March 13, 2006


Fukuyama's Pivot: He urged the liberation of Iraq. Now he claims he had misgivings all along (BRET STEPHENS, March 12, 2006, Opinion Journal)

Mr. Fukuyama's more relevant objections are as follows. First, he says, the administration failed to anticipate the extent to which the war would aggravate anti-Americanism and reshape global politics accordingly. Second, it mischaracterized and exaggerated the threat posed by radical Islamism: Jihadism, he writes, is "a byproduct of modernization and globalization, not traditionalism," which is better dealt with by integrating Muslims already living in the West than by " 'fixing' the Middle East." Third, the administration neglected the insight of the founding neoconservatives--intellectuals like Irving Kristol and Daniel Patrick Moynihan who, beginning in the 1960s, wrote critiques of large-scale government programs--that ambitious attempts at social engineering tend to backfire.

On the first point, there's no doubt that the war was deeply unpopular around the world. But it plainly wasn't so unpopular as to create the kind of catastrophic backlash Mr. Fukuyama imagines. Since the war, four of the most prominent members of the "Coalition of the Willing"--Britain's Tony Blair, Australia's John Howard, Denmark's Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Japan's Junichiro Koizumi--have been returned to office by large majorities. Canada's Paul Martin and Germany's Gerhard Schroeder have been cashiered in favor of Stephen Harper and Angela Merkel, both of whom campaigned on the explicit promise of better ties with the U.S. France's Jacques Chirac looks to be politically finished; Nicolas Sarkozy, his likeliest successor, is avowedly pro-American. In the Middle East, where we once had enemies in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, we now have pro-American, democratic governments.

Next there is Mr. Fukuyama's view about the nature of jihadism. It is true that Europe's failure to assimilate its Muslims has helped spawn the likes of Mohamed Atta and the London bombers. Then again, Osama bin Laden is not an alienated child of Europe, nor is Abu Musab al Zarqawi. The religious madrassas through which jihadist ideology spreads are funded by Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah's Al-Manar satellite TV station broadcasts its message of hate from Beirut and gets its funding from Tehran. Iran, in turn, also helps to arm groups such as the Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which is a sister organization of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, from which Ayman al Zawahiri sprang. Before 9/11, most of the jihadists got their "military" training in Afghanistan and possibly also in Saddam's Iraq. Mr. Fukuyama may or may not be right that Islamist radicalism is a "byproduct of modernization," but the idea that the heart of the problem is somewhere other than the Middle East is inane.

Hardly more persuasive is Mr. Fukuyama's argument about social engineering, a term he tends to abuse. Properly understood, social engineering isn't simply a matter of instituting radical change per se. What counts is the kind of change. Imposing price controls, for instance, is a form of social engineering because it upsets the natural balance of supply and demand. But it would be absurd to argue that removing price controls is also a kind of social engineering, even if it entails short-term economic dislocations.

The question then becomes whether removing dictators is an example of the former or the latter. Mr. Fukuyama devotes a chapter to the subject and concludes that solid democratic institutions will take root only when there is strong internal demand for them. True enough. But on what basis should we conclude there is no strong internal demand for democracy in Iraq, or Burma, or Iran?

Mr. Fukuyama, in drifting towards Realism, joins in the error by which they always get themselves in trouble because they don't have access to the fundamental truths that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness": to imagine peoples that aren't interested in those Rights is to depart from the reality of human nature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 13, 2006 1:25 PM

I have yet to read this, but what perplexes me is that Fukuyama is portrayed as recently losing faith in the Iraq effort. I saw him express strong doubts about 2.5 yrs ago at a SAIS event in DC. His conversion is a pseudo event like Murthas.

Posted by: JAB at March 13, 2006 5:58 PM


It'sa funny to read stories about the neocons doubting Bush when they all opposed him to begin with.

Posted by: oj at March 13, 2006 6:02 PM

Daniel Patrick Moynihan as a "neoconservative"?

I recall that he was (a) dead well before the term was coined. (b) a raging Liberal.

He was intelligent enough to understand the perverse incentives of Johnson's Welfare state, but neocon?

Pass the pipe dude....

Posted by: Sean at March 16, 2006 2:54 AM

Moynihan was alive for decades after "neoconservatism" was coined and was one of the intellectual fathers.

Here he is in the house organ of the neocons:

He could just never bring himself to vote what he believed.

Here's all you really need to know about modern politics in the Anglosphere:

"The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society, The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture to save it from itself."
-Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Posted by: oj at March 16, 2006 8:22 AM