Some folks leaving comments on posts found on this blog have accused me of being a neoconservative, and while I certainly do have some very conservative views, they are “old traditional American conservative values” and there is nothing “neo” about them.
It seemed interesting, however, to take a look at “neoconservativism” and therefore I read Francis Fukuyama’s book America At The Crossroads. I thought I would share my feelings and observations about the book.
According to Francis Fukuyama, neoconservatives have failed the United States by losing sight of the core principles on which the neoconservative movement was founded. Fukuyama has long been considered by many to be a quiet, but dedicated supporter of neoconservative values. The fact that he now argues the neoconservativism has left its roots behind and changed into something he can no longer support has caused quite a stirring in many political circles. In this critique of Francis Fukuyama’s book, America At The Crossroads, I will examine Fukuyama’s explanation for is change of heart as well as his suggestions for a new focus in American foreign policy based on a policy Fukuyama has chosen to call realistic Wilsonianism.
On the surface, Fukuyama’s America At The Crossroads seems to be a well-thought out explanation for his change of heart that includes a candid look at some commonsense alternative directions for future American foreign policy strategies. In fact, according to a review written by Gary Rosen of the Washington Post, Francis Fukuyama’s new book is “sober, fair-minded, even a bit dry.” I did find it to be a fairly interesting read and had little problem getting through it. I also found myself nodding in agreement with several passages as I was reading them. It was not until I finished the entire book and had some time to digest what I had read that I began to have some problems with several of Fukuyama’s assumptions and ideas.
In his book, Fukuyam starts off by tracing the history of the neoconservative movement from its earliest roots with the anti-communist leftists at City College in the 1930s and 1940s. He continues through the conservative philosophers such as Leo Strauss, Allan Bloom, and Bert Wohlstetter at the University of Chicago and ends his history by defining a set of four broad neoconservative principles for shaping U.S. foreign policy decisions. These four principles are:
- A state’s internal character can influence their actions.
- American military power can be used as a tool for moral ends.
- A fundamental distrust of international laws and institutions.
- A real skepticism in the efficacy of social engineering.
Fukuyama’s concern is not that these principles are somehow wrong. Fukuyama states that he still supports these same principles. He argues, however, that since 9/11; the neoconservatives who helped in the formulation of the Bush Doctrine have abandoned them. He states that the Bush administration was too focused on the goal of toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq to think about the formidable task of social engineering that would begin immediately after Hussein’s regime fell. According to Fukuyama, the Bush administration “made a judgment that the appropriate response would be largely stick rather than carrot, and asserted a strong relationship between the new breed of jihadists and the old Arab nationalists like Saddam Hussein.” Fukuyama also argues that the Bush administration very badly underestimated the cost as well as the level of difficulty of the reconstruction that would immediately follow any successful military action.
In his book, Fukuyama seems committed to the spread of democracy in the Middle East as an effective means to reduce the threat of any future violence and the spread of terrorism, bit it is obvious that he prefers the use of soft power such as economic development aid, election monitoring, and civil affairs mentoring (the tools of his realistic Wilsonianism) to the use of military force and intervention. Fukuyama argues that radical Islam is simply a direct consequence of globalization. That it is cause by the loss of national identity that occurs naturally as the world shifts to a modern, more pluralistic society. Fukuyama proposes the use of what he describes as overlapping and sometimes competitive international institutions, practicing what Fukuyama terms multi-multilateralism as the best means to effectively end terrorism. He argues that the U.S. should make better use of its ability to lead the world by example, to train and educate, and offer both advise and economic aid to countries to remove the poverty, despair, distrust, and lack of education that he feels forms the breeding grounds for today’s radical Islamic terrorists. While Fukuyama takes power and order seriously, it is very clear that he prefers the carrots to the sticks.
The problem with this line of reasoning is that, although it all sounds perfectly reasoned and sensible, it actually offers nothing new. It is simply a restating (albeit quite eloquently) of the same old song and dance routines applied by the United Nations and like-minded policy makers for years. Francis Fukuyama states in his book that he understands that the United Nations is unsalvageable as a credible means to end Islamic terrorism and its attacks on the Western world. In striving to become all-inclusive, the U.N. has grown far too unwieldy to effectively pass and timely or enforceable security decisions. The U.N. even has states, such as Syria and Libya, which in the past have been associated with radical Islamic groups serving on the U.N. Security Council.
Simply stated, nobody has been able to put forward any kind of remotely plausible alternative strategy for defeating the underlying causes of 9/11 other than the one pursued by the Bush administration. Charles Krauthammer, a right-wing political pundit, states that these underlying causes are, “the cauldron of political oppression, religious intolerance, and social-ruin in the Arab-Islamic world – oppression transmuted and deflected by regimes with no legitimacy into virulent, murderous anti-Americanism.” Even Paul Berman, a left-wing political pundit who is diametrically opposed to Charles Krauthammer, disagrees with Fukuyama’s assessment concluding that, “neither his (Fukuyama’s) old arguments nor his new one offer much insight into this, the most important problem of all — the problem of murderous ideologies and how to combat them.”
