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After After Neoconservatism

by gradinski chai Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 08:48:21 AM EST

I just saw this by chance and recommend reading Francis Fukuyama's recent piece in the NYT titled, After Neoconservatism. I had not seen a diary on this and think that it needs to get out.

Fukuyama is a rather conservative American political thinker who is best known for his post-Cold War "end of history argument" in which liberal democracy was seen to be the endpoint of historical, social development.

I won't comment on this piece other than to say that he goes a little easy on the Bush administration despite arguing that: "Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support."  

Coming from someone like Fukuyama, this signals a real breakup of the philosophical alliance that the neoconservatives were able to put (sometimes force) together. It is too early to talk about an end to neoconservatism as long as its architects remain in the administration. They have too much personally invested in this to let it go easily. If, however, we are seeing the breakup of this alliance, then Fukuyama's question about what replaces it is a very appropriate one. He argues that we are likely to see something of a realpolitik foreign policy built upon a renewed isolationism among the American public. If this is the case, it will indeed (as he argues) be dangerous.

So, shall we have a conversation about what comes After 'After Neoconservatism'?

Sorry if this is crass, but I'm running low on mojo.
by gradinski chai on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 08:50:15 AM EST
Here's a four for your article...and for all the great new folks you have introduced to ET...thanks! Mucho mojo...deserves a kcurie five!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 09:59:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Looks to me like a rebranding exercise - it's the implementation, not the ideas that are wrong.

Though I do like this line:

Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States.

We should send him a t-shirt: "I'm not with stupid."

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 10:14:26 AM EST
The implementation was definitely wrong. But I think that the idea of pushing democracy is ultimately futile as currently envisioned. At that point I agree with Fukuyama.

Democracy has to come from within; it cannot be imposed from without. One can support these efforts through education and support for an international legal structure that adjudicate disputes and oversee human rights norms. That's all one can do...that and believe that it will come sooner or later on its own. Active efforts are too easily manipulated by local anti-democratic elements as foreign interference. They are destined to backfire.

As we are already seeing, the great tragedy of the Bush years is the destruction of an international set of human rights norms. They were not always practiced, but they had to be acknowledged. Those who abused them had to do so in secret. Guantanamo and rendition flights have done much to shred their strength. European states are also complicit in this as they largely (and sadly) sat by and watched it happen.

by gradinski chai on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 12:31:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant that in the sense that Fukuyama is a rat abandoning the ship in order to push his nonsense under some other title with some other people. He doesn't deny that the current people got it wrong, but the people in the future can get it right. It's still the US hegemon that he's pushing.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 12:35:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He jumped ship publicly about a year and a half ago in an article in the National Interest slamming neoconservatism as a foreign policy.  You could argue that the ship was already sinking, but still, writing something like that in the midst of an election campaign where his friends and political allies were touting foreign policy as the chief reason to vote Bush does constitute a pretty serious step in the Washington policy wonk world.

The Neoconservative Moment by Francis Fukuyama

by MarekNYC on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 04:50:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I do remember that. More a daydreamer bothered by reality than an opportunist.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 05:20:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
oh that would be the even kinder, gentler version, i expect!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 05:51:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it's still the US hegemon that he's pushing.

oh that would be the even kinder, gentler version, i expect!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 05:53:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... creating new organizations that will better balance the dual requirements of legitimacy and effectiveness will be the primary task for the coming generation.

I do not think that the creation of new legitimate/effective organizations should be our main task in the future. Strengthening of the old institutions is what I perceive a more reasonable (realistic, if you want) goal. Abandoning of the structures, in which so much has been invested, is not going to add to the legitimacy of a new international regime, thus lessening its effectiveness in the bringing about of peace.

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.

Occasionally competing? What if this progresses into "occasionally conflicting"?

I am not too much into functionalism, by the way. [The disparities in the foreign policies of the major actors today preclude the possibility of a real collective action (legitimate and effective) on any security issue. Multiplicity of organizations that could address such issues is going to worsen the situation even further.] So this part of the argument doesn't resonate with me.

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government -- Edward Abbey

by serik berik (serik[dot]berik on Gmail) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 01:26:44 PM EST
Only in the modern day can a person whose ideas are thoroughly discredited continue on as a respected pundit. At what point does a person become so wrong that others stop listening to what he has to say?

Are we so short of intelligent thinkers, or is it just that the print media is too lazy to cultivate new sources?

The guy was a shill for the neo-cons. He is still a shill for the neo-cons.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 07:13:18 PM EST
Only in the modern day can a person whose ideas are thoroughly discredited continue on as a respected pundit.

