Confessions of a former neo-con

Friday, March 3, 2006

by Francis Fukuyama, New York Times Magazine, February 19

We should be aware that a leading neo-conservative, Francis Fukuyama, who made quite a splash a few years ago with his book The End of History, has changed his mind about a lot of things. He has recently explained.

The first sentences of his article are:

“As we approach the third anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war, it seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention itself or the ideas animating it kindly. By invading Iraq, the Bush administration created a self-fulfilling prophecy: Iraq has now replaced Afghanistan as a magnet, a training ground and an operational base for jihadist terrorists, with plenty of American targets to shoot at. The United States still has a chance of creating a Shiite-dominated democratic Iraq, but the new government will be very weak for years to come…”

He then offers a detailed history of neo-conservative support for the war, in the process explaining why he is now distancing himself from positions he once held. He argues that the Bush administration and its advisors oversimplified lessons learned from the end of the Cold War. He takes them to task for “naive Wilsonian idealism,” for an insufficient grasp of the complexities of the Middle East, and for expecting fully grown democracies to come into being almost by default.

“After the fall of the Soviet Union,” he writes, “various neoconservative authors like Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol and Robert Kagan suggested that the United States would use its margin of power to exert a kind of ‘benevolent hegemony’ over the rest of the world, fixing problems like rogue states with W.M.D., human rights abuses and terrorist threats as they came up. Writing before the Iraq war, Kristol and Kagan considered whether this posture would provoke resistance from the rest of the world, and concluded, ‘It is precisely because American foreign policy is infused with an unusually high degree of morality that other nations find they have less to fear from its otherwise daunting power.'”

Fukuyama comments sardonically, “It is hard to read these lines without irony in the wake of the global reaction to the Iraq war, which succeeded in uniting much of the world in a frenzy of anti-Americanism.” He concludes, “Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.”

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