October 29, 2004


Fukuyama’s moment: a neocon schism opens: The Iraq war opened a fratricidal split among United States neo–conservatives. Danny Postel examines the bitter dispute between two leading neocons, Francis Fukuyama and Charles Krauthammer, and suggests that Fukuyama’s critique of the Iraq war and decision not to vote for George W Bush is a significant political as well as intellectual moment. (Danny Postel, 28 - 10 - 2004, OpenDemocracy)

In “The Neoconservative Moment,” Fukuyama turns a heat lamp on the cogitations of one thinker in particular, Charles Krauthammer, whose “strategic thinking has become emblematic” of the neo-conservative camp that envisaged the Iraq invasion. Krauthammer, one of the war’s most vociferous advocates, had somewhat famously fancied the end of the cold war as a “unipolar moment” in geopolitics – which, by 2002, he was calling a “unipolar era.” In February 2004 Krauthammer delivered an address at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington in which he offered a strident defense of the Iraq war in terms of his concept of unipolarity, or what he now calls “democratic realism.”

Fukuyama was in the audience that evening and did not like what he heard.

Krauthammer’s speech was “strangely disconnected from reality,” Fukuyama wrote in “The Neoconservative Moment.” “Reading Krauthammer, one gets the impression that the Iraq War – the archetypical application of American unipolarity – had been an unqualified success, with all of the assumptions and expectations on which the war had been based fully vindicated.” “There is not the slightest nod” in Krauthammer’s exposition “towards the new empirical facts” that have come to light over the course of the occupation.

Fukuyama’s case against Krauthammer’s – and thus the dominant neo–conservative – position on Iraq is manifold.

Social engineering

Krauthammer’s logic, Fukuyama argues, is “utterly unrealistic in its overestimation of U.S. power and our ability to control events around the world.” “Of all of the different views that have now come to be associated with neoconservatives, the strangest one to me was the confidence that the United States could transform Iraq into a Western–style democracy,” he wrote, “and to go on from there to democratize the broader Middle East.”

This struck Fukuyama as strange, he explained, “precisely because these same neoconservatives had spent much of the past generation warning...about the dangers of ambitious social engineering, and how social planners could never control behavior or deal with unanticipated consequences.” If the US can’t eradicate poverty at home or improve its own education system, he asked, “how does it expect to bring democracy to a part of the world that has stubbornly resisted it and is virulently anti–American to boot?”

He didn’t rule out the possibility of the endeavour succeeding, but saw its chances of doing so as weak. Wise policy, he wrote, “is not made by staking everything on a throw of the dice.” “Culture is not destiny,” but, he argued in tones echoing his former professor Samuel Huntington, it “plays an important role in making possible certain kinds of institutions – something that is usually taken to be a conservative insight.”


The only way for such an “unbelievably ambitious effort to politically transform one of the world’s most troubled and hostile regions” to have an outside chance of working, Fukuyama maintained, was a huge, long–term commitment to postwar reconstruction. “America has been involved in approximately 18 nation–building projects between its conquest of the Philippines in 1899 and the current occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq,” he wrote, “and the overall record is not a pretty one.”

The signs thus far in Iraq? “Lurking like an unbidden guest at a dinner party is the reality of what has happened in Iraq since the U.S. invasion: We have been our usual inept and disorganized selves in planning for and carrying out the reconstruction, something that was predictable in advance and should not have surprised anyone familiar with American history.”

What's most amusing about this little dust-up is how completely Mr. Fukuyama has come to resemble his role model, George F. Kennan, the original "X," whose containment policy the U.S. adopted at least in broad strokes, but who came to oppose that policy when Ronald Reagan opted to force it to its logical conclusion. Now Mr. Fukuyama, who correctly identified liberal democracy as the inevitable political destination of modern human communities, sounds just like those folks who insisted at various stages that Germans, Asians, Slavs, blacks, etc., were incapable of being democrats. Pity the prophet who lives long enough to refute himself before history vindicates his vision.

Hayek and Iraq (Max Borders, 10/29/2004, Tech Central Station)

The study of spontaneous orders has long been the peculiar task of economic theory, although, of course, biology has from its beginning been concerned with that special kind of spontaneous order which we call an organism.
-F. A. von Hayek

Anti-war and pro-war libertarians broke bread recently at a speaker series hosted by the Cato Institute, a free market think tank. Hawks like Deroy Murdock and Ronald Bailey squared off against doves like Charles Pena and Robert Higgs in what amounted to a civil and enlightened debate.

The questions: Was the US justified in going in to Iraq? Should we pull out? Will it work?

The way the two camps viewed the prospects of success in Iraq were especially telling. Anti-war speakers were skeptical of "attempts to impose" a democratic republic on the Iraqis. Pro-war panelists spoke of "removing the impediments" to freedom, commerce and stability. Paradoxically, the careful observer would have found something valuable in a point about which the two sides did not agree, i.e. -- how the insights of Friedrich Hayek apply to the conflict.

