers. While many rightly blamed George Bush for creating a general fear of Arabs and terrorism, Democrats were among the loudest critics, in particular Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, the Democrats' leading candidate for president in 2008. Clinton, who has positioned herself to the right on security issues, saw an opening to attack the president and argued that the Dubai takeover would constitute a violation of US sovereignty. It seems not to have occurred to her that by this logic American multinationals are violating the sovereignty of virtually every country on the planet.

Schumer, Clinton's fellow New York senator and liberal torchbearer, has been leading the charge against outsourcing and competition from China and India. He has been pressing relentlessly for sanctions against China for not revaluing the yuan and for a host of what he labels unfair trade practices. While the world has focused on Iraq, trade and jobs remain the most important international issues to many US voters, and Schumer and other Democrats are ready to respond with a protectionist agenda.

We have, then, the makings of a perfect storm. Bush's red-state conservative base tends towards a pugnacious nationalism that opposed humanitarian intervention during the Clinton years. These voters were mobilised by September 11 to support two wars in short order; while they remain loyal to the president, perceived failure in Iraq will turn them in a more openly isolationist direction. Democratic voters, meanwhile, have been moving in an economically nationalist direction and are gearing up for a big fight with America's leading trading partners in Asia. Voters in both parties have become more sympathetic to calls for closing America's borders and reducing immigration. Many in Europe are eagerly awaiting the end of the Bush years, but it is not clear that a Democratic administration will be more broadmindedly internationalist.

By invading Iraq, the Bush administration allowed what should have been characterised as a fight with a narrow extremist ideology to escalate into something the Islamists could claim was a clash of civilisations. But that clash will play itself out in large measure in Europe, the breeding ground for Mohammed Atta, Mohammed Bouyeri and the July 7 bombers. The controversy over the cartoons underlines the fact that the US and Europe have more in common in the struggle with radical Islamism than either side would like to admit. Cooperation to prevent this escalating into a broader civilisational struggle, and to maintain a generally open, integrated international order, will require solidarity. Neither European indulgence in feelgood anti-Americanism nor a bipartisan rise in US nationalism and populism brought about by perceived failure in Iraq will help.

Francis Fukuyama at http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1735628,00.html

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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Fukuyama was a strong supporter of the invasion of Iraq. A member of Project for the New American Century he signed a letter in support of this action as early as 1998 (Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz also signed the same letter).

Fukuyama now admits he got it completely wrong about the consequences of the invasion. Dalibor, are you willing to admit you got it wrong as well?

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Fukuyama was a strong supporter of the invasion of Iraq. A member of Project for the New American Century he signed a letter in support of this action as early as 1998 (Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz also signed the same letter).

Fukuyama now admits he got it completely wrong about the consequences of the invasion. Dalibor, are you willing to admit you got it wrong as well?

I believe that Francis Fukuyama has much more intellectual honesty that your descriptions of his “flip flop” change of view about Iraq war you so simplistically ascribe to him …

In the article “ A Better Idea”, published at

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/fe...ml?id=110008147 ,

Fukuyama is honestly trying to seek after constructive alternatives to the US policy in Iraq today. He is critical of the White house approaches. But his own approach seems to me be more of an intellectual development of Bush doctrine than an alternative to it.

As for my thoughts (which in this debate about Fukuyma ideas is not important at all) I still believe that it is right to fight for democracy and freedom. Sadly enough even by going to war.

Which Great Britain did many times in its own past. Against Hitler and Mussolini, against Gualtieri nearly 35 years ago just to take a few most recent wars Great Britain fought …….

May I draw the conclusion that you are ashamed of them and its goals today?

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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Fukuyama was a strong supporter of the invasion of Iraq. A member of Project for the New American Century he signed a letter in support of this action as early as 1998 (Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz also signed the same letter).

Fukuyama now admits he got it completely wrong about the consequences of the invasion. Dalibor, are you willing to admit you got it wrong as well?

I believe that Francis Fukuyama has much more intellectual honesty that your descriptions of his “flip flop” change of view about Iraq war you so simplistically ascribe to him …

In the article “ A Better Idea”, published at

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/fe...ml?id=110008147 ,

Fukuyama is honestly trying to seek after constructive alternatives to the US policy in Iraq today. He is critical of the White house approaches. But his own approach seems to me be more of an intellectual development of Bush doctrine than an alternative to it.

