Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mea Culpa by NeoCons?

By and large I had been under the impression that the maestro Francis Fukuyama would be NeoCon. In his article in NYT, (, which is on way to become the most important / celebrated foreign policy article of our times; however Fukuyama distances himself from NeoCons. He says -

Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. [Presumably by NeoCons] Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.

Whether he has been NeoCon or not can be argued and I am sure those we are at the receiving end in his article will come back with vengeance that Fukuyama has not been any different that NeoCons. What is for sure is we have one of the top most Conservative thinkers of our times gunning on NeoCons and underlying policy basis of President Bush’s Iraq war. Needless to say as mentioned earlier, the article is the only first salvo and in days to come we will sure be treated for tremendous intellectual fire power from both sides.

Already we have Andrew Sullivan submitting his apologies. (

If indeed this is the start of Mea Culpa by NeoCons and to some extent all the backers of Iraq war; it is a sad spectacle. How do we write in more heartbreaking way:

- death of more than 2000 American soldiers,
- more than 200 Billion dollars of American tax payers money,
- equally tragic death of possibly 25,000 Iraqis and
- unsolved and increased problem of global terrorism due to unstable Iraq.

Do we get all this for an immoral, fanatic and totally clueless President backed by some of the smartest people on earth unfortunately who were chasing a chimera of ideological purity? Are they any different than Islamic Fanatics roaming around the streets and embassies of the world? Why couldn’t Fukuyama come more forthright earlier when explicitly or implicitly his name and his theories were used to justify this colossal disaster?

May be it is an overreaction to hold Fukuyama responsible for the foolishness of this administration or wrong headedness of NeoCons. May be it is the lack of intellectual subtlety / clarity not to differentiate Fukuyama’s argument and his involvement with Conservatives from the down hill path embarked upon by NeoCons. Well, if this blog fails in understanding all these ramifications; surely there will be many more analytically responses by others to follow where it will be clear which way the wind blew.

Fukuyama’s culpability in the end is a smaller issue. Apart from this conundrum, rest of the stuff what the maestro says; indeed he is in form as Andrew mentions. He is breathtaking for the clarity, scope, reasoning and insights. Following are some of the gems.

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.

What is initially universal is not the desire for liberal democracy but rather the desire to live in a modern — that is, technologically advanced and prosperous — society, which, if satisfied, tends to drive demands for political participation. Liberal democracy is one of the byproducts of this modernization process, something that becomes a universal aspiration only in the course of historical time.
"The End of History," in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism.

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.

There are sharp limits to the American people's attention to foreign affairs and willingness to finance projects overseas that do not have clear benefits to American interests.

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.

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.


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.
[This is probably a weak argument. Indeed the conflict against jihadist needs to be an all out effort. President Bush has be repeating this part for his domestic political benefit and as a cover to ask infinite amounts of tax dollars and American lives in an incompetently run Iraq war is a different matter. Bust just because President Bush can not fight a true challenge as a well conducted ‘war’ does not mean that the underlying challenge can be relegated as a lesser evil. Besides, what are wars? Nothing but political contest by brut force method as a last resort. If we are under the impression that America will need to keep away the military action option in this struggle to finish Jihadism; we are missing the true gravity of the situation. One Iranian President is enough to wake up.]

What we do not have are adequate mechanisms of horizontal accountability among states.

The solution is not to strengthen a single global body, but rather to promote what has been emerging in any event, a "multi-multilateral world" of overlapping and occasionally competing international institutions that are organized on regional or functional lines.

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.

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.

Of course these excerpts can not be the substitutes for the original article. It is worth reading and pondering.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
February 19, 2006.

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