"After Neoconservatism."

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by Mariner, Feb 19, 2006.

  1. Mariner
    Offline

    Mariner Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    Messages:
    772
    Thanks Received:
    52
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Boston, Mass.
    Ratings:
    +52
    The neoconservative Francis Fukuyama had a great article of that title in Sunday's New York Times, where he examines the history and possible recent mistakes of neoconservative thinkers, and asks what's next. Among the more interesting things I learned from it is that the neoconservative movement was begun in New York, by a group of intellectuals, several of them Trotskyite communists (!). The entire article is far too long to post in its entirety. Here are some excerpts:

    February 19, 2006
    "After Neoconservatism"
    By FRANCIS FUKUYAMA

    As we approach the third anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war, it seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention itself or the ideas animating it kindly. By invading Iraq, the Bush administration created a self-fulfilling prophecy: Iraq has now replaced Afghanistan as a magnet, a training ground and an operational base for jihadist terrorists, with plenty of American targets to shoot at. The United States still has a chance of creating a Shiite-dominated democratic Iraq, but the new government will be very weak for years to come; the resulting power vacuum will invite outside influence from all of Iraq's neighbors, including Iran. There are clear benefits to the Iraqi people from the removal of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, and perhaps some positive spillover effects in Lebanon and Syria. But it is very hard to see how these developments in themselves justify the blood and treasure that the United States has spent on the project to this point.

    The so-called Bush Doctrine that set the framework for the administration's first term is now in shambles. The doctrine (elaborated, among other places, in the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States) argued that, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, America would have to launch periodic preventive wars to defend itself against rogue states and terrorists with weapons of mass destruction; that it would do this alone, if necessary; and that it would work to democratize the greater Middle East as a long-term solution to the terrorist problem. But successful pre-emption depends on the ability to predict the future accurately and on good intelligence, which was not forthcoming, while America's perceived unilateralism has isolated it as never before. It is not surprising that in its second term, the administration has been distancing itself from these policies and is in the process of rewriting the National Security Strategy document.

    * * *

    The administration's second-term efforts to push for greater Middle Eastern democracy, introduced with the soaring rhetoric of Bush's second Inaugural Address, have borne very problematic fruits. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood made a strong showing in Egypt's parliamentary elections in November and December. While the holding of elections in Iraq this past December was an achievement in itself, the vote led to the ascendance of a Shiite bloc with close ties to Iran (following on the election of the conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran in June). But the clincher was the decisive Hamas victory in the Palestinian election last month, which brought to power a movement overtly dedicated to the destruction of Israel. In his second inaugural, Bush said that "America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one," but the charge will be made with increasing frequency that the Bush administration made a big mistake when it stirred the pot, and that the United States would have done better to stick by its traditional authoritarian friends in the Middle East. Indeed, the effort to promote democracy around the world has been attacked as an illegitimate activity both by people on the left like Jeffrey Sachs and by traditional conservatives like Pat Buchanan.

    The reaction against democracy promotion and an activist foreign policy may not end there. Those whom Walter Russell Mead labels Jacksonian conservatives — red-state Americans whose sons and daughters are fighting and dying in the Middle East — supported the Iraq war because they believed that their children were fighting to defend the United States against nuclear terrorism, not to promote democracy. They don't want to abandon the president in the middle of a vicious war, but down the road the perceived failure of the Iraq intervention may push them to favor a more isolationist foreign policy, which is a more natural political position for them. A recent Pew poll indicates a swing in public opinion toward isolationism; the percentage of Americans saying that the United States "should mind its own business" has never been higher since the end of the Vietnam War.

    More than any other group, it was the neoconservatives both inside and outside the Bush administration who pushed for democratizing Iraq and the broader Middle East.

    * * *

    The problem with neoconservatism's agenda lies not in its ends, which are as American as apple pie, but rather in the overmilitarized means by which it has sought to accomplish them.

    * * *

    How did the neoconservatives end up overreaching to such an extent that they risk undermining their own goals?

