Francis Fukuyama: Supporter's Voice Now Turns on Bush

Historians in the News

"America at the Crossroads" serves up a powerful indictment of the Bush administration's war in Iraq and the role that neoconservative ideas — concerning preventive war, benevolent hegemony and unilateral action — played in shaping the decision to go to war, its implementation and its aftermath. These arguments are made all the more devastating by the fact that the author, Francis Fukuyama, was once a star neoconservative theorist himself, who studied with or was associated with leading neoconservative luminaries like Paul D. Wolfowitz, William Kristol, Albert Wohlstetter and Allan Bloom, and whose best-selling 1992 book, "The End of History and the Last Man," was celebrated (and denounced) as a classic neoconservative text on the end of the cold war and the global march of liberal democracy.

Indeed, "America at the Crossroads" represents the latest and most detailed criticism of the Bush administration's war in Iraq — delivered from a conservative point of view. With it, Mr. Fukuyama, who teaches at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, joins a growing number of conservatives, including William F. Buckley Jr., George F. Will, Bruce Bartlett and Andrew Sullivan, who have voiced doubts about the war.

In Mr. Fukuyama's case, the criticisms suggest a marked evolution in perspective. In 1998, Mr. Fukuyama signed a letter sponsored by Project for the New American Century urging the Clinton administration to take a harder line against Iraq, and in the days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 he signed another from the group, which asserted that "any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power."

In the wake of the Bush administration's enunciation of a doctrine of pre-emption and its big-shouldered, go-it-alone approach to foreign policy, however, Mr. Fukuyama began to voice concerns. In an op-ed article in The Washington Post published on the second anniversary of 9/11, he warned that "overreaction to Sept. 11 will lead to a world in which the United States and its policies remain the chief focus of global concern," also saying that "the tremendous margin of power exercised by the United States in the security realm brings with it special responsibilities to use that power prudently."

A February 2004 dinner at the American Enterprise Institute made Mr. Fukuyama even more aware of the gulf between himself and neoconservative supporters of the war. Listening to the columnist Charles Krauthammer's speech — which embraced the doctrine of pre-emption and asserted that the toppling of Saddam Hussein had made America safer — he says he "could not understand why everyone around me was applauding the speech enthusiastically, given that the United States had found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, was bogged down in a vicious insurgency, and had almost totally isolated itself from the rest of the world by following the kind of unipolar strategy advocated by Krauthammer." ...

Read entire article at Michiko Kakutani in the NYT

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