Francis Fukuyama: Fukuyama's Fantasy





It was, as the hero tells it, his Road to Damascus moment. There he is, in a hall of 1,500 people he has long considered to be his allies, hearing the speaker treat the Iraq war, nearing the end of its first year, as "a virtually unqualified success." He gasps as the audience enthusiastically applauds. Aghast to discover himself in a sea of comrades so deluded by ideology as to have lost touch with reality, he decides he can no longer be one of them.

And thus did Francis Fukuyama become the world's most celebrated ex-neoconservative, a well-timed metamorphosis that has brought him a piece of the fame that he once enjoyed 15 years ago as the man who declared, a mite prematurely, that history had ended.

A very nice story. It appears in the preface to Fukuyama's post-neocon coming out, "America at the Crossroads." On Sunday it was repeated on the front page of the New York Times Book Review in Paul Berman's review.

I happen to know something about this story, as I was the speaker whose 2004 Irving Kristol lecture to the American Enterprise Institute Fukuyama has now brought to prominence. I can therefore testify that Fukuyama's claim that I attributed "virtually unqualified success" to the war is a fabrication.

A convenient fabrication -- it gives him a foil and the story drama -- but a foolish one because it can be checked. The speech was given at the Washington Hilton before a full house, carried live on C-SPAN and then published by the American Enterprise Institute under its title "Democratic Realism: An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World." (It can be read at http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.19912,filter.all/pub_detail.asp .) As indicated by the title, the speech was not about Iraq. It was a fairly theoretical critique of the four schools of American foreign policy: isolationism, liberal internationalism, realism and neoconservatism. The only successes I attributed to the Iraq war were two, and both self-evident: (1) that it had deposed Saddam Hussein and (2) that this had made other dictators think twice about the price of acquiring nuclear weapons, as evidenced by the fact that Moammar Gaddafi had turned over his secret nuclear program for dismantling just months after Hussein's fall (in fact, on the very week of Hussein's capture).

In that entire 6,000-word lecture, I said not a single word about the course or conduct of the Iraq war. My only reference to the outcome of the war came toward the end of the lecture. Far from calling it an unqualified success, virtual or otherwise, I said quite bluntly that "it may be a bridge too far. Realists have been warning against the hubris of thinking we can transform an alien culture because of some postulated natural and universal human will to freedom. And they may yet be right."

History will judge whether we can succeed in "establishing civilized, decent, nonbelligerent, pro-Western polities in Afghanistan and Iraq." My point then, as now, has never been that success was either inevitable or at hand, only that success was critically important to "change the strategic balance in the fight against Arab-Islamic radicalism."

I made the point of repeating the problematic nature of the enterprise: "The undertaking is enormous, ambitious and arrogant. It may yet fail."...


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Michael Green - 3/29/2006

Having read Mr. Krauthammer's work for a while, I would say that his position on the issues is this: Fukuyama is a liar, but Krauthammer can lie about whatever he wants.


John Edward Philips - 3/29/2006

Failure is an orphan.

Must we subject both Krauthammer and Fukuyama to paternity tests to see which is responsible for the ideological train wreck known as neoconservatism? It's too late for an abortion, but someone will have to pay child support for this deformed monster, now disowned by more and more of its once proud progenitors.