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Very important book review - Francis Fukuyama's brilliant new thesis on neoconservative foreign poli

Subject: Very important book review
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2006 17:12:48 EST
From: Ray Close

New York Times --- March 14, 2006
Book Review by Michiko Kakutani
*Supporter's Voice Now Turns on Bush**
*Francis Fukuyama's brilliant new thesis on neoconservative foreign policy

_"America at the Crossroads"_ serves up a powerful indictment of the
Bush administration's war in Iraq and the role that neoconservative
ideas — concerning preventive war, benevolent hegemony and unilateral
action — played in shaping the decision to go to war, its implementation
and its aftermath. These arguments are made all the more devastating by
the fact that the author, Francis Fukuyama, was once a star
neoconservative theorist himself, who studied with or was associated
with leading neoconservative luminaries like Paul D. Wolfowitz
William Kristol_,_ Albert Wohlstetter_ and_ Allan Bloom_, and whose
best-selling 1992 book, "The End of History and the Last Man," was
celebrated (and denounced) as a classic neoconservative text on the end
of the cold war and the global march of liberal democracy.
Indeed, "America at the Crossroads" represents the latest and most
detailed criticism of the Bush administration's war in Iraq — delivered
from a conservative point of view. With it, Mr. Fukuyama, who teaches at
the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins
University, joins a growing number of conservatives, including William
F. Buckley Jr.
George F. Wil_l,_ Bruce Bartlett_ and Andrew Sullivan
who have voiced doubts about the war.
In Mr. Fukuyama's case, the criticisms suggest a marked evolution in
perspective. In 1998, Mr. Fukuyama signed a letter sponsored by Project
for the New American Century urging the Clinton administration to take a
harder line against Iraq, and in the days after the terrorist attacks of
9/11 he signed another from the group, which asserted that "any strategy
aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a
determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein
from power."
In the wake of the Bush administration's enunciation of a doctrine of
pre-emption and its big-shouldered, go-it-alone approach to foreign
policy, however, Mr. Fukuyama began to voice concerns. In an op-ed
article in The Washington Post published on the second anniversary of
9/11, he warned that "overreaction to Sept. 11 will lead to a world in
which the United States and its policies remain the chief focus of
global concern," also saying that "the tremendous margin of power
exercised by the United States in the security realm brings with it
special responsibilities to use that power prudently."
A February 2004 dinner at the American Enterprise Institute made Mr.
Fukuyama even more aware of the gulf between himself and neoconservative
supporters of the war. Listening to the columnist_ Charles
Krauthammer_'s speech — which embraced the doctrine of pre-emption and
asserted that the toppling of Saddam Hussein had made America safer — he
says he "could not understand why everyone around me was applauding the
speech enthusiastically, given that the United States had found no
weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, was bogged down in a vicious
insurgency, and had almost totally isolated itself from the rest of the
world by following the kind of unipolar strategy advocated by Krauthammer."
In response, Mr. Fukuyama wrote a blistering critique of the
neoconservative push for war that was published in the quarterly The
National Interest in the summer of 2004 — an essay, along with a series
of lectures delivered at Yale
last year, that provides a kind of armature for the arguments in this
astute and shrewdly reasoned book.
In "America at the Crossroads," Mr. Fukuyama questions the assertion
made by the prominent neoconservatives_ William Kristol_ and_ Robert
Kagan_ in their 2000 book "Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in
American Foreign and Defense Policy" that other nations "find they have
less to fear" from the daunting power of the United States because
"American foreign policy is infused with an unusually high degree of
morality." The problem with this doctrine of "benevolent hegemony," Mr.
Fukuyama points out, is that "it is not sufficient that Americans
believe in their own good intentions; non-Americans must be convinced of
them as well."
"Before other countries accepted U.S. leadership," he adds, "they would
have to be convinced not just that America was good but that it was also
wise in its application of power, and, through that wisdom, successful
in achieving the ends it set for itself." Already in question before the
Iraq war, these assumptions now lie in tatters.
Mr. Fukuyama also contends that many neoconservatives — particularly
those belonging to the "expansive, interventionist, democracy-promoting"
school, defined by Mr. Kristol and Mr. Kagan — misinterpreted the
collapse of Communism and the end of the cold war. By putting too much
emphasis on the American military buildup under Ronald Reagan
"as the cause of the USSR's collapse, when political and economic
factors were at least as important," he contends, forward-leaning
neocons came to the conclusion that "history could be accelerated
through American agency."
In other words, neoconservatives leaped from the premise that democracy
is likely to expand universally in the long run (a view Mr. Fukuyama has
promoted himself) to the notion that this historical process could be
hastened by United States efforts to implement regime changes in places
like Iraq. At the same time, Mr. Fukuyama says, these theorists seem to
have assumed that the rapid and relatively peaceful transition to
democracy and free markets made by countries like Poland could be
replicated in other parts of the world — never mind the state of local
institutions, traditions and infrastructure.
These errors were worsened in the walk-up to the war in Iraq, Mr.
Fukuyama adds, by an us-versus-them mentality on the part of many
neoconservatives, who felt they were looked down upon by the foreign
policy establishment. "After their return to power in 2001," he writes,
"proponents of the war in the Pentagon and vice president's office
became excessively distrustful of anyone who did not share their views,
a distrust that extended to Secretary of State Colin Powell
and much of the intelligence community. Bureaucratic tribalism exists in
all administrations, but it rose to poisonous levels in Bush's first
term. Team loyalty trumped open-minded discussion, and was directly
responsible for the administration's failure to plan adequately for the
period after the end of active combat."
A second factor that contributed to postwar chaos in Iraq was a lack of
sufficient troops: "_Defense Secretary Rumsfeld_, who wanted to go into
Iraq with light forces and get out quickly," Mr. Fukuyama says, "has as
a result of this strategy bogged the U.S. military down in a long-term
guerrilla war." A third factor involved the failure of neoconservatives
to heed what Mr. Fukuyama identifies as one of their own core beliefs:
the view that "ambitious social engineering often leads to unexpected
consequences and often undermines its own ends," a view that grew out of
many neocons' anti-Stalinism and distrust of programs like welfare at home.
The Bush administration, Mr. Fukuyama writes, "vastly underestimated the
cost and difficulty of reconstructing Iraq and guiding it toward a
democratic transition." It ignored the critical fact that institutions
"must be in place before a society can move from an amorphous longing
for freedom to a well-functioning, consolidated democratic political
system with a modern economy," and it spurned the help of domestic and
international agencies that might have contributed expertise on
post-conflict reconstruction.
Mr. Fukuyama predicts that "one of the consequences of a perceived
failure in Iraq will be the discrediting of the entire neoconservative
agenda and a restoration of the authority of foreign policy realists."
He writes that "neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body
of thought, has evolved into something that I can no longer support." In
its place, he calls for a "realistic Wilsonianism" that would involve "a
dramatic demilitarization of American foreign policy and re-emphasis on
other types of policy instruments," the jettisoning of incendiary
rhetoric about a global war on terrorism and the promotion of political
and economic development abroad through "soft power" ("our ability to
set an example, to train and educate, to support with advice and often
The ability of the current Bush administration "to fix the problems it
created for itself in its first four years will be limited," Mr.
Fukuyama writes near the end of this tough-minded and edifying book.
"Repairing American credibility will not be a matter of better public
relations; it will require a new team and new policies."
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