    * * *

    The skeptical stance toward ambitious social engineering — which in earlier years had been applied mostly to domestic policies like affirmative action, busing and welfare — suggested a cautious approach toward remaking the world and an awareness that ambitious initiatives always have unanticipated consequences. The belief in the potential moral uses of American power, on the other hand, implied that American activism could reshape the structure of global politics. By the time of the Iraq war, the belief in the transformational uses of power had prevailed over the doubts about social engineering.

    In retrospect, things did not have to develop this way. The roots of neoconservatism lie in a remarkable group of largely Jewish intellectuals who attended City College of New York (C.C.N.Y.) in the mid- to late 1930's and early 1940's, a group that included Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell, Irving Howe, Nathan Glazer and, a bit later, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The story of this group has been told in a number of places, most notably in a documentary film by Joseph Dorman called "Arguing the World." The most important inheritance from the C.C.N.Y. group was an idealistic belief in social progress and the universality of rights, coupled with intense anti-Communism.

    It is not an accident that many in the C.C.N.Y. group started out as Trotskyites. Leon Trotsky was, of course, himself a Communist, but his supporters came to understand better than most people the utter cynicism and brutality of the Stalinist regime. The anti-Communist left, in contrast to the traditional American right, sympathized with the social and economic aims of Communism, but in the course of the 1930's and 1940's came to realize that "real existing socialism" had become a monstrosity of unintended consequences that completely undermined the idealistic goals it espoused. While not all of the C.C.N.Y. thinkers became neoconservatives, the danger of good intentions carried to extremes was a theme that would underlie the life work of many members of this group.

    If there was a single overarching theme to the domestic social policy critiques issued by those who wrote for the neoconservative journal The Public Interest, founded by Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer and Daniel Bell in 1965, it was the limits of social engineering. Writers like Glazer, Moynihan and, later, Glenn Loury argued that ambitious efforts to seek social justice often left societies worse off than before because they either required massive state intervention that disrupted pre-existing social relations (for example, forced busing) or else produced unanticipated consequences (like an increase in single-parent families as a result of welfare). A major theme running through James Q. Wilson's extensive writings on crime was the idea that you could not lower crime rates by trying to solve deep underlying problems like poverty and racism; effective policies needed to focus on shorter-term measures that went after symptoms of social distress (like subway graffiti or panhandling) rather than root causes.

    * * *

    The way the cold war ended shaped the thinking of supporters of the Iraq war, including younger neoconservatives like William Kristol and Robert Kagan, in two ways. First, it seems to have created an expectation that all totalitarian regimes were hollow at the core and would crumble with a small push from outside. The model for this was Romania under the Ceausescus: once the wicked witch was dead, the munchkins would rise up and start singing joyously about their liberation.

    * * *

    This overoptimism about postwar transitions to democracy helps explain the Bush administration's incomprehensible failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that subsequently emerged in Iraq. The war's supporters seemed to think that democracy was a kind of default condition to which societies reverted once the heavy lifting of coercive regime change occurred, rather than a long-term process of institution-building and reform. While they now assert that they knew all along that the democratic transformation of Iraq would be long and hard, they were clearly taken by surprise. According to George Packer's recent book on Iraq, "The Assassins' Gate," the Pentagon planned a drawdown of American forces to some 25,000 troops by the end of the summer following the invasion.

    * * *

    In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.

    The Failure of Benevolent Hegemony

    The Bush administration and its neoconservative supporters did not simply underestimate the difficulty of bringing about congenial political outcomes in places like Iraq; they also misunderstood the way the world would react to the use of American power. Of course, the cold war was replete with instances of what the foreign policy analyst Stephen Sestanovich calls American maximalism, wherein Washington acted first and sought legitimacy and support from its allies only after the fact. But in the post-cold-war period, the structural situation of world politics changed in ways that made this kind of exercise of power much more problematic in the eyes of even close allies. After the fall of the Soviet Union, various neoconservative authors like Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol and Robert Kagan suggested that the United States would use its margin of power to exert a kind of "benevolent hegemony" over the rest of the world, fixing problems like rogue states with W.M.D., human rights abuses and terrorist threats as they came up. Writing before the Iraq war, Kristol and Kagan considered whether this posture would provoke resistance from the rest of the world, and concluded, "It is precisely because American foreign policy is infused with an unusually high degree of morality that other nations find they have less to fear from its otherwise daunting power." (Italics added.)