Anyone who cares about the success of Iraq would do well to pay attention to both sides' interpretations of Hayek, as each camp's treatment can inform the nation-building project, such as it is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 29, 2004 11:59 AM

precisely because these same neoconservatives had spent much of the past generation warning...about the dangers of ambitious social engineering, and how social planners could never control behavior or deal with unanticipated consequences.

The problem here is the lack of distinction between social engineering one might like to do (many of Clinton's projects), versus social engineering one is compelled to do (Germany and Japan post-'45, Iraq now).

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 29, 2004 3:01 PM

"social engineering one is compelled to do "

Otherwise known as liberation.

Posted by: Peter B at October 29, 2004 3:44 PM

the words significant and Fukuyama do not belong in the same paragraph unless significant has a negative modifier.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 29, 2004 4:07 PM

Fukuyama who remains an important American thinker is probably concerned because he got so badly burnt with his 'End of History' claptrap.

Posted by: Bart at October 29, 2004 7:44 PM


Except that it turns out to be right.

Posted by: oj at October 29, 2004 9:34 PM

Here in the NYC Metro area we have a somewhat different opinion. There's that gaping hole in the Skyline, where some very tall buildings used to be.

Posted by: Bart at October 30, 2004 6:33 AM


Remember Hari Seldon?

Fukuyama is the closest embodiment of Seldon that we have today. He takes the long view.

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 30, 2004 8:04 AM

If Fukuyama is Hari Seldon, is Osama the Mule? Are there any little Osamlets running around?

Posted by: Bart at October 30, 2004 10:40 AM


Anecdotes aren't History.

Posted by: oj at October 30, 2004 2:20 PM

Hello, fist time here, from PrestoPundit.

Fukuyama's argument should be examined for its own value and not regarding who wrote it. I believe it should not be taken lightly either, for it is perhaps the key to our future and the world's. There is an intra-conservative debate taking place and the first shots were fired by Angelo Codevilla. For those interested in discussing via email, I am also writing about it.

Some of the many serious points of argumentation:

- The war on terrorism is inverted; it should be part of the war on Islamism and enemy regimes. It makes no sense for a relatively small voluntary force to fight the terrorists only at the end of the line and leave the terrorist industry free to churn out as many as it can.

- American military power can only do so much; it should be applied to kill the sources of terrorism (the enemy regimes, its institutions and elites), instead of functions it wasn't designed for, such as police work (as in nation building). I wonder what a patriot thinks when he sees a couple of American soldiers doing the sitting-duck pose at a roadside in Iraq, ready for the car bomb.

- The American people would rather support a series of short, decisive wars geared to utterly destroy the enemy regimes and then leave the particular country. Yes, the Islamists may grab power, but we can always decide who lives and who dies. And unless we're ready to support puppet regimes all over the place (sounds familiar?), Islamists can easily grab power via democracy.

- Being bogged down as in Iraq works against our main effort, multiplies criticism and negativism (including public support) and thus jeopardizes our future freedom of action against the rest of our enemies. This is very important and both Iran and Syria know it and are taking advantage of it.

Posted by: Val at October 31, 2004 9:01 AM


Inverted? The shooting war is only a minor part of the effort.

We should move on to the next regimes more quickly than we did this time, but we've presumably learned that Iraq 2003 wasn't Germany 1945. We can indeed simply depose the regime and move on.

Posted by: oj at October 31, 2004 9:16 AM

"Social Engineering"? Why must these intellectuals use meaningless phrases? There is no problem with attempting to spread Freedom and Human Rights in the Middle East - or anywhere for that matter. What really scares me about a Kerry presidency is that WE will lose some of our liberties - even as those in Iraq and Afghanistan are gaining theirs!
Ironic, isn't it?

Posted by: Litl Bits at October 31, 2004 12:36 PM


"We should move on to the next regimes more quickly than we did this time ... We can indeed simply depose the regime and move on."

Exactly, that is how we should have done it. I can imagine a short war ending with a mini-Nuremberg trial and then leaving the country. And/or ultimatums on countries like Saudi Arabia. My main concern is that after Iraq this is not possible. Our future freedom of action is jeopardized because the Lilliputians have Gulliver all tied up in knots.

Litl Bits:

"Social engineering" is certainly not meaningless; it is the basis of liberal thought and action on society and perhaps the main reason why conservatives oppose liberals. It can be derived, for example, from Hayek. It is also one of the main thrusts in this new debate, as some conservatives now accuse neocons of extending it to the realm of foreign policy. I for one don't mind helping democracy abroad and this has been part of our modern foreign policy, but imposing it by military means is another thing, and whether you see it as impossible or as immoral makes it a valid point of debate.

Posted by: at November 1, 2004 7:37 AM

Sorry for the anonymous post above.


Posted by: Val at November 1, 2004 7:38 AM


We had to stay in theater anyway--have the elections early next year and then move on to Syria.

Posted by: oj at November 1, 2004 8:34 AM