March 3, 2006


NeoConservatism vs. NeoFukayama (Michael Brandon McClellan, 03 Mar 2006, Tech Central Station)

[F]ukuyama correctly recognizes the imminent danger of any "realism" that allies the United States with forces that are committed to preventing democratization and liberalization in the Arab world. However, he does so in a way that evidences his fealty to the eminently ineffective Woodrow Wilson. Wilson foolishly believed that peace could be promoted and that freedom could be defended in the absence of force. It is worth remembering that his brainchild, the flaccid League of Nations, demonstrated its non-military peacekeeping worth by permitting Mussolini to crush Ethiopia, Hitler to occupy the Rhineland, and Japan to forcibly steal Manchuria. Wilson leads to Munich.

Fukuyama advocates the "demilitarization" of the war on terror, and the augmentation of organizations such as the State Department and multilateral international organizations. Such a sentiment would make Woodrow Wilson proud. However, given the historical record, it is hardly a sufficient prescription. Indeed, it is ominous. A policy that is limited to diplomatic engagement with the very authoritarian beneficiaries of the Middle Eastern status quo cannot reasonably be expected to alter the terror producing status quo.

Let us therefore lay it out clearly -- Fukuyama is merely arguing a nuanced liberal internationalism. His conclusion is as follows:

"Neoconservatism, whatever its complex roots, has become indelibly associated with concepts like coercive regime change, unilateralism and American hegemony. What is needed now are new ideas, neither neoconservative nor realist, for how America is to relate to the rest of the world -- ideas that retain the neoconservative belief in the universality of human rights, but without its illusions about the efficacy of American power and hegemony to bring these ends about."

Therein rests the difference between neoconservatism, which is democratic realism, and the Wilsonian idealism of Francis Fukuyama. Both groups believe in the essentiality of promoting freedom as a matter of policy. Only one however, recognizes the vital relationship between the promotion and protection of freedom and the wielding of hard power. As I wrote in TCS back in 2004, those who abide by the law of the jungle will not voluntarily accept the rule of law in the absence of force. Make no mistake about it; American withdrawal would leave the Middle East to the control of thugs and terrorists. While America is powerful, it must strive to change the heretofore disastrous Middle Eastern status quo for the better.

The reality is that the very force of American ideas that neoconservatives don't much understand, like the fact that men are entitled to be treated with dignity because Created in God's Image, is sufficient to effect many of the changes in most of the places we're seeking to liberalize in the Middle East, so major uses of force are not much required, though should never be ruled out. We used force in Afghanistan--though a limited amount--because of the peculiarities of the Taliban's open relationship with al Qaeda and we used siignificant force in Iraq because we owed Saddam for failing to abide by the UN resolutions that ended the first Iraq War. But places like Morocco, Libya, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc. are liberalizing without our being required to apply force and aren't going to be able to stop the forces they've set in motion. We may still need to take out Iran's nuclear program by military means, but the heavy-lifting is more or less done. As Ronald Reagan won more with a rhetorical war--pointing out the truth that Marxism had failed and could never succeed--so too will the rest of this war be won by rhetorical/ideological warfare, which drives home the point that the Middle East will remain backwards until it reforms its societies along the lines of the Anglo-American model.

MORE (via Pepys):
MacBush: The neoconservative tragedy. (Jacob Weisberg, March 1, 2006, Slate)

In Greek tragedy, the hero's fall is often charted in terms of his hamartia, sometimes translated as "tragic flaw." What undid the neoconservatives in the end may have been an instinct left over from their old Trotskyist days, a weakness for categorical Marxist-Hegelian thinking (a pretty good expression of which, come to think of it, is Fukuyama's own most famous work, The End of History and the Last Man). People who should have known better came to believe that one place was like another, and that historic inevitability would do the heavy lifting for them. Now the neoconservative tragedy is ours as well.

Don't they know the wog can't govern himself?

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 3, 2006 6:44 AM

When the bully replies to your statement that he should stop with the classic quip "You and what army?" you better have a viable, credible comeback.

Posted by: Mikey at March 3, 2006 8:27 AM


Yes, but one benefit of a truly credible response is the reduced likelihood of having to use it.

Mr. Judd;

Given that, it is truly an embarrassment that the USA is not doing more on the rhetorical front. For instance, one complaint about the UAE is that it backed off sending Persian language broadcasts in to Iran. A specious argument, to be sure, but it immediately raise the question -- why didn't the USA pick it up when the UAE dropped it? Why are we not on a full rhetorical press against Iran? While I am not as sanguine as you on the effectiveness, it is certainly worth the effort and might well prove sufficient.

I would say that this is the primary failing of the Bush Administration, that it does not understand the power of rhetoric the way Reagan did, both domestic and foreign.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at March 3, 2006 8:46 AM

Absolutely, AOG. One highly publicized beatdown of a bully on the playground has a salutary effect on others.

For a time. Then another beatdown is required. Such is the playground, such is the world.

Posted by: Mikey at March 3, 2006 10:06 AM

" too will the rest of this war be won by rhetorical/ideological warfare..."

That's not very reassuring, in light of the Dubai ports fiasco & the cartoon brouhaha. My fear is that future historians will view GWB as being far, far more peaceful & internationalist than his successors will end up being.

Posted by: b at March 3, 2006 10:49 AM


This Administration certainly doesn't, but Reagan never understood Iran either.

Posted by: oj at March 3, 2006 12:30 PM


Dubai is an instance where rhetoric has already won. Even the xenophobic nitwits won't stop their economic transformation.

Posted by: oj at March 3, 2006 12:34 PM

Fukuyama is dishing out the wishy-washy, peace-creep, Munich-like line which usually leads to war.

We have every reason to be hopeful for the "reformation" of Islam--after all, Shinto had been a much harder nut to crack. Reformations on this order are not accomplished by speaches and majority votes.

The present course of action is working quite well. By taking down Saddam Hussein, we set up the necessity for the Islamic world to face its own contradictions. Thus, we have done all that could be done to give them the opportunity to reform.

Communication technology can help get the truth and the choices out to the Muslim people.

Hard power makes it all possible, and scribblers like Fukuyama don't like that sort of thing.

Posted by: Lou Gots at March 3, 2006 1:44 PM

The "end of history" which was just on the horizon in 1989 has not as yet been reached. Only the will of the American People to persevere in this quest will determine whether it can be reached. It's a shame that Francis Fukuyama has lost his nerve.

Posted by: morry at March 3, 2006 2:06 PM


Kind of. The End hasn't changed, there are are just some who aren't there yet. More importantly, it's not a good thing for most of those who've made it. Europe is just dying quieter than it might have.

Posted by: oj at March 3, 2006 3:47 PM

The Reformation of the Communists was...and the Catholics...and the Hindus...and the Confucians...

Posted by: oj at March 3, 2006 3:52 PM