[Marxism] More on Fukuyama
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Mar 20 09:16:16 MST 2006
The Australian, 20 March 2006
Neocon's about-face: Iraq war a disaster
Sarah Baxter finds former George W. Bush cheerleader Francis Fukuyama now
thinks the invasion was a huge mistake
WHEN Francis Fukuyama was a young policy geek working at the State
Department in Washington in his 30s, he came up with a theory and a
catchphrase that transformed him into an intellectual rock star. He wrote a
remarkably prescient article called "The End of History?" in a
small-circulation journal that electrified the academic world.
"What we are witnessing," he wrote boldly, "is not just the end of the Cold
War, or a passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end
of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological
evolution and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the
final form of human government."
It was the northern summer of 1989 and the Berlin Wall was soon to fall.
The velvet revolutions of eastern Europe followed in short order and the
Soviet titan itself went on to collapse. Fukuyama was given a generous
advance to turn his musings into a book, which became a global bestseller.
With his Japanese-American background and international take on the world,
Fukuyama was the perfect vehicle for his own theory. "End of history?
Beginning of nonsense," Margaret Thatcher is supposed to have said, but it
was exhilarating to see the chips fall his way.
It is more or less what US President George W. Bush keeps telling the
recalcitrant Iraqis, but despite a couple of inspiring elections, they are
not with the program yet. Nor is Fukuyama, who has come to believe the Iraq
war was a colossal mistake.
About a month after the toppling of Saddam's statue in 2003, Fukuyama had
lunch with an American friend who boasted that events in Iraq were going
pretty well. "I made a bet with him that in five years' time things will be
a mess, and I expect to collect on it," he says.
One might have predicted that Fukuyama would join in Bush's optimistic
pro-democracy chorus. For years he has closely identified himself with the
tightly knit band of brothers who make up the US's neoconservatives, the
intellectual warriors of regime change in Iraq.
Long before most Americans had given any thought to the subject, Fukuyama
signed a letter to then president Bill Clinton in 1998 on behalf of the
neocon Project for the New American Century, urging Saddam Hussein's
overthrow. Among the signatories were Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz,
who went on to make the invasion happen under Bush at the Pentagon.
Fukuyama signed a similar letter after the September 11 terror attacks in
2001, and when the tanks rolled into Baghdad he wrote an article in The
Wall Street Journal noting that the fall of Saddam was "justly celebrated".
At that point he still seemed to be in step with his friends.
"Who wouldn't justly celebrate such an event?" he now says. All along,
however, he harboured misgivings about the invasion, which have now burst
into the open.
"I'm an apostate," Fukuyama tells me starkly.
Fukuyama has openly split with the neoconservatives because he thinks the
war in Iraq is wrong in theory and practice and they don't, despite all the
reverses. "Most of them are lying low because they realise what they
advocated hasn't worked out at all and they're just hoping something will
turn up," he says.
In his new book After the Neocons, published next week, he writes
forcefully: "I have concluded that neoconservatism, both as a symbol and a
body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support."
We meet in his small, book-crammed study at Johns Hopkins University in
Washington, where Fukuyama is professor of international political economy.
As one of the world's globetrotting thinkers, it is not easy to catch him
on his home turf.
It was in Britain a couple of years ago that some of Fukuyama's scepticism
about the neocon project took shape. "I remember being struck by the real
unhappiness with the United States. One of the mistakes Americans have made
is to misjudge that feeling. It's easy to discount it as the usual
anti-Americanism, but I was hearing it from people who were friends of
I tell Fukuyama that "The End of History" probably had quite an influence
on Tony Blair, who will have inhaled it with the zeitgeist even if he never
actually read it. There are few more shining believers than the British
Prime Minister in the universal application of liberal democracy, I
suggest. And while the horrors of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia
in the 1990s led many commentators to sneer, "What end of history?", under
Blair, democracy ultimately reached Belgrade -- courtesy of the US and
That, however, was an unambiguously Good War. The Iraq war, in Fukuyama's
view, is a bad one, and he does not care for my suggestion that he may have
had an indirect hand in Britain's intervention.
Blair, he believes, has become an "honorary neoconservative" who has
deluded himself into thinking that democracy can be imposed at the speed of
one's choosing at the point of a gun. That is not at all what Fukuyama
meant by the end of history, which took a more nuanced view of the many
bumps on the road to man's final destination.
"With Blair, I find it hard to tell what he really believes as opposed to
what he has calculated is in his interest," Fukuyama says. "He obviously
wanted to preserve the special relationship with the United States and then
talked himself into thinking the war was historically necessary.