    It is hard to read these lines without irony in the wake of the global reaction to the Iraq war, which succeeded in uniting much of the world in a frenzy of anti-Americanism.

    * * *

    The structural imbalance in global power had grown enormous. America surpassed the rest of the world in every dimension of power by an unprecedented margin, with its defense spending nearly equal to that of the rest of the world combined. Already during the Clinton years, American economic hegemony had generated enormous hostility to an American-dominated process of globalization, frequently on the part of close democratic allies who thought the United States was seeking to impose its antistatist social model on them.

    There were other reasons as well why the world did not accept American benevolent hegemony. In the first place, it was premised on American exceptionalism, the idea that America could use its power in instances where others could not because it was more virtuous than other countries. The doctrine of pre-emption against terrorist threats contained in the 2002 National Security Strategy was one that could not safely be generalized through the international system; America would be the first country to object if Russia, China, India or France declared a similar right of unilateral action.

    * * *

    Finally, benevolent hegemony presumed that the hegemon was not only well intentioned but competent as well. Much of the criticism of the Iraq intervention from Europeans and others was not based on a normative case that the United States was not getting authorization from the United Nations Security Council, but rather on the belief that it had not made an adequate case for invading Iraq in the first place and didn't know what it was doing in trying to democratize Iraq. In this, the critics were unfortunately quite prescient.

    The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism. Although the new and ominous possibility of undeterrable terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction did indeed present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem more generally. The misjudgment was based in part on the massive failure of the American intelligence community to correctly assess the state of Iraq's W.M.D. programs before the war.

    * * *

    What to Do

    Now that the neoconservative moment appears to have passed, the United States needs to reconceptualize its foreign policy in several fundamental ways. In the first instance, we need to demilitarize what we have been calling the global war on terrorism and shift to other types of policy instruments. We are fighting hot counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and against the international jihadist movement, wars in which we need to prevail. But "war" is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle, since wars are fought at full intensity and have clear beginnings and endings. Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a "long, twilight struggle" whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world. As recent events in France and Denmark suggest, Europe will be a central battleground in this fight.

    The United States needs to come up with something better than "coalitions of the willing" to legitimate its dealings with other countries.

    * * *

    The conservative critique of the United Nations is all too cogent: while useful for certain peacekeeping and nation-building operations, the United Nations lacks both democratic legitimacy and effectiveness in dealing with serious security issues.

    * * *

    The final area that needs rethinking, and the one that will be the most contested in the coming months and years, is the place of democracy promotion in American foreign policy. The worst legacy that could come from the Iraq war would be an anti-neoconservative backlash that coupled a sharp turn toward isolation with a cynical realist policy aligning the United States with friendly authoritarians.

    * * *

    We need in the first instance to understand that promoting democracy and modernization in the Middle East is not a solution to the problem of jihadist terrorism; in all likelihood it will make the short-term problem worse, as we have seen in the case of the Palestinian election bringing Hamas to power. Radical Islamism is a byproduct of modernization itself, arising from the loss of identity that accompanies the transition to a modern, pluralist society. It is no accident that so many recent terrorists, from Sept. 11's Mohamed Atta to the murderer of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh to the London subway bombers, were radicalized in democratic Europe and intimately familiar with all of democracy's blessings. More democracy will mean more alienation, radicalization and — yes, unfortunately — terrorism.

    But greater political participation by Islamist groups is very likely to occur whatever we do, and it will be the only way that the poison of radical Islamism can ultimately work its way through the body politic of Muslim communities around the world. The age is long since gone when friendly authoritarians could rule over passive populations and produce stability indefinitely. New social actors are mobilizing everywhere, from Bolivia and Venezuela to South Africa and the Persian Gulf. A durable Israeli-Palestinian peace could not be built upon a corrupt, illegitimate Fatah that constantly had to worry about Hamas challenging its authority. Peace might emerge, sometime down the road, from a Palestine run by a formerly radical terrorist group that had been forced to deal with the realities of governing.