Only in the modern day? Call me a cynic...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 03:45:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
being a professional pundit is like being a weather forecaster.   it doesn't seem to matter how many times you get it wrong...

imho Fukuyama tells the elites what they want to hear:  that their rule is righteous and their cause will prevail.  so he gets paid.  same as it ever was -- the skald sings the fulsome song of praise for the local Cleave-Skull the Great, and gets a privileged place by the firepit :-)

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 05:52:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that it's taken this supposedly profound and insightful thinker this long to work it out.

I do like the Lenin quote though.

I suspect US isolation may be involuntary to some extent. If the bubble bursts the US will be in no position to pretend that it's a superpower. This will come as a huge shock to many in the US, but considering the extent of denial that seems common it's likely the response will be - more denial, and a pretense that the choice is voluntary rather than enforced. It's possible the US establishment may rehabilitate Fukuyama when they need someone to peddle an argument like this.

But historically there doesn't seem anything novel or unusual about the neo-con project - it's the same old textbook empire building that's been popular since cities started appearing. Sooner or later empires always seem to breed a predatory ruling class that believes its own propaganda while systematically looting that empire's economic foundations. At that point the whole thing falls apart because there's nothing holding it together any more. Either the barbarians invade, or military positions are retrenched because there's no economic foundation to sustain them.

If this happens to the US, the aftermath is anyone's guess. I don't think the Euro angle is to wish for the demise of the US. The EU and US are natural allies against the rest of the world. (Welcome to Oceania...) But it's hard to read what the ambitions of China or Russia are. Without a US counterbalance they could become aggressively expansionist. Or they may have been infected with enough capitalism by osmosis that a trade empire is likely instead. It's impossible to game this without more information.

The underlying problem is that these are all just large-scale tribal squabbles. Tribes now have millions or billions instead of tens of members, but all the flag waving and military spending is just primate shrieking and stick waving on a bigger scale.

What would be useful at this point is another Enlightenment. The last one destroyed the monopoly of religiosity and replaced it with attempts at objectivity. If there were a science of democracy that put enlightened values on an objective footing - and they are in a sense, because one difference between progressives and conservatives is the time scale of the thinking - that might tame the primates and make the shrieking, fruit stealing and stick waving a little less destructive.

Or not. But we can dream...

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 07:43:34 PM EST
is very important, I think a bigger deal than his original article "breaking with neoconservatism" in the National Interest, because his arguments are further developed and they are presented in a long - 3000 words (?) - article in the New York Times, which is, for America's professional/managerial class, which include obviously most foreign policy minds, still the paper of record in the United States.

Dealing with the text itself, there are several key themes that jump out at me.

  1. I think Fukuyama lays out here what "official" "beltway" Washington knows - if it doesn't say often - about the reality of today's Iraq. That is essentially a failed state and a terrorist training ground, and won't be much better for years to come. I think you can detect this change in expectations especially in publications like the Washington Post , but have gotten considerably less bullish on its prospects in the last 6 to 9 months, starting last summer.  Fukuyama comes right out of the intellectual milieu from which neo-liberal/"soft neo-con" beltway Washington "consensus" thinkers like Anne Applebaum, Fred Hiatt, David Ignatius and Jackson Diehl are from as well. In many ways, Fukuyama is THE intellectual of this class, who are also centrally located in the foreign policy establishments of both parties as well.

  2. His recognition/admission/acknowledgement that a good deal of the support the Iraq War has been able to attract and even much of the support it is still has (which is considerably less than it once had) has not been especially related to the neoconservatives visions, but rather to a more basic, gut "we need to kick ass to show the US means business after 9/11" thing, an impulse that is often called the Jacksonian one in US political culture. As such, it has little or nothing to do with democracy promotion, empire building, pax Americana, whatever, and much more to do with simple frontier mentality of showing stronger will, showing "toughness," and not backing down from terrorism. Thus, people may scoff when Bush speaks of "fighting them over here, so we don't have to fight them over here" but this is exactly the kind of logic that generates the broadest base of his political support for the war.
by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 11:12:36 PM EST
by Greco on Tue Feb 21st, 2006 at 06:17:38 AM EST
Pat Lang has an interesting website:  Check out this  "So it wasn't the end of History"



by Keone Michaels on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 10:53:16 AM EST
His acceptance of the principle of American hegemony grates on my nerves I'm afraid.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 10:54:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think he got habituated to the "eagle shitting" too much.  When you have your hand in the cookie jar, you gotta let go of your fistful of cookies if you want to remove your hand.

by Keone Michaels on Wed Feb 22nd, 2006 at 11:41:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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