;


Why Francis Fukuyama Opposed the Iraq War

Roundup: Historians' Take




Herb Keinon, in the Jerusalem Post (March 18, 2004):

Fifteen years after his controversial end-of-history thesis celebrated liberalism's victory over communism, political thinker Francis Fukuyama probes terror's challenge to the world.

Many and varied are the critics of US policy in Iraq - both of Washington's decision to go to war, and the way the US has handled matters since "victory" was declared.

What makes Francis Fukuyama's criticism of the US policy different - a policy heavily influenced in the Pentagon and White House by such neo-conservatives as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Lewis Libby, John Bolton and Elliott Abrams - is that Fukuyama is a fellow "neocon." Punch Fukuyama's name into Google on the Web, and you will find him variously described as "the vanguard of the neoconservative intellectuals," the "neoconservative philosopher," the "neoconservative superstar" a "neoconservative big-wig" and the "neoconservative guru."

Fukuyama made an enormous splash as the Iron Curtain was tottering in the summer of 1989 when he published a highly influential 15-page article entitled "The End of History?" in the neoconservative journal, The National Interest. He wrote the article while he was a deputy director of the US State Department's Policy Planning staff....

"One reason I was skeptical of the entire Iraq project," Fukuyama said this week in conversation with The Jerusalem Post, "is that if you look at the record of American nation building, it doesn't give you a lot of confidence that you would be able to negotiate this thing all that well."

Presently a professor of international political economy at Johns Hopkins University whose newest book entitled State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century is due out shortly, Fukayama was in Israel this week delivering a number of lectures on the 15th anniversary of the publication of his seminal article.

Fukuyama said that of the US's 18 efforts at nation building, starting with the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century, only three were unqualified successes - Japan, Germany and South Korea.

And in each of the successful cases, the US kept troops in those countries for two generations.

"If you look at other cases where American forces got out in five years or less, there is not a single instance - most of which were in Latin America and the Caribbean - where you left behind anything that could be described as a self-sufficient state."

In other words, Fukuyama said, if America is to succeed in Iraq, it is going to have to stay there for 15 to 20 years, or somehow get the international community involved in order to give the US presence there greater legitimacy.

Legitimacy, which he defined neatly as the "perceived justice of a set of arrangements," will be necessary for the project to work. The Bush administration realized the importance of legitimacy, and is trying to create it by putting an Iraqi face on the occupation.

The problem, he believes, is that in the rush to do this, the US is setting up wildly optimistic deadlines for the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis when the conditions are not yet fully ripe. This, he believes, is a recipe for failure.

One of the big questions looming over Iraq is whether the American public has the stomach for a long, drawn out, expensive presence, and whether regional or domestic Iraqi politics will allow for such a protracted occupation.

"I think the probability of both of these is kind of low," Fukuyama said, "which is the calculation that made me not so enthusiastic in the first place." Regarding the question of whether the US public will be willing to "slug it out" in Iraq, Fukuyama said this is a long-term problem, not an immediate one....

Rumsfeld, Fukuyama asserted, is "in no way, shape or form a neo-conservative." Indeed, Fukuyama said, Rumsfeld was behind the Bush campaign policy in 2000 against active military intervention and nation building - ideas turned on their head by September 11. Rumsfeld, Fukuyama asserted, was interested in deposing Saddam quickly, and moving out quickly. As a result, he did not work with the State Department or US allies to develop an effective nation-building strategy....

Is the emergence of Islamic radicalism not a threat to Western liberal democracies, much as communism and fascism once were?

"Looked at broadly, the struggle is actually not a clash of civilizations," Fukuyama said. "The threat represented by radical Islam, although very serious as a short-term threat, is not of the scope we faced during the Cold War."

The most menacing aspect of Marxism-Leninism was not that it was embodied in powerful states with nuclear weapons and huge armies, Fukuyama said, but that it was an idea that was "in some way appealing to people in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Paris, France.

Radical Islam does not appeal to anyone who is not Muslim to begin with; it is not making a lot of converts in Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow or places like that." Even within the Muslim world, Fukuyama said, it is not a reflection of Islam per se, but a radical movement that borrows a lot from Western modernity.


comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:


Tim M. Matthewson - 3/21/2004

This assertion if not only wrong, but it is also just a sophisticated form of mccarthyism. "The most menacing aspect of Marxism-Leninism was not that it was embodied in powerful states with nuclear weapons and huge armies, Fukuyama said, but that it was an idea that was "in some way appealing to people in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Paris, France."


Tim M. Matthewson - 3/21/2004

This assertion if not only wrong, but it is also just a sophisticated form of mccarthyism. "The most menacing aspect of Marxism-Leninism was not that it was embodied in powerful states with nuclear weapons and huge armies, Fukuyama said, but that it was an idea that was "in some way appealing to people in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Paris, France."