    If we are serious about the good governance agenda, we have to shift our focus to the reform, reorganization and proper financing of those institutions of the United States government that actually promote democracy, development and the rule of law around the world, organizations like the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., the National Endowment for Democracy and the like. The United States has played an often decisive role in helping along many recent democratic transitions, including in the Philippines in 1986; South Korea and Taiwan in 1987; Chile in 1988; Poland and Hungary in 1989; Serbia in 2000; Georgia in 2003; and Ukraine in 2004-5. But the overarching lesson that emerges from these cases is that the United States does not get to decide when and where democracy comes about.

    * * *

    The Bush administration has been walking — indeed, sprinting — away from the legacy of its first term, as evidenced by the cautious multilateral approach it has taken toward the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. Condoleezza Rice gave a serious speech in January about "transformational diplomacy" and has begun an effort to reorganize the nonmilitary side of the foreign-policy establishment, and the National Security Strategy document is being rewritten. All of these are welcome changes, but the legacy of the Bush first-term foreign policy and its neoconservative supporters has been so polarizing that it is going to be hard to have a reasoned debate about how to appropriately balance American ideals and interests in the coming years. The reaction against a flawed policy can be as damaging as the policy itself, and such a reaction is an indulgence we cannot afford, given the critical moment we have arrived at in global politics.

    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.

    * * *

    Mariner
     
    • Thank You! Thank You! x 1
  2. Psychoblues
    Offline

    Psychoblues Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2003
    Messages:
    2,701
    Thanks Received:
    142
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    North Missisippi
    Ratings:
    +143
    Mariner, you're a trooper for human rights, peace in the world and all that I have ever imagined as very good human intention. No doubt.

    But your last paragraph here nailed it for me.

    "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."

    Why ignore reality to the profit of neoconservatism? Isn't neoconservatism the primary problem? I'll take old fashioned conservatism as espoused by Abraham Lincoln all the way to Dwight Eisenhower any day before I can accept any concept as yet produced by the so-called neoconservatives.


    Psychoblues
     
  3. NATO AIR
    Offline

    NATO AIR Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2004
    Messages:
    4,275
    Thanks Received:
    282
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    USS Abraham Lincoln
    Ratings:
    +282
    This was a good essay by Fukuyama, but not the last word of what will be a long running battle of words, ideas and "framing" of blame and "i told ya so's" from the foreign policy crowd over the next two to three years. at stake will be what and who shapes the foreign policy choices of America in 2008 and beyond.

    Sadly, they'll all miss the point. But it is still good to have the debate out in the open like this where people can realize how asinine and unrealistic many of our "leading" thinkers are when it comes to applying their good ideas to real life.

    And also how petty and partisan they can be in the policy realm.

    Americans need to know this so they can break away from the elite's hold on their view of the world and begin to understand the world on their own two feet, with their own opinion, not one shaped by the pundits in power, the pundits out of power and the pundits kept at arm's length from both sides.
     
  4. Said1
    Offline

    Said1 VIP Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2004
    Messages:
    12,087
    Thanks Received:
    937
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Location:
    Somewhere in Ontario
    Ratings:
    +937
    Fukuyama, same guy who said the end of the Cold War was the end of histroy, right? Or was that just in respect to Market Economies and Democracy winning. Sheesh, I forget now. :sad:
     
