March 22, 2006


Interview with Ex-Neocon Francis Fukuyama: "A Model Democracy Is not Emerging in Iraq" (Der Spiegel, 3/22/06)

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your new book, "America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy," is a rejection of the political views you have held throughout your academic career. What happened?

Fukuyama: Iraq happened. The process of distancing myself from neo-conservatism happened four years ago really. I had decided the war wasn't a good idea some time in 2002 as we were approaching the invasion of Iraq.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why? After all, one of the neo-conservative pillars is a profound belief in democracy and the spread of democracy.

Fukuyama: I was partly unsure whether the United States could handle the transition to a democratic government in Iraq. But the biggest problem I had was that the people pushing for the intervention lacked self-knowledge about the US. When I look back over the 20th century history of American interventions, particularly those in the Caribbean and Latin America, the consistent problem we've had is being unable to stick it out. Before the Iraq war, it was clear that if we were going to do Iraq properly, we would need a minimum commitment of five to 10 years. It was evident from the beginning that the Bush administration wasn't preparing the American people for that kind of a mission. In fact, it was obvious the Bush people were trying to do Iraq on the cheap. They thought they could get in and out in less than a year.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where did this belief come from? Was it naivete, hubris or just plain ignorance?

Fukuyama: A lot of the neo-conservatives drew the wrong lessons from the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism. They generalized from that event that all totalitarian regimes are basically hollow at the core and if you give them a little push from the outside, they're going to collapse. Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, most people thought that communism would be around for a long time. In fact, it disappeared within seven or eight months in 1989. That skewed the thinking about the nature of dictatorships and neo-conservatives made a wrong analogy between Eastern Europe and what would happen in the Middle East.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So it was an invasion based on misinformation and misinterpretation?

Fukuyama: Yes.

The more legitimate criticism is that they failed to follow through on leaving that quickly. But he's certainly right that we almost never follow through and stay for decades once we get the democratization process going--just look at all the Eastern European states that only had their color-coded revolutions over the past couple years or Belarus and Kazakhstan which haven't quite reached the End of History even now. Iraq doesn't have to be all that democratic 14 years from now for it to precisely resemble the real Eastern Europe, as opposed to the one of Mr. Fukuyama's imagination. Just because things are headed our way doesn't mean they get there overnight.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 22, 2006 3:38 PM

No, we've never stuck around or ever followed through. *cough* Germany.

Posted by: Mikey at March 22, 2006 4:03 PM


You mean West Germany. You've actually chosen our most obvious "post"-war failure.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 4:10 PM

Who in the Administration was saying that we would leave within a year?

Posted by: David Cohen at March 22, 2006 4:13 PM

Stop. Did Bush ever say that we would be "out" of Iraq sooner than we are "out" of Korea?

Let me e-mail my son and ask him what he thinks: he's stationed in--Korea.

Posted by: Lou Gots at March 22, 2006 4:18 PM


Jay Garner had a goal of three months to hand over authority to an interim government.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 4:22 PM

Fukayama is blind if he says communism "disappeared within seven or eight months in 1989". It is still very much with us (just a cursory glance at South America, for example, will show that to be the case), and in a mestasticized form may be the worst enemy we face in our entire history. The Cold War never just took on new form, as did Soviet-era communism.

Posted by: Marko at March 22, 2006 4:51 PM

Two characteristics of infantilism are on display here: perfectionism (understood ideosyncratically) and impatience.

A child lacks the time alive in which to acquire wisdom. Mr. F lacks that excuse.

Posted by: Luciferous at March 22, 2006 5:13 PM

So Garner is "the Bush people?"

I think Lou's point is the right point. Fukuyama values stability. The Korean penninsula is stable. Bush's gamble was to say, "better the Devil we don't know."

Posted by: David Cohen at March 22, 2006 5:52 PM

Lou, David
Probably no one said we would be out of Iraq in a year, maybe they thought it would be a good base of operation for a few decades.

However that is really irrelevant. The larger point is that Fukayama is saying we weren't prepared for the insurgency. (Bush has admitted the same) As a matter of fact it is foolish to suggest otherwise. Obviously the administration was caught by surprise. Remember the asertion that there would be celebration in the streets.

Posted by: h-man at March 22, 2006 5:54 PM

Luciferous, I think it's characteristics of being an 'intellectual' you are noting, not necessary an infant though it's interesting to note the overlap.

Many of the neocons that Fukayama now disavows suffer from the same perfectionist tendencies as do the new batch of liberal hawks. They are academic types who cannot understand why it did not go the way they drew it up on paper. It's funny to see how they are all experts on counterinsurgency, infrastructure, etc. now and can Monday morning quarterback the generals and Iraqi administrators.

Bush was not as naive as the neocons prior to the invasion. He took advantage of their willingness to go along with him in building support for the mission. He did not want to burst their bubbles by explaining that it would in fact be hard.

Condi blew the policy coordination between state and defense so that we never properly set up a government in exile or trained an occupation police force. That might have helped Garner when he hit the ground, but the Baathists did not want to go down easy. After the election they finaly realized they're in the minority and the new worry is that the Shia will persecute them.

Posted by: JAB at March 22, 2006 6:02 PM


Who appointed him?

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 6:03 PM


It's the neocons tragic flaw--they are intellectuals trapped in the stupid party.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 6:08 PM


Yes, that was an expression of contempt for the Shi'ites we'd been screwing for twelve years and of the Sunni we were deposing after 1400 years in power.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 6:10 PM

OJ: Who fired him?

H: Obviously the insurgency has had more staying power than we supposed, but you are accepting as the "Iraqi" response is the response of maybe 10,000 Iraqis and 10,000 foreigners. The Kurds were delighted, the Shi'a have settled right down and even the Sunnis are mostly resigned to the new order.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 22, 2006 6:23 PM

He got fired because he couldn't get it done as fast as he was supposed to.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2006 6:43 PM


No genius here, but surprise would seem to be a fact of war. Something that must be lived with. Do you think the folks in charge knew Okinawa would cost 12,000 dead and 38,000 wounded? (Our side only). The question was (and is) what is necessary to get the job done. Unless, of course, the job is unnecessary. That seems to be the real question. Everything else is Monday morning quarterbacking

Posted by: jdkelly at March 22, 2006 7:08 PM


You're correct.

We are all monday morning quarterbacks, of course and I'm not suggesting that I expected Arabs to be that dumb, but apparently I've been proven wrong, they are.

Posted by: h-man at March 22, 2006 7:25 PM

h, Can't disagree, but only hope.

Posted by: jdkelly at March 22, 2006 7:42 PM