Fukuyama does admit that, when dealing with violent terrorists, the concept of preemption must remain on the table. He also states that while we cannot afford to sit back and wait for the proverbial smoking gun, the United States must also be sure it has its facts straight before deciding on acting unilaterally. But, he also argues that the NSS or National Security Strategy of the United States as developed by the Bush administration is flawed in several ways. According to Fukuyama, the primary problem rests in the lack of any real codification of when and how preemption can or should be used. The NSS, he argues, needs to be modified to include such guidelines because the number of times preemption could be legitimately be used will be few. It should certainly should not be seen as a “green light — to the United States or any other nation — to act first without exhausting other means, including diplomacy,” says Fukuyama.
There are two problems with Fukuyama’s argument. First, it ignore the lessons that need to be understood from past history and the nature of human struggle. One of the oldest tricks in the book is to be seen actively engaging in sincere diplomacy one one hand, while the other hand, launches a decisive sneak attack, i.e. Pearl Harbor. Does Fukuyama not remember Pearl Harbor? Or does he simply believe that radical Islamic Terrorists will simply not use such an effective tool for war out of some sense of fair play?
Second, intelligence gathering is simply the process of sifting through tons and tons of gathered bits of information in an attempt to fins small bits that when put together form a possible clue, and then make an educated guess as to what it all means. The fact that it is not an exact science is certainly evidenced by the misreading of intelligence leading up to the invasion of Iraq. In fact, many senior members of our government who now advocate cut and run as the proper new policy had access to the very same intelligence reports and yet somehow still voted for the war before they decided to vote against funding the war. The hard fact is that a responsible must always take a “worst case scenario” approach, especially when dealing with the possible threat of terrorists gaining access to and using WMD such as suitcase nukes, dirty bombs, chemical or biological agents, or commercial airliners for the smoking gun. With weapons such as these, death and destruction can be dead in your face long before you can have all your facts straight.
Fukuyama also argues that the Bush administration greatly overestimated both the danger posed by Osama Bin laden and his brand of radical Islam, and its ties to Saddam Hussein and his brutal totalitarian regime. He argues that though the possibility of new assaults by terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction is a real threat, it was wrongly tied to Iraq and the problem of rogue state proliferation.
However, according to Mark Gabriel, a former professor of Islamic history at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, America is facing “the most dangerous enemy to mankind. We are not facing local thugs who seek money or power. We are facing an enemy that is motivated by faith and belief. Mark Gabriel currently resides in the United States and lives in a constant state of fear because of vengeful radical Islamists. His only crime: leaving Islam and becoming a Christian. Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch, lives in a secure and undisclosed location. He is an acknowleged expert by many, including highly educated former Muslims, of historical Jihad. In his book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (And The Crusades), he states: “This conflict, in their view, is destined to end with the hegemony of Islam. In the words of Osama Bin laden, jihad warriors the world over are fighting, ‘so Allah’s Word and religion reign supreme’.” In fact, the radical Islamists have been at war with the United States and the Western world since the 1970s. As a nation, we simply did not notice. It took 9/11 to force some of us to face that reality. Some still have not.
At one time, Francis Fukuyama was arguably one of the world’s most celebrated neoconservatives. he even supported regime change in Iraq. His signature can be found at the bottom of the 1988 letter from The Project for a New American Century sent to then president, Bill Clinton, urging the United States to increase efforts to remove the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein from power. Other neoconservative intellectuals like Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan also signed that letter. Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and the recently fired defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, signed it as well.
Francis Fukuyama’s change of heart is more likely due to the difficulty the U.S. has encountered in completing its attempted regime change in Iraq, than to as Charles Krauthammer phrased it, a “Road to Damascus moment.” Though well written and intellectually pleasing, he simply offers no new ideas to combat the spread of Islamic terrorism in the world. Fukuyama eloquently revisits the same old soft power, multilateral carrot-stick models that have failed in the past. In my opinion, what Fukuyama fails to grasp is that, though mistakes have indeed been made both in the war on terror and the war in Iraq, the Bush administration had very little in the way of real alternatives when faced with defending U.S. citizens from future terrorist attacks.
Even if many Americans do not, Osama Bin Laden certainly sees Iraq as a central front in his war on the Western world and its leader by invitation, the United States. He has often stated that fact himself on his released audio tapes. In truth, the War on Terror is actually a dangerous politically correct label for what is in reality a war between two divergent and opposing ideologies. One one side we have the United States, democratic ideals, religious tolerance, freedom, and a belief in the dignity of mankind. On the other side we have radical Islam, Sharia, religious intolerance, oppression, and the submission of mankind to Islamic rule. When the only carrot that radical Islamists will except is a Taliban-like global hegemony led by radical Islamists and the re-establishment of the Caliphate as the new world government, it is simply impossible for me to put any faith in realistic Wilsoniansim as the means to security and liberal democratic order (in the classic sense) for the future world.