As for my thoughts (which in this debate about Fukuyma ideas is not important at all) I still believe that it is right to fight for democracy and freedom. Sadly enough even by going to war.

It is interesting that you use the phrase “flip flop” to describe Francis Fukuyama’s admission that he was wrong. This was the phrase used by George Bush to attack John Kerry in the last election. You are obviously still relying on Bush press releases for your arguments.

Fukuyama is not the only right-winger who has changed his mind on this issue. Probably the most important is William Buckley and it his views that is causing Bush problems in America.

Fukuyama and Buckley still accept the lie that the Iraq War was about installing democracy. If that was the case why does the Bush administration spend so much money supporting military dictatorships all over the world (including so-called communist governments in Eastern Europe).

Right-wing conservatives like Buckley are mainly concerned about the financial costs of the Iraq War. Balanced budgets have always been a feature of the extreme right. However, this has never been a feature of right-wing Republican administrations. The reason for this is the large amount of money they always spend on defence (aggression). Most of this money goes to the arms manufacturers who finance their campaigns.

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As for my thoughts (which in this debate about Fukuyma ideas is not important at all) I still believe that it is right to fight for democracy and freedom. Sadly enough even by going to war. Which Great Britain did many times in its own past. Against Hitler and Mussolini, against Gualtieri nearly 35 years ago just to take a few most recent wars Great Britain fought …….

May I draw the conclusion that you are ashamed of them and its goals today?

Unfortunately the UK does not have a very good record for fighting for democracy and freedom. It fact, most of its wars have been about taking other peoples’ freedom away.

It is true that the UK did eventually do its bit to bring an end to fascism in Europe. However, it took its time about it and should have got involved in fighting fascism in Spain (Roosevelt believed that this was his biggest mistake in politics and I agree with him). Truth is that the UK, France and the USA had no objections to fascism as long as it targeted left-wing governments. It was only when Hitler joined forces with Stalin that they realized they had to go to war. It is a myth that the UK and USA were involved in a war against dictatorship and discrimination (after all Hitler originally based his treatment of the Jews in Europe on the way the Americans had dealt with the blacks in the Deep South). It has to be remembered that Germany declared war on America. Even Roosevelt knew he could not get away with the idea of fighting for the democratic rights of Jews in Germany when those same rights did not exist for blacks in America.

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Let me just add a bit about Galtieri and the Falklands War.

If the Argentinian military dictatorship had waited 6 months, Mrs Thatcher would have given them the Falklands Islands, and most of the ships the British sent to take them back would already have been sold off to other countries.

My understanding of that conflict was that the Falkland Islanders had the same legal status as the Hong Kong Chinese, and it was the future of Hong Kong which was being actively debated within the Conservative Party in the early 1980s. If the Falklanders had been permitted to enter and reside in Britain without a visa, then the same would have had to apply to the HK Chinese, and the UK government weren't going to allow that.

The Falkland Islands were seen as an economic basket case (this was before they 'discovered' fishing rights), and Mrs Thatcher's government was giving the Argentinians clear signals that the UK didn't want the islands (such as selling off the remaining British ship that ever called there, and encouraging the Falkland Islanders to turn to Argentina for such things as advanced medical care).

However, Mrs Thatcher also had serious political problems at home - Thatcherism was never very popular in Britain, and it was especially unpopular in 1982. The chance to divert attention from the economy by going to war on the other side of the world was too juicy to be missed.

So … whilst it would be tempting to accept the kudos as a Brit for a war 'against dictatorship' and 'for freedom', I'm afraid that the facts just don't bear that interpretation out. Remember that it was the UK that was selling instruments of torture to both the Argentinian regime and the Chilean dictatorship, and that we did everything we could to avoid charging Captain Astiz (captured in South Georgia by the British) with crimes against humanity (such as the murder of a Swede in Argentina). Can you imagine a similar campaign to allow one of Saddam Hussein's torturers to get off the hook?

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