"Something similar happened to Bush. When he stood for president, he talked
about having a 'humble' foreign policy and attacked nation-building, and
since then has talked himself into believing in it."
Fukuyama feels personally let down by the turn of events. "I voted for Bush
in 2000 precisely because I thought that if he got elected a lot of my
friends would be running foreign policy and they would do a lot better than
"That's why this whole thing has been such a terrible disappointment. It
has turned out exactly the opposite."
Fukuyama is against the whole concept of a pre-emptive war -- "As Bismarck
said, it's like committing suicide for fear of death" -- but he has also
been shaken by its execution. It is tough when you blame your own friends
for the debacle.
"I'm not just shocked, I'm completely appalled by the sheer level of
incompetence. If you are going to be a 'benevolent hegemon' (a reference to
the US's status as the sole superpower), you had better be good at it."
How did a scholarly boy fall in with such bullish company? Fukuyama, now
53, grew up in New York where his father was a Protestant minister and
civil rights activist with a social conscience. The son turned out to be
much more strait-laced. "We had a lot of fights over politics," Fukuyama says.
He describes himself as a "born academic" and may have inherited his
passion for study from his grandfather, the founder of the economics
department of Kyoto University in Japan. His mother emigrated to the US in
1949 and became a New York social worker.
Fukuyama read classics at Cornell University, where he heard the legendary
Allan Bloom, a disciple of the philosopher Leo Strauss, lecture on Plato's
Republic. Many of the neocons share the same Straussian intellectual roots,
including Wolfowitz, who came to know Fukuyama at Cornell and gave him a
job as his intern in the early years of the Ronald Reagan administration.
The two men haven't spoken lately. "I suspect he may be somewhat annoyed,"
Fukuyama was also a postgraduate at Harvard, where he became friends with
William Kristol -- who went on to become the driving force behind the
Project for the New American Century and is editor of the influential
neoconservative magazine The Weekly Standard (owned by News Corporation,
which also owns The Australian and The Sunday Times).
Kristol's father Irving was a founder of neoconservatism: one of the
original band of bright working-class intellectuals in New York in the
1930s who were attracted to Trotskyism, loathed Stalin, and became
committed anti-communists in the post-war era.
Fukuyama had other direct channels into the neocons. Another of his mentors
was the cold warrior Albert Wohlstetter at the Rand Corporation, who
counted Wolfowitz, the former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, and Zalmay
Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, among his proteges.
As the definition goes, neoconservatives are "liberals who have been mugged
by reality", so what baffles Fukuyama is why they have returned to a
"Leninist" view of history.
If they distrusted the Soviet Union's attempts at social engineering (and
even disliked its watered-down versions in the West, such as aspects of the
welfare state), how could they possibly imagine that a society as complex
as Iraq could be rebuilt from top to bottom as a democracy, he wonders? It
is perhaps the book's most wounding insight.
Before we met, I went to hear Fukuyama chair a debate in Washington with
Kristol and Bernard-Henri Levy, the French superstar philosopher. It was
all very polite and good-natured but it was obvious that the affable
Kristol was seriously annoyed at being branded a Leninist.
He has since decided he might as well accept the label, up to a point. In
The Weekly Standard, Kristol went on to turn the tables on his old friend.
Are we Leninists? "No," he wrote. "Does it mean we believe -- as Fukuyama
defines Leninism -- that 'history can be pushed along with the right
application of power and will?' ... Yes."
It would be nice, Kristol added, if we lived in a world without jihadists
where we didn't have to take the enemies of liberal democracy seriously.
"To govern is to choose, and to accept responsibility for one's choices. To
govern is not wishfully to await the end of history."
Fukuyama takes a far less alarmist view of the power of jihadists and tends
to regard the September 11 attacks as a particularly lucky strike. "It's
possible that terrorists may get a nuclear weapon," he says doubtfully,
"but that one scenario has driven a great deal of fear." He would like to
see more multi multilateralism, as he calls it, to supplement the work of
the UN in defusing international tension.
Somewhat surprisingly, he describes himself as a Marxist, "in the sense
that I believe in a general process of economic and social modernisation".
You can only steer things and speed things up at the margins of society, he
For somebody with such a deterministic view of history, isn't he writing
off the chances of success in Iraq too soon? Especially since he still
believes humans are made for liberal democracy.
"It's way too premature to predict how it will play out," he admits. "It's
not clear the final judgment will be negative. It is entirely possible that
Iraq will become a democracy, but the causality will be extremely muddled."
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