  5. rtwngAvngr
    Offline

    rtwngAvngr Guest

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2004
    Messages:
    15,755
    Thanks Received:
    511
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Ratings:
    +511
    Contrary to democratic lies, Saddam had connections to, financed, and provided to training to various terrorist groups, prior to the invasion of iraq.
    We may not like the first few governments elected, but as the people gain faith in the democratic process, maybe they will see a future without domination by islamic radicals and vote for it.
    Hardly.
    Absolutely wrong. You don't have to know how everything turns out to know that at least one thing should be done immediately. This is a lib technique to mire down a discussion with endless backward glancing nitpicking, and to try to make true patriots think twice before doing the obvious right thing in the future. It's a tactic to secure the victory of the islamicists.
    Distancing? where? This is just a lie.
    Democracy is always good. It's an honest window into what the people want. They feel radical right now. But now they're radical, with perhaps more confidence in democracy, which is an incremental improvement.
    The charge will be made wrongly and with stupidy dominating the consciousness of the accuser.
    They're both wrong. I know lefties in america are down on democracy because they keep losing, but let's not let that taint the best form of government known to man.
    Promoting democracy is a long term strategy for our protection. Right now, desposts use islam to control and ignorant population, and turn them against us. If we can get these people out from under these regimes, they will return to normal in a generation or so. This is for our security as much as it is for their freedom.
    Yes. And we'll take the credit, thank you very much.
    Not at all. Radicalized jihadi islam cannot be dealt with diplomatically.
    The question is asking how a nonexistant condition was achieved, and thus, is ridiculous.
    The mideast needs to be reengineered right away. Isn't demolition part of the science of engineering? Get er done.
    Yeah. They're intellectuals who finally had the nerve to split with their idiotic institutional academic friends, the liberals.
    Actually libs discovered the limits of socials engineering when they assumed handouts would change character.
    You can't tar neocons, with lefty failures. It just doesn't work.
    THis whole article is just negativism on a grand scale. I find none of the arguments have merit. Toppling dictators is as much for our security as it is for liberating those people; the two are tied, as people just aren't as angry when they're free and cannot be turned into martyrs for islam as easily.
     
  6. Mariner
    Offline

    Mariner Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    Messages:
    772
    Thanks Received:
    52
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Boston, Mass.
    Ratings:
    +52
    the depth of this type of writing, historically informed and non-partisan.

    Said1, I haven't read any of the man's books, so I can't comment on what his end of history book was about. Do you have some comment on the particular points in the article? After all, this isn't a liberal Cambridge critique of neoConservativism.

    My hope was that it would add some dimension to the ideas behind the current administration's policies. Similarly, I'd like to find something by Andrew Yoo pertinent to the imperial presidency debate.

    Mariner.
     
  7. rtwngAvngr
    Offline

    rtwngAvngr Guest

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2004
    Messages:
    15,755
    Thanks Received:
    511
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Ratings:
    +511

    Nato. Don't be fooled by this self important seemingly scholarly work. It's trash. Why do you always fall for this shit?
     
  8. Said1
    Offline

    Said1 VIP Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2004
    Messages:
    12,087
    Thanks Received:
    937
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Location:
    Somewhere in Ontario
    Ratings:
    +937
    From what I can recall, that comment only delt with the fall of communism and that free markets had prevailed. He hadn't really looked beyond that, meaning he hadn't counted on new liberal democracies failing because they lacked certain components such as industrialization, education and secular governments, noted by Samuel Huntington.
     
  9. Mariner
    Offline

    Mariner Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    Messages:
    772
    Thanks Received:
    52
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Boston, Mass.
    Ratings:
    +52
    have critiqued Bush's democracy-first approach based on just what you said:

    "they lacked certain components such as industrialization, education and secular governments"

    as applied to the Arab world.

    Personally, I feel less pessimistic about Iraq than either those critics or than Fukuyama. I think we still have a decent chance to create a real democracy and ally in Iraq. I'm impressed that the Kurds haven't totally rebelled (yet), and that most Iraqis, regardless of ethnic group, have signed onto the concept of elections.

    RightWing, it would be nice if the world were such a simple place that everything wrong could be blamed on "Dems" and "libs," and all would go smoothly thereafter. It's not working out that way, though--various forms of conservatives' values are at odds with each other, so tensions of this sort can be expected. (Similarly, in the early Clinton years, various liberals' views were at odds with each other, and Clinton had to navigate the minefield.) Fukuyama has as strong scholarly credentials as you could ask for--if you disagree with his assessment, that's fine, but just take into account that he's a conservative speaking, so if you're going to call his ideas "trash," you're so labeling a branch of your own philosophical camp, not mine.

    Mariner.
     
    • Thank You! Thank You! x 1
  10. NATO AIR
    Offline

    NATO AIR Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2004
    Messages:
    4,275
    Thanks Received:
    282
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    USS Abraham Lincoln
    Ratings:
    +282
    RTWNG, you didn't see that part?
     

Share This Page