News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: The Neoconservative Heretic

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Neoconservative Heretic

Francis Fukuyama is famous for having written the international best-seller, the Hegelian-inspired _The End of History_. Lionized by conservatives and neo-conservatives, and blisteringly attacked by liberals and leftists, the book envisions the end o history as the triumph of western neo-liberal economics and westernized constitutionality.

Then came the war on Iraq. Fukuyama had had headed a group to outline an adequate response to 911. The group's recommendations were very broad and strangely opposed to the path eventually followed by the Bush neo-cons. The Bush war on terrorism proved so irrational and at cross-purposes with his vision of conservatism that Fukuyama voted for John Kerry.

He began a magazine to promote his new vision of neo-conservatism. While the magazine publishes articles that every neo-con would love, it also publishes pieces by Brzinski and Cohen. Fukuyama's own writings have become more and more opposed to the present tack taken by the Bush foreign policy. In Fukuyama's mind, the war on terrorism has perhaps impacted and deleteriously affected American foreign policy--perhaps for years to come.

The following link provides background on Fukuyama and his alienation from mainline neo-conservatism. Some of his criticisms have been directed at Israel and its policies towards Moslems. Predictably enough, criticism of Israel has broight the accusation of anti-semitism (that subject so loved by those on this forum).
The Neocon Who Isn’t
Francis Fukuyama has all the "right" credentials. So when he opposed the Iraq War and voted for John Kerry, eyebrows were raised. They’re still rising.

By Robert S. Boynton
Issue Date: 10.05.05

On a Saturday in January 2003, as the Iraq War approached, the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment convened a meeting in a nondescript building in Arlington, Virginia, with three dozen of Washington’s top conservative policy intellectuals. Using an information-gathering technique dating back to the Eisenhower administration, the office asked four groups to study the long-term threat the United States faced from international terrorism and to report back to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

One of the groups was led by Francis Fukuyama, a professor at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), best known as the author of The End of History and the Last Man, the international bestseller that led British political philosopher John Gray to dub Fukuyama “[the] court philosopher of global capitalism.” The relationship between Fukuyama and Wolfowitz went back 35 years, to when Fukuyama was a Cornell undergraduate and Wolfowitz, then a Yale political-science professor, was a board member of the Telluride Association, the elite group house where Fukuyama lived. Fukuyama interned for Wolfowitz while a graduate student in the mid-1970s at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and later followed his mentor to the State Department during the first Reagan administration. When Wolfowitz became dean of the SAIS, he recruited Fukuyama from George Mason.

When Fukuyama received the Pentagon’s call, he immersed himself in subjects -- the politics of the Middle East, Islam, terrorism -- he hadn’t thought about since he’d worked with Dennis Ross on the Palestinian autonomy talks that followed the Camp David accords.

Fukuyama had spent much of the previous summer in Europe promoting Our Posthuman Future, his most recent book at the time, and his encounters with editorial boards throughout the continent left an impression on him. “That was the point at which I started to think about the whole issue of American hegemony,” he says. “Until then I had accepted the neoconservative line, which is, ‘OK, we’re hegemons, but we’re benevolent hegemons.’ But when I was in Europe, the reality of what non-Americans thought hit me more forcefully than it had before. Even the editor of the Financial Times, which is a pretty conservative paper, was absolutely livid about the way the Bush administration was dealing with the U.K. and Europe.”

Fukuyama’s team prepared furiously for three months, and, of the presentations made that January day by the four groups, Fukuyama’s was the only one Wolfowitz attended. This was precisely the time when preparations to invade Iraq were in full swing. The news Fukuyama delivered was most likely not what Wolfowitz wanted to hear.

The group’s recommendations -- which have never been mentioned publicly, much less released -- were a photographic negative of the path the Bush administration followed. The United States, the group advised, should avoid overreacting to the events of September 11, and particularly resist military incursions that would “lead to a world in which the U.S. and its policies remain the chief focus of global concern,” as Fukuyama put it in The Washington Post on the first anniversary of the attacks. The group reasoned that although military action was a necessary component of the American response, it should be of secondary concern to a “hearts and minds” campaign directed at the vast majority of the Islamic world that generally admires America.

It was an analysis that departed from the “clash of civilizations” scenarios that Fukuyama’s friend and former teacher Samuel Huntington predicted some years earlier. In contrast, Fukuyama’s group portrayed the conflict between democratic capitalism and Islamic fundamentalism as so lopsided that Huntington’s formulation overstated the strength of America’s foe. “Neither Arab nationalists nor Islamic fundamentalists, or any other alternatives in that part of the world, present a really serious route to modernization,” he told the London Independent in April 2003.

Given this radical inequality, Fukuyama has argued in subsequent writings (which reflect the ideas that appeared in his group’s report) that the United States should avoid inflammatory rhetoric such as the “war on terror.” In contrast, Fukuyama argued that while Islamic terrorists are dangerous, they don’t resemble anything close to the threat once posed by communism or fascism.
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The fact that Fukuyama portrayed the administration as having betrayed the very neoconservative agenda it had claimed to champion must have made his critique especially painful to his erstwhile mentor Wolfowitz. In particular, Fukuyama noted three foreign-policy blunders he predicted would harm the country’s prestige for years to come. The administration had launched an ill-conceived social-engineering project (“If the United States cannot eliminate poverty or raise test scores in Washington, D.C., how does it expect to bring democracy to a part of the world that has stubbornly resisted it?”); it had underestimated the importance of using international institutions to help legitimate U.S. foreign policy; and -- perhaps most hurtful to the neocons -- it had likened the threat of Islamic terrorism to the United States with the threat it posed to Israel, adopting “the Israeli mind-set” regarding the Middle East. “Are we like Israel, locked in a remorseless struggle with a large part of the Arab and Muslim world, with few avenues open to us for dealing with them other than an iron fist?” he asked.

The charges rocked the neoconservative world. Krauthammer accused Fukuyama of anti-Semitism, comparing his ideas to those of Pat Buchanan. “Frank forfeited being ‘one of us,’” says Irwin Stelzer, editor of The Neocon Reader. “It didn’t feel like a debate within the group; it felt like an attack from an outsider.” On the other side of the spectrum, of course, Fukuyama’s makeover has been greeted favorably. The Center for American Progress’ Lawrence Korb believes Fukuyama’s break has hurt the neoconservatives’ position. “I always quote him when I debate the neocons, and they don’t know what to do,” Korb says. “They can’t dismiss him so